Linlithgow’s floral tribute to World War One heroes

Joint effort...flower bed was Burgh Beautiful's concept but involved the whole community, including ladies who spent the winter knitting poppies. Some of those involved gathered at the Vennel bed for our photo call. (Pic: Michael Gillen)
Joint effort...flower bed was Burgh Beautiful's concept but involved the whole community, including ladies who spent the winter knitting poppies. Some of those involved gathered at the Vennel bed for our photo call. (Pic: Michael Gillen)

On Sunday, it will be 50 days until people across the country commemorate the end of World War One.

It will bring to a close five special years in which the Great War’s fallen and wounded have been remembered and celebrated.

Bootiful remembrance...for the family firm Morrisons and its staff. Known for agricultural boots, during the Great War it ensured the troops had suitable footwear. (Pic: Michael Gillen)

Bootiful remembrance...for the family firm Morrisons and its staff. Known for agricultural boots, during the Great War it ensured the troops had suitable footwear. (Pic: Michael Gillen)

In Linlithgow, a special flower bed has been planted in the High Street to ensure we remember them.

The brainchild of Burgh Beautiful, the Vennel flower bed project has included contributions from many individuals and groups.

Its 100 knitted poppies, for example, were the handiwork of ladies from St Michael’s and St Ninian’s Churches and McArthy and Stone residents.

Transition Linlithgow created the vegetable barrow which signifies how people during the war planted their own, to feed themselves as well as the war effort.

Dedications....to World War One heroes by local families have been posted in the window of the town's former library where the answer to the floral tribute's tartan question is also answered. (Pic: Michael Gillen)

Dedications....to World War One heroes by local families have been posted in the window of the town's former library where the answer to the floral tribute's tartan question is also answered. (Pic: Michael Gillen)

Every square inch of the display was carefully considered by a five-strong team from Burgh Beautiful.

Among their number was Kirsty Leonard, who kindly agreed to explain the many commemorative tributes.

For example, why is there a pair of working men’s boots within it?

Kirsty said: “Morrisons shoe shop used to be situated across from the display.

“Before the Great War, the family firm was renowned for making agricultural boots but during the war it’s staff were fully employed making boots for the army.

“We wanted to include a tribute to the firm and its workers’ efforts.”

The flowers in the display also have their own meaning, with the colourful marigolds chosen to signify the Nobel factory’s female workers and allysum chosen for its beautiful fragrance.

Kirsty explained: “The Nobel munitions factory, once situated where Tesco’s car park now stands, had to employ women to replace the conscripted men.

“These women, from the town and surrounding areas, later became know as the Canary Girls.

“Exposure to TNT resulted in their skin turning yellow and their health suffered in later life too.

“The marigolds are in tribute to the Canary Girls.

“Allysum was chosen as it has a beautiful scent to attract visitors – both human and insects – to spend some time at the display.”

It certainly seemed to be working; several families stopped to study the display and bees were busy collecting the pollen during our interview.

And that’s exactly what Burgh Beautiful’s floral display team hoped to achieve when they first discussed the World War One project last year.

Kirsty said: “We ordered the plants last autumn and the five of us met regularly during the winter planning what we would do.

“All of the poppies were attached to knitting needles inserted into the ground.

“I visited the poppy installation at Aberlady Church in east Lothian last year and that’s where the idea came from.

“Lots of the businesses and charity shops in town donated needles and wool, for which we were very grateful.

“And we certainly could not have done it without the help of the ladies who spent the winter months knitting the poppies. They did a fantastic job.

“It was very much a community effort.”

Not all of the poppies were used in the display; some have also been stocked in local shops in the traditional red for remembrance, white for peace and black to represent people of colour who served in the war.

It is hoped people will consider dedicating a poppy to a loved one.

Kirsty explained: “Residents and visitors from all over the world – of any nationality, race or religion – are invited to dedicate one of the knitted poppies in our flower bed to a relative who fought or died during World War One or any conflict since. The dedication can be as simple as name and dates.

“However, we would also like people to provide more information or photographs for a display in the former Linlithgow library.

“Several poppies have already been dedicated but we’d be delighted to hear from more families.”

It is also hoped in this special commemoration year that £1918 can be raised for Poppyscotland.

Kirsty added: “We’d be very grateful for donations to our poppy pledge page.

“The money raised will go to Poppyscotland, with the target being £1918.

“We hope lots of small donations will raise as much as possible for the charity.”

To dedicate a poppy, email Kirsty at linlithgowpoppies@hotmail.com or to find out more, visit www.linlithgowpoppies.co.uk.

Dedications to local heroes

Included in the display is a tapestry of flowers, making up a well-known tartan.

Visitors are invited to guess which tartan it is and are directed to visit the library window display, where the correct answer is posted.

You’ll also discover more about local men who died in the war here, thanks to families who have dedicated poppies and shared their stories.

They include Private Alexander Grant, of the 5th Battalion, Royal Scots. A local miner, Alexander joined up at the start of the war in 1914. He served until September 3, 1918, when he was killed on the last day of the second Battle of the Somme, aged just 32.

The dedication was made by his second cousin, Anna McKenzie, from Linlithgow, and his grandchildren.

Also fondly remembered is Magnus Nigel Gray,of the 3rd Battalion Scottish Rifles (Cameronians) Special Reserve. Born in Polmont in 1895, he joined up in 1914 at the age of 19. On the Western Front, on June 20, 1915, he rescued a friend and then a colleague in No Man’s Land.

Sadly, he was shot in the head and died a few hours later. His actions received a mention in dispatches and his great niece Diana Marchant, from Linlithgow, dedicated a poppy in his memory.

Also remembered is Private Andrew Moreland DCM, of the 11th Battalion Royal Scots Regiment, 27th Brigade, 9th (Scottish) Division. The Philpstoun man was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. During an attack in which his officer was killed, he took command and drove off the enemy. He died on September 29, 1918, aged 21. His nephew Andrew Kirton-Vaughan, niece Trixie Munro and great nephew Edward Kirton-Vaughan shared his story.