Plan to mark World War One heroes’ homes with poppies

Durham Community Fire Station watch manager Michael Burdon and sculptor Allan Scott with one of the poppies
Durham Community Fire Station watch manager Michael Burdon and sculptor Allan Scott with one of the poppies
1
Have your say

A FIREFIGHTER is hoping an idea to mark the homes of war heroes will take root.

Michael Burdon, a watch manager on Blue Watch at Durham City’s new fire station, hopes to launch a project across the county which will see the former homes of soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the First World War marked with specially sculpted resin poppies.

This fire safety work and the information that we have about the soldiers who lost their lives in the Great War, their backgrounds and where they lived, can only add to a sense of community pride.

Watch manager Michael Burdon.

It comes after the 46-year-old, from Teal Farm in Washington, was inspired by a similar idea in his home town, which in turn was sparked by a Peter Welsh documentary about the ‘pals’ divisions’ in the region.

They were made up of relatives and neighbours recruited to serve in the Great War.

His great-grandfather John McKeown, fought and survived and went on to fight in the Second World War, while his brother James, 24, died, as did their brother-in-law Michael Lowery, 25.

The pair, along with their neighbour, were all claimed in the Battle of the Somme in 1916 after they fought with the Tyneside Irish’s Northumberland Fusilers.

Michael’s relatives all lived in the same house in Clarence Street, Bowburn, and he has bought a poppy, sculpted by Allan Scott, to put on the front of the house with the permission of the owner.

He hopes others, with the help of the area’s University of the Third Age (U3A), will also sign up for the scheme.

Michael discovered the Washington scheme through his mother-in-law, Pauline Butterfield, who is a member of Washington’s U3A, and with help from Bowburn History Society.

Michael, who lives with wife Raynor, 47, and sons Lewis, 16, and James, 11, also aims to use the project to get over important messages from County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service as part of its Safest People, Safest Places motto.

He said: “As part of the research for this initiative we have been visiting streets and offering home fire safety checks too.

“This fire safety work and the information that we have about the soldiers who lost their lives in the Great War, their backgrounds and where they lived, can only add to a sense of community pride.”

A total of 47 men died from 200 houses in the Bowburn area in the conflict.