The sun shone and the tins rattled as thousands turned out to donate and be entertained at the fifth annual Edinburgh Poppy Day. In St Andrew Square, and across the rest of the city, scores of collectors were out in force to do their bit for Poppyscotland while the music played.
The lunchtime concert was hosted by Forces Radio BFBS and this year’s performers included The Band of The Royal Regiment of Scotland, Legion Scotland singing sensation Amy Hawthorn, folk singer songwriter Alan Brydon, Richard Kerr and the George Heriot’s School Pipe Band. Also popping along to enjoy the day were two Chelsea Pensioners who are on a country-wide tour.
In 2017, more than £15,000 was donated during Edinburgh Poppy Day and it is hoped that a similar amount will be raised this year to help support the Armed Forces community in Scotland. Among the corporates collecting in this special Centenary year were Standard Life, RBS, Virgin Money and Adam & Co.
Jennifer Maclean, along with 17 of her colleagues from Virgin Money, collected in rotation at one of entrances to St Andrew Square from first thing this morning to the end of the day. Jennifer, who works as an Assistant Company Secretary and lives in Edinburgh, said: “This is my third year of collecting and it is a brilliant experience. It is great to meet so many people as they make their way through the Square and hear their stories.
“Learning about war from watching the telly is one thing, but what really brings it home is when you speak face-to-face to people that have served, or to the family members of those who have served or still serving. It’s then when you learn about the sacrifices made. And days like today are special because everybody is so friendly and it’s amazing how generous people have been.”
Jennifer recalls one of her first memories of hearing about war: “I remember as a wee girl sitting round the table at Christmas with all the family and my Gran saying: ‘During the war, I used to make bombs, you know… and I used to sign them “Maggie”!’”
One of the day’s special attractions was a selection of military vehicles, provided by The Scottish Military Vehicle Group. Garry Morton, who travelled down from Kinross with his wife Fiona, brought along his Austin K5 General Service 4x4 vehicle. Around 12,000 of these vehicles were built during the Second World War, and Garry believes there are only eight or nine still around, with just six still roadworthy.
Garry, who bought the vehicle around ten years ago and has spent a great deal of time restoring it to its former glory, loves the “atmosphere and camaraderie” of Edinburgh Poppy Day, adding: “Lots of people come up and ask all about the vehicle and it’s a good way to talk about something that was an integral part of the war effort. I also take the vehicle on school visits and give lectures about it. As the name suggests, the K5 was a general service vehicle meaning it carried just about everything, from men to equipment.”
While Kinross may be fewer than 30 miles away from Scotland’s capital, Garry revealed the time – and cost – of travelling down: “The average speed of the Austin K5 is about 35 to 38mph, and it only does eight miles to the gallon, so it’s expensive to run! But it’s worth it and it’s great being part of The Scottish Military Vehicle Group. At a last count, there are more than 100 vehicles in our group.”
Gordon Michie, the Head of Fundraising at Poppyscotland, said: “Edinburgh Poppy Day is one of the pivotal days in the period of Remembrance and it is an event that has grown steadily in popularity since it was first held back in 2013. It’s fantastic that the people of Edinburgh – along with hundreds of visitors to the city – joined us in St Andrew Square and throughout the rest of the city to enjoy an exciting day jam-packed with music and entertainment.
“We enjoyed working with Forces Radio BFBS to stage the lunchtime concert with talented musicians aplenty and we are extremely grateful to them for the continued support. We also cannot thank our teams of corporate collectors enough for spending the whole day collecting for us.”