Smorgasbord Poetry – Requiem for a Grandfather by Sally Cronin

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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.

REQUIEM FOR A GRANDFATHER By Sally Cronin

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.

©sallycronin1997

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 sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Remembrance and Veterans Day – For those who died and those that returned.


For millions around the world November 11th is a time to remember those who have not returned from global conflict. Fathers, brothers, husbands who gave their lives. Most of our families have been touched in some way by this devastating loss. My own grandfather died on November 2nd 1918 leaving behind a little girl of 11 months old that never knew her father.

The fact is our world is in constant conflict all the time somewhere. Young men and women from many nations are still putting their lives on the line, and whilst we all mourn the loss of life that results from these international disputes; there is little publicity about those that return wounded in body and mind.

Today is also a time to remember those who returned from conflict, changed physically, mentally and emotionally.

I was honoured to interview one such man for my television company. Mark Ormrod is a Royal Marine who lost both legs and an arm in Afghanistan and he is an absolute inspiration. Here is Mark talking about the events leading up to this catastrophic event in a video for the charity Blesma

Mark wrote a book about the events that changed his life forever.

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http://www.amazon.co.uk/Man-Down-Marine-Mark-Ormrod/dp/0552159492

However, for many of those who have been severely wounded in war,  experiences on their return can be desperate. Mark describes these extremely difficult challenges in a recent interview in The Standard.

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/royal-marine-who-lost-three-limbs-in-afghanistan-mark-ormrod-i-have-to-beg-borrow-and-steal-for-the-a2820696.html

The charity Blesma is specifically for those service men and women who have lost limbs and you can find out more details here. https://blesma.org/ They raise funds to ensure that those who have to face a lifetime of disability receive the best possible treatment and equipment needed to lead their lives as normally as they can.

There are other charities who work on behalf of service personnel on their return and here are some in both the UK, United States and Australia and if you are considering donating to charity then you might consider these and others, as they are all worthy recipients. There are also some organisations that work with the families of those in the armed services and they do very important work particularly with the children who like my mother have been left without a father or mother.

UK: https://blesma.org/about-blesma/mission-statement/
UK:http://www.helpforheroes.org.uk
UK: http://www.scottyslittlesoldiers.co.uk/
United States: http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/
Australia: http://www.defencecare.org.au/about

I would like to think that those who did not return are in a better place and that they are looking down on the millions of their descendants who remember them today. And being Irish I am sure that my grandfather enjoyed a good song as I hear he was a bit of a ‘lad’ back in the day! Later today in the Wednesday music spot I will be sharing some of the songs that kept the spirits up of those on the front line.

My mother was 95 when she died and one of the conversations we had in the months leading up to her death was about her father and how she hoped she would now get to meet him in person for the first time.

sally wedding day 1980In honour of all those who did not return from all nations during both World Wars and since. Particularly for Corporal Herbert Francis Walsh REME: 1887 – November 2nd 2018 – Military Medal 1916.

Here is the Last Post including the two-minute silence at the Royal British Legion Service.

Thanks for joining me here today…Sally