Being a Poppy Partner, Graham Halstead

Graham in front of the Poppies:Weeping Window sculpture at the Castle”

” I have been a supporter of the Poppy campaign as long as I can remember, especially after my father died from his third heart attack when I was just 17. He fought in the Second World War in Burma, for the ‘Forgotten 14th’ , and, although he survived, I don’t doubt that the horror of what he faced and had to go through shortened his life. Unlike some old soldiers, he would never discuss his time in the war – there were clearly memories that were just too painful to recall.

Having moved away from home and, with no grave to visit, the Poppy campaign also became my personal memorial to my father, not least as he died shortly before Remembrance Day. Subsequently, and particularly with the UK’s military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, I became a regular contributor to the Royal British Legion throughout the year as I had great sympathy for the families of those that didn’t return and for the injuries sustained by the soldiers in those conflicts.

I was then fortunate enough to be in London in November 2014 which enabled me to visit the ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ installation at the Tower of London. It was a spectacular sight, but also very moving, and although the crowds were huge there was a silence and respect for what we were witnessing. Consequently, when my wife saw the articles in the Perthshire Advertiser asking for volunteers for the Weeping Window installation, and I had recently retired, it seemed like a perfect fit.

I have now spent 2 months as a Poppy Partner and have thoroughly enjoyed my time in this capacity. The Poppies, of course are visually stunning, but the highlight for me has been the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff at the Castle, who clearly enjoy what they do, and my fellow Partners. Add to that, when departing visitors invariably tell you how pleased they are with the whole experience, it makes you appreciate that you are contributing to something very special. Occasionally visitors say that they wished they’d seen the whole display at the Tower of London, but I can at least share with them my own experience. The memorial wall to the fallen of the Black Watch in World War 1 is also very touching.

Having taken a tour of The Black Watch Museum I can only say how impressed I am with the number and range of the exhibits, going back to the very beginnings of the Black Watch. There is so much there that you really need to set aside half a day to do the museum full justice, so I will be going back. The cafe, which is very popular, is, if you’ll pardon the pun, the icing on the cake, and I haven’t even mentioned the shop, with an extensive range of both Poppy and Black Watch items to suit all tastes and budgets.

What I think is most pleasing is the number of local people who have rarely, if ever, visited the Castle before but who were so impressed with their visit that they said that they’ll be back, which will support the staff at the Castle in continuing their excellent work.”

Graham Halstead, Poppy Partner


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