Death of SNP’s Willie McRae inspires Fringe play

THE mysterious death of an SNP activist nearly 30 years ago is set to inspire a major new production at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Willie McRae pictured in 1976. Picture: TSPLWillie McRae pictured in 1976. Picture: TSPL
Willie McRae pictured in 1976. Picture: TSPL

Unanswered questions about the case of Willie McRae, a former vice-chairman of the party, will be revived when the play Three Thousand Trees is staged at the Hilton Doubletree on Bread Street.

McRae, a prominent nationalist, lawyer and anti-nuclear campaigner, was found dead in his crashed car off the A87 near Kintail in Wester Ross in 1985.

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Although his death was thought to have been due to an accident, a gunshot wound was later found behind his right ear. Despite suggestions he committed suicide, conspiracy theories have abounded that he was actually murdered after being monitored by Special Branch - a gun was recovered from distance from where McRae’s car was found.

The death of McRae - who was travelling from Glasgow to his holiday home in Kintail - was officially recorded as suicide, but many believe he was murdered due to a number of bizarre aspects of the case. The Crown Office has even been urged to formally reopen the case by some SNP politicians, despite the then party leader, Gordon Wilson, and McRae’s family being against an inquiry at the time.

Glasgow-based novelist and playwright Mark MacNicol has joined forces with Thurso-based writer George Gunn, who has penned the script of a fictionalised story directly inspired by the case.

MacNicol, who revealed plans for the show ahead of the anniversary of McRae’s death today, told Scotland on Sunday: “The SNP have told me they don’t want anything to do with the play, which is disappointing.

“Most people in Scotland have never heard of Willie McRae, but we’re very excited about bringing his story to an international audience.

“We know there are going to be a lot of shows about the referendum at this year’s Fringe, but we think this is the perfect time to put the play on, especially at a time when governments are monitoring people more than ever before. It has become evident that having a right to privacy is being eroded. This will be an opportunity to get that debate going on the Fringe.”