Wednesday 23 July 2014

Furey praises schoolboys' study of 'Willie McBride'

Allison Bray

Published 12/11/2013|02:00

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Finbar Furey at the launch of 'The Green Fields of France' with student Jamie Broughan and teacher Nora Kielty.

LEGENDARY balladeer Finbar Furey paid tribute to four schoolboys from Finglas who immortalised the iconic ballad "The Green Fields of France" in a new book that explores the deaths of up to 50,000 young Irish soldiers during WW1.

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The tragic story of "young Willie McBride", has been put under the microscope by schoolboys Ciaran O'Connor, (16), Aaron Boylan, (15), Jamie Broughan, (14) and Michael McDonagh, (16).

The ballad, written by Scotsman Eric Bogle, tells the story of a man who visits a French war cemetery, and comes across the grave of a 19-year-old soldier called Willie McBride, who was killed in action in 1916.

They set out to find the grave of the Irishman and found three Irish soldiers of the same name killed in 1916, including a private believed to have been killed during the Battle of the Somme. They couldn't confirm the actual soldier who inspired the ballad, but their research unearthed a common story of starvation, disease and horror.

Mr Furey, who sang a haunting rendition of the ballad yesterday, said he was proud to be part of the project, and impressed by the authors. "It's fantastic," he said. "It's opening up a Pandora's Box. These men (fallen soldiers) should be recognised. These kids went in there blind as bats and it's still going on today."

The book is available at the Glasnevin museum in Dublin.

Irish Independent

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