People of Leeds #8: Annie Tunnington

The eighth in an occasional series looking at forgotten contributors to the history of Leeds. This week, we tell the story of Annie Tunnington, the ‘Poppy Lady of Leeds’. You can view all entries in this People of Leeds series elsewhere on the blog. 

Annie Tunnington of Roundhay began selling poppies in response to the number of servicemen wounded in the First World War, including her younger brother. Private Joe Tunnington had survived the Battle of the Somme but had returned home in 1917, shell-shocked and disabled as a result. He gave his sister a tiny oil painting of a racehorse that he had made during his convalescence and she was very moved when she saw the unsteady brushstrokes of the injured young man. From that moment, Annie vowed to do all she could to support others like Joe by becoming involved in the Royal British Legion’s newly-established Poppy Appeal.

1951. View of Leeds Bridge, painted in watercolours in 1957 by local artist, Joe Tunnington.
1951. View of Leeds Bridge, painted in watercolours in 1957 by local artist, Joe Tunnington (Annie’s brother). (C) Derek Tunnington, from www.leodis.net

Every November, beginning in her early twenties, Annie braved the elements, standing at her stall by the war memorial in Victoria Gardens for ten hours a day. One year, in freezing temperatures, her shoes actually froze and stuck to the ground and she had to be lifted out of them and into a taxi, leaving her shoes behind. But her efforts made a big difference. Over the years she raised £10,000 to support injured soldiers.

She was photographed in 1976, the year of her retirement from poppy-selling, aged 81.

You can read further articles about Leeds and its people during World War I elsewhere on the blog

7th November, 1976. Image shows ex-servicewoman and veteran poppy seller for 54 years, 81 year-old Annie Tunnington.
7th November, 1976. Image shows ex-servicewoman and veteran poppy seller for 54 years, 81 year-old Annie Tunnington. (C) Yorkshire Post, from www.leodis.net

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