"For myself, I always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal."James Joyce (1882-1941)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

WWI Armistice Day: Recalling the Exploits of the Fighting Irish

The First World War formally ended on this day in 1918. The armistice that ended hostilities came into effect 'on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month'.

All told, 16 million (counting combatants and civilians) are believed to have perished in what has gone done in history as one of the deadliest human conflicts and, at the time, no doubt the deadliest. The map of Europe was completely redrawn and the world was altered completely by the outcome of the war.

Ireland has its own experience and legacy arising out of the conflict into which it was drawn, even though it was not an independent country at the time. Indeed, the emergence of an independent Irish state was in no small part an outcome of the war: the Easter Rising of 1916 can seen as one small but important chapter of that war.

Conflicting emotions surrounding participation in World War I, as felt by many Irish people both then and now, are touched upon here in a poem by Joe Canning entitled, Once in a Dublin Bar Room, which we are reproducing here with the kind permission of the author.

For some, the fighting goes on!

Once in a Dublin Bar Room
by J.Canning

On a stool in a bar room in Tallaght,
Sat a young man returned from the war.
Lost in his thoughts, he sat silent
As the bartender polished the jars.
The silence was suddenly broken
By Dunleavy sat down by the door,
"Would ye look at yer man in the corner.
Just back from Gallipoli's shore.
That blackguard up there on the bar stool,"
He said, "Yes boy! I'm talking of you.
You dare to come back to this city,
Do you take us for eejits and fools.
When you were away on your travels,
Fighting for England at war,
Real men were fighting in Ireland,
Men fit to drink in a bar.
Have you not got a tongue in your head, Sir?"
Dunleavy continued to scowl.
"Have you no shame returning to Tallaght?
Have you nothing to say to us now?"
The stranger continued his sipping,
Looked at the bar man and sighed,
"Can you please tell that clown to be quiet,
Or I'll up and I'll blacken his eyes."
Dunleavy incensed by the statement,
Stood up and cast coat to the floor
Rolled his shirt sleeves to his elbows
And instantly crossed the pub floor.
"Is it fighting yer after, ye traitor?"
He clenched his hard fists with a grin,
"Be careful, Sir!" uttered the stranger.
"Contain yourself, reel yourself in.
I've heard you're a true Irish patriot,"
The stranger did say with a grin,
"Those medals you earned in the fracas;
You fought against cruel black and tan.
Be careful of what you are saying,
And it's true that I fought in the war,
Take care that you don't touch my person,
Or I'll scatter you all round the bar."
"Would you look at the face of the traitor!"
Dunleavy points out to the bar,
"Would ye look at the wounds earned at Suvla,
Would ye look at the Ottoman scars."
The bar man said, "Hush now, Dunleavy!
Leave this young man at his peace,"
But Dunleavy, the bully, continued to sully
As he spouted more scorn and disgrace.
The stranger then stared at Dunleavy,
"They tell me, round here you're the man,
But they don't know when you served in London,
You threw down your rifle and scrammed.
They don't know the 10th from the Curragh,
Have you marked as a rat and a coward.
Those brave men all fine sons of Ireland,
That the Turks with machine guns devoured."
Dunleavy now shamed and defeated,
Exposed as a shirker from war,
Spoke not a word and clearly disturbed
Did shamefully exit the bar.
The stranger then turned to the others,
"I care not what you think of me,
For I fell for the lie,'If you join in the fight,
You'll come home to an Ireland's that's free'.
He continued as all stood and listened,
"It's cost me my wife and my son.
It's cost me my friends and my neighbours,
Wherever I go I am shunned."
Dunleavy then entered the bar room once more,
To the stranger his fists he did draw,
'Till he stepped from the stool, called Dunleavy a fool,
And he clinically shattered his jaw.

Copyright (c) J. Canning 2015. All rights reserved. Published here by kind permission of the author - www.facebook.com/thebirdstownboy

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