A dedicated great grandmother has been hailed Britain’s longest-serving poppy seller – after rattling her tin for 66 YEARS.
Margaret Bracey, 78, sold her first poppy for one penny in 1945 at the age of 12.
Since then she has taken to the streets every year without fail, raising thousands of pounds for the Royal British Legion.
During her six decades of service she has carried a wreath of poppies at the Royal Albert Hall’s Festival of Remembrance and been a standard-bearer for the Queen Mother.
Now mother-of-three Margaret, of Coalpit Heath, south Gloucestershire, has been awarded the first ’65 year badge’ to be handed out in her home county.
She said: ”I used to deliver door-to-door and every house would buy one.
”Now I go to the supermarkets because it’s not quite so safe going door to door and so many people are at work in the day.”
Margaret sold her first poppy in 1945 after a friend of her mother’s, Sarah Taylor, asked her to sell the badges having seen her collecting rose hips in her home village of Frampton Cotterell.
She took to the streets with her best friend Jean Reynolds and the pair were rewarded for their efforts with a huge bag of apples.
Margaret said: ”There used to be little silk poppies we’d sell for one and six pence and car poppies for two and six. Every house used to buy them.
”We’d sell hundreds every year. One time in Frampton Cotterell we had an empty box and had to go and collect some more to sell.”
Margaret, a grandmother of 14 and great-grandmother of 13, comes from a family with a long military history and links with the ‘Glorious Glosters’ regiment.
Her great uncle George Marriott died serving for the regiment in World War One and brother David Cook served his national service for The Glosters.
The uncle George Bryant died whilst serving in Burma in 1943 when a lorry he was driving toppled over a mountain edge on a narrow pass.
Her son John served in the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment – which replaced the Glosters in 1994 – before his death from a heart attack in 1999.
More recently, two of her nephews Richard Randall and Martin Cook have joined the forces operating in Ireland and Germany.
Even her husband Ernest, 80, was part of The Royal Signals when she met him while working as a nanny.
Margaret says he has always been happy to stay at home and look after the family while she is out selling poppies.
Her door-to-door rounds sometimes took so long people would invite her in for a glass of sherry or a cup of tea.
She said: ”I’ve always had the support of my family. Ernest had to be the one to stay at home and look after the babies whilst I was out collecting.”
Margaret says she felt ”ten foot tall” when she was honoured with carrying a wreath of poppies in the Royal Albert Hall in 1988.
And in 1999 she was a standard bearer and escorted The Queen Mother on a Royal Visit in Gloucester to the official opening of new flats for ex-servicemen.
Margaret has risen to become county co-ordinator for the Poppy Appeal and is life vice-president of Gloucestershire Royal British Legion women’s section.
She was presented with a 65 year badge by the Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire on October 26.
Fittingly, she was accompanied to the ceremony by Sarah Taylor’s granddaughters Margaret Adams and Dorothy Taylor, both from Stonehouse, Glos.
They gave a minute’s silence at the ceremony to commemorate her work to date.
Chris Aplin, Community Fundraiser for The Poppy Appeal in Gloucestershire, explained it was the first award given in the county for 65 years service.
She said: ”People like her have given a great amount. It’s difficult to say if she’s the longest serving.
”Now we need young people to get involved and reflect the efforts of people in their own generations to recognise current military efforts.”
Margaret is believed to be Britain’s longest-serving poppy seller following the death of Noelle Benda Whitehead, Lady Milverton, who died this yea at a nursing home near Modbury, Devon.
She was born in 1904 and first volunteered for the Poppy Appeal at the age of 16 – when it began in 1921 – and collected for 89 years until her death in September.