Armed forces stalwart Colonel Eric Davidson is stepping down after more than half a century helping to organise the town’s Remembrance Sunday parade.
And, on the 100th anniversary of the Royal British Legion, he aims to raise a record amount for veterans – no mean feat, as Bury residents have donated around £500,000 over the last seven years.
Colonel Eric, as he is affectionately known, said: “It’s been 100 years since the creation of the Royal British Legion and therefore the Poppy Appeal, and it’s proved to such a worthwhile charitable cause that today it is still the nation’s way of giving.
“Two world wars and many conflicts over the last century mean that many veterans need assistance, and the annual Poppy Appeal is an essential way of raising the necessary finances to help those who deserve it.
“My aim this year is to raise more money than we did in 2019, which came to £76,000. It’s a tall task following Covid, but nevertheless a task worth attempting knowing it will be my last one.”
Colonel Eric is a former chairman of the Fusiliers Association in Lancashire. He is a trustee/director of the Fusilier Museum, a member of the Regimental Council in Lancashire and the founder and president of the Band and Corps of Drums of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (Lancashire).
He was made an MBE in June 2008 and an Honorary Freeman of Bury in 2015 on his return from Turkey, where he had been with the civic party to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Fusiliers’ landing at Gallipoli. He was also appointed a Deputy Lord Lieutenant in 2002.
Colonel Eric first became involved with the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal in 1948 at the age of 11 when, in his free time and with the aid of his butcher’s pedal cycle and large basket, he would deliver poppies to outlying farms. (He remembers that the poppies on offer were A Penny, A Sixpenny, A Shilling, and Five Bob for a Wax Car Poppy!)
Originally from the Scottish border town of Jedburgh, joined the police force in Bolton on completing his National Service in 1958. He settled in Bury in 1963, serving the Lancashire Constabulary and GMP until retiring in 1988.
He first became involved in planning Bury’s remembrance parade in 1967 while working as accident prevention officer for Bury Police, helping to ensure the route was safe and arranging the necessary highway closures.
In the 1970s Colonel Eric became a Fusilier and worked on the famous Krypton Factor Course at Holcombe Training Camp. He was proud to wear his hackle on joining the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, and still is to this day.
In 1985 Captain Harry Whitehead, who was the chairman of ‘Harry Whitehead Court’ Royal British Legion Housing in Bury and also the town’s Poppy Appeal organiser, invited Colonel Eric to take over those duties as he was retiring due to ill health. The Royal British Legion parade marshal was also retiring, and Colonel Eric accepted the invitation to take on this challenge too.
“Many things have changed over the years, not least when The Rock was closed to traffic,” he said. “I was pleased to devise a new formula for the parade when Market Place and the Peel statue area was reconfigured. This led to a more open planned event where the public were able to witness the solemnity of the Remembrance Ceremony at the Cenotaph.
“And this year, we will introduce four new display frames to protect the wreaths at the base of the Cenotaph, so that they do not deteriorate quickly in bad weather.”
He added: “It is with great sadness that I have decided to retire due to ill health, but at 84 years young I believe it is time also to hand over to a younger person who can take the Appeal forward and raise even more money for this very worthy cause.”
Councillor Tim Pickstone, the Mayor of Bury, said: “Colonel Eric has been involved in organising the town’s Remembrance Sunday events for over 50 years and the whole borough is hugely grateful for what he has done. The 100thanniversary of the poppy appeal seems a fitting occasion for him to take a well-earned rest, and I’m sure the appeal and remembrance services will be a particularly special occasion.”
The mayor will lead the Civic Remembrance Ceremony on Sunday 14 November. The parades will leave Bury Town Hall at 10.30am and proceed to Market Place, where there will be a short service of remembrance at the war memorial. The two minutes silence will be observed and there will be a wreath laying ceremony. This will be followed by a service of remembrance at Bury Parish Church followed by a ‘march past’ of the various detachments on parade, on the way to the Castle Armoury.