Kirkwall’s Weeping Window

To mark the start of WW1 an installation of poppies was set up at the Tower of London, with one poppy for every person killed in the war.  This year, smaller installations of some of the poppies are being set up round the UK, and Kirkwall was chosen as one of those sites.  The place was St Magnus Cathedral, right in the centre of town.

The timing was set to coincide with the commemorations of the centenary of the Battle of Jutland, the largest sea battle of WW1, at the end of May. Today marks 100 years since the start of the Battle of the Somme, the longest and deadliest of land battles and it seems a good time to to show you ‘The Poppies’.

Installation started in early May, in awful weather.  The poppies are attached to a wire framework on scaffolding.   The ceramic poppy heads are then attached individually.

My first sight of them was in filthy weather!  The wind was preventing the use of the cherry picker to attached the higher poppies, and work on the lower ones had also stopped.

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You can see the gap where poppies still need to be attached.

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I returned a few days later in better weather.  The poppies on the scaffolding had all been placed and work was ongoing on those around the base.

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The display was called The Weeping Window, and started at a small window high on the front of the Cathedral.

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A close-up of the main drift of flowers shows the framework of entangled steel stems.

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Near the base, the frame spreads out to the main door of the Cathedral…..

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…. spilling down the steps ….

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… along the wall and on to the grass of the Kirk Green.

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These two poppies, waiting to be placed, show the ceramic construction of each flower, made at the Wedgewood factory.

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The poppies on the grass were ‘planted’ and then their height was adjusted to fit the overall effect.

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The next day the final finishing touches were being made.

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This last photo is by Tom O’Brien, a staff photographer on the Orcadian newspaper, taken from the roof of one of the buildings opposite the Cathedral.  It shows the completed installation, a moving tribute to those who died on all sides during the Great War.

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 90
(c) Tom O’Brien
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9 thoughts on “Kirkwall’s Weeping Window

  1. So tragic that so many suffered and died in this wretched war. It is good to remember their sacrifice, and honour them.

  2. Those are a lovely but heart wrenching reminder of the awfulness of war.
    There was a project here (started in 2014) started by someone in Victoria where people were asked to knit and crochet poppies. In the end she had far more than she asked for or anticipated but many young craftspeople joined in and there was a wonderful “blanket” of them – although nothing as dramatic as yours.

  3. Thank you for sharing this installation with us, Liz. It is heart-breaking and breath-taking. I saw the Tower of London display in print and on tv–how can we look at these displays and not realize that we need a new and different way to settle our differences? Makes me think of a quote from Plato: “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”

  4. I saw the display at the Tower of London and it certainly brings it home to you the terrible waste of life.

  5. What a beautiful display. So much nicer than the little paper poppies handed out in this area. This visual reminder of WW I brings home the high price of war – in human lives.

  6. Beautiful photos – so moving that they are going around the country. I had the good fortune to see the Tower exhibition when I was there for Tell Them of Us. The experience of a lifetime, seeing those, and eavesdropping on all the stories around me. Thanks for sharing this.

  7. Hi Liz, That gave me goose bumps. I’ve always loved the poppy symbol and remember it in the US in the 40’s. Sadly, most people here in the US would have no idea of the significance of that.

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