I don’t want to re­turn to the dark place where I was and I’ll try to help any­one there

The Sunday Post (Newcastle) - - NEWS -

Five mil­lion pop­pies and 12,000 wreaths are pro­duced each year for the Scot­tish Poppy Ap­peal.

A team of 40 at the Lady Haig’s Poppy Fac­tory in Ed­in­burgh are re­spon­si­ble for mak­ing ev­ery sin­gle one by hand.

And for vet­eran Don­ald McLeod, the work has proved to be a sal­va­tion.

Don­ald, from Ed­in­burgh, was di­ag­nosed with post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der af­ter serv­ing in the Falk­lands and sub­se­quently ended up home­less.

“When we were told we were go­ing to the Falk­lands I had no idea where that was,” said Don­ald, 58.

“We had planes com­ing in from nowhere and bomb­ing us, and we came un­der ar­tillery fire.

“We at­tacked Mount Tum­ble­down and it was nine hours of hand-to-hand fight­ing. Then, at half past nine in the morn­ing, the Ar­gen­tini­ans sur­ren­dered.”

Scots Guards­man Don­ald, who had pre­vi­ously been based at Chelsea Bar­racks in London and whose du­ties in­cluded Troop­ing The Colour, found it hard to ad­just on his re­turn and even harder af­ter leav­ing the Army.

His low­est point came when he found him­self home­less.

“The hard­est thing is peo­ple walk­ing past you, think­ing you’re scum.”

He got off the streets thanks to the in­ter­ven­tion of the Scot­tish Veter­ans Res­i­dences be­fore even­tu­ally end­ing up at the Pop­pyscot­land fac­tory in Ed­in­burgh.

He be­gan mak­ing pop­pies, pro­duc­ing up to 21,000 in a week, then moved on to wreath-mak­ing.

He’s aided by col­lie/spaniel-cross ther­apy dog Big­gles who has helped him over­come the bouts of ag­gres­sion that have af­flicted him since leav­ing the army.

“I just want to en­joy life and not go back to the dark days,” says Don­ald.

“And I want to help any­one who is in the place I was all those years ago

“I don’t think any ex-soldier should find them­selves sleep­ing on the streets.

“Ev­ery penny to Pop­pyscot­land helps give sup­port.”

Vet­eran Don­ald with boxes of pop­pies

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