Every year on November 11, the UK marks Remembrance Day, commemorating the date in 1918 that an armistice was declared across Europe, marking the end of the World War One, and now held as a day of remembrance for military and civilian casualties of conflicts from right across the twentieth century.
Edinburgh holds a variety of events and commemorations to mark this day, along with towns and cities across the UK, and one of the most visible emblems of this period of remembrance is that of the poppy, held as a symbol of both the fallen and the veterans of these wars.
The poppy was adopted as a symbol after World War One, when the fields in France and Belgium, where the front lines of the trench warfare had been, sprouted these vibrant and colourful flowers in the aftermath of the battles.
The wildflowers seeded themselves easily in the heavily churned up and disturbed earth of these former battlefields, and became an emblem of the losses which occurred there. (In France, the blue cornflower came to symbolise these conflicts in a similar fashion.)
Today, paper poppies are worn as an emblem of remembrance, displayed in wreaths, and are planted in fields of crosses, such as the Garden of Remembrance in Edinburgh's Princes Street Gardens, around the Scott Monument.
But you may not know that Scottish poppies are different from English poppies - the former have four petals, while the latter have just two. English poppies often have green leaves attached to the flower, while the Scottish ones do not.
Moreover, all Scottish poppies are made here in Edinburgh, in Lady Haig's Poppy Factory, a charitable body set up to provide occupation to veterans in 1926. Today they employ 40 ex-servicemen and women to assemble the paper poppies which are sold and displayed across Scotland. They hand-make over five millions poppies every autumn, ahead of the Remembrance Day events across the country.
The factory was originally established by the wife of Field Marshall Douglas Haig. He had been born on Charlotte Square in Edinburgh's New Town, and became the commander of British Army forces during World War One.
During the 1930s, ahead of the Second World War, employment at the factory reached 117 people, and was moved to its current premises at Warriston, in the north of Edinburgh, in the 1960s. They have continued to provide Scotland's poppies - for lapels and wreaths - ever since.
Now, over a century after the end of World War One, the symbol of the poppy is a major symbol of commemoration in countries all around the world, and the work of Lady Haig's Poppy Factory remains as important and valuable as ever.
Explore more of Edinburgh's remarkable history with my private city walking tours.
Edinburgh Expert Walking Tours is run by Gareth, an adopted native of Edinburgh, with over 20 years experience of living and working in the city...
Search the blog archive...
© COPYRIGHT GARETH DAVIES 2014-21