Life

By Leah Fox

 

A proud pensioner has rediscovered the world’s OLDEST Remembrance poppy in existence – at an astonishing 92 years old.

Widow Catalina Bateman, 96, was just four years old when she was gifted the handmade red cotton poppy by her father at a fancy dress party in Chile in 1927.

And the great grandmother-of-one found the impeccably-preserved poppy years later when she moved to her new apartment in Northenden, Manchester, earlier this month.

Astonishing sepia tone photographs show Chilean-born Catalina as a four-year-old wearing the poppy in her hair to commemorate British war heroes.

The retired nurse and mum-of-two said: “I was born in Punta Arenas in Chile, where there was a large community of English people because of the cotton trade, after my father returned from the First World War.

“On Armistice Day they always had a collection to raise money, which we would send back for veterans in the UK.

“We would hold a fancy dress party, and a lot of people would come to our community for that occasion.

“Poppies were all handmade in those days and sent over from England.

“The poppy is at least 92 years old, because my dad gave it to me at one of these parties when I was four and it has somehow survived.

“There can’t be many others from that period still in existence.

“With the poppy being made from cloth and having the Earl Haig stud in the middle, I do believe it must be the oldest in the world.

“I’d never thought about the poppy again until it came to my attention in 2018 when it was the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of World War Two.

“I forgot about it for donkeys’ years and it was only recently that I found it again, tucked away in a cupboard.

“I’m amazed it’s been so well-preserved and as we’ve moved a lot over the years, and I’m amazed it’s still here.”

The first poppies were made in 1921 after a French woman, Anna Guérin, met Earl Haig, founder of the Royal British Legion, and persuaded him to adopt the poppy as an emblem for the Legion in the UK.

Catalina’s father, Bernard Buckley, was born in the Falkland Islands and worked in the cotton trade, importing cotton from Manchester, before serving in both World Wars.

Catalina was born in Punta Arenas in Chile after he returned after the First World War.

Her family later bought a farm and moved to Australia, but the global depression of the 1930s hit them hard, so her father borrowed money to head back to Manchester.

When war broke out again, he joined the RAF to work on barrage balloons in 1939 and served in Dunkirk.

Catalina said: “My father was essentially a cowboy who went over to England to volunteer for the cavalry with a group of Falkland Islanders.

“They landed in Liverpool in 1915 and, because there had been a tremendous loss of horses in France, my father was sent straight to Lytham to break in wild horses imported from North America and Canada.

“He was eventually wounded at the Somme, but he met my mother during the war, they were married in Manchester in 1919 and returned to Chile, so I was born in the beautiful city of Punta Arenas.”

Mum-of-two Catalina met her late husband Philip in high school and married him in March 1948 before he passed away in 2014.

She spent her working life as a nurse and Philip joined the Royal Navy at 18, before serving in the police force later on in life.

Catalina has two sons, four grandchildren and one great grandchild who visit her often.

The red poppy has endured for almost 100 years as a symbol of both Remembrance and hope for a peaceful future.

Nine million poppies were ordered that year and sold out almost immediately, raising £106,000 to help veterans with housing and jobs.

Today, poppies are still worn as a show of support for the Armed Forces community and last year the Legion’s annual appeal sold more than 40 million poppies to raise £50 million to help support serving and ex-serving members of the Armed Forces community and their families.

Catalina added: “It’s just by chance that I own what is potentially the oldest poppy in the world.

“When I found it, it was nice to link it back to the picture of my four-year-old self that hangs on my wall and it’s very historical indeed.”