Friday, November 11, 2011

Why Wear a Poppy?

I attended the commemorative day readings for Armistice Day on 11th November in Navan library. 
The event began at the 11th hour with Ernest McBride leading prayers for the fallen. Then a silence was observed and the Last Post was played by Sean Lynch. Tom French was Master of  Ceremonies and read some of his favourite poems specially for the occasion.

A letter from the front dated 15th July 1917 was read out.  The letter was from,

Rifleman John O'Brien 393631
1/9 London Regiment
Q. V. Rifles B Company
5 Platoon B.E.F. France.
Who came from Johnstown, Navan.

There was a lot of poems read from WW1 and Edel Gillick read a poem of her own specially written for the occasion and Frank Murphy read a war poem he wrote from a time he spent somewhere in the  Middle East.
Other readers were: Jim Byrne, Sean Reilly, Willie Hodgins, Tom French, Mollie Kane, Seamus Smyth, Jim O'Brien and others whose names I don't know apologies to them all.

I read three pieces myself, a piece of fiction by Mark Twain titled The War Prayer, which he wrote in 1904 based on the USA/ Philippines War and two poems which I reproduce here.

The first poem, Why Wear a Poppy, by:  Unknown Poet. The poem was found in a house in Wales which was being renovated in 1962.

Why Wear a Poppy?

" Please wear a Poppy ", the lady said
And held one forth, but I shook my head.
Then I stopped and watched to see how she would fare-
Her face was old and lined with care,
But beneath the scars that the years had made
There remained a smile that refused to fade.

A boy came whistling down the street,
Bouncing along on carefree feet.
His smile was full of joy and fun,
" Lady ", he said, " may I have one? "
As she pinned it on I heard him say
" Why do we wear a Poppy today? "

The lady smiled in her wistful way
And answered, " This is remembrance Day.
The Poppy there is a symbol for
The gallant men who died in war,
And because they did, you and I are free.
That's why we wear a Poppy, you see! "

I had a boy about your size,
With golden hair and big blue eyes.
He loved to play, and jump and shout-
Free as a bird he would race about.
As years went on he learned and grew
And became a man as you will too ".

" He was fine and strong with a boyish smile,
But he seemed with us just a little while.
When war broke out he went away-
I still remember his face that day,
When he smiled at me and said,  Goodbye-
I'll be back soon, so please don't cry ".

But the war went on and he had to stay-
All I could do was wait and pray.
His letters told of the awful fight-
I can still see it in my dreams at night.
With tanks and guns and cruel barbed wire,
And mines and bullets, the bombs and fire ".

" Until at last the war was won,
And that's why we wear a Poppy, son ".
The small boy turned as if to go
Then said, " Thanks lady, I'm glad to know.
That sure did sound like an awful fight,
But your son- did he come home alright? "
A tear rolled down each faded cheek-
She shook her head but didn't speak.
I slunk away- head bowed in shame
And if you were with me , you'd have done the same.
For our thanks in giving is oft delayed,
Though our freedom was bought and thousands paid.

And so you see- when a Poppy is worn,
Let us reflect on the burden borne
By all those who gave their very all
When asked to answer their Country's call.
That we at home in peace may live-
Then wear a Poppy- remember- and give!


They ask me where I've been,
And what I've done and seen,
But what can I reply
Who know it wasn't I,
But someone just like me,
Who went across the sea
And with my head and hands
Killed men in foreign lands...
Though I must bear the blame
Because he bore my name.

By: Wilfred Gibson. (18 78- 1962)


Top left  Willie Hodgins.
Top right Seamus Smyth.

Left Mollie Kane
Right Frank Murphy.

Sean Lynch playing The Last Post.
There was builders working in a room next to the library and just as Sean was nearing the end of his playing they started up a drill hence the noise at the end.

Group photo.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011