William Birch, chairman of Todmorden Royal British Legion thanks those who attended its park service on Remembrance Sunday whilst I, in Connemara on holiday with friends retired from Todmorden, joined the 70-strong gathering in their local square.
Wearing a red poppy for remembrance and a white one for peace, I kept silent for two minutes, before clergy prayed and organisers from their 201s Committee read the Flanders poem and laid a green wreath.
Here you had a gathering of “several hundreds”, but where were they when they were needed in 2003, to join the big protests against the Bush-Blair attack on Iraq based on a clearly dodgy dossier?
If people of goodwill had all obeyed Shelley’s couplet “Rise like lions after slumber, in unvanquishable number” the war might well have been averted and with it the dreadful Isil rising of those thought
defeated and dispersed. “Sow the wind and you reap the whirlwind” as the prophet Hosea (Ch8v7) wrote long ago.
Now remembrance alone is not enough; for the heroes of WW1, brave soldiers and nurses and conscientious objectors alike, are dishonoured unless a passionate concern for “never again, enough of war, wars generally cause further wars, war is not the way, no more war” is embodied.
In my morning paper Chris Nineham reported on events held under the auspices of the London-based RBL claiming that “The pomp and circumstance excludes the sentiment that says these wars should not be repeated.”
Local Legion secretary Darren Widdop, in inviting Town Mayor and councillors, stipulated that the wreath was to be red poppies, even though we as a democratically elected council representing all local voters had a defined policy of adding a few white or vari-coloured ones “for peace.” This diktat seemed hardly courteous to our Mayors with whom details could surely be arranged over a jug of tea or pint of ale.
On returning from Eire I went to lay half a dozen small white flowers and was astonished to see the Air Cadets’ wreath, with its broad circle of white flowers and another of blue had been accepted! An apology to the Town Council for not notifying this policy change is surely due and will be welcomed.
Mr Birch hopes that young people will study WW1 history including that of the Todmorden Pals whose idealistic walk through Rochdale ended in deaths and disaster on impossible Gallipoli - a sad story among the very many
that validate Jesus’ words at his arrest: “All they that take the sword shall perish by the sword” (Matthew ch26 v 52).
I say to all concerned, come to church, hear us, pray daily for peace as we have done for half a millennium if not more.
Coun Frank McManus
Todmorden Town Council