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.