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Stunning poppies display adorns venue for Jutland centenary service

3 May 2016
Poppies spill out of a tiny window at Kirkwall’s imposing 12th Century cathedral ahead of its central role in this month’s Battle of Jutland commemorations.

This is the stunningly moving sight which will greet international dignitaries, sailors and descendants of those who fought in the titanic clash between the British and German fleets in the middle of the North Sea a century ago.

The magnificent sandstone house of worship will be the setting for the service of thanksgiving for more than 8,500 matelots and matrosen who gave their lives on May 31 and June 1 1916.

The cathedral is also the latest venue to host the Poppies: Weeping Window art installation – a roving version of the hugely-successful Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red display at the Tower of London which wowed the nation back in 2014.

I can think of no more apt a setting for the Weeping Window sculpture than the Cathedral

Alistair Buchan

That saw 888,246 ceramic poppies ‘planted’ in memory of the Commonwealth dead in World War 1; when the display was removed, the poppies were sold, raising more than £20m for the Royal British Legion.

Around 20,000 of the poppies were bought to preserve part of the display so it could go on tour around the UK as part of Great War centenary commemorations.

The cascade, created by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper, dominates the west end of St Magnus’, which is the first venue in Scotland to host the artwork.

It will remain in place until June 12 – not only after the Jutland events on May 31, but also commemorations on June 5 to mark the 100th anniversary of the loss of cruiser HMS Hampshire off Orkney.

She hit a mine as she sailed for Russia, taking more than 700 souls with her, including War Minister Lord Kitchener.

“The spectacular poppies installation has a huge impact on those who experience it as a powerful reminder of enormous loss of life during World War 1,” said Alistair Buchan, chief executive of Orkney Islands Council.

“I can think of no more apt a setting for the Weeping Window sculpture than the Cathedral, which will be at the heart of those commemorations.

“The poppies reflect Orkney’s close links with the war and the contribution of our forbearers to the war effort, and they will help ensure that those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their countries are never forgotten.”

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