Monday, November 12, 2007

Dad's Legacy

A Red-Letter Day For Poppies

Legacy Garden at the Melbourne Shrine. Photos copyright: DAVID McMAHON

I thought I'd heard every story there was to tell about my Dad, Colin McMahon. But a few hours ago I received an email from my eldest brother, Keith, a marine surveyor. His email told the story of our father's contribution to the time-honoured tradition of wearing real poppies for Remembrance Day.

Dad was a stickler for tradition and he was a stickler for punctuality. So when punctuality (in the form of a merchant navy vessel's arrival) and tradition (in the form of Remembrance Day poppies) were under threat, he took his own course of action to fix things.

We're unsure exactly what year this took place, but it was while Dad served as the traffic manager of the Calcutta Port Trust and his younger brother Jack served as the docks manager. This is exactly as Keith told the tale ....

``At that time, poppies grown in Europe were worn to commemorate the fallen - none of these synthetic things that we see these days. As these were carried under refrigeration in ships, I can only suspect they were buds which were allowed to fully develop upon delivery. One year, just before Remembrance Day there was great concern within the community as the poppies had not arrived.

``The ship had been delayed. In preparation for its eventual arrival at Sandheads, Dad arranged with the Port Pilotage Officer and, I seem to recall, the Harbour Master as well, to ensure that the vessel was brought in under their most experienced men. I believe that during the river passage the vessel actually ran through silt - which probably cleaned the barnacles off the bottom anyway - but it berthed just before Remembrance Day.

``In view of the closeness of the timing I suspect that year the flowers had not had the opportunity to fully open - but that was Dad's achievement for the year - and don't forget it!!''

That's the first time one of my brothers has been quoted on this blog - and I think it's entirely appropriate that this post honours a man who achieved so much as he set his four sons on the path of life. Every time I wear a poppy, as I always do each year, I now have one more reason to honour a person who is no longer with us.


Merisi said...

I did not know that Australia celebrates Remembrance Day on the same day Americans honour their veterans.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae 1872-1918

Digital Flower Pictures said...

Hi there. Nice story and I love that picture with the cross and the flowers.

i beati said...

wonderful story and me a flower enthusiast ,,sk

BRUNO said...

Now THAT'S a story with a real, personal punch to it!

I agree with the notion, "Nothing is better than the REAL thing!" It shows the true spirit, and meaning, of the occasion, regardless of what name it goes by, in whatever part of this "still barely free" world.

Let this be a lesson to NEVER underestimate what we can learn from our fathers---and, of course, mom, too!---that SHOULD affect our futures.

Now---I'm done, I'm gone...!

Lynette said...

Thank you so much, David, for sharing your story and photos on what we call Veterans Day here in America.

Mushy said...

A lovely post and tribute David.

He would be proud.

Akelamalu said...

It's Remembrance Sunday in the UK and it's so nice to see people all over the world remembering the fallen. Lovely post about your Dad too David.

smilnsigh said...

Lovely entry!! Thank you.


lime said...

ah, thank you for sharing this story of your dad with us. :)

Catmoves said...

Darn. I seem to always mistype word verification (or maybe Google just hates me).
I still have my poppy on from this afternoon's Vet Day parade.
I've posted a story about some of my relatives who got involved in WW II.

Lynilu said...

Lovely story. Thanks for the posting. It's a day that always leaves me near tears with emotion. I love it's ability to unite us in worldwide reverence. :')

zakscloset said...

lovely story indeed! thanks for sharing it here. and thank you for your comment on my blog!

Kimberly said...

What an incredible man.

Old Wom Tigley said...

I have seen so many nice tributes from all over the world today and it as filled me with joy at this time of sadness.
Great post, pictures and words David..

Melissa said...

Lovely story David, thanks for sharing with us.

Tiffany Norris said...

I love that story!

Carol McFarlane said...

My dad, Kenneth Blythe-Perrett, a commissioned officer, came back, after three years away. How fortunate we were, I was. My sister was born after he left, so she only saw him when she was three years old, but Dad was there when I was born. We had a special bond. His war stories never tired me, he never spoke with hate or bitterness, rather, he seemed amazed that he survived. He sustained shrapnel in his knee which led to gangrene and being out of commission for six months. When he was behind enemy lines, he arranged for letters to continue to be delivered to my mother in Calcutta so she wouldn't know. Only my grandmother knew.

He was the kindest and gentlest of men, with a heartbreakingly cheerful smile at all times.

I miss him.

katherine. said...

What a great story.

I buy and wear one of these synthetic things from the vets who set out tables all over town.

The California Poppy is much different...I am not sure I have ever seen a real english poppy before.

it's the little things... said...

Beautiful post, David. Looks like the apple didn't fall far from the tree!

~Fathairybastard~ said...

That's beautiful. I really loved that. That was a great tribute to your dad. Very sweet.