New docu-drama traces the Crail link with Waterloo

Corporal John Dickson is played by Gareth Morrison
Corporal John Dickson is played by Gareth Morrison

The story of a Crail man involved in one of the bloodiest battles in history is to be told in a BBC Scotland docudrama to be screened next week.

The programme, to be screened on Tuesday, June 16, commemorates the Battle of Waterloo as it approaches its 200th anniversary.

It relates the significant role played by Scottish soldiers - among them Corporal John Dickson of the Royal Scots Greys.

Dickson was born in Paisley, where he had worked as a weaver before joining up aged 18 in 1807.

Eight years later Waterloo was his first ‘action’ and he was in the midst of a vital heroic charge, which saved the day, but came at a great cost to the regiment, of whom only 50 or so survived it out of 300 who took part in the charge.

He noted in his memoirs: ‘How I survived is a miracle, for I was through the thick of it all.’

But John Dickson not only survived the battle, but lived to become a Sergeant Major and Scotland’s last survivor of Waterloo, living latterly in Crail, where he was owner of the Golf Hotel.

His story has also caught the imagination of Jean Durie, of Lower Kenley, near Crail, whose grandparents were executors of Dickson’s last surviving grandchild.

Jean has conducted extensive research into Dickson’s life , both in the Army and afterwards.

Earlier this year, Jean said: “After Waterloo he was made a Troop Sergeant Major, and after 27 years of service he retired in 1834.

“He was invited up to Fife to drill the Yeomanry Cavalry (Fife Light Horse) and subsequently became landlord owner of the Golf Inn.”

Dickson’s is one of four first-hand accounts from letters and other correspondence from Scottish soldiers that will be brought to life.

Also included in the programme is the testimony of a remarkable young bride, who followed her soldier husband to the front.

One of the few wives who made it anywhere near the battlefield, Jenny Griffiths gave her story to a newspaper in her late 80s, revealing an amazing and unique tale – the only eye-witness account of Waterloo from a woman’s perspective.

The stories – backed up by research into the personal circumstances of each - unfold over the course of the Waterloo campaign and that extraordinary day of June 18, 1815, showing how Wellington nearly lost, and Napoleon nearly won one of history’s most iconic battles. .

‘The Scots At Waterloo’ will be screened on BBC Two Scotland at 9pm.