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POPPIES PRIDE AND PEACE: Can we learn the lessons of the past to bring about a peaceful future?


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IT was a great honour to attend the restoration unveiling of the Buckie War Memorial in recent weeks, writes Moray councillor Neil McLennan.

Neil McLennan (centre), at the #iPlay4Peace at its launch event. Photo: Jane Barlow PA.
Neil McLennan (centre), at the #iPlay4Peace at its launch event. Photo: Jane Barlow PA.

The memorial looks resplendent again and is an important part of our respectful, reverend remembrance.

The memorial has two proud, bronze figures: a Gordon Highlander and a Royal Navy Reservist. It was unveiled in 1925 by Lieutenant Colonel J Dawson. That ceremony was attended by Buckie loon, Private George McIntosh VC, the only Victoria Cross winner from the town.

It is so important that we continue to honour those whose brave actions helped others also those who fell before us; that we learn the lessons for history and we continue to work together towards a more peaceful future.

I was proud to have founded an initiative over the years of the First World War commemorations from 2014 to 2018 which ensured the world commemorated together. The #iPlay4Peace and #iSing4Peace initiative was an international project which used cutting edge technology to bring musicians and singers, young and old, together from across the globe to commemorate together.

The aim was quite simple – 100 years before the world had torn itself apart with the first world war. Could we, 100 years later, show that humanity had progressed and that cooperation and creativity can cross borders and we can work together successfully. Shining light on other parts of the world impacted by the First World War brought new understanding and new connections.

Similarly, the Scottish War Poetry project time brought a number of Scottish War poets into public consciousness, ensuring understanding of war is more rounded. The words of Mary Symon were commemorated in that project with a plaque being unveiled in Dufftown.

Neil McLennan , chairman of Scotland's War Poets Memorial committee, and Jim Nicol of Dufftown Community Council at the unveiling of the Mary Symon plaque as part of 2014-2018 commemorations.
Neil McLennan , chairman of Scotland's War Poets Memorial committee, and Jim Nicol of Dufftown Community Council at the unveiling of the Mary Symon plaque as part of 2014-2018 commemorations.

Symon’s words help us to understand the impact of war on rural areas and also are a strong antidote to a normally male dominated focus on war writing. A network of plaques now commemorates the Scottish war poets with a national memorial in Makar’s Court, Edinburgh.

Neil McLennan, chairman of Scotland's War Poets Memorial committee, at the National War Poets Memorial.
Neil McLennan, chairman of Scotland's War Poets Memorial committee, at the National War Poets Memorial.

In achieving peace, it is so important that we hear and respond to diverse voices. The Buckie memorial resonates locally with both a soldier and a sailor. Often the trials and tribulations of those fighting at sea are forgotten. All suffer in war.

Also of note is the dominance of adult representation on war memorials. As well as those fighting, families and children bear the scars of war. Children of Armed Forces personnel serve just as much as their fathers or mothers do when they ‘sign up’.

At this time of escalating global tensions, it is important we consider not only supporting veterans but also Armed Forces families and veterans families and children. Children are, after all, our future.

The world is a divided and conflicted place again. The Ukraine conflict has been close to our considerations with regular broadcast media coverage. Now we have conflict escalating in the Middle East alongside little publicised tensions in the South China Sea.

At this time we need to learn the lessons of the First World War and how quickly unnecessary tensions can escalate. It will take skilled diplomats, effective leaders and a peace-making willpower for the world to navigate today’s storms.

In honouring those who fell and were badly impacted by war, we not only give thanks for their service but show commitment to peaceful future. I hope the next generation are learning the lessons of history and the skills of diplomacy. We need them to ensure a peaceful future.

Neil McLennan is a councillor for Buckie. He has also supported a number of veteran's charities, conflict resolution and global peace-making initiatives.



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