MEDAL-ING WITH HISTORY
Here is my brush with History.
I kept the medals of John McCrae, the Canadian soldier /poet who wrote In Flanders Fields in 1915, in a shoebox for several years.
Long story short:
I received the medals quite innocently (none of us had any idea how valuable they were) from my ex Mother in Law who found them while cleaning out a closet sometime in the 80s.
My ex Father in Law had brought them home for safekeeping during a relocation of his law firm in 1959.
His father received them when McCrae's sister, Geills Kilgour, passed away in 1933 and did not have any children therefore there was apparently no indication of any other next of kin to forward them to .
After visiting several coin collectors I sold them for a couple hundred bucks in 1997. Apparently I was misinformed about their true value.
The next several months were followed by a mini national scandal as I was in interrogated and cleared by the Police and relatives of McCrae one of which was the wife of a member of Parliament and a lawyer who was exceptionally understanding. Another relative was the wife of former Prime Minister John Turner.
The medals, which included McCrae's father's collection, sold at auction for $530,000.
The purchaser dutifully donated the collection to the McCrae Museum in Guelph, Ontario.
I had still had three medals in my possession which I returned to my Father in Law to have them properly dealt with and to get the hell out of the firestorm.
My grandfather emigrated from Belgium in the 30's so I had a connection to Flanders. He left because of the lingering effects of WW1.
My mother visited the McCrae Museum and retold the story to the curator and passed on some of my pictures of me holding the medals. I'm very glad that Mr. Lee gave them to the museum for everyone to see.
In Flanders Fields is probably the most beautiful and famous tribute to fallen soldiers in history. I still find it hard to believe that I inadvertently had a part in starting the whole thing.
Indeed 1997 was my Annus Horribulus, but it seems to have all worked out in the end. I probably would have just given the medals to the family had I known, it's a very personal thing.
My grandfather left because of the so-called Great War and let's face it I would have probably been in court for years had I received a half million dollars for the collection.
I have a personal connection to history now from meddling with medals and it has elements of both Flanders Fields of Belgium and Canada. That's weird eh?
To quote Joni Mitchell, "Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone."