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In the aftermath of World War I, many of those who served their country were left destitute on their return home. Those returning to civilian life had to cope with the prospect of unemployment, financial ruin and homelessness, as well as coping with the psychological trauma suffered as result of the horrific scenes they had witnessed on the front line.
The Commander of the British Forces in World War I, Field Marshal Earl Haig, was horrified by the plight faced by so many men who had been under his command and he dedicated his later life to the welfare of ex-Servicemen.
In 1921 Earl Haig came across a group of French widows who were selling silk poppies to raise funds for disabled ex-Servicemen, having been inspired by Lt Colonel John McCrae’s iconic poem “In Flanders Fields”. Haig recognised the potential of these poppies to become both a symbol of Remembrance and also as a means to support the welfare of ex-Servicemen. By 1922 Haig had established the first Poppy Factory in Richmond, Surrey, but such was the demand for poppies that few were reaching Scotland. In 1926 his wife, Lady Haig, established a Poppy Factory in Edinburgh to produce poppies exclusively for Scotland. At this time Lady Haig also designed a slightly different style of poppy for sale in Scotland.
Since then the poppy has become a symbol of Remembrance and of the sacrifices made by our Armed Forces, both at times of war and in their peacekeeping duties. Importantly, for nearly 100 years it has raised millions of pounds to support the needs of veterans and their families living in Scotland.
From its inception the Scottish Poppy Appeal has always operated independently from The Royal British Legion’s appeal in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In 1921 The Earl Haig Fund was established by the respective Officers’ Associations north and south of the border to administer donations to Earl Haig’s new Poppy Appeal.
In England, fearing that handling money for ordinary soldiers might breach its Royal Charter, the responsibility for the Poppy Appeal was passed from the Officers’ Association to the Royal British Legion. The Officers’ Association Scotland did not have the same concerns and therefore continued to operate the Scottish Poppy Appeal independently from the Royal British Legion’s Appeal elsewhere in the UK. This also ensured that the money raised in Scotland from the sale of poppies went to help the Scottish ex-Service community.
The Officers’ Association Scotland continued to operate the Scottish Poppy Appeal until 1954, when they decided to constitute The Earl Haig Fund Scotland as a standalone charity. We have been operating this way ever since.
In 2006 The Earl Haig Fund Scotland was renamed Poppyscotland and a new year-round fundraising programme was introduced. Since the re-launch there has been a noticeable rise in non-Poppy Appeal fundraising activity. During the same period donations to the Scottish Poppy Appeal have risen by over 50%, with the 2014 Scottish Poppy Appeal raising a record £2.8 million.
June 2011 saw Poppyscotland merge with The Royal British Legion, which operates in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, to form the largest charity group supporting the Armed Forces community across the whole of the UK. Under the terms of the merger, substantial additional investment will be committed to Scotland to make significant improvements to the support services for veterans and their families living north of the Border. Poppyscotland will, however, continue to operate as a distinct, separate charity within the TRBL group of charities. The Poppyscotland brand will continue unchanged and the Scottish Poppy and Scottish Poppy Appeal will remain in place, with funds raised from the campaign being used exclusively to support the Armed Forces and veterans’ community living in Scotland. The manufacture of Scottish poppies at Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory in Edinburgh will also continue.