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Poppy Talk

A contributor to RTE’s ‘Liveline’ during the week caused some heated discussion. The topic was whether or not one should wear the Poppy on 11th November. It triggered a memory of Lucan Village during the 1940s. The particular memory is of a sunny day 70 odd years ago when two ladies stood outside the then very busy S.C. Giltrap’s Grocery & Provision store. Each tweed suited and felt hatted lady carried a tray held by a neck strap and filled with artificial poppies which they invited the passers-by to purchase.

Although I cannot be definite about the fact, I seem to remember that the poppy sellers were ladies from the Hill and/or Shackleton families. Both of those families were the big employers locally and the ladies were accorded due respect. We children did not have ready cash but somehow we each managed to acquire a poppy. On reflection I think it is possible that some of the people who contributed to the poppy fund were not inclined to wear the poppy and were happy to discreetly hand them over to the children who stood around.

A Google search revealed a little information about the origin of the Remembrance Day Poppy.

Red poppies sprung up in the fertile fields of Flanders during the 1914/18 war and the sight of them inspired a Canadian Doctor, Lt. Col. John McCrea to write the poem “In Flanders Fields”. In turn the poem deeply influenced the future life of a young American Teacher, Miss Moina Michael (see Wikipedia). After the war she was teaching a class of disabled ex-servicemen in the University of Georgia and realised their need for occupational and financial support. As a means of raising funds and employment for the disabled men she set about the manufacture and sale of silk poppies. A French lady named Anna Guérin supported the idea and transported 9 million of the poppies to Britain where they were sold and raised £106,000 which was used to assist British WW1 veterans with employment and housing. That is how it all started.

For many years poppies were handmade by the ex-servicemen but factories were eventually set up to deal with the demand.

Proponents of the poppy say it “is a symbol of Remembrance and Hope and IT IS NOT a symbol of death or a sign of support for war or a reflection of politics or religion”.

Initially the “Remembrance poppy” was an American idea for the benefit of American disabled ex-servicemen but nowadays they are mostly worn in the UK, Canada, Australia. New Zealand and to a lesser extent in the USA. The proceeds is applied in the country of distribution.

There is something about the pretty red Poppy! Je ne sais quoi! In Ireland 2018 it can stir up a storm both as a symbol intended for good and as a wild flower.