Armistice 100: Lady Haig Poppy Factory is on the move

At the helm...Charlie Pelling, manager of Lady Haig's Poppy Factory in Edinburgh, is preparing for a temporary move to Redford Barracks, which will start on November 16. (Pic: Michael Gillen)
At the helm...Charlie Pelling, manager of Lady Haig's Poppy Factory in Edinburgh, is preparing for a temporary move to Redford Barracks, which will start on November 16. (Pic: Michael Gillen)

Every single poppy sold in Scotland is hand made by a team of veterans at the Lady Haig Poppy Factory in Edinburgh.

After the Great War, the Earl Haig Fund acquired its poppies from England.

Memoraibilia....and thank you letters from the 3000 school children and 3000 adults who visit the factory every year is displayed proudly in the factory. (Pic: Michael Gillen)

Memoraibilia....and thank you letters from the 3000 school children and 3000 adults who visit the factory every year is displayed proudly in the factory. (Pic: Michael Gillen)

But in 1926, Countess Haig, wife of Field Marshal Douglas Haig, suggested that a factory, employing those men disabled by war, should be created to make poppies for Scotland.

First based in an old wood-chopping factory in the grounds of Whitefoord House in Edinburgh, it moved in 1965 to an old printing works in the city’s Warriston Road.

And after this year’s very special Armistice centenary year, the factory will be on the move again – albeit on a temporary basis.

A team of around 40 ex-servicemen and women who hand-assemble more than five million poppies and 12,000 wreaths every year for the Scottish Poppy Appeal will be moving to Redford Barracks for two years to allow for a much-needed refurbishment of the factory.

The aim is not to rip out the heart of what is a very special workplace – boasting regimental flags and thank you letters and posters from the thousands of school children who have visited.

But some £2.2 million from the Libor Fund – fines imposed on banks for manipulation of Libor levels – will ensure the factory is fit for the 21st Century.

Overseeing the move immediately after this year’s Remembrance Day will be factory manager Charlie Pelling, who has been at the helm since 2008.

During a tour of the factory, Charlie explained more about the move.

He said: “We’ll be moving on November 16 with the aim of being operational by the start of January.

“The aim is to be back at our factory in time for the 2020 or 2021 appeal.

“We have a small window of opportunity to make the move as the factory operates year round.

“We are like a toy shop in that we work 12 months of the year with sales throughout that period but our sales climax in the run-up to Remembrance Day in the way a toy shop does at Christmas.

“We’ve got to strip out asbestos from the factory, update the heating and wiring, modernise the windows and install a lift to the first floor.

“We have to make the factory health and safety compliant and fit for purpose for the 21st Century.”

Charlie is also hopeful that they will be able to create a learning facility.

He said: “Thousands of visitors tour the factory every year – from pensioners to pre-schoolers.

“Around 3000 school children visit the factory each year, with the same number of adults too.

“We want to create an educational facility where they learn about the factory before touring the site.”

The workers who power the factory will, however, remain at its beating heart and will be involved in the refurbishment and move.

“We have records for more than 800 servicemen and women who have worked here,” said Charlie.

“Since 1926, we’ve had in excess of 2000 workers.

“The factory exists to provide employment for ex service personnel who may otherwise struggle to find employment.

“They work year round to ensure that enough poppies are created for the Poppy Appeal and for the many wreaths laid at ceremonies across the country.

“The move to Redford Barracks will undoubtedly be challenging.

“But we’ve got a plan and some very good people here so we’re confident we’ll do it and still be able to create all the poppies for 2019.

“The fact we don’t have a modern production line is something we cherish. We’re a one off and it works – it will be important to retain that.”

While there are fears the 130 year old printer and poppy cutter may not survive the move, we’re sure the team will deliver, as usual, for the 2019 Poppy Appeal.

To find out more about the factory and the work it does year round, visit the website at www.ladyhaigspoppyfactory.org.uk.