Francis Ledwidge, Poet.


The Irish poet Francis Ledwidge was born on 9 August 1887 in the Boyne Valley at Janeville near the village of Slane in County Meath. He was variously described as the ‘peasant poet’, the ‘soldier poet’ and the ‘poet of the blackbirds’ and had seen action with the 5th Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in Gallipoli but suffered a back injury whilst serving in Serbia.

plaqueAfter treatment he was posted to 3rd Inniskillings in Ebrington Barracks, Londonderry, where he became batman (servant) to Lord Dunsany who had been his patron since 1912. On completion of his recuperation, Ledwidge was posted to 1st Inniskillings in France.

On 31 July 1917, during the Battle of Passchendaele, a work party from 1st Inniskillings was repairing the road to Pilkem near the village of Boesinghe (now Boezinge) northwest of Ypres. A shell exploded beside them, at the 'Carrefour de Rose' crossroads while they were taking a tea break in a shell hole. One officer and five men, including Lance Corporal Francis Ledwidge, were killed. Chaplain Father Devas, one of the first to arrive, later that night wrote in his diary:

'Ledwidge killed, blown to bits ...'

The men were buried at the crossroads but eventually reinterred in Artillery Wood Military Cemetery. Francis Edward Ledwidge is buried in Plot 2, Row B, Grave Number 5.

GraveA Soldier's Grave

Then in the lull of midnight, gentle arms
Lifted him slowly down the slopes of death
Lest he should hear again the mad alarms
Of battle, dying moans, and painful breath.

And where the earth was soft for flowers we made
A grave for him that he might better rest.
So, Spring shall come and leave it seet arrayed,
And there the lark shall turn her dewy nest.

by Francis Ledwidge.

Above right, Ledwidge's headstone (© Image used by kind permission of Colonel (Retd) A M F Potter OBE)