… poppies grow ...
“… poppies grow in Flanders fields.”
I don’t suppose that John McCrae could have imagined how many times his poem would be read, spoken, and listened to in the decades following his composition of it. It has been an inspiration to some to write their own, besides a solemn and requisite part of the act of remembrance for others.
Nor could this Canadian doctor and artillery commander have envisaged the creativity born out of the very image of the red blossoms in Flanders fields. Particularly since the beginning of the commemorations of the 1st World War, we have seen new badges and brooches, stick-on poppies for garment and vehicle, poppy-decorated clothing and of course the handmade and heartfelt displays in private gardens, public parks and churchyards.
So let me take you to one particular example, which I acquired at this time last year from the High School of Dundee.
Made from jute (1 of the 3 “j’s” of Dundee’s industrial heritage (the others being jam and journalism)) this poppy was made to commemorate the bravery of all who fell in the Great War.
The jute also reminds us of the women of the city who produced sandbags to line the trenches of the Western Front.
This morning (Friday 8th November) in my role as acting Chaplain, I was at the High School of Dundee for the rededication of the war memorial in the entrance hall. This beautiful piece of oak carving, inscribed with the names of pupils and staff who served their country, dates back to 1921. Recent and painstaking research revealed that some individuals, notably the women, had been missed, and so six new panels were created in the school’s Technology and Art departments so that 84 names could be added.
The Rector’s resume of the history, bringing us up to the present day, was combined with an act of worship, biblical and secular readings and “The flowers o’ the forest” played on the bagpipes; a fitting tribute, then, to all whose whose names are inscribed.
Among them is Daniel Stalker of the Royal Field Artillery who, at the age of 27, was killed in action in France, just two days short of his first wedding anniversary when his wife was expecting a child. That sentence by itself illustrates the horrific effects of war on family life, but I include reference to Lieutenant Stalker also because a great niece of his is one of our elders in Meadowside St Paul’s. Notably, Dan had won the Harris Gold Medal for Dux of the School, something he had in common with two of those (one male, one female) whose names have been added to the newer part of the memorial.
I started with poppies. Let me end by telling you that two wreaths (3m. wide) designed by the Head of Art and made by pupils using jute poppies, have been placed against the distinctive pillars at the main entrance to the school. A reminder that we should not “break faith” with those who died.