Neverland generally closes for holidays to enable our hard working staff to spend time with friends and family. So why are we open Remembrance Day? I think you’d have to blame my Grandfathers.
As a kid Remembrance Day was about poppies and Flanders Field and long assemblies that made me get pins and needles in my legs. That all changed in 2004 when I happened to be in Paris on the 25th of August – the 60th anniversary of the Liberation of France. A stranger passed me on the street and having recognized my Canadian accent asked me if anyone in my family had served. When he found out that not one but two grandfathers had and one was still alive, he grabbed my shoulders and looked into my eyes with a gratitude so sincere it made my heart almost stop. He begged me to thank my grandfather for all he had done to liberate France. History suddenly became personal. I called my Grandfather that night and on the next visit sat down with him and asked about his experience as an 18-year-old Canadian farm boy in the Royal Air Force. It was so fascinating that I had to make him stop talking while I ran for my computer so I could transcribe his memories as they came pouring out. Amazing. I regret that it took a stranger on the street to make me wake up to what Remembrance Day truly means but I am forever grateful that he did.
Neverland is open today so people can come for tea and share memories with the next generation, because every family has memories tied to this day and we must keep them alive. So it is for my Grandfathers that we are open today because there is no doubt in my mind that if they were still alive they would love nothing more than to come for tea and share their memories of the adventure, the sacrifices and the lost friends. Lest we forget.
(Donald John McEwen served in the 514 Squadron RAF and Henry Spencer Tatchell served as asdic operator aboard the HMCS Trillium corvette)