Saturday, 7 November 2009

Willie McBride

Tonight there was an excellent concert in the Belfast Waterfront Hall to mark the 40th anniversary of the East Belfast Ulster Volunteer Force Regimental Band.  According to the programme it was also an evening to remember 'those sons of Ulster who bravely charged forth in France and Flanders embedding the name of the 36th Ulster Division for ever into the annals of British military history'.

The band provided an excellent and varied programme, drawn from Ulster, Scottish, Irish and international music.  Great credit must go to those who have done so much to raise the musical standard of the band to this high level.  Great credit must also go to the band for the excellent organisation of the event.

The other performers were the Ulster-Scots Experience, with their mixture of fiddles and accordions.  They incorporated some Ulster-Scots and Orange songs into their part of the programme and were received enthusiastically by an appreciative audience.

They had several songs about war and one of these was Eric Bogle's Green Fields of France, also known as Willie McBride, which is about a young soldier who died in France in 1916 at the age of nineteen.  It is not entirely clear whether Bogle actually saw the name on a headstone but there are two soldiers of that name buried at the Authuile Military Cemetery on the Somme.  One of them is Private William McBride of the 9th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, who died on 22 April 1916.  His parents were from Lislea in county Armagh but he was twenty-one when he died.  The other McBride in the cemetery was a private in the 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusilers and he is identified only by the initial W.  He died on 10 February 1916 but his age is not given.  Another soldier, Rifleman William John McBride of the Royal Irish Rifles is recorded as having died on 2 July 1916 but has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval memorial.

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