Sunday 13 November 2011

Lest we forget ...

This song by Ian Campbell situates remembrance in the context of one life. A man looking across the decades of his life and how war has affected both him and his family. This song alwayd moves me.

At the turning of the century I was a boy of five
My father went to fight the Boers and never came back alive
My mother left to bring us up no charity would seek
So she washed and scrubbed and brought us up on 7/6 a week

When I was twelve I left the school and went to find a job
With growin' kids my ma was glad of the extra couple of bob
I know that better schooling would have stood me in good stead
But you can't afford refinements when you're struggling for your bread

And when the Great War came along I didn't hesitate
I took the royal shilling and went off to do my bit
I fought in mud and tears and blood three years or thereabout
Then I copped some gas in Flanders and was invalided out

And when the war was over and we'd finished with the guns
I got back into civvies and I thought the fighting done
I'd won the right to live in peace but I didn't have no luck
For soon I found I had to fight for the right to go to work

In 'twenty-six the General Strike found me out on the street
For I'd a wife and kids by then and their needs I couldn't meet
But a brave new world was coming and the brotherhood of man
But when the strike was over we were back where we began

I struggled through the 'Thirties out of work now and again
I saw the Black Shirts marching and the things the did in Spain
But I raised my children decent and I taught them wrong from right
Then Hitler was the lad that came and showed them how to fight

My daughter was a land girl, she got married tae a Yank
They gave my son a gong for stopping one of Rommel's tanks
He was wounded just before the end and convalesced in Rome
Married an Eyetye nurse and never bothered to come home

My daughter writes me once a month a cheerful little note
About their colour telly and the other things they've got
She has a son, a likely lad, he's nearly twenty-one
Now she says they've called him up to fight in Vietnam

We're living on the Pension now and it doesn't go too far
Not much to show for a life that seems like one long bloody war
When you think of all the wasted lives it makes you want to cry
I don't know how to change things but by Christ we'll have tae try

Ian Campbell

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