Provost Moonie, Consul-General Matsunaga and guests marking then handover and planting of peace seeds
Thirty peace seeds originating from 'A-bombed' gingko trees in the Japanese city of Hiroshima are set to take root in South Ayrshire after the seeds were donated by Mayors for Peace.
The international organisation – established in 1982 – brings together cities and places dedicated to the promotion of peace. It was created by the then Mayor of Hiroshima in response to the deaths of around 140,000 people due to the atomic bombing of the city on 6 August 1945 – three months before the end of the Second World War.
While the bombing reduced the city to ashes, trees that had been devastated by the bomb sprouted buds again from their burnt trunks, and became a symbol of hope and courage for the city and the country.
Seeds from the A-bombed trees have been donated to a number of countries and locations, allowing the spirit, hope and courage that stemmed from Hiroshima at such a dreadful time to be spread across the world.
South Ayrshire's 30 peace seeds have now been planted by volunteers at Belleisle Conservatory and will be looked after there, over the next two years, until the saplings are ready to be planted in the ground.
South Ayrshire Provost Helen Moonie was joined by the Consul-General of Japan, Daisuke Matsunaga, to mark the handover and planting of these remarkable seeds.
Consul-General Matsunaga, said: "Hiroshima is very close to my heart. In fact, my wife's family is originally from Hiroshima, and one of her uncles, who was a thirteen-year-old schoolboy, perished near the epicentre on the fateful day of 6 August 1945.
"On the morning, my mother-in-law was about to go to school. She was fifteen, and her house was on the outskirts of the city, separated by a hill from the city centre. In the toilet, she saw a flash of light, brighter than broad daylight, and held on to the pillar to withstand the quake. Evidently, something extraordinary had happened. Several hours later, she saw a procession of atomic bomb victims shuffling along to evacuate. They were like zombies in tattered clothes. Townsfolk prepared rice bowls and gave them water.
"The following day, the town organised a rescue team, and my mother-in-law was on the team. They walked into the city to help the survivors without knowing anything about radioactivity. Later in her life, she developed thyroid cancer, but fortunately it is now under control.
"I highly appreciate the initiative of Mayors for Peace. I truly believe in the power of prayer. If people wishing for peace get together and send out their sincere wishes to the world and the universe, it will surely help us achieve peace. May the ginkgo seeds grow up to be a symbol of this admirable aspiration."
Provost Moonie added: "We're proud and privileged to receive this very generous gift from Mayors for Peace, and it was a true honour to be joined by the Consul-General of Japan to mark the planting of these seeds, which travelled almost 6,000 miles to make the journey from Hiroshima to Ayr.
"It's very humbling to think that the seeds – which originated from the horrors of one of the most devastating events in world history – will grow into truly impressive symbols of peace for all to see.
"They will create a legacy for the people and communities of South Ayrshire, and we'll be working with our schools and young people to get them involved with the project and spread the word about what it means.
"The seeds – and the trees they will become – will create a lasting link between South Ayrshire and Japan, and I hope they will grow and blossom just like the friendship between us.
"Under the care and nurture of the volunteers from Belleisle Conservatory, there really couldn't be a better place for them to call home and grow into strong and symbolic examples of the peace we want for all peoples of the world."
Eva Richardson, South Ayrshire Youth Forum Overall Star and Citizenship Award winner represented South Ayrshire's young people at the handover/planting event. She said: "It was amazing to see the peace seeds planted and to think about what they will become and, more importantly, what they will mean for generations to come.
"It's really important that we all know and understand about the events of the past, so we can take part in historic events like this and make a change for the future – I'm sure young people across South Ayrshire will be proud to do their bit to help pass the message on."
Matsui Kazumi, President of Mayors for Peace and Mayor of Hiroshima, said: "We hope from the bottom of our hearts that these seeds – which will grow into second-generation A-bombed trees – will be raised carefully, and that, with the love of many citizens, they will come to serve as a symbol of peace."