The YCVS and the Ulster Division
Surprised one day, I watched Belfast’s Lord May
borne on gun-carriage, when Young Citizen
Volunteers in grey first took the air,
mere lads they looked, too soon they would be men.
And, some months later, we went down to see
our khaki soldiers marching to the docks
to sail away for France to keep us free;
our cheering then my memory often mocks.
For later still, as days limped past or flew,
the newsboys yelled hoarse tidings down the street
of Jutland’s victory, Dardanelles’ defeat,
and, propped on crutches, men in sloppy blue,
approached with awe, would tell us stories from
the shell-ploughed fields of Passchendaele and Somme.
On a Poet Patriot
His songs were a little phrase
Of eternal song,
Drowned in the harping of lays
More loud and long.
His deed was a single word,
Called out alone
In a night when no echo stirred
To laughter or moan.
But his songs new souls shall thrill.
The loud harps dumb,
And his deed the echoes fill
When the dawn is come.
To My Daughter Betty, The Gift of God
In wiser days, my darling rosebud,blown
To beauty proud as was your mother's prime,
In that desired, delayed, incredible time,
You'll ask why I abandoned you, my own,
And the dear heart that was your baby throne,
To dice with death. And oh! they'll give you rhyme
And reason: some will call the thing sublime,
And some decry it in a knowing tone.
So here, while the mad guns curse overhead,
And tired men sigh with mud for couch and floor,
Know that we fools, now with the foolish dead,
Died not for flag, nor King, nor Emperor,—
But for a dream, born in a herdsman's shed,
And for the secret Scripture of the poor.
As this year marks 100 years since the Battle of the Somme, there was always the hope that we’d be able to perform the play in France as part of the centenary commemorations. We knew how special this opportunity would be, but making it happen was always going to be really difficult. Headlong and the Abbey Theatre had been doing site visits for over a year, talking to the French Embassy, the Irish Embassy, figuring out practicalities and sorting through some really complex logistics.
Locations feautured in the play 'Observe The Sons Of Ulster Marching Towards The Somme' written by Frank Mcguinnes
We have all spent the last week living in the dark of the Citizen’s auditorium as we tech the show. It’s brilliant to be here, to see the set and space in context after imagining it for the last month.
And that's it! Our four week rehearsal process in Brixton has come to an end. It's gone so quicklt and looking back we've packed so much into it. From beating the lambeg drum to doing our first runs and playing lots of volleyball!
We are officially over the half way point! It's amazing how quickly rehearsals go, and before we knew it we are about to head into our final week. This stage of the process is always exciting as everything begins to gear up and move at a much faster pace.
This week was all about rolling our sleeves up and diving head first into the play, getting it up on its feet. It’s always a really exciting moment when we take that step, leaving behind the safety of the table work and chats, and seeing what happens when it lives and breathes in front of us.
The first day of rehearsal at our Brixton base was the usual mix of excitement, nerves, biscuits and tea. What was incredible, however, and a nod to the journey we are about to embark on, was the number of people in the room! Along with the cast and creative team, there was writer Frank McGuineess, the whole Headlong gang and co-producers from the Abbey Dublin, Glasgow Citizens Theatre and Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse. The room was buzzing with so many different people and so many different accents. Straight away, we had a sense of the scale of this project and all the different communities we will bring the work to.
Francis Ledwidge (1887-1917)
Francis Ledwidge was an Irish poet from County Meath. His poetry is infused by the natural beauty of the countryside in which he grew up.