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Private William McBride (WW1)

Discussion in 'World War One Entertainment' started by Jim, Feb 6, 2007.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Eric Bogle's song, variously called William McBride, No Man's Land and the Green Fields of France is being developed as a feature film called The Last Parade by New York film producer Ned Stuart. In the song Bogle (pictured below) visits a Western Front Cemetery, and sits by the graveside of an Irish soldier called William McBride. The song is essentially a series of questions to the soldier, who was apparently 19 when he died in 1916.

    Eric Bogle​


    [​IMG]


    It is not entirely clear whether Bogle actually saw the name McBride on a headstone, although there are two soldiers of that name buried at the Authuile Military Cemetery on the Somme. The most likely is Private William McBride of the 9th Battalion Royal Enniskillen Fusiliers who died on 22 April 1916. His parents were from Lislea in County Armagh. But he was twenty-one when he died.


    The second McBride in the Authuile Cemetery was a private in the 2nd Battalion of the same regiment, and is identified only by the initial W, with his age not given. He died on 10th February 1916. The third man, Rifleman William John McBride of the Royal Irish Rifles is recorded as having died on 2 July 1916 (just one day after the carnage over the first day of the Battle of the Somme) but has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval memorial.

    So, lacking any real evidence for the man himself, the story for the proposed film is essentially a fictional version of McBride's life, in which the hero is a boy from a family of pacifists who wanted to be a boxer. Eventually he joins the army, and goes to France where he dies. And the film (if it is ever made) will end with his burial - to the sound of a drum beating slowly, a fife playing softly and the last post and chorus being played by a band - all in accordance with the original ballad. Bogle himself has apparently agreed to play a cameo role in the movie, sitting at the graveside during the final scenes.

    The song itself is still a powerful indictment of war, and has been recorded many times since it was written in 1975. A version by Makem and Clancey is reputedly the largest selling single in Irish history. The version by the Fureys spent many weeks in the Irish charts, and when Bogle toured Ireland there's a story that the audience in one venue almost caused a riot when he indicated that he had written the song. Apparently it was believed locally that the Fureys had written it!

    Speaking of the visit that inspired the song Bogle said in a radio interview: " If you walk round that area, there's graveyards from the Napoleonic wars, the Franco-Prussian wars, the First World War, the Second World War and every sort of soldier you can think of is buried there from just all over the world, you know.


    "If you go to the ossuary in Verdun there's the bones of 130,000 French soldiers just behind glass, you know and they're still adding to them every year, because every year they find more bones, you know, French farmers.... So when you see the -- you read the images of the earth was soaked with blood, and you couldn't walk anywhere without standing in dead bodies, you used to sort of dismiss that as old soldier's hyperbole, until you see the battlefields and you think, "Shit, yeah, this is how it was."

    Bogle was born in 1944 in Peebles, in Scotland but moved to Australia in 1969. Within two years he wrote his first graphically moving song about Gallipoli called 'And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda', which is now Australia's most recorded song. In 1987 the Australian government honoured Eric with the Order of Australia for his contributions to that country's music and musical heritage. And his Willie McBride ballad was nominated by Prime Minister Tony Blair as his anthem for peace in Northern Ireland.

    The actual words sung in the different versions vary considerably, but the verses below have been transcribed from Bogle's own recording.



    Well how do you do, Private William McBride
    Do you mind if I sit here down by your grave side?
    And I'll rest for awhile in the warm summer sun,
    I've been walking all day and I'm nearly done.
    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?

    Chorus:
    Did they beat the drum slowly?
    Did they sound the fife lowly?
    Did the rifles fire o'er ye as they lowered you down?
    Did the bugles sing 'The Last Post' in chorus?
    Did the pipes play 'The Flowers o' the Forest'?

    And did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind?
    In some faithful heart is your memory enshrined
    And though you died back in 1916
    To that loyal heart are you always 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?

    Chorus

    Well the sun's shining now on these green fields of France,
    The warm wind blows gently and the red poppies dance.
    The trenches are vanished long under the plough
    No gas, and no barbed wire, no guns firing now.
    But here in this graveyard it'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.

    Chorus

    And I can't help but wonder now Willie McBride
    Do all those who lie here know why they died?
    Did you really believe them when they told you the cause?
    You really believed that this war would end wars
    But the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame -
    The killing and dying - it was all done in vain.
    For Willie McBride, it's all happened again
    And again, and again, and again, and again.

    Chorus



    Here is the song sung by the Fureys
    [​IMG]
     
  2. Dave War44

    Dave War44 Member

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    Excellent post Jim and a great idea for a film, let's hope it comes off for the planners.

    The song is beautiful and I'm ashamed to say I've never heard it before. I have Bogle's "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" which you mention, although I first heard it sung by the Pogues. It's funny how Irish musicians have picked up on the songs of this Scotsman who became an Australian !! I've also got a good version of it by June Tabor, it's more than 9 megs but I can try and get this to you.....

    Anyway ENCORE !!! No-one covers war like folk musicians. :thumb:
     
  3. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Please do try and get it sent over Dave, ah the Pouges, i have to admit this is the only version of The Band Played Waltzing Matilda i have heard. Green Fields of France is how i got into the Fureys some years back now, wish i had a pound for every time i sang this song. :fag:
     
  4. Dave War44

    Dave War44 Member

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    NP, leave it with me. I will have to re-record them in 128kbps to make them smaller, and then email them one at a time. I have loads of others, nearly all about the people of WWI. It will take some time but I'll get some of the best to you.
    : )
     
  5. Kelly War44

    Kelly War44 New Member

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    May I make a suggestion Gentlemen. MSN Live Messenger has a file share option on it. You can create a 'Sharing Folder'. Just a thought.:thumb:
     
  6. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    I aint used any coms for years Kelly, the last one i used was ICQ, and couldn't get shut of Wargasm. :happy: :happy: He was younger then and still is a smashing kid.. :wtf:
     
  7. Jamie 111

    Jamie 111 New Member

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    Find

    Another 1st class find Jim. The lyrics are so true of that terrible war.
    As an apprentice in my youth, I worked with a lot of WW1 veterans. The stories they told me! terrible and also humorous, Perhaps I will do a post on it in the future?
     
  8. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Looking forward to reading them Jamie... :thumb:
     

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