This year’s Christmas video advert from Sainsbury’s, the third largest chain of supermarkets in the United Kingdom, titled “Christmas is for sharing” was made in partnership with The Royal British Legion. It commemorates the extraordinary events of Christmas Day, 1914, when artillery guns fell silent and two armies met in no-man’s land, to share gifts and play football together.
Many people may not be aware that the director of this fine video advert, Mr Ringan Ledwidge, is just ‘four degrees of separation’ from our county of Tipperary. Ringan Ledwidge admits he was intimidated by the sensitivity of this his video subject; indeed his own great-uncle and Slane, Co Meath born Irish war poet, Lance Corporal Francis Ledwidge, died at the Battle of Passchendaele in July 1917, aged just 29, and his paternal grandfather had fought in both world wars.
Lance Corporal Francis Ledwidge was dismayed by the news of the Easter 1916 Rising, and was court-martialled and demoted for overstaying his home leave and also for being drunk in uniform. However on his return to the front, he received back his Lance Corporal’s stripe in January 1917; when he was posted to the Western Front, joining the 29th Division, 1st Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
On July 31st 1917, a number of soldiers, including Ledwidge, were involved in road-laying in preparation for an upcoming assault during the Third Battle of Ypres, close the village of Boezinge, northwest of Ypres. While Ledwidge was drinking tea in a mud crater with his comrades, a shell exploded, killing the poet and five others. Rev. Francis Charles Devas, (S.J., D.S.O. 1917; O.B.E. 1919) latter a chaplain who knew him, recorded “Ledwidge killed, blown to bits.”
Francis Ledwidge – His Tipperary Connection
It was Francis Ledwidge, latter also a friend of W.B. Yeats, who wrote the ” Lament for Thomas MacDonagh.” Thomas MacDonagh, as we are aware, was born here in Cloughjordan, County Tipperary and educated at Rockwell College near Cashel. MacDonagh had grown up in a household filled with music, poetry and learning and was instilled by both his parents, (both teachers), with his love for both English and Irish culture from a young age and became a signatory of the Irish Proclamation.
Lament for Thomas MacDonagh – by Francis Ledwidge
“He shall not hear the bittern cry in the wild sky, where he is lain,
Nor voices of the sweeter birds above the wailing of the rain.
Nor shall he know when loud March blows thro’ slanting snows her fanfare shrill,
Blowing to flame the golden cup of many an upset daffodil.
But when the Dark Cow leaves the moor and pastures poor with greedy weeds,
Perhaps he’ll hear her low at morn, lifting her horn in pleasant meads.”
A small section of this Christmas Day, 1914 happening will be recreated during the “Carols By Candlelight,” service in St Mary’s Church, Thurles, on December 14th next at 8.00pm. (But more on that upcoming Thurles Christmas event very soon.)
While our present government currently continues to ignore Co Tipperary’s economy and history, one wonders will the memory of Thomas MacDonagh be included in any proposed future 1916 commemorations, since after all, we do reside outside of Dublin.