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1915 > Sligo Poetry 1915 > Sligo Nationalist

These four poems reflect the impact of the war in different ways. The Dying Soldier’s Rosary is a war story written to inspire and comfort and designed to appeal to a catholic readership. The poem on Edith Cavell was written soon after the event and reflects the extensive coverage that death got. It may have been written by a local author.

Conn of the Raven Curls appears to have been written by a Leitrim author, possibly the Michael Cunningham aged 20 in the 1911 census who lived at Cartron, Sramore. I presume it refers to an actual death in the war.

Edith Cavell was a British nurse who helped some 200 Allied soldiers escape from German-occupied Belgium during the First World War, for which she was arrested. She was court-martialled, found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. Despite international pressure for mercy, she was shot by firing squad on 12 October 1915. Her execution received worldwide condemnation and extensive press coverage.

Frederic Edward Weatherly, KC (1848–1929) was an English lawyer, author, lyricist and broadcaster. He is estimated to have written the lyrics to at least 3,000 popular songs, among the best-known of which are Danny Boy set to the tune Londonderry Air, the religious The Holy City, and the wartime song Roses of Picardy. He wrote much war poetry similar to this effort which praises the British war leaders. Kitchener, born in Co. Kerry, was the secretary of state for war, Jellicoe was commander-in-chief of the Grand Fleet, and Lord French Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force. French was replaced in December 1915 by his then deputy, Douglas Haig, because of dissatisfaction with his command.

Sligo Nationalist 20 February 1915
  The Dying Soldier’s Rosary

“Don’t take away my Rosary
This dark and lonely night;
It has kept me from all evil,
It has been my guide and light.
It has been my friend in lifetime,
Leave it with me when I’m dead,
And, comrades, take the Crucifix,
And place it at my head.

“It was my dead, good mother,
Who taught me the beads to say—
My kind and loving mother,
So many miles away;
I dreamed last night I saw her,
I thought I heard her speak,
And I felt her soft white tresses,
Gently creeping o’er my cheek.

“But alone I woke in sorrow,
And no mother could be found;
It only was a dream I had
Upon the battle ground.
Then my hand fell on my Rosary,
And I wept, but not in vain,
For the Mother of My Jesus
Freed her weeping child from pain.

“As I raised my eyes to heaven,
Soon my sorrow turned to joy,
Our Lady sent a Jesuit priest,
To bless her sinful boy.
’Twas for this I prayed in battle
With my rosary tightly prest
To my heart, and this the answer—
I am given peace and rest.

“Oh! to you my faithful comrades
I would speak a parting word,
Learn to say the Holy Rosary,
And your prayers will all be heard.”
Back he sinks upon his blanket,
Smile the lips, that speak no more,
God rest the weary soldier,
His battle life is o’er.
                      —H T M Henry

Sligo Nationalist 11 December 1915
     Conn of the Raven Curls.

He fell on the plains of Flanders—
   And no stone his lone grave tells—
Conn of the raven curls
   From Leitrim’s lovely dells:
Conn the beloved of many
   That once more never will
At evening’s close his whistle hear
   On the shore of blue Lough Gill.

He left his home and friends about
   In the bloom of youth’s bright years,
And went afar out to the war
   With the Irish Fusiliers:
He also left his Mollie O’—
   Her brown eyes seek him still—
She can’t believe death did deceive
   The flower of blue Lough Gill.

And many like her lamenting now
   This little lake around—
Lamenting for the dear ones lost
   In that far distant ground:
And fondly hope—though vain it be—
   Some future time to fill
Their graves with tear-wet shamrocks
   From the vales of blue Lough Gill.

But ’tis for brown-eyed Mollie’s sake
   That mostly I do mourn:
Back to care and comfort her
   Her Conn can ne’er return.
"I wish," she cried, "my true love died
   At home by God’s good will,
And found a tomb in the Abbey old—
   A space from blue Lough Gill.

Where the kindly neighbours passing by
   For him a prayer would breathe,
And now and then upon his breast
   Fair flowerets sweetly wreathe:
But, alas! his grave’s in Flanders—
   They say on a lonesome hill—
Far away from lovely Leitrim
   And the shore of blue Lough Gill.
                       M D Cunningham

Sligo Nationalist 13 November 1915
  The Execution of Miss Cavell

Most foul the deed, inhuman, fell,
The murder of the Nurse Cavell:
Whose sympathy alike did flow
For wounded friend and wounded foe.

Oft did she tend the savage Hun,
Unmindful of the harm he’d done,
And though he reeked with British blood
She gave him proper care and food.

Could love so Christian and sublime
Be stained with guilt or heinous crime,
That German Kultur should decree
This noble girl should slaughtered be?

Ah! no; the world doth stand aghast,
And cries aloud that vengeance fast
Shall overtake this Hunnish race,
To human kind a foul disgrace.

On, on, ye Britons, Russians, Franks!
Mow down the ruthless Kaiser’s ranks!
Nor cease till victory ye win
O’er gay Vienna, proud Berlin.
                                    L MULLEN.

Sligo Nationalist 25 December 1915
          Bravo! Our Heros.

Kitchener sat in his London den,
     Silent and grim and grey,
Making his plans with an iron pen,
     Just in Kitchener's way.
And he saw where the clouds rose dark and dun,
     And all that it meant he knew;
"We shall want every man who can shoulder a gun
     To carry this thing right through!"

Bravo, Kitchener, say what you want,
     No one shall say you nay!
And the world shall know, where our bugles blow,
     We've a man at the head to-day!

Jellicoe rides on the grey North Sea,
     Watching the enemy lines,
Where their Lord High Admirals skulk at ease
     Inside their hellish mines.
They have drunk too deep to the boasted fight,
     They have vowed too mad a vow!
What do they think—on the watch— to-night?
     What toast are they drinking now?

Bravo! Jellicoe! Call them again,
     And whenever they take the call,
Show them the way, give them their "Day!"
     And settle it once for all!

And French is facing the enemy's front,
     Stubbornly, day by day,
Taking the odds and bearing the brunt,
     Just in the Britishers’ way.
And he hears the message, that makes him glad,
     Ring through the smoke and flame,
"Fight on, Tommy! stick to them, lad!
     Jack’s at the same old game!'"

Bravo! Tommy, stand as you've stood,
     And, whether you win or fall,  
Show them you fight as gentlemen should,
     And die like gentlemen all!

So Kitchener plans in London Town,
     French is standing at bay,
Jellicoe’s ships ride up and down,
     Holding the seas’ highway.
And you that loaf where the skies are blue,
     And play by a petticoat hem.
These are the men who are fighting for you!
     What are you doing for them?

Bravo! then, for the men who fight!
     Base cowards the men who play!
It’s a fight to the end for honour and friend,
     It’s a fight for our lives to-day!
                                 F. E. WEATHERLY

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