Twenty one years ago this month my Dad died. He was born on the 7th of November 1932 and died five days and sixty-six years later, on the 12th November 1998. I, therefore, remember my Dad particularly in November. 

I wear the Poppy for my Dad.

He saw active service in Cyprus and 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. 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 of Glasgow collecting boxes, but he did it anyway. He’d seen the men get their legs blown off. He was there. He never glorified war. He never spoke to us about the details, but you could see in his eyes that he had witnessed great suffering.

His army training never left him; he was proud of that. Although, he deeply resented the forced National Service, and made that quite clear to Princess Margaret when she came to inspect his platoon.

Dad was under strict orders to not look the princess directly in the eye. So, when Princess Margaret stood before him, she said, looking him directly in his eyes, “Your men are beautifully turned out today, Lieutenant Murphy.” Dad responded, speaking directly to her, in her eyes, “That is because they have no choice, Ma’am.”

Audible shock followed from the platoon!

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Dad is two heads above Princess Margaret – up where he belongs.

That bit of rebellion from our Glaswegian-Monaghan-Man earned him 30 days in ‘Orderly Officers’ peeling potatoes. Ah, the irony – the Irishman named after the blighted potato being blighted by the potato.

Still, at least there were potatoes to peel unlike in 1845.

My Dad didn’t care; in fact, he was amused by it all. And, the pièce de résistance? – It gave him a great story on which he dined for many a happy year.

I am sure the princess never forgot him in a hurry.

Dad is front right (ie; in charge!) casting the longest shadow. The H.L.I. marching through Maryhill in the late 40s.

The original Kilt Walk: The H.L.I. marching through Maryhill in 1948. Dad is front right (ie; in charge!) casting the longest shadow.

21 years ago this month we stood in Rutherglen Cemetery on a torrentially rainy November day and buried our Dad as his old army mates – gay few – looked on, played The Flow’rs O’The Forrest on the bugle as the rain drenched them through.

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 freedom to rail against protocol, the freedom to question the social order of things and the freedom to live our lives in whichever 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.

The money in the Poppy Boxes goes to help those who were injured in the wars and who fight on.

It’s not a fashion statement.

And, love them or hate them, the sparkly ceramic Poppies were created in order to raise more money for veterans and cost around £15 rather than the £1 or £2 suggested donation towards the plastic ones.  So, whichever Poppy you choose, if you chose to wear one, please make sure that the money you spend on your personal choice of Poppy is being sent to help the wounded veterans and their families.

And, sadly – despite our peace protests and anger at our corrupt government – there is a whole new generation of veterans who need this support.  Just because some people exploit the meaning of the Poppy doesn’t mean that it is now useless. It means we need to reclaim it in the spirit in which it was intended: to remember those who gave their lives for our freedom and to raise money to help the injured veterans.

No-one wants war. No-one I know wants war. But when war comes it is innocent people and hard-working soldiers that suffer the most.

My father, his old comrades and all those who illuminated the suffering of our forefathers and foremothers took practical action to help. They trudged around public spaces dropping off and picking up Poppy Boxes and ensuring that the money was delivered directly to those for whom it was intended.*

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My Father in Peacetime.

The Poppy is a symbol of remembrance, a mark of respect and, 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 lapels just because it’s ‘trending’.

I am an Northern-Irish Glaswegian-Celtic-Supporting-Lapsed-Catholic. I understand why some people do not wear the Poppy. Some do not wear it because they believe it glorifies war. Some Irish do not wear it because of the British armed forces input into the Irish war of independence, and partition, and the Celtic Football Club’s strong Irish republican connections.

See more on this Ireland’s Neutrality and World War 2

Celtic FC made this statement on 07 Nov, 2019 16:24:

“CELTIC FC Foundation is delighted to announce that it has once again made a donation of £10,000 to support the work of PoppyScotland.

Celtic players Ryan Christie and Christopher Jullien presented the donation yesterday (Wednesday) before the team travelled to Rome ahead of their match against Lazio.

The club´s donation will be used primarily to support PoppyScotland´s education project called ´Bud’ – an interactive learning space on an 18-tonne truck that travels to schools and events across Scotland.

Kerry Crichton, Deputy Head of Fundraising: Learning and Outreach at PoppyScotland, said: “We are incredibly grateful to the Celtic FC Foundation for their continued support. The Foundation’s backing in recent years has been instrumental in the creation of Bud, our 18-tonne mobile learning resource which launched in May and is now travelling to communities all over Scotland.

“It encourages school children and members of the public to learn more about the history and heritage of the poppy and remembrance, and to share their stories of reflection and hope. Bud will reach more than 50,000 people in the coming year in all 32 Scottish local authority areas in the coming year and this substantial donation from the Celtic FC Foundation helps to make this possible.”

Tony Hamilton, Chief Executive of Celtic FC Foundation, said: “As we approach Remembrance Sunday it is important that we take time to remember the victims on all sides of all conflicts across the globe.

“In particular, The First World War was a conflict which has a real connection to Celtic with a number of Celtic players tragically losing their lives and, of course, we also remember these men and pay respect to their ultimate sacrifice.

“We have been a supporter of PoppyScotland for many years and we are sure this educational project, which the charity will deliver, will continue to be a great success.”

Celtic FC

I wear the Poppy for my Irish-Glasweigian-Celtic-Supporting-Catholic-Paratrooper-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 – and for those who live on in deep grief with complex medical conditions, physical and mental, PTSD, array of addictions and physical and hidden illnesses.

Put your money in the box if you so wish. Donate online. Wear the Poppy for your own reasons – or don’t.

But please respect each others’ choices.

Thank you Leo Linus Patrick Aloysius Murphy. We will never forget. So you may Rest in Peace.poppy_png_by_jeanmaryanne-d6e5u9m

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Loppy Lugs

*More on money here: Where Does The Poppy Money Go?