This photo of Private Jackie Reid of the 1/7th Royal Scots was taken in 1915. He lived on Monktonhall Terrace, in Musselburgh.

His photo is displayed at the John Gray Centre in Haddington, and is part of a fascinating exhibition on the social history of the First World War, introduced to me by Helen Bleck.

I looked at the photo of Jackie for some time, and it seemed that he stared back at me from 100 years ago. I thought he looked familiar, and then I realised this was because he reminded me of an old school friend. It’s strange how we can sometimes feel we recognise people in old photos, but I suppose it does make sense. Our descendents looked like us, because we come from them, and so our eyes are drawn to familiar features.

I don’t know how old Jackie was when he enlisted, but if you study his boyish face then you may wonder, like me, if he may have been underage.

Jackie set off to war on May 22, 1915. He was headed for the hell that was Gallipoli, but he never got there. In fact, the train taking him and his comrades to the front never even left Scotland.

It slammed into another train that was mistakenly parked on the main line at a place called Quintinshill, just north of Gretna. This train crash remains the worst rail disaster in British history. It involved five trains and 227 lost their lives, with just as many horribly injured.

The wooden-framed carriages, lit by gas, burst into flames, engulfing the young men in horror. The young Jackie managed to escape, but lost his right arm, and damaged his left. He later spent some time in hospital in East Linton in an effort to have the fingers on his left arm straightened. Afterwards he was then sent to London to have a prosthetic arm fitted.

But what was this young lad’s story? If he was underage, what did his family think of him enlisting? What were his feelings as he boarded the packed train, heading for war?

He somehow managed to desperately scramble himself from the inferno. Did he lose his arm as he escaped, or was it burned as he tried to save fellow soldiers? I just don’t know. I can only look at his photo and wonder what his eyes are telling me.

Notice that his left hand is covered, hiding his twisted fingers. His right sleeve is tucked neatly into a pocket, almost giving the illusion that he has his hand in his pocket. The walking stick also makes me wonder what other injuries Jackie suffered. While he was at East Linton did he wander along the Tyne? Does anyone remember him there?

And look at the wrist watch; it was a gift from Jackie’s neighbours on Monktonhall Terrace. It’s a quality gold watch, and so they must have held him in high esteem. It was presented to him on the eve of his reporting back to duty.

Hang on, reporting back to duty? He wasn’t sent to the front I assume, but he was still a soldier, so where did they send him and what happened to him in later life? I don’t know because it’s at this point Jackie Reid walks out of his brief appearance in history.

And that’s the trouble with history. It tracks and stalks the rich and powerful, but ordinary folk are mostly ignored, or at best, like Jackie Reid, get a brief moment, then vanish.

And that’s where the importance of family storytelling comes in. Tales about our own lives and experiences and about the things we have done are so vitally important. Yet in the hustle and bustle of life, most folk find little time to make stories and tell them.

But if you do, then your tales will become both a family heirloom and part of oral history. They will reveal the truth that ordinary people are in fact often anything but ordinary and become the truly interesting bits of history.

But how do you craft memories or anecdotes from your life into an interesting tale?

Come to the John Gray Centre this Saturday for a story sharing and story making event. In an informal atmosphere, let Helen guide you through the exhibition and then share your memories with me and craft them into tales.

Perhaps Jackie Reid did tell his story. Perhaps his watch has been treasured and his stories are still being told by descendents, and if so I hope I will one day hear them. But perhaps he kept the stories that defined his life to himself. Maybe some were too painful, possibly he thought nobody would be interested because he wasn’t one of the so-called important people. If so, we have only the crumbs left by history to know him by. And his photograph.

But if you’re reading this, it’s not too late for you to tell your tales, and make history notice! And so I really hope I will meet you on Saturday at the John Gray Centre, 10.30am to 12.30pm.