Thousands of knitted poppies in Remembrance display

Macduff Parish Church poppy display
This year's poppy display features more than 17,500 poppies

A small church in Aberdeenshire has constructed a huge display of 17,500 knitted poppies to mark Remembrance Day.

Macduff Parish Church first started the display in 2018 to mark the 100th anniversary of WW1 and it has continued to grow each year.

Knitted poppy donations came from across the world, after organiser Claire Nicholson made an appeal through Facebook.

Ms Nicholson, 48, said the support she had received from her community and people across the world had been amazing.

The poppy display during sunset
The huge display covers nearly the entire grounds of the church

Ms Nicholson has worked on the display every year with her friend Helen Gow.

The display has grown by thousands of poppies each year and Ms Nicholson preserves all the poppies she receives.

"They're just too pretty to get rid of," she said.

The knitted poppies are attached to a large green net that is cut to fit the shape of the grass outside the church, then the flowers are attached to the net with tent pegs.

When the display is finished, the Macduff Coastguard will take the poppies to the town's local shipyard and put them in a shed to dry for next year.

The 2023 display has grown by more than 3,500 poppies.

Claire Nicholson, 48, coordinator of the display, and her friend Helen Gow, 70 who has helped her since 2018 in the church ground with the display
Claire Nicholson, coordinator of the display, and her friend Helen Gow, who has helped her since 2018

Ms Nicholson started the project in 2018 after Lord-Lieutenant of Banffshire, Andrew Simpson, asked the community if anyone could think of a way for the town to commemorate WW1's 100th anniversary.

As a local Rainbows leader at the time, Ms Nicholson took her group to Remembrance Sunday every year and got every girl a poppy badge.

In 2018, however, she simply thought: "I could knit 20 poppies."

It was from this the idea of the display was born.

Macduff Parish Church poppy display wider shot with path
Macduff Parish Church is covered with poppies every year during November

"All I did was put out an 'SOS' on my own Facebook saying we were looking for knitters for the display," Ms Nicholson said.

"The response was huge with local arts groups, schools and the entire Macduff community getting involved.

"Five years down the line, we're still here, now with our own Facebook page.

"Macduff is a small community, everyone knows each other, so the project I feel just always brings us together," Ms Nicholson said.

People from across the world saw her call, and now she has received poppies from Canada, Australia, Belgium and the USA.

The first international donation came from Belgium in 2018, made by a 90-year-old woman.

Claire loved the design so much they were turned into badges that are now sold to fundraise for Poppy Scotland.

Knitted poppy badge
These knitted poppy badges came from Belgium and are now used to fundraise for Poppy Scotland

This year's display is the largest it has ever been but Ms Nicholson thinks it could be bigger.

"I can see the spots other people can't, that need filled", she said.

"We're still taking donations every year."

The display has even outgrown Macduff Parish Church, with smaller more delicate crocheted poppies being taken to a display in the local cemetery, and standing poppies to the war memorial.

Standing poppies around Macduff's war memorial
Standing poppies are set around Macduff's war memorial

Ms Nicholson said that thousands of people had been to see the display throughout its time.

One spectator, Mike Diamond from Aberdeen, travelled nearly 50 miles to Macduff to photograph the display at sunrise.

"I was fascinated by what they had achieved, getting poppies sent to them from all over the world," he said.

"I thought it was a spectacular tribute for the Remembrance of our fallen soldiers."

Lord-Lieutenant of Banffshire, Andrew Simpson said on behalf of the church: "The congregation of Macduff Parish Church are delighted that Claire and her group of volunteers have ensured that our community remembers the fallen in such a spectacular manner.

"The site underneath the town cross and anchor with the church in the background is a such fitting place for a wonderful display of poppies. We are very grateful to them."

The poppy display during sunset with a photo of the cross
The Macduff poppy display is set up every year in dedication of soldiers and veterans across the world

Claire says she will continue to work on filling the display and will keep taking more donations of poppies, wool and tent pegs for the project through her Facebook page.

"Praising myself, isn't me," Claire said, "I'm quite a shy person normally, and I do the display to remember all soldiers across the world."

The display will continue until Thursday 23 November.