Did they beat the drums slowly…. ?

Well, how do you do, young Wille McBride?   Today, on Armistice Day I would like to share this video with you.  The music is a song by The Furey’s, The Green Fields of France.. it is long but please take the time to watch and listen, the lyrics are below.  It never fails to send a shiver down my spine, particularly when I think of all the soldiers who really did believe that WW1 was “The War To End Wars”.. and willingly gave their lives to save us all.  

How tragic that, as it says in the song “it all happened again and again and again…”  and especially that, almost 100 years later, our soldiers are still fighting.

Well, how do you do, Private William McBride,
Do you mind if I sit down here by your graveside?
And rest for awhile in the warm summer sun,
I’ve been walking all day, and I’m nearly done.
And I see by your gravestone you were only 19
When you joined the glorious fallen in 1916,
Well, I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean
Or, Willie McBride, was it slow and obscene?

Did they Beat the drum slowly, did the play the pipes lowly?
Did the rifles fir o’er you as they lowered you down?
Did the bugles sound The Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

And did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind
In some loyal heart is your memory enshrined?
And, though you died back in 1916,
To that loyal heart are you forever 19?
Or are you a stranger without even a name,
Forever enshrined behind some glass pane,
In an old photograph, torn and tattered and stained,
And fading to yellow in a brown leather frame?

The sun’s shining down on these green fields of France;
The warm wind blows gently, and the red poppies dance.
The trenches have vanished long under the plow;
No gas and no barbed wire, no guns firing now.
But here in this graveyard that’s still No Man’s Land
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand
To man’s blind indifference to his fellow man.
And a whole generation who were butchered and damned.

And I can’t help but wonder, no Willie McBride,
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did you really believe them when they told you “The Cause?”
Did you really believe that this war would end wars?
Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame
The killing, the dying, it was all done in vain,
For Willie McBride, it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.


These pictures are from a beautiful service held today in my little village.  When I look at the names, I am reminded that the men from this village were almost entirely lost, whole families lost their boys, one after another..





  1. My Great Uncle is buried at the Guards Cemetery at Cuinchy, Windy Corner as it was known then (W.H. Morris aged 18) . He was buried there as it was near a dressing station and a little cemetery was started..As happened to many cemetery’s the ground was fought over and heavily shelled , although the graves were re-instated later (accurately, due to being well mapped) I doubt very much any remains survived. A sad little story similar to millions no doubt. But here are his details. He didn’t want to go and said he would never kill anyone, but was given white feathers by some girls in his village (according to my Gran)

  2. My son (Year 1, nearly 6 years old) has been hearing in school assemblies about The Great War. Today he built a Lego grave for the soldiers (Lego men) and put poppies (Lego flowers) on top. He was re-creating what he’d heard in school about the fields of poppies.

    It’s extremely sad that we haven’t seen an end to war yet but I assure you that the next generation are aware of The Great War, It will not be forgotten.

  3. What I said on twitter – my little boy who is three and a half – was watching the remembrance service with me – I was trying to explain why we should be quiet (he whispered throughout which is “quiet” as far as he is concerned) – that there were lots of people who died in a war a long time ago, that it was very sad they died, and that war was basically a big fight. Well he said something that was actually quite profound – “they should have used words”.

    Assuming that is cos I (and presumably his nursery) have been teaching him that he can use words and talk to other kids if he is cross, rather than fighting/pushing – but – it made me quite sad. Because of course, he is right, really. And also because – how can I as his Mum, tell him he should settle disagreements with words, when all over the world, adults, who should be setting an example – are not settling fights and disputes with words, but with wars?

    Very sad, really.

  4. Thanks for this humph. My paternal grandfather, who I never met, came back from WWI minus an arm to a “land fit for heroes”. He struggled to live a so-called normal life, and did provide for his wife and child. But far too many of his Pals Battalion did not come back, and as we know it didn’t end all wars.

    Another of his grandsons, my brother, has already served in four different warzones and might well end up in more.

    Today I think of him particularly, and wish I had known him.

  5. Loved this song since I was 16 and learned to play it. Jake Burns from SLF does a good version on his solo album. Thanks.

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