Smorgasbord Poetry – Requiem for a Grandfather by Sally Cronin

I wrote verses from a very early age and filled books with them. Then I moved onto short stories; only rarely written anything but the occasional haiku. However, I am revisiting my scribbles and reworking some that go back nearly 50 years.

This one is a little more recent and is the poem that I wrote following my first visit to my grandfather’s grave in Northern France in 1998.

My mother was thirteen months old when her father was killed on November 2nd 1918. He was 31 years old and had been home for her birth following his third wound of the war since joining up in 1914. He had received this latest one when rescuing one of his officers from the front line. He received the Military Medal for his bravery.

He returned to the front when Mollie was six months old.  Her mother told her stories about him and that is the only thing that she could pass on as the few photographs she had were lost. The location of his grave in a small village of Poix du Nord in Northern France was only discovered by my sister Diana in the early 1990s and she and her husband took my mother shortly afterwards.

We visited again with my mother in 1998 when we were living about 70 kilometres away in Brussels. Standing there 80 years after his death it felt very emotional to imagine that this young man, Herbert James Francis Walsh, had died  so young but had still managed to  pass on his genes to those of us standing by his graveside, and since then to two more generations.


I know you through my mother’s words
Even though she was so small when you left.
Her mother told her of your life
And how your sacrifice left her bereft.

Born back in Victoria’s reign
An Irishman, black haired, tall smiling bright
You courted a builder’s daughter
It was love for both of you at first sight.

Came war and you were first in line
To stand and fight for your adopted land.
How proud you looked so tall and strong
As you marched to the docks, kit bag in hand.

A soldier and a hero too
You never once turned your back on duty.
But returned time and time again
Horror muted by a new born beauty.

When the remaining few came home
To parades, loved ones and welcoming arms.
You stayed behind to guard your men
As they lay amid the burnt out French farms.

Today you lie in foreign soil
Tended by strangers who honour your name.
But you also live here in hearts
And a young child’s face whose smile is the same.

Your brief life carries on in us
And on and on through generations strong.
So even far in the future
A child with your blue eyes will read this song.


I hope to post a poem a week but you are very welcome to send either a link to your own poetry or share one here with the story that inspired it.. my email is

64 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Poetry – Requiem for a Grandfather by Sally Cronin

  1. Pingback: Smorgasbord Poetry – Requiem for a Grandfather by Sally Cronin | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  2. A sad story for this touching poem, Sally. The more touching for honoring your granddad’s memory.
    I started writing, in English, with poems, too. Mostly on nature and life.Several were published in a collection of contemporary poems in English. I have no link as it was a paper book, around 2001, but here is one of them that inspired me to write a novel that will be republished soon – Shadows of the Past. The poem is called

    In the quiet solitude
    of a small, remote convent,
    Only prayers seem alive
    on the lips of holy sisters.
    Candles flicker in their hands
    like lost souls in search of light,
    And the yellowish, faint glimmer
    makes a halo’ round their whispers.
    Era is eternity.
    Garments, litany unchanged.
    Just a film of smoke on walls
    clings mute witness to new faces,
    To the passing-by of time,
    deathlessness of love and hope,
    To this monolith of faith
    heaving over age and spaces !

    Thank you for sharing a slice of your family’s life with us and for allowing us to share ours!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you for sharing this moving poem about your grandfather, Sally.

    As a child, I would often collect acorns and conkers with my grandfather. I recollect collecting nature’s fallen fruit as it lay on the pavement side of the high wall, that separated the path from the woodland lying on the other side of the wall. In my poem, the wall is both a literal object, and a metaphorical barrier separating this life from whatever lies beyond this earthly realm:
    The wall seemed so high.

    Acorns fell as from the sky.

    There they would lie

    To be collected by you and I.

    The acorn’s hard shell.

    I remember it well.

    The smell of the wood

    Natural and good.

    Now the wall is to high

    And on the other side you lie.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. A beautiful tribute to your grandfather but also to a hero who fought and dies for freedom. He will never be forgotten. I am sure he is looking down and smiling on all of you. I never knew any of my grandparents they all passed before I was born. Fortunately, I do have a photo of each one of them. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A beautiful poem Sally. A touching tribute to a man who died far too young for a cause that was no cause at all. Such a tragic waste of a generation…. it is good to be reminded of governments’ foolishness in such a deeply emotional way.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Smorgasbord Round Up – Divas, dastardly devils, and dedicated wordsmiths | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

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