Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Ralph Vaughan Williams' Cantata "Dona nobis pacem" inspired by Walt Whitman poem

With thanks to Adrian for reminding me about the American poet Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892), whose poem "Reconciliation" inspired British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams to compose a cantata - a plea for peace - entitled "Dona nobis pacem" (Tr. Give us peace), which was first performed in 1936.  Whitman wrote:


Word over all, beautiful as the sky,
Beautiful that war and all its deeds of carnage must in
time be utterly lost,
That the hands of the sisters Death and Night
incessantly softly wash again, and ever again, this
soil'd world;
For my enemy is dead, a man divine as myself is dead,
I look where he lies white-faced and still in the coffin—
I draw near,
Bend down and touch lightly with my lips the white face
in the coffin.

Whitman's most famous poem is arguably "Oh Captain, my Captain".

Ralph Vaughan-Williams was too old for military service in 1914 but volunteered to serve nonetheless and joined the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC). He drove ambulances on the Western Front and in Greece during the First World War.

Although not a First World War poet, Whitman's poetry must surely have resonated with the soldier poets of WW1.

Poets of 1918 and some of the WW1 artists - Latest Exhibition on display at The Wilfred Owen Story, Birekenhead, Wirral, UK


Edmund Sambell - Australian poet
Hugh Quigley - British poet and song-writer
Richard Brereton Marriott Watson - British poet
Jozef Maczka – Polish poet
Charles Walter Blackall – British poet
Isaac Rosenberg – British poet and artist
William Hope Hodgson – British poet
Henry Lamont Simpson – British poet
William Fox Ritchie –
Vivian Telfer Pemberton, MC            )
Alexander Lancaster Pemberton, MC ) Twin brother MC soldier poets
Jean Arbousset – French poet
Guillaume Apollinaire – French poet
Armine Frank Gibson Norris – Canadian poet
Gerrit Engelke – German poet
Colin Mitchell – British poet
Ernst Junger – German writer and poet
Louis B. Solomon – British poet
Alec de Candole – British poet
John Enenezer Stewart, MC – Scottish poet
Erwin Clarkson Garrett – American poet
John Hay Maitland Hardyman, DSO, MC, FZS – British poet
Claude Quayle Lewis Penrose, MC and Bar - ~American-born British poet
Jocelyn Alexander – British poet
Edmond Rostand – French poet
Gaston de Ruyter – Belgian pilot Poet
T.P.  Cameron Wilson – British poet
Stanley Casson – poet of two World Wars
Joyce Kilmer – American poet
Cecil Edward Chesterton – British
Everard Lindsay Brine – British Poet
Miles Jeffery Game Day, DSC – British poet
John McCrae – Canadian Doctor, Writer and Poet 
Edward Hylton Young – British poet
Geoffrey Winthrop Young – British poet (brothers)
Murdo Murray – Scottish Poet
Robert Henderson-Bland – British actor and poet
Adrian Consett-Stephens – Australian poet
Guy Lipscombe – British artist and Red Cross volunteer
Helena Gleichen, OBE D St. J. British artist and Red Cross worker
August Macke – German artist
Elliott Seabrooke – British artist and Red Cross volunteer
Kenneth Denton Shoesmith – British Artist
Brian Hatton – British Artist
Gerald Caldwell Siordet – British artist and poet
William Robert Gregory, MC – Irish airman cricketer and artist
Ernest Howard (E.H. ) Shepard, MC – British soldier and artist (Winnie the Pooh)
Martin Hardie -  British artist
Gilbert Holiday – British artist
Bernard Meninsky – British artist
Gilbert Rogers – British artist
Reginald Grange Brundritt – British Artist
Sydney William Carline – British artist
Richard Cotton Carline – British artist
William (Will) C. Penn, MC – British artist

Photo:  Scott Knowles (The Tommy Teaches) at the Wilfred Owen Story, 4th November 2018.

The Wilfred Owen Story, 34 Argyle Street, Birkenhead, Wirral, CH41 6AE is open Tuesday - Friday 12 noon - 2pm.  Entry is free. Check website for details:  NB The WOS will be closed from 21st December 2018 – 8th January 2019.

Panels from previous exhibitions held at the Wilfred Owen Story, including that featuring some of the poets involved in the Battles of Messines (Mesen), Passchendaele and after in 1917, Poets of the Battle of Arras in 1917, Poets of the Somme 1916, Female Poets of the First World War, Inspirational Women of World War One, Fascinating Facts of the Great War and the panels about some of the Poetry written by Schoolchildren during WW1, are available to view on file at The Wilfred Owen Story. 

Here is a link to a news report about the opening of the exhibition of Poetry written by Schoolchildren during WW1 on 17th March 2018:

Other exhibitions are planned. Exhibition panels are sent out free of charge by e-mail to any venue wishing to host an exhibition.   Details on request.

William Fox Ritchie (1887 – 1918) – Scottish poet

Richard Conoghan kindly sent me a poem by William Fox Ritchie and I had to research the poet.

William was born on 15th June 1887 in Bellshill, Lanarkshire, Scotland, UK.  His parents were George and Margaret (nee Craig) Fox Ritchie.  William’s father was a gamekeeper and forester. 

Educated at Pinwherry and Colmonell public schools, William joined Princess Louise’s Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, a Regiment of the British Army, on 3rd April 1909.  He served in Malta for three years before being posted to India.   His Regiment was among the first to be sent to Flanders in 1914, which means William was an Old Contemptible. 

Invalided home with Frost-bite, William trained as a Musketry Instructor but then applied for active service.  He was posted to join 12 Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in Salonika.  William was a Sergeant when he was killed at the age of 31 at Grande Couronne, Salonika.  He was buried in Colonial Hill Cemetery, which is now known as Doiran Military Cemetery, in Greece.  He was an extremely brave man and was recommended by his Commanding Officer to receive the Croix de Guerre for bravery.

A poem written by William Fox Ritchie in March 1915.   Reproduced here by kind permission of Richard 

“A Candid Opinion”

Do we want to back to the trenches?
To get biscuits and bully to eat
To get caught by a sniper’s chance bullet
Or crippled with frost bitten feet. 

There are some say they’re anxious to get back
There are others who say they are not.
It is not that they care for the danger
Or are frightened that they will get shot. 

It’s the awful conditions you live in,
Midst the rain and the mud and the dirt.
Where you’d give a month’s pay for a square meal,
And twice that amount for a shirt.
No, I’m not at all anxious to go back,
But I’ll hve to go that’s understood
So I’m willing and ready to go there
And if needs be to stop there for good.  Willie F. Ritchie, 91st Highlanders, 23/04/1915

With many thanks to Richard for sending me the poem via Twitter.  Information found via Find my Past

Thursday, 1 November 2018

James Bell SALMOND (1891 - 1958) – Scottish soldier poet of WW1

Information kindly supplied by Patrick Anderson, Second Cousin of James Bell Salmond.

James Bell Salmond was born on 8th December 1891 in Arbroath, Scotland, which was then in the County of Forfarshire (now Angus).  His parents were James Boath Salmond and Annie Bell Salmond, nee Duncan .  James's father was also an author.  He died in 1901, while James was still at school.

James Bell Salmond was educated at Arbroath High School and in 1909, he won the  dux  medal for English.  He went on to study at University College, Dundee for a year and then went to St. Andrews University in Fife.

After graduating from university, James moved to London to become a journalist. When WW1 broke out, he was a member of the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps.  He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant into the  Black Watch, serving in the 7th Battalion in  France.

James was sent to Craiglockhart Hospital in Edinburgh from 25th June to 13th November 1917.  During 1918, he became Editor of the war hospital magazine and his sub editor was Second Lieutenant  Wilfred  Owen.  When Lieutenant Salmond returned to the Western Front, Wiflred Owen took over the editorship of the magazine.  Captain Seigfried Sassoon MC was also a patient at Craiglockhart at that time and he also submitted articles for publication .     

James B. Salmond was promoted to the rank of Captain in the Black Watch and in 1919  he was discharged due to Government cuts in the forces in the UK. He went to work for as a journalist for the media company  D. C. Thompson in  Dundee.  He became Editor of the Scots Magazine until 1948, when he became Head of Manuscripts at  St  Andrews University.

James died in 1958, leaving a legacy of books - among them one about General Wade and another about the 51st Highland Division during the Second World War.