Poppies and Paintings

by Jill Morgan


If you were to ask Pauline Evans of Merthyr Tydfil 1st ward about her work with the Royal British Legion, she would no doubt tell you about making and selling poppies. She first became involved in February 2020, when she spotted a social media post asking for volunteers to make hand-crafted poppies for installations in Merthyr Tydfil. This included a giant poppy waterfall to hang on the walls of Cyfarthfa Castle, a local historical landmark, to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the RBL in May 2021 (the Legion 100 project). Grand celebration plans around the town that year had had to be cancelled because of Covid pandemic restrictions, but this was something local women could contribute from their own homes.

Prior to the pandemic, Pauline had met weekly with Relief Society sisters for an informal craft group at the Merthyr chapel. Many of the sisters were experienced at knitting and crocheting for local causes such as the homeless, dementia patients, new-born babies, etc. As the group had to stop meeting, Pauline thought the community appeal for help would be an ideal opportunity for sisters to continue serving despite not being able to meet up physically. Pauline recounts:

I personally gained a great deal from the Legion 100 project. In January 2021 I had already been shielding for 9 months due to chronic illness. I watched many people nationwide doing a variety of charitable works and felt a bit useless. Even Captain Tom, approaching his 100th birthday, had become a national treasure and symbol of helping others from his own garden. My days stretched long and I needed something to focus on, to bring purpose to my day and take my mind off the daily terrible news briefings of the pandemic second wave. It also helped me cope with my own physical pain.


Many sisters from the two Merthyr Tydfil wards joined the project and felt the benefits of serving others in difficult times. When the waterfall of approximately 8,000 poppies was installed at the Castle, the Relief Society sisters had contributed 1,765 of them. In a card of thanks, the local organiser for the RBL wrote how amazing the church support had been. Many of the sisters involved non-member neighbours and friends in collecting materials – which gave them opportunities to share information about the church and its local contributions.

But Pauline’s contributions to the RBL have not stopped with the end of the Legion 100 project and the Covid restrictions. Although she still makes poppies, more recently she has also been using her considerable artistic talent in a different way to help boost fund-raising. During the Covid lockdowns, Pauline enrolled in an online art class, and now every day, Pauline paints – mainly landscapes and seascapes using acrylics. She has been offering her finished paintings for sale, with proceeds going to the RBL. She scours local charity shops for frames, which she up-cycles, so that her paintings are sold ready to hang. The paintings have been displayed at various locations around Merthyr Tydfil, and to date she has sold some 40 paintings, helping to raise an estimated £500 for the British Legion. Pauline describes how it has felt to share her God-given talents:

It was an even greater blessing to share my artistic talent. I learnt how to paint online during the first lockdown and decided to donate my paintings. I was blown away that people actually wanted to buy my art! I was able to enlist other local artists to contribute also. As a result of this success I have sold many more paintings, exhibited art at Cyfarthfa Castle museum for Women’s History month, and taught beginner acrylics classes at The Bothy creative art hub in the castle grounds.

Becoming involved with the local branch of the British Legion has been a great blessing in my life. Not only was it a way to unite the Relief Society Sisters in a great cause but I've made a whole new group of friends through the Poppy crafters group who still meet weekly at a local community centre.