Members of the Melrose branch have contributed to a project honouring the 34 local young men from the town who lost their lives in the First World War. 

For two years, Melrose has commemorated Armistice Day with giant poppy decorations that are displayed in shops and businesses. In 2021, pupils at St Mary’s Primary School made their own tribute by focusing their attention on 34 of the school’s former students who fought and died in the conflict. The class managed to find photos of 25 of them, and they placed an image of each one at the centre of a poppy. 

Alastair Grieve, the Melrose branch committee’s standard bearer, exhibited one of the poppies in his shop window. In addition to being an ex-Guardsman from the 1st Battalion Scots Guards, and a General Officer Commanding Commendation recipient, he has a further reason to join the initiative. After leaving the service, he was assisted by Poppyscotland to start up his hairdressing business. 

Grieve’s poppy honoured the life of Douglas Constable, who attended St Mary’s until 1906. From there, Constable went to university and seemed set for a life in publishing. However, when the war broke out, he signed up to fight with the Grenadier Guards and was sent to Ypres. During his time there, he wrote to St Mary’s headteacher John Hamilton, informing him of what life was like in Belgium. You can read an excerpt of one of those letters here

Constable was killed in action on 25 September 1916 at the age of 26. He was one of the 34 pupils uncovered by today’s head of English at St Mary’s, Ellen Simpson. His letter-writing has also inspired a nationwide campaign by Poppyscotland encouraging school pupils to write a letter to their teacher as though they were on the frontline. 

Debbie Wood, the head of Art at St Mary’s, told the Border Telegraph, “We do so hope that this [project] sparks further conversation and, who knows, we might find a little more information regarding these young men. The school can be contacted directly if anyone believes that they might be able to add to our memories.” 

The Melrose poppy campaign has helped to raise nearly £1,000 for Poppyscotland.