A new way for us to remember

Coronavirus is set to play havoc with traditional ceremonies of commemoration and celebration throughout the Borders this autumn and winter.

By Paul Kelly
Thursday, 29th October 2020, 10:48 am
David Deacon and Kevin Turnbull at Selkirk War Memorial.
David Deacon and Kevin Turnbull at Selkirk War Memorial.

Almost every facet of our lives has been altered by the Covid-19 pandemic this year.

Traditional Common Riding and summer festivals were wiped out due to the limitations the virus imposed upon us.

Now its impact is again set to be felt as Borderers prepare to mark Remembrance Sunday on November 8.

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Brian McLeod.

Traditionally townsfolk across the region would be out in force to remember the sacrifices generations have made to keep the nation safe.

But this year those commemorations will be different, with parades cancelled and the pipes and drums largely silenced due to social distancing.

A small contingent of officials will gather at war memorials to lay wreaths at 11 o’clock but the public is being advised to stay away.

Instead, Borderers are being asked to mark the 11am two minute silence in a much simpler way - by standing and reflecting on their front doorstep.

Meanwhile, in advance of Remembrance Sunday, Bonfire Night and the switching on of Christmas lights, Scottish Borders Council is highlighting the need for community event organisers to follow national coronavirus guidance.

With the risk of the virus expected to increase in the winter months, some events which are traditionally held at this time of year will not be able to take place, and others will need to be considerably changed.

With the council having a role supporting the planning of any outdoor or indoor event, it is highlighting key issues for event organisers to consider.

It means that organisers must be able to control the number of attendees at any event and capacity should be calculated based on ensuring two metre physical distancing up to a limit of 200 attendees at any one time, who must all be seated.

However, outdoor standing events such as Remembrance Day parades, fireworks events and Christmas light switch-on events are not currently permitted.

Indoor events in places of worship are permitted but limited to a maximum of 50 people.

Councillor John Greenwell, Scottish Borders Council’s veterans champion, acknowledged this would come as another disappointment to folk across the region.

He said: “Each year our towns and villages host successful gatherings to mark Remembrance Sunday, Bonfire Night and the switching on of Christmas lights in many town centres. Unfortunately, the impact of Coronavirus means a number of these events will not be able to go ahead this year, or will have to be changed in order to meet the national guidance.

“We realise this will be another disappointment to our communities which have already witnessed their Common Ridings and summer festivals being cancelled earlier this year due to the virus. However, with coronavirus cases rising across the country, the need to keep the public safe is the priority at the moment.

“We have shared the current national guidance with community groups and event organisers but we would recommend they listen to future Scottish Government announcements in case this information is updated.”

Any event organiser or community group looking for advice can contact the Safety Advisory Group via email - [email protected]

The Kelso branch of the Royal British Legion Scotland has expressed “great regret” that the public will not be able to gather at Kelso War Memorial on Remembrance Sunday, November 8.

Branch president Alasdair Hutton, who has served 22 years in the Parachute Regiment TA, said: “It will be a much quieter Remembrance Day than usual with no parade through the town to the sound of the pipes and drums.

“In view of the regularly changing advice, we would be very grateful if members of the public would not attend the war memorial at 11 o’clock but would stand at their front doors in silence for two minutes to remember the sacrifice made by so many to turn back the tide of the Nazis and fascists in Europe and the Japanese Empire in the Far East and in other conflicts before and since the Second World War.”

Wreaths will be laid at 11am at the war memorial by representatives of local organisations after the two minute silence.

Small crosses will be available at the war memorial between 11.30am and 1pm on Sunday, November 8, under the supervision of the legion ushers, who will give members of the public the chance to plant them in the war memorial garden.

In Hawick a much-reduced ceremony will be staged at the town’s war memorial at 11am, 15 minutes after the laying of wreaths at the Boer War memorial.

Brian McLeod BEM, secretary and treasurer of Hawick Royal British Legion, said this year’s commemoration had suffered a “double whammy”.

In addition to the restrictions due to Covid-19, the flood defence works being carried out in the town would have impacted on the march in any event.

He said: “In a normal year there would be between 150 and 200 people marching, this year the event is greatly reduced. At this minute in time, unless it changes between now and the eighth, there’s going to be four wreaths laid by the deputy lord lieutenant Kirsty Dunlop, followed by James Adams, president of Hawick Ex-Service Club, it’s no longer the Ex-Servicemen’s Club, the chairman of the Hawick branch of the Royal British Legion Scotland, Ian McLeod, and Hawick provost, Watson McAteer.

“Hopefully, the legion’s standards will be on parade, but that might have to be withdrawn if it is considered too much like a full parade.

“You will get people coming but we have a couple of stewards to remind them on about social distancing.”

The Galashiels remembrance parade has also been cancelled and instead a very small, invite-only wreath-laying ceremony is to be staged at the town’s war memorial at 11am on Wednesday, November 11.

David Hartley, chairman of Galashiels British Legion and event organiser, said: “We normally have it on the Sunday before Remembrance Day and it’s quite a big parade but we have had to cancel that due to advice from the Scottish Government and Royal British Legion Scotland but we have decided we must go ahead with something.

“There will be no marching. It will just be forming up at the council buildings in Galashiels and walking round and the wreath-laying ceremony, the Last Post and Reveille and marching off again.

“The Lord Lieutenant is coming, the Duke of Buccleuch, and there will be between six to eight laying wreaths, I’m finalising numbers now, alongside pipers and buglers and standard bearers. It’s just so that the people of Galashiels know that something is being held.

“This year will be entirely different to every other year but we feel it is important to stage something.”

In normal times there would be at least 300 marching to Selkirk war memorial alongside the pipe band leader, including representatives of the Royal British Legion, ward councillors, youth groups, the fire service, the Common Riding and the police force.

This year it will be very different.

David Deacon, chair of the Selkirk and Ettrick Forest branch of the Royal British Legion Scotland, said: “Because of what is going on we have stood the pipe band down, so there will not be a physical parade as in marching, but there will still be socially distant and Covid-compliant service at Selkirk War Memorial at 11am with a minimal service.

“It is still important that it goes ahead in some form.”

Unfortunately, this year it is not possible to hold the parade from Earlston Church along the High Street to the war memorial in the Square, due to Coronavirus restrictions.

However, a remembrance service will be held in Earlston Parish Church at the earlier time of 9.30am.

This service will be recorded and made available on the Earlston Church Facebook site, via email and also on the Direct Dial telephone line (01896 404 770).

At 11am, there will be a brief Act of Remembrance at the war memorial, but the general public are requested not to attend, and are instead encouraged to observe the two-minute silence at home. The public is also invited to donate online to the Royal British Legion in lieu of normal poppy donations.