It is almost a week since Remembrance Day so I was taken aback to be asked “Why do poppies represent the end of the war when they flower in summer and the end of the war was technically winter?” Why, indeed? Poppies are not indigenous to South Africa, although a number of gardeners sow the traditional red poppy seeds in the hope that they will bloom at this time of the year. In my own garden self-sown Opium Poppies (Papaver somniferm) begin to bloom a few days before the annual Remembrance Day parade.

We must all be familiar with that moving poem In Flanders Field by John McCrae that begins with the words:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place

Seasons notwithstanding, the crimson poppy has become associated with the armistice – largely due, it is widely acknowledged, to the popularity of McCrae’s poem. As Corn Poppies (Papaver rhoeas) are pioneer plants, they were among the first plants to colonise the churned up battle fields – surely providing a wondrous sight in contrast to the destruction wrought on the landscape by war. The sale of artificial poppies have benefited war orphans, ex-service men and women and their families over the years.

Artificial poppies are more robust than real ones, which easily wilt and fall to pieces when cut.

The artificial ones for wreaths can be fairly elaborate.

While the ones generally worn on one’s left or right shoulder come in a standard form and are made from a combination of paper and plastic – this one has been pinned to a piper’s kilt for practical reasons.

These poppies have come to symbolise hope and gratitude.

Interesting information can be found at:





The day began before 6 a.m. while the morning mist still hugged the hills around Grahamstown and the sun was struggling to break through the cloud cover.

This was when a group of four pipers and two drummers gathered at the 1820 Settlers’ Monument that overlooks the town to join in a world-wide commemoration of the signing of the armistice a hundred years ago.

The annual Remembrance Day Parade took place in Church Square later that morning:



We gathered in Church Square on Sunday morning for the annual Remembrance Day Parade involving the military, the M.O.T.H.S and schools along with various other representatives of the community.

When set against the broader context of ongoing violence elsewhere in the world, the recent xenophobic attacks, student protests and vandalism of monuments in our town seem small beer. Any form of unrest, however, rocks a community in subtle ways that reverberate for some time after the surface ‘wounds’ have apparently healed.

This was a good time for young and old to gather in remembrance of the many who died in conflicts that now cover an ever-stretching span of years and places. As the guard of honour took their places around the cenotaph, and uniformed members of the military and police gathered in solemn rows alongside uniformed school children all clutching wreaths, it was easy to believe in the probity of those who are charged with guiding the young, protecting our citizens and keeping our country safe.

We gathered as a community melded from different backgrounds and with different interests and affiliations. Among us were those who had lost comrades and loved ones in some of the conflicts and others too young to appreciate the significance of people wearing paper poppies. They will learn, for it is the way memories are passed on. The images below reflect a little of the occasion.

It was not a time to glorify war, but to remember those who did not come home. In the words of Laurence Binyon

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day


Remembrance Day