This past weekend, Remembrance Sunday was markedly different from previous years with the public being urged to stay home in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
In normal circumstances, I would have joined with the community at the Remembrance service at the war memorial in Kilwinning to lay a wreath to pay respects to those who lost their lives in the two World Wars and subsequent conflicts. This year I, like many others I paid my respects differently, attending alone to place a wreath in memory of the fallen.
These services are important, and I fully understand the disappointment felt by those who were not able to attend in the usual way. This year all of our lives are markedly different and all are making sacrifices as we work together to minimise the harms caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Poppy Scotland have been able to continue their fundraising activities online and have a local team who are working remotely to offer support to the military community across Ayrshire who need assistance with issues such as housing, employment, education, finance, mobility and mental health.
The commemoration of Armistice Day when the guns fell silent in 1918 becomes more important with every year as the horrors of the First World War fade from living memory. Scores of young men from Ayrshire made great personal sacrifice by enlisting to serve in France and Belgium, never to return.
Among the 115 people from Kilwinning who lost their lives in the First World War was Duncan Currie. He was a footballer who after playing for Kilwinning Rangers, moved to Heart of Midlothian where in 1914, he and 15 of his teammates enlisted in the McRae’s Battalion, becoming the first football team to sign up en masse to serve in the war. They were comfortably leading in the Scottish First Division at the time, a fact which perhaps illustrates even more sharply their sense of duty and service.
Duncan Currie was among the thousands to be killed on the first day of the Somme in 1916.
The National Records of Scotland host a fascinating online archive of letters and correspondence from soldiers who fought at the Somme. These immortalise the realities of life in the trenches during the fighting which serve as a stark reminder that the war was a dehumanising endeavour which in itself should not be glorified but remembered for the tragedy that it was.
It is with the young men who died hundreds of miles from home, and those who returned physically and mentally traumatised my thoughts will be when we pause in silence at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day this November. In remembrance of their great sacrifice and hopes of peace.