In my opinion there are 4 hallmarks of quality of a School Remembrance Service.
1. It needs to set the right tone;
2. it needs to honour personal sacrifice;
3. it needs to run smoothly, and;
4. it needs, most importantly to engage with the pupils.
For me and everyone I have talked to so far, this year we ticked all 4 boxes.
We have developed a tradition at Merchiston of “Whole School” Remembrance ...as many boys as possible, want to be and are directly involved in some role, Choir, Pipe Band, CCF Guard, Ushering, planting the Garden of Remembrance etc. Over 120 pupils were involved in a specific role in Sunday's Service.
This Remembrance, for the first time in a very long time, our speaker, was a currently serving Merchistonian, Colonel Graeme Wearmouth (86-90) OBE. In addition, it was a privilege to have so many former and currently serving Merchistonians and friends choosing to attend. The Merchistonian magazine will record further details but I think it appropriate to pay tribute to Lt General Sir, Alexander (Sandy) Boswell (42-46) OBE, MBE, CBE (Captain of School in 1946) and Lt Col Colin Hogg (57-61) OBE.
Col Wearmouth’s theme was about the importance of sympathy.....but the overriding importance of empathy if Remembrance is to continue to be a forward-looking and living event. Sympathy fades with time...but if we can imagine ourselves in the place of those who have served, and walk imaginatively in their shoes (empathy), then we gain a very valuable insight.
Most pleasing of all, from the oldest to youngest, from Parents, Governors, teachers, to guests ...was how well the whole Merchiston Community engaged. The Silence was impeccably observed, and afterwards we remembered for the first time 3 Merchistonians who have died in Service since WW2:
Alexander (Bob) Hannay (33-36) RAF - He served throughout WW2, was shot down in 1944 and taken prisoner of war. He re-enlisted, and died on active Service 13 August 1951 in a flying accident.
David Pinkerton, (30-36) - He served with the Royal Scots throughout WW2, was captured in Hong Kong and taken prisoner of war. He was awarded M.C and served in the Korean War.
Hamish Brian Emslie (41-44) - He was a 42 Commando and was killed on Active Service 24 May 1966.
Bill Hannay (54-58), accompanied by his family, placed a cross in memory of his father, Alexander (Bob) Hannay....the first time he has been officially remembered at Merchiston; it was a moving moment... Bill was 12 when his father died.
The Choir, Pipe Band, the CCF and the Pupils in general did the School and their forebears very proud.
If you promise to Remember, you must try your best to do it .. on Sunday morning all of Merchiston, past and present, in my opinion, remembered well!