seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


Leave a comment

Death of Irish Poet Francis Edward Ledwidge

Francis Edward Ledwidge, Irish poet from County Meath, sometimes known as the “poet of the blackbirds,” is killed in action He was later also known as a World War I war poet. He was killed in action on July 31, 1917 at the Battle of Pilckem Ridge near Boezinge, Ypres Salient, Belgium.

Born on August 19, 1887 to a poor family in Slane, County Meath, Ledwidge starts writing at an early age, and is first published in a local newspaper at the age of fourteen. Finding work as a labourer and miner, he is also a trade union activist and a keen patriot and nationalist, associated with Sinn Féin. He becomes friendly with a local landowner, the writer Lord Dunsany, who gives him a workspace in the library of Dunsany Castle and introduces him to literary figures including William Butler Yeats and Katherine Tynan, with whom he has a long-term correspondence. He is elected to a local authority post and helps organise the local branch of the Irish Volunteers, while Dunsany edits and helps him secure publication for a first volume of his poetry.

Having sided with the faction of the Irish Volunteers which oppose participation in the war, he enlists in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in October 1914, and continues to write poetry on assignment, sending work to Lord Dunsany and to family and other friends. The poems he writes on active service reveal his pride at being a soldier, as he believes, in the service of Ireland. He often wonders whether he would find a soldier’s death.

On July 31, 1917, a group from Ledwidge’s battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers are road-laying in preparation for an assault during the Third Battle of Ypres, near the village of Boezinge, northwest of Ypres.

According to Irish author and lecturer Alice Curtayne, “Ledwidge and his comrades had been toiling since the early morning at road-making. The army’s first need was men; their second, guns; their third roads. These latter consisted mainly of heavy beech planks bolted together, which could be rapidly laid down. No advance could be supported in that sodden land without a sufficiency of these communications tracks, six or seven feet wide. Supplies were conveyed by pack mules over the wooden paths. Survivors concur in placing the road work done by B Company that day one mile northeast of Hellfire Corner, so called because it was very exposed to German shelling. There was a violent rainstorm in the afternoon, shrouding the region in a gray monochrome. Sullenly, the enemy’s long-range guns continued to fling their shells far behind the lines. Road-work could not be suspended, however, as the tracks were in use as fast as they were laid down. Tea was issued to the men and, drenched to the skin, they stopped to swallow it. A shell exploded beside Ledwidge and he was instantly killed.”

A Roman Catholic military chaplain, Father Devas, is the first on the scene. That night, Father Devas writes in his diary, “Crowds at Holy Communion. Arranged for service but washed out by rain and fatigues. Walk in rain with dogs. Ledwidge killed, blown to bits; at Confession yesterday and Mass and Holy Communion this morning. R.I.P.”

Ledwidge is first buried at Carrefour de Rose, and later re-interred in the nearby Artillery Wood Military Cemetery, at Boezinge, where the Welsh poet Hedd Wyn, who was killed in action on the same day, also lies buried.

Dunsany arranges for the publication of more of Ledwidge’s poems, and a collected edition in 1919. Further poems, from the archives at Dunsany Castle and some material held by family, are later published by Ledwdige’s biographer, Alice Curtayne, and by one of the Ledwidge memorial societies. Ledwidge is selected as one of twelve prominent war poets for the exhibition Anthem for Doomed Youth at the Imperial War Museum in London in 2002, and memorialised at an event in Inchicore, Dublin, in 2017, with his work set to music by Anúna. A museum of his life and work is opeend in his birthplace cottage in 1982. Some of his manuscripts are held in the National Library of Ireland and more in the archives of Dunsany Castle.


Leave a comment

Bill Whelan Receives IMRO Lifetime Achievement Award

bill-whelanTaoiseach Bertie Ahern presents Irish composer and musician Bill Whelan with the IMRO Lifetime Achievement Award at Dublin Castle on March 2, 2001. Such big names as The Corrs, Brian Kennedy, Jean Butler, Jim Sheridan, Paul McGuinness and Moya Doherty join him to celebrate the award.

Whelan is best known for composing a piece for the interval of the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest. The result, Riverdance, is a seven-minute display of traditional Irish dancing that becomes a full-length stage production and spawns a worldwide craze for Irish dancing and Celtic music and also wins him a Grammy Award. It is released as a single in the United Kingdom in 1994, credited to “Bill Whelan and Anúna featuring the RTÉ Concert Orchestra.” It reaches number 9 and stays in the charts for 16 weeks. The album of the same title reaches number 31 in the album charts in 1995. He also composes a symphonic suite version of Riverdance, with its premiere performed by the Ulster Orchestra on BBC Radio 3 in August 2014.

Whelan is a native of Limerick and is educated at Crescent College, University College Dublin and the King’s Inns. While he is best known for his Riverdance composition, he has been involved in many ground-breaking projects in Ireland since the 1970s. As a producer he has worked with U2 (on their War album), Van Morrison, Kate Bush, The Dubliners, Planxty, Andy Irvine & Davy Spillane, Patrick Street, Stockton’s Wing and fellow Limerickman Richard Harris.

In theatre, Whelan receives a Laurence Olivier Award nomination for his adaption of Gilbert and Sullivan‘s H.M.S. Pinafore. He writes original music for fifteen of William Butler Yeats‘s plays for Dublin‘s Abbey Theatre and his film credits include, Dancing at Lughnasa (starring Meryl Streep), Some Mother’s Son, Lamb (starring Liam Neeson) and the award-winning At The Cinema Palace.


Leave a comment

Birth of Soloist & Songwriter Órlagh Mary Louise Fallon

orlagh-fallonÓrlagh Mary Louise Fallon, soloist and songwriter professionally known as Órla Fallon, is born in Knockananna, County Wicklow, on August 24, 1974. She is a former member of the group Celtic Woman and the chamber choir Anúna.

Fallon plays the harp and sings traditional Irish music, most often in the Irish language. Fallon studies at Mater Dei Institute of Education in Dublin. She has performed for the Pope, the President of Ireland, and at Carnegie Hall.

Her debut album, The Water is Wide, is released in Europe in 2000 and in North America in 2006. In 2005, she is featured on The Duggans album Rubicon along with peers Moya Brennan and other members of Clannad.

In 2004, Fallon sends a demo offer to composer David Downes, who is then working on the concept of Celtic Woman. Due to her unique vocal abilities, Downes contacts Fallon and asks if she would like to be a part of Celtic Woman, at the time envisaged to be only a one-night show. Fallon agrees, and becomes one of the founding members of the group. In some songs, such as Isle of Innisfree and Carrickfergus, Fallon plays the harp as well as sings. She also plays the harp in fellow Celtic Woman member Chloë Agnew‘s performance of Guun’s Ave Maria.

Fallon is featured in the self-titled debut album Celtic Woman, Celtic Woman: A Christmas Celebration, and Celtic Woman: A New Journey, as well as in the tie-in PBS television specials and DVDs filmed in 2004, 2007, and 2006 respectively. She also tours with the group in 2005 on the inaugural North American Tour, the 2006-2007 A New Journey tour, and again in 2007-2008 on the second A New Journey tour.

In 2009, Fallon announces that she is leaving Celtic Woman to have a full break and spend time with her family. She is replaced by actress and vocalist Alex Sharpe.

In 2009, Fallon appears as a guest vocalist on Jim Brickman‘s It’s a Beautiful World tour and PBS special, and releases her second album Distant Shore in September of that year. This is followed in March 2010 with her third album Music of Ireland: Welcome Home. Fallon’s first Christmas album, Winter, Fire & Snow: A Celtic Christmas Collection, is released in September 2010. In December 2010, Fallon releases a PBS Celtic Christmas special and tie-in CD, titled Órla Fallon’s Celtic Christmas, the first time any former Celtic Woman member has starred in their own PBS special.

In March 2011, Fallon releases another album, Órla Fallon: My Land, which ties in with another PBS special. Another solo album, Lullaby Time, is released in 2012.