MSPs’ wel­come for the Wreath of Re­spect

Rel­a­tives of fallen on visit to Par­lia­ment

Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser - - News - Ian Bunting

The Coat­bridge rel­a­tives of fallen war he­roes vis­ited the cor­ri­dors of power at Holy­rood to high­light the sac­ri­fices they and mil­lions of oth­ers made for their coun­try.

Berni Wilkins’ grea­tun­cle, Patrick Gal­lacher, was killed in ac­tion dur­ing World War I and her dad, Jim Bradley, was awarded the pres­ti­gious Medal of Ushakov for his ser­vice with the Arc­tic con­voys in World War II.

Berni, 65, has be­come a cus­to­dian for the Wreath of Re­spect – a hand­made metal struc­ture rep­re­sent­ing re­mem­brance and peace – and took the me­mo­rial to the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment to pro­mote “re­mem­brance, re­spect and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion”.

She has hailed the visit as a “phe­nom­e­nal suc­cess” and was de­lighted with politi­cians’ re­sponse to the wreath, with Coat­bridge MSP Ful­ton Mac­Gre­gor and his Cen­tral Scot­land coun­ter­parts Elaine Smith and Mar­garet Mitchell among those to show an in­ter­est.

Berni told the Ad­ver­tiser: “I was ex­tremely grate­ful to ev­ery­one who showed such gen­uine in­ter­est in the work of the wreath, and spent time chat­ting, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing such a busy and im­por­tant time in the par­lia­ment’s sched­ule.

“The wreath had been to the Welsh As­sem­bly and North­ern Ire­land, with plans to take it to West­min­ster, so I asked about tak­ing it to Holy­rood.

“I con­tacted the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment and we were able to set­tle on a date which, suit­ably, came around Re­mem­brance time.

“I’m hop­ing we can visit Holy­rood with the wreath again in the fu­ture.”

The Wreath of Re­spect was com­mis­sioned by an anony­mous donor in 2014 to show ap­pre­ci­a­tion and re­spect for any­one af­fected by war, “no mat­ter their na­tion­al­ity”.

Berni ex­plained how she got in­volved with the wreath, say­ing: “My grea­tun­cle, Sap­per Patrick Gal­lacher, never re­turned from World War I.

“He passed away in Eta­ples mil­i­tary hos­pi­tal on Novem­ber 13, 1918, and my gran re­ceived a tele­gram ex­plain­ing what had hap­pened.

“My dad was also hon­oured with the Medal of Ushakov for his time with the Arc­tic con­voys in World War II, so my fam­ily has a lot of his­tory with mil­i­tary con­flicts. When I found out about the Wreath of Re­spect, I of­fered to con­tact the me­dia to try and pub­li­cise it and, from there, was asked to be a cus­to­dian.

“There are an­other two cus­to­di­ans, but I am the one who trav­els around the UK with the wreath.

“I ab­so­lutely love what I do and it fills me with a large sense of pride.

“I en­joy talk­ing to peo­ple and see­ing their re­ac­tion when they hold the wreath; some cry, some smile and oth­ers say it makes them feel peace­ful.”

Mr Mac­Gre­gor added: “I was de­lighted to wel­come Berni to the Par­lia­ment as she toured with the Wreath of Re­spect.

“She told me about her great-un­cle, who was from Coat­bridge, and died in the First World War.

“It is im­por­tant that ev­ery ef­fort is taken to en­sure that we al­ways re­mem­ber those who lost their lives in wars, and I con­grat­u­late Berni on this fan­tas­tic en­deav­our.”

His fel­low MSP, Ms Smith, said: “I was pleased to meet Berni, es­pe­cially as her great-un­cle was from Coat­bridge.

“Af­ter­wards, I was able to send her a photo of his name on the list of war he­roes from St Patrick’s par­ish fea­tured in the book pub­lished by parish­ioner Robert Cor­rins, en­ti­tled St Patrick’s Coat­bridge And The Great War 1914-1918: A Roll of Hon­our.

“Re­mem­brance of the Great War is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant to me as I am very proud of my great grand fa­ther Jimmy McDow­ell, a steel­worker from Coat­bridge, who fought and re­turned from the war hav­ing lost a leg.

“This caused him to be un­em­ployed and the fam­ily suf­fer­ing fi­nan­cial hard­ship and we un­der­stand, be­cause of this, he had to sell his well-earned sil­ver m medal.

“We should never for­get t the suf­fer­ing and hard­ship of our war he­roes and I firmly be­lieve ev­ery­thing should be done in the fu­ture to avert fur­ther young peo­ple be­ing sent to fight in un­nec­es­sary w wars.”

Wel­come visit Berni met with Coat­bridge MSP Ful­ton Mac­Gre­gor dur­ing her trip to Holy­rood. In­set is Elaine Smith with the wreath

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