A tribute on Remembrance Day, 2014
Francis Ledwidge (1887-1917)
Irish Poet, Francis Ledwidge, was born in Slane, county Meath, into a family of little means, the eighth of nine children. His parents, Patrick and Anne Ledwidge, gave their children the best education they could afford. When Francis was five his father died, forcing his wife and children to work in order to survive. Francis left the local national school aged thirteen, but continued to educate himself. He worked at whatever he could find, a farm hand, road mender, and mining copper. As a miner he was sacked for organising a strike for better working conditions, three years before the 1913 general strike. He was a trade union activist from 1906 and was appointed secretary of the Slane branch of the Meath Labour Union (1913–14).
While working as a road labourer he won the patronage of Lord Dunsany after writing to him in 1912, enclosing copybooks of his early work. Dunsany was a well known a man of letters in the literary and dramatic circles of Dublin and London. His own start in publishing had been with a collection of poems and he promoted Ledwidge in Dublin, introducing him to W. B. Yeats, with whom he became acquainted.
Although a patriot and a nationalist, Ledwidge enlisted in the British army, in the hope that home rule would come about, due to the support of Irishmen in the war effort.
Francis Ledwidge died on 31 July 1917. Having served in Gallipoli and Serbia, he was killed by a shell in the Battle of Passchendaele. He served with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
British composer Michael Head put some of Ledwidge’s poetry to music, one of the more well known songs being, “The Ships of Arcady.”
It’s only fitting to include one of Francis Ledwidge’s poems that reflect his experience and emotions of his service in the First World War. It’s called A Soldier’s Grave and is set to music.
Source: Merhlin’s Videos