First published MyT 08/11/09. Revised.
Today, for about the fourth time in 30 years or more, I did not attend my usual Remembrance Day service. I didn’t want to.
In November 1914, Heart of Midlothian Football Club were sitting proudly atop of the League after an unbeaten run of 20 matches. Then Lord Kitchener called for his volunteer Army.
The entire team joined up, swopping their wages of £4.00 a week for the 7 shillings (35p) a week of a soldier.
Within 6 days, ‘McRae’s Own’, who became the 16th Royal Scots, had their full complement of 1,347 men as Hearts shareholders and fans and professional footballers and fans from Hibs, Dunfermline, Raith Rovers, East Fife and Falkirk followed the example of the team.
In the Battle of the Somme in 1916, threequarters of the Battalion were casualties. They were credited with making the deepest advance into enemy territory, reaching the ruined hamlet of Contalmaison which lay deep within the German trench system.
My Remembrance avatar last year was the memorial to the 16th Royal Scots at Contalmaison.
In 1922, the club and the City of Embra erected this memorial to the fallen, including the seven footballers who never came home.
Every Remembrance Sunday, players, officials and fans hold a service there and lay their wreaths. It always feels right to be there. Not a comment on the rights or wrongs of any conflict or the waste or not of human life. Just, in my opinion, a celebration of something in the human spirit that we should never forget or lose.
They put the memorial in storage in 2009 as part of the Great Embran Tram fiasco. There was a service held today at the Hearts stadium with players, past and present, Club officials and fans attending in numbers but it just would not have been the same for me. I watched the Cenotaph ceremony instead.
We’ve been promised by the Council that the memorial will be back in place next year. If so, I’ll be there.