An Irish Airman Foresees His Death
I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate,
Those that I guard I do not love;
My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan's poor,
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before.
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.
William Butler Yeats
Some years back, while living in the Netherlands, my Dutch woman friend and I, cycled down to Liege in the Ardennes forest, which encompasses several European countries. Somewhere near Liege, we picked up a leaflet, which explained, that every inch of ground about us, was soaked in the blood of centuries of battles fought there, dating back to pre Roman times, including two world wars. A little later we cycled past a single white cross on the side of the road, which marked the spot where an airman dropped from the sky after being shot down. His name and nationality were unknown. The poem above came to mind and I was overwhelmed by the enormity of it all and cried many tears long after.
The Irish leaders from the south of Ireland, today joined in Remembrance Day ceremonies in Enniskillen and Belfast to honour those who died in the first World War and other wars. Mr Kenny laid a wreath at the war memorial in Enniskillen, while the foreign minister, laid a wreath at the cenotaph in Belfast.
This is the third year in a row that Irish leaders from the south, have gone to Enniskillen, to remember both the dead of the first World War, and the 12 people who died, when a bomb exploded at the war memorial in 1987. Among the dead was Marie Wilson, whose father Gordon is remembered talking emotionally, about how he held his daughters hand, amid the rubble of the bomb, as she lay dying. Mr Wilson recently deceased later became a peace campaigner and forgave those responsible.
The Irish foreign minister said, that, “Today’s ceremony is a chance to reflect on the sad events of a hundred years ago, when men and women from all parts of this island and from all traditions, left their homes to fight in the first World War. I was pleased to accept the invitation to participate in today’s ceremony at the Belfast cenotaph, and to lay a wreath, on behalf of the Irish Government, to remember all those who died. I believe attendance at such commemorations, shows respect for all traditions and helps further reconciliation on the island of Ireland and across these islands.”
More than 200,000 Irish-born soldiers from north and south of the island served in the first World War a hundred years ago, with about 50,000 losing their lives.