Portpatrick pupil wins Letters Competition

Rowan Harbottle, (far left) receiving the news that he has won the PoppyScotland  Letters Competition.
Rowan Harbottle, (far left) receiving the news that he has won the PoppyScotland Letters Competition.

One of two overall winners in a national schools competition run by Poppyscotland in which pupils penned a letter home from a soldier fighting in the Battle of the Somme, is from Portpatrick Primary School.

From an entry list of more than 1,000 schoolchildren, P5 pupil Rowan Harbottle won the primary school category.

Rowan’s letter, entitled, ‘My life: The trenches’, captured the scene of the front line: “There is jagged barbed wire all around the top of the trench. I have just returned from going over the top and I am a very lucky man. When I was up there I saw the debris of the rotting horse carts, squelching mud and bomb pits. There are rats everywhere and I hate it.”

Rowan’s headteacher, Sheila Baillie, said: “All of us at Portpatrick Primary School are delighted that Rowan has achieved such success in a national competition. We are a very small school by the sea with the motto ‘anchored in excellence’. It is fantastic that excellence demonstrated in literacy and historical knowledge and understanding has been recognised in one of our pupils. I am very proud of Rowan, and I know his parents are, too.”

Rowan received a tablet computer, a Poppyscotland certificate and his ‘letter home’ will be printed on a Poppyscotland Learning poster that will be sent to more than 2,000 schools in Scotland later in the year.

‘Letters Home’ was an opportunity for school-age children to reflect on what life was like at the Somme 100 years ago. Shortlisted to 24 entries by the Scottish Writers Centre, the judging panel was led by television presenter Kirsty Wark.

Ms Wark has a special connection with the competition. Her great uncle, Sergeant James Wark, served with the 47th Battalion of the Machine Gun Corps and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for bravery.

He survived the First World War, only to die in France of Spanish flu on November 29, 1918 – 18 days after the Armistice. Before his untimely death, Sgt Wark had been a prolific letter writer from the front line.

The competition runners-up will each receive a £30 National Book Token and a Poppyscotland certificate.