A THEME of service ran through the main toast at the Remembrance Dinner last Friday night.
Admittedly it was the toast to the Ex-Servicemen’s Club and so, quite rightly, main speaker Ian Seeley reflected on the ultimate service men and women have given in conflicts over the years.
But the former high school music teacher, composer and poet, also highlighted the service the club has given to many since it was founded in 1928 and the service its members have given, and must continue to give, in the future.
In front of a gathering of almost 120 members and guests in the town hall, Mr Seeley revealed that his own father served in the Second World War in Bomber Command, but that he had missed conscription, with his 18th birthday falling in the last week of December, 1960, when it all ended. He said: “Service is something which is generous, positive and unashamedly noble.
“I never cease to be moved by the testimony of former servicemen who have gone through the real hell of combat and I have found the recent series on Channel 5 – The Last Heroes – to be compulsive viewing, not least because, for these men, there was little psychological support in the aftermath and the dignity with which they have confronted and survived their demons is a great testimony to the human spirit.
“One hopes that they may have found something to their advantage in clubs like this.”
Mr Seeley, who also played the piano on the night, spoke against a backdrop of widespread government cuts – including the armed forces – and a time of global recession. And he likened it to 83 years ago when the Hawick Ex-Servicemen’s Club first came into being, praising the organisation for standing the test of time.
“When this club was instituted in 1928 the scenario was similar – deprivation, financial hardship and unemployment, together with poor housing conditions,” he said.
“The much vaunted ‘homes for for heroes’ were slow to materialise. The General Strike had taken place only two years before and the Great Depression of the thirties lay ahead. Many of you will be familiar with that stereotypical image of the times of old soldiers selling matches.
“It was the pursuit of the alleviation of such deprivation and social isolation among those who had served which led to the foundation of this club, and its minute books and accounts bespeak stories of gifts in kind for this purpose. Let us remember there were not, at that time, the safety nets of social security that exist today, if you know how to access them.
“The club maintains its charitable status to this day.”
Among those in attendance at the annual dinner were former members of the forces, the older generation coming from the days of National Service.
However, in reference to the struggles all clubs have in the current climate, Mr Seeley, who has served this particular organisation for 19 years as the pianist, warned that it is as important now as it has ever been. He said: “The heady days of your service are unlikely to return and, while you look back on them with a measure of incredulity of what you once were and did, remember also that there is still a job to be done consistent with the aims and aspirations of your founding members of 1928 – aims which continued a pattern set by Hawick Ex-Sailors’ and Ex-Soldiers’ Association before that.
“You still have a very significant role to play in care and remembrance in general, and in the various ceremonies of national Remembrance in particular.”
Mr Seeley was joined at the top table by the Reverend John Shields, a former army chaplain and minister at Lauder. He gave a thought-provoking speech which was followed by the customary two-minute silence. The pause for sombre reflection was preceded by the lament from piper Cammy Renwick and the sounding of the last post by Colin Crozier, who broke the silence with The Reveille.
On what was another evening to remember, chaired superbly by club president Jim Adams, the entertainment was provided by singers Michael Aitken, John Tait, Bernie Armstrong and Viv Sharp.
The gathering was well fed by Brydon’s and well watered by Hawick YM on the bar.
The toast to the guests was delivered by Councillor George Turnbull, with George Linton replying, and Dougie Rae rounding off proceedings with the vote of thanks.