Remembrance Day 100 years

Remembrance Day 100 years

Knitted and crocheted flowers from the Liberton Kirk steeple.

In the Great War, the War to End All Wars, 1914-1918, ended with an armistice on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. In the UK, on the one year anniversary of the armistice, King George V held the first official armistice events in the grounds of Buckingham Palace, and at that time marked the first 2-minute silence.

WWI soldier’s hat in moving memorial

Nowadays, Remembrance Sunday in the UK is the Sunday nearest to Armistice Day. The day changed in 1939 when, at the beginning of World War II the UK government moved it so that it would not interfere with production.  So in the UK the traditional 2-minute silence in remembrance, now, of all killed or wounded ex-servicemen and women, happens at 11am on Remembrance Sunday.

Fittingly, on this 100th anniversary of the first armistice, Remembrance Day falls on 11th November.

There is also a tradition of wearing poppies and of laying poppy wreaths at our war memorials. For more information on poppies in Edinburgh, look at my blog post.

Liberton Kirk

In Edinburgh, some exceptional memorials have been created this year to mark the 100 year anniversary. At Liberton Kirk a beautiful display of 16000 knitted, crocheted and paper flowers adorns the church, created and sent from countries around the world. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I was taking photos, I met one of the ladies who, with her group, had knitted 400 of these poppies.  These knitters and crocheters have put a lot of work and dedication to create this astounding scene. The display will continue until Sunday 18 November – you can take a 25 minute bus ride on the 67 bus from the Mound at Princes Street to see it. 

Scott Monument

On Princes Street, beside the Scott monument, rows of crosses reminiscent of the gravestones in northern France, each with a poppy, represent the dead and wounded of war.

This is organised by Poppy Scotland, and I had the honour of talking to two of our ex-servicemen when I visited the memorial.

Two proud ex-servicemen, from same company and regiment. Serviced in Egypt, Aden and Korea.

Visitors are invited to dedicate on of the crosses to a dear one killed or wounded in war.

To commemorate the 100 year anniversary, there will be a concert of remembrance at the Assembly Rooms at 7:30pm on Friday, 9 November. You can buy tickets here.

 

This year, the Remembrance parade, led by war veterans, will leave Edinburgh Castle at 10:30.  After laying wreaths at the stone of remembrance outside Edinburgh City Chambers, the parade will continue to a service in St Giles Cathedral.  It is open to the public, and begins at 11:30am. The Edinburgh Castle gun will fire at 11:00am and 11:02am to mark the start and end of the silence.

 

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

– Robert L. Binyon

 

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Calton Hill Part 1: the Nelson Monument

Calton Hill

Nelson Monument Calton Hill
Nelson Monument from St Andrews House

 

Calton Hill in Edinburgh is at the west end of Princes Street, just a short walk away from Anthemion in New Town, and you’ll get your reward for the wee climb to get to the top. There are a number of historic monuments and 360º views.  It’s an excellent way to get the lay of the land and to see several of Edinburgh’s seven hills.

Calton Hill Nelson Monument
Calton Hill with the Nelson Monument, from North Bridge

Nelson Monument

Make sure you don’t miss a visit to the Nelson Monument. It was built between 1807 and 1815 to commemorate Nelson’s victory and death at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. (Around 20% of the military in the Battle were Scots.  10-year-old John Doig from Leith was among them, and was the youngest crew member). The monument sits on the highest point at Calton Hill.  Its original purpose was as a signal mast to the sailors in the port of Leith. As you climb the 143 steps to the gallery at the top, you can see why!

Holyrood Nelson Monument Calton Hill
View of the Palace of Holyrood House from the Nelson Monument
Calton Hill Nelson Monument
View from the Burns Monument

The city fathers discussed the design of the monument at length, and wrestled with the inevitable funding problems.  They finally settled on architect Robert Burn’s design. He modelled the monument on an upturned telescope. The castellations on top of the monument mirrored those of the notorious Calton Jail, which was on the south of the hill.

Calton Burial Ground Jail
The Governor’s House – all that remains of Calton Jail

Money was tight, so when Mrs Kerr, the widow of a petty officer, leased the monument to set up a tea room, she helped provide the necessary funding to complete the job.

The Time Ball

In 1853, the city added the time ball. It signalled the time to the sailors who set their chronometers by its rise and fall, and were thus able to calculate longitude more precisely. Originally, the clock in the nearby City Observatory (about which, more in future!) triggered the clock via an underground wire.   The ball rises just before 1pm and falls at exactly 1pm. Because on foggy days the sailors could not see the ball, the authorities established the one o’clock gun at Edinburgh Castle so that the signal could be heard if not seen. The two were synchronised via a very long telegraph wire between Calton Hill and the Castle. For 150 years the ball faithfully fulfilled its role, until a storm damaged it in 2007.

Nelson Monument Calton Hill Inverleith Park
Nelson Monument from Inverleith Park

 

The City of Edinburgh Council and restored the monument in 2009 and the ball was repaired, and you can still see it in operation today.Ritchie & Son Clockmakers have had the responsibility of operating the ball since 1852 and continue to this day.

Trafalgar Day

On Trafalgar Day, 21 October, every year, the city runs flags with the message that Nelson set out at the start of the battle: “England expects that every man will do his duty”. On a slightly more down-to-earth matter, Holyrood Palace has also used flags from the monument when they signalled the cancellation of royal garden parties due to rain!

Edinburgh's Folly view leith bass rock
Edinburgh’s Folly, Port of Leith, and even Bass Rock! from the Monument

If you’re fit to climb the stairs, it’s well worth a visit.  The views are unparalleled.  It’s open all year round.

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Soldier’s Trunk in Edinburgh Castle

Quite a mascot at the Castle!

As there’s been wonderful winter weather in Edinburgh recently, I took a dauner from Anthemion up to Edinburgh Castle.  When I go there, I always make a point of looking at the 78th Highlanders monument on the Esplanade.  Edinburgh Castle Monument Edinburgh Castle Elephant

What makes it special is the elephant – and there’s a reason he’s there!

In 1838 when the regiment came back from their posting in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) they came home with an unusual souvenir – an elephant they had adopted as a pet during their time abroad.  The elephant became the regimental mascot and headed their parades.  He lived on site in the Castle stables, looked after by Private McIntosh.  Before long the soldier discovered he had a drinking buddy: the elephant showed a taste for beer, and used to reach its trunk through the bars in the canteen windows to get its evening brew!

 

Oddly, the elephants toenails are on display in the National War Museum within the Castle!

 

 

 

 

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Poppy Day Comes to Edinburgh

Poppy Day

Anyone visiting Scotland (and indeed the UK in general) between now and 12 November will no doubt notice that many people are wearing red poppies. The Answer is Poppy Day.

Remembrance Sunday is the nearest Sunday to the anniversary of the end of the First World War, when Armistice was declared in 1918 on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

Poppy Day Adam Smith

Why Poppies?

As a symbol, they come from the 1915 poem “On Flanders Field” by Canadian Lt Col Dr John McCrae. He saw the poppies popping up as the first signs of life on the muddy battlefields of Ypres. The poem inspired Moina Michael, an American teacher, to have disabled ex-servicemen make and sell silk poppies. A member of the French YWCA, Anna Guerin, saw how these poppies could support ex-servicemen and families affected by the war. She spread the idea to Canada, New Zealand and Australia. In 1921 she met Field Marshall Earl Haig, and persuaded him to adopt the poppy for the British Legion.

Poppies move to Britain

The Legion ordered 9 million poppies for the first Poppy Day in November of that year. The poppies sold out almost immediately.  The demand was so high that Scotland did not see many of these poppies for sale, and in 1926 Earl Haig’s wife set up a poppy factory in Edinburgh for Scottish sales.

The Edinburgh Connection

When you walk along the Royal Mile, look out for Panmure Close. The entrance has wrought ironwork poppies on top. This close was the location of the poppy factory from 1931 to 1965. The factory has now moved to Warriston in Edinburgh, and poppies are still made there by hand by disabled ex-servicemen.

The photo shows the entrance to Panmure Close. On the left, the plaque to the poppy factory. On the right is a plaque to the Adam Smith, pioneer of political economy, who lived in Panmure House for 12 years!  Edinburgh does indeed have a multi-layered history.

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