Martin Hannan: I owe my life to my namesake

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If you are reading this after 11am today, the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the chances are that you did not observe the two minutes silence which is supposed to mark our remembrance of those who gave their lives in the service of their country.

Then again, maybe you did stop and pay your respects, perhaps to the memory of ancestors. It is no bad thing that so many of us do remember.

Writing this the day after Remembrance Sunday and the day before the anniversary of the cessation of hostilities at 11am on November 11, 1918, I am struck by the fact, not that there are a great many people who don’t wear poppies or attend ceremonies at their local war memorial, but by the fact that so many people do.

It’s not fashionable or sexy to remember the fallen, but for a large swathe of the population these annual remembrances are important and meaningful things.

I was an observer at our local ceremony on Sunday, where I witnessed what I can only call the miracle of the dogs.

Before the ceremony, nine canines of varying size and breed, including our lovable scamp Hamish, the only Jack Russell who was there, all chased each other, barking and yelping, around the green space adjacent to the war memorial.

As the church doors opened and the flags began to be carried out, we owners all secured our dogs on their leads, and to my utter amazement, every single one of the pooches sat quietly for the duration of the brief but dignified ceremony of prayers and wreath-laying.

Not a yap was heard. Hamish even sat up, almost to attention, and I quickly (and irreverently, I know) filmed the quiet dogs on my iPhone in case nobody believed me. Pets can be very sensitive to their owners’ moods, and I have no doubt Hamish and his canine chums were alive to the solemnity of the moment.

We should all be so aware. For the sacrifice made by those who lost their lives in both world wars is the reason why we can live in democratic freedom and not have to speak German today – the Kaiser would not have stopped with Belgium, and Hitler showed he wanted world domination, so that is why I consider both wars to have been just. The death of millions in world wars is not something that is distant in history, not even that awful conflict a whole century ago in Flanders.

My own great-grandfather was killed on active service in the trenches in the Great War, and my grandfather survived being gassed, only to become a bed-ridden invalid a few years later as a result of his chemically-induced injuries. He survived into the late 1950s, though I never met him – his name was Martin Hannan, and he died shortly before I was born. I am named after him.

I am not one of those people who insist that everyone should wear poppies and be compelled to attend Remembrance Sunday services. The freedom that was gained by the sacrifice of so many people means that today we can choose to remember in our own ways or not at all.

Me? I choose to remember Private Martin Hannan above all. Quite literally, I owe him my life.

Park escapism is Thurst class

Regular readers will know I like to make recommendations after good service, so if you are needing a break for a couple of days in this tourism off-season, can I point you in the direction of Thurston Manor Leisure Park near Dunbar.

Thurston Manor has lovely surroundings, nice staff and spacious caravans, but above all it’s peaceful. Loved it.

Act quickly or be Ed and buried

Last week I wrote Labour should dump Ed Miliband, pictured below, from the leadership if they wanted to have any chance of winning next May’s general election.

When the news broke shortly afterwards about those Labour MPs muttering “Ed must go” – I can tell you there are Scots to the fore in that possible coup – it was nice to know that once again I was ahead of the pack.

This SNP member (I always state my affiliation when writing about politics) has no sympathy with other commentators who have long been in bed with Labour and are now reduced to sniping from the sidelines.

Labour members and apologists alike better do something quick or calamity will follow next May.

A cut too far

Creative Scotland’s cut in the grants to the Traverse and Royal Lyceum theatres has not received the scathing condemnation it should have. I’m investigating and will put that right next week.

Tram witnesses can’t mess with inquiry leader

I was also absolutely correct that Lord Hardie is the best man to conduct the inquiry into the trams fiasco.

I wrote: “Woe betide anyone who attempts to cover up unfortunate facts or tries to mislead the good judge.”

Now Lord Hardie has secured statutory status for his inquiry, as a result of non co-operation by some of those involved.

I repeat my warning to all participants: do not mess with this judge, he is much smarter than any of you, and now he has the powers to compel the truth. I can’t wait for the public element to start.