Gillen - Sligo Poets

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1915 > Sligo Poetry 1915 > Sligo Independent

One of the surprises and disappointments of Sligo newspapers in 1914 was the disappearance of the poems of John Gillan from the Sligo Nationalist. No poem of his was published there after June 1914. It is therefore a relief to find this poem of Gillan's in 1915 though it appears in the Sligo Independent.

This might suggest that Gillan was no longer employed by the Sligo Nationalist. On the other hand his style of poetry may not have been appreciated once the war broke out. The Sligo Nationalist did publish poems celebrating the war effort and this one would have fitted in well.

The Independent seems to have made a mistake in printing his name - Gillen instead of Gillan. The former was a more common surname in the Sligo area. I'm sure it is the same John Gillan from the Sligo Nationalist who did live in Lord Edward Street according to the 1911 Census.

This poem does have the Gillan style about it, hale and hearty, witht the feel of having been composed in a hurry with little editing. The jaunty rhyme encourages enlistment to fight for "homes and altars" but also for "our empire". It refers to the Irish VC, Mike O'Leary's bravery and also brings in John Redmond and has unintentional humour in the line "He shot five murd’rous Germans".

The political stance which the poem adopts, pro-Redmond and pro-war, pro-empire and pro-Home Rule, was soon to be overtake by events and become much less popular. The prolonging of the war and the Easter Rising of 1916 were to see a change in popular opinion.

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Sligo Independent 19 June 1915

Brave boys of Sligo city
Enlist, enlist today!
For your king and country needs you
To keep our foes at bay.
To fact the enemy in by-gone times
Erin’s sons were never shy;
On the battlefield with gun or sword
They’d conquer or they’d die.

To fight for homes and altars, too,
Irishmen should never tire,
And strike the blow that will be felt
For our great empire;
Like gallant Mike O’Leary
You have your chance to be-
He shot five murd’rous Germans
And won his bright V.C.

Now, to put on the khaki, boys,
I know you’re not afraid,
So join your Irish regiment-
John Redmond’s grand brigade;
And when the bugle sounds the note of peace
All Erin’s sons shall sing
The songs of “God Save Ireland”
And “God Save the King.”

Lord Edward Street, Sligo.

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