12th November 2011
Thirteen years ago today my Dad died. He was born on the 7th of November and died five days and sixty-six years later, on the 12th November. I, therefore, remember my Dad particularly in November. I wear the Poppy for my Dad.
He saw active service in Korea with The Highland Light Infantry. The H.L.I. were based at Maryhill Barracks in Glasgow – nicknamed ‘Hell’s Last Issue’ because of their reputation for toughness. Their symbol was the elephant: tough and strong but also intelligent and kind. Dad was also active in the Parachute Regiment as a young man and remained involved with 15 Para at Yorkhill all his life (NAME-DROP ALERT! Incidentally, Billy Connolly’s Regiment too). As an older man he went from bar-to-bar all across Glasgow in hail, rain and snow delivering and collecting Poppy Boxes to raise money for the war disabled. He enjoyed a pint, it’s true, and he liked bars, but there were times he was really worn out and didn’t want to trudge round the streets collecting boxes, but he did it anyway. He’d seen the men get their legs blown off – he was there. His army training never left him; he was proud of that.
Thirteen years ago today, we stood in Rutherglen Cemetery on a torrentially rainy November day and buried my Dad as his old army mates – gay few – played The Flow’rs O’The Forrest on the bagpipes as the rain drenched them through. My Dad wore the Poppy practically all year round and those old boys were all wearing the Poppy that day – because it meant something to them.
I wear the Poppy for my Dad who represented the fight for freedom for me – all kinds of freedoms. The freedoms to live our lives in whatever way we choose, and that includes the choice to wear the Poppy – or not.
Forcing people to wear the Poppy devalues it. Forcing people NOT to wear the Poppy takes away their freedom. And, incidentally, paying a designer to make a special Poppy just for you so you look better in your presenting job on television is frankly grotesque. The money in the Poppy boxes goes to help those who were maimed in the wars – and who fight on. Please don’t turn it into a fashion statement. (And, incidentally, that green leaf looks shite!)
Have the footballers wearing the Poppy this weekend made a donation towards the cause? Have the television presenters who are FORCED to wear the Poppy (provided for them in Wardrobe) put their money in the box? How much of Carole Vorderman’s jewel-encrusted ‘Poppy’ went to help the war disabled? Do the people forced to wear the Poppy REALLY care?
The Poppy is a symbol of remembrance, a mark of respect. Yes, it has become political, a symbol of pro-war and even a self-gratifying emblem for do-gooders. And some are now attaching it to their lapel just because it’s ‘trending’.
I wear it for my Dad. I remember for him because he can’t. And in so doing my attention is drawn towards those who, with the best will, fought and died for peace.
Put your money in the box if you so wish. Wear the poppy for your own reasons – or don’t. But please respect each other’s choices.
Leo Linus Patrick Aloysius Murphy (I think he made some of those up) Rest in Peace.