White not Red

Monday once more and of course laundry day – so my time of deep contemplation, – my euthanisem for daydreaming my time away.

One of the thing that I regret in my life it is not asking questions of my father and mother before they passed, now that that time has passed.

The words of a Gaelic Proverb say,

Itheam (let me eat),

O’lam (let me drink),

Caidileam (let me sleep).

Dad would have simply said, “Live and let live”. Dad was like that, if he had an opinion on anything he would say his piece and that was an end to it. Many times he said his piece to me over the years, it is only now that I have come to understand the meaning of many of those pieces. So many lessons taught that went unlearned.

Dad was very much a Darwinian, he had read his works of course but his life in the RN during the First World War, the Merchant Navy between and after the wars, the depression, the hardships the whaling, the countries visited had taught him, in real-time Darwin’s theories of the “Survival of the Fittest”.

“It is not about the hard times” he once told me, “but the way in which you deal with them, that’s what counts”.

Living with mum as her carer, although she would sometimes ask, who is caring for who? I heard many a story about her childhood after she lost her father to the Great War, the war to end all wars.

My grandfather was wounded, shot by a sniper as he carried out his duties as a stretcher-bearer during the second battle of Yepess. Treated in a field hospital he was then passed down the line to Boulogne-Sur-Mer. From here he would have been expected to be shipped home to dear old Blighty, Sadly he died of his wounds, (most likely from infection) and is buried in the War Grave there.

My mother filled in the story for me in the last years of her life. Her mother would now be the breadwinner in the family, and since the land fit for heroes never happened, what did happen was depression and high unemployment after the war. Gran, with no real skills other than domestic, could only find work at the ‘big house’, gran literally became an ‘old scrubber’.

Mum, the oldest of the three Campbell children, she would be no more than 8 years of age at the time, was obliged to take on the responsibility of getting herself and her siblings, up and out to school each morning, and when sickens hit any one of them she became their nurse, chief, cook and bottle washer. She even told me that when her mother was poorly she would be sent out to take over the step scrubbing and dishwashing duties, so that her mother could keep her job.

Such poverty that she sustained in her early years clearly had a detrimental effect on her life chances, with little education she followed her mother into domestic service. The years of depression dragged on, and almost inevitably lead to a second world war, which was really a conclusion of the first war. Rather than shake hands and all go home, the British aristocracy used the German defeat as a way to expand their empire, and extract their pound of flesh.

The Hebrideans will tell you, that when the Vikings sailed west across the North Sea, they put ashore all the sick and seasick on the Shetland and Orcadian islands. They then sailed on to the Hebrides – and that is why the fishermen of the Hebrides are the finest fishermen.

In her book on the Outer Hebrides, Lesley Riddoch asked why there were no fishing fleets on the Islands of the Outer Hebrides? However, it was not until much later in her book, that stopping at the War Memorial at East Loch Roag, at the suggestion from a Donald John MacLeod, was incensed by a radio programme she had presented years ago which suggested The outer Hebrides were the poor relations of Scotland’s larger islands, that she may have found some answers.

The taunts of the east coast fishermen, about how the Hebrideans’ fishermen’s were afraid of losing sight of land.

“Hundreds of them were evicted during the Clearances – take my native parish of Uig on Lewis. In 1795 the reverent Hugh Munro stated there were 275 net makers. I doubt if there are 275 people in the entire parish today.

But, he went on, the heavy loss of life in the two wars left the greatest void. Skippers took their fishing knowledge with them to the bottom of the sea, so their experience was not passed on to the island youngsters keen to enter the fishing industry. It only takes one generation to lose local skills….. Many Western Isles villages are now derelict. In Uig there were five schools when I was young – today there is one. In 1891 the population of the Western Isles was 44,987 and that of Iceland 70,927. Today the population of the Western Isles is around 25,000 and declining fast, while Iceland had increased to nearly 280,000. the Icelanders have not suffered losses in two World wars and their government has fought to preserve their fishing industry. Today Lewis would be better off it was under Norwegian jurisdiction, as it was hundreds of years ago. (that’s you telt). He does go on at length about the losses and why the decline in the fishing industry, including the illegal fishing by trawlers from Grimsby and Spain well within the limit and not a fishing protection vessel in sight. The breeding grounds destroyed and every fish in the sea, big small and indifferent dredged from the sea bed. (was this the ‘sea of opportunity’ being offered to the east coast fishermen by Boris Johnston?)

It is only when you start to come to terms with the destructive power of war and its aftermath that you will understand why I wear a white poppy and not a red, why I march against any intended involvement by the UK government in America’s foreign wars, indeed why I am a pacifist.

Remembering all victims of war

White poppies commemorate all victims of all wars, including wars that are still being fought. This includes people of all nationalities. It includes both civilians and members of armed forces. Today over 90% of people killed in warfare are civilians.

Opponents of the white poppy claim that those who wear it are insulting the soldiers that gave their lives in First World War and in conflicts since. They also criticise it for undermining the significance of the red poppy…. During that time, some women even lost their jobs for wearing the white poppy.

Bairns not Bombs.

Stay safe.

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