It has been an honour and a privilege to have been involved as a poppy partner through the Summer.My Father and his two brothers served in WW 2 and one did not return from El Alamein. My three great uncles served in the first war and one died at Ypres and ,on a visit to Flanders a couple of years ago, we went to the Menin Gate to find his name illuminated by a shaft of sunlight. It was , in part, to honour them that my wife and I volunteered at the Tower of London and we were lucky enough to have been involved in a small way during the dismantling. So it was with delight that we were given the opportunity to volunteer here at Balhousie Castle.
A privilege too, not just for the chance to interview designer Tom Piper for Hospital Radio Perth, who was a charming and easy interviewee, but also for the stories in which we were allowed to share.
One morning I met a young Irish boy, of about 7 or 8, and his father. The lad was clutching a black and white photograph of a young man in uniform. This, I was told, was ‘Great Uncle Jack’, who had perished at the Battle of the Somme (I suspect with the Ulster Division ). They wanted to take a picture of Uncle Jack amongst the Poppies. They had, earlier, bought one of the Poppies from the Tower and taken it and the photograph to Jack’s grave in one of the many cemeteries in the area. It was the respect and devotion that the young lad showed that impressed me. He was treating this as living history and with his attitude, I have no fear that the sacrifice will never be forgotten.
The younger generation looking to the older for their lead is a great thing in this day and age, which brings me to the second illustration. Being inside the museum at the time I was told about this by another Poppy Partner.
An unassuming older gentleman in a wheelchair was helped to the front of the display by the tree and looked on in silence for a while. Then slowly and agonisingly he raised himself from his wheelchair to stand and salute fallen comrades. Many tears were wiped away that morning. It turned out that he was Australia’s most decorated veteran. A humbler hero would be hard to find.
It is these sorts of experiences that have made being a Poppy Partner such an honour and a privilege, not to mention an intensely rewarding experience.
Peter Drummond Hay | Poppy Partner