Memorial lesson

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It is 100 years since Sir George McCrae stood in the Usher Hall in Edinburgh and, in effect, raised a battalion, the 16th Battalion Royal Scots.

Last Sunday, I stood at the memorial at Haymarket as the Heart of Midlothian Football Club honoured Sir George McCrae, the seven first team players who gave their lives in his battalion, and all who have given their lives in war. It was unfortunate that a well-executed act of remembrance was accompanied by apparently urgent movement nearby, the trundling of suitcases, dragged noisily across the footpath and finally by someone tipping rubbish into a wheelie bin.

Two days later, on Armistice Day, a lady passed Stewart’s Melville College on Edinburgh’s Queensferry Road. The pupils were assembled around the lawns before that magnificent building and the lady was moved to tears. There might have been close to 2,000 present; 434 former pupils gave their lives in two world wars. Their war memorial was unveiled in 1922 and still they gather, in a manner that reduces a passer-by to tears.

McCrae’s Battalion preserved the freedom which permits us to ignore remembrance and much is said of the importance of instilling the habit of remembrance in the young. Perhaps the boys and girls who stood silently in serried ranks by Queensferry Road have reminded us all of how to behave.

WILLIAM D NICOL

Great Stuart Street

Edinburgh

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