Remember ‘Tommy’?


There have been so many moving tributes to the fallen heroes of the Battle of the Somme in its 100th anniversary year.  In Seaham yesterday I witnessed another.  Hundreds of pebbles have been collected from the local beach, hand painted red, and arranged in a poppy around ‘Tommy’. This emotive metal sculpture was designed by Ray Lonsdale and unveiled in 2014.

‘Paint it Red’ was the idea of David McKenna, a former soldier who has served in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Kosovo with the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.  Six years ago he founded a local community group, Seaham Remembers Them.  Cadets and veterans alike were involved in this project, which took 2 months to complete.

Afterwards I strolled on the beach, crunching through the pebbles with their weird and wonderful shapes, and feeling very lucky to be alive.

This article in the local press covers the event.  You might remember a Monday walk I did when Tommy first arrived in Seaham.



  1. Very interesting and lovely photos, Jo! Love the close-up shots. Love the red. I just noticed my pingback on this post comments, should I use another url instead of your latest post for the walk thingy?

    1. Usually link to the last walk, which would have been Masmorra in the Algarve in this instance, BF. But I know you have difficulty with this sometimes. At the bottom of the Tommy post an arrow will take you back to Masmorra, but it’s already included for next Monday so no worries. Happy weekend! 🙂 🙂

  2. Very moving tribute. I saw the thousands of crocheted poppies at the Chelsea flower show this spring. I was literally speechless at the sight. My neighbour’s son died in Iraq -aged only 20. We also remember him. So young. A terrible waste of life.

  3. tutta la stanchezza della guerra pesa sulle spalle di Tommy a rappresentare l’orrore di tutte le battaglie
    l’omaggio in rosso rappresenta univocamente il sangue e la vita
    bella ispirazione!

  4. This is such a moving depiction, Jo. I’m very impressed with Tommy, but the addition of the painted pebbles brings him to life. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Very, very special!

  5. Tommy is such a wonderful depiction of the fatigue and overwhelmingness of war, and maybe even its boredom. Your first photo shows him in all his detail. I love the way you juxtapose the painted pebbles with the real ones, carrying the poppy-thoughts across to them. A lovely way to revitalise thoughts evoked by the statue.

    1. I wished I had known about the project and been involved in the painting, Meg. It reminded me of how little I do to help our community. I need to use my time better. How are you coping with the tambourine players this week? 🙂 🙂

      1. But how much you do for the community in cyberspace! I always learn about community things too late – or else I’m here. Coping well, and feeling triumphant every time we all get to or fro. They’re beginning to miss J. This afternoon we paint letters for him. Hugs from a rainy morning.

      2. Have you heard from him? How’s he doing? It won’t be long before they’ve got Christmasy stuff to do. Paper chains, cut out angels and all that 🙂 🙂 Bright day/lazy woman hugs!

      3. They’ll have a great medical service in Oz, Meg, and hopefully they’ll send him back good as new. You’re in my thoughts, hon. Try not to worry. Oh, those easy peasy words 😦

  6. Grandfather survived the Somme, grand uncle did not. Father survived the Japanese in Burma, uncle turvived torpedo in North Atlantic, quite amazing what out near relatives survived and appeared unchanged. Worth remembering when you see plastic politicians pretending to remember.

  7. Such a beautiful tribute Jo. Here in Canada, we proudly wear red poppies in remembrance of the men & women who have served. Often when people attend Remembrance Day services, they leave their poppies gathered at the cenotaph where the services are held. It is a very touching vision.

  8. The poignant simplicity of this tribute is so moving…And Tommy bows his head with the burden of all the death. If only we’d learned from it. A great post and wonderful photos – thank you.

  9. This is so moving Jo, it brings a lump to my throat. I don’t know what it is about the Battle of the Somme but every time I read or see something about it I want to cry. And I am not a sentimentalist, nor do I cry easily, so why does this particular event move me so?

    Tommy is a wonderful sculpture and to see this tribute is wonderful. Thank you for showing it to us through your excellent images.

    1. I didn’t know about this till I arrived yesterday, Jude. I’d been focused on them tipping poppies from the roof of Durham Cathedral but I couldn’t make it for that. This is so personal, isn’t it? I think the scale and the circumstances of the loss just fill you with dread whenever you think about it. Hugs, darlin!

  10. I wonder what would happen if I make a sculpture or art of myself and just randomly display it in public? 🙂
    Impressive tribute. The way people pay tribute to people they honor is a beautiful thing. And the variety-colored pebbled beach is whoa-some! Very nice pictures, Jo.

  11. Very moving. Tragically, there’s probably a correlation between the number of pebbles on the beach and the number of fallen soldiers during the First World War.

  12. This goes right to the heart, Jo. ❤
    Creativity creating art in a very moving way. One of the finest tributes I have ever seen.Thanks for the link, I'll pass it on.
    Have a wonderful day! x

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