Wilson Burgess to examine Irish war poet’s lost loves at celebration

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Derry-based broadcaster and Ulster Scots lyricist Wilson Burgess says he is looking forward to reading from the work of Irish war poet Francis Ledwidge during a special celebration of his life in the Linen Hall Library in Belfast on World Book Day

The Aghadowey-native will join Belfast bard Gerald Dawe for the celebration of the ‘Poet of the Blackbird’ at 2 p.m. on Thursday, March 1, for the ticket-only event.

Ledwige, born in Slane, Co. Meath in 1887, was stationed at Ebrington with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers for a period in 1916, prior to his death at Passchendaele in July 1917.

Mr. Burgess said the Meath man who was a close friend of Thomas McDonagh, one of the seven leaders of the Easter Rising, was an enigma.

Ledwige is believed to have written some of his finest poems in Derry while awaiting court-martial for insubordination of a senior officer who had denigrated the leaders of 1916.

Mr. Burgess, however, will be concentrating on the private affairs of the ‘Blackbird’ rather than his divided public loyalties, he says.

“I’m privileged to have been asked to read the beautiful poetry Ledwidge wrote about his romance and lost love with a local girl Ellie Vaughey.

“Francis Ledwidge like W.B. Yeats gave all his heart and lost.

“His loss, like W.B. Yeats’, passion for Maud Gonne produced some of his finest poetry.

“His first and great passion was for Ellie Vaughey. She was a beauty. She lived with her brothers on the Hill Of Slane.

“They started walking out together in 1912 He was twenty five and she was twenty.

“The problem was that romance for Ellie Vaughey or her family could not advance to marriage. The Vaugheys were land owners. They owned part of the Hill Of Slane. Francis Ledwidge was a ganger on the roads. The social barrier was impassable in Irish country life in 1912.

“However, she inspired some of his loveliest early poems like ‘The Broken Tryst’.”

For class reasons Ledwige had lost in love but, but as Mr. Burgess explains, “despite giving his heart and losing due to different social positions he displayed no bitterness towards Ellie, maybe only a hint in his poem ‘The Song’.” Tragically, Ellie Vaughey married someone else and died before Ledwige in child birth in 1915 in Manchester. Tickets for the March event must be booked in advance. They are available at https://linenhall.cloudvenue.co.uk/home

Mr. Burgess said: “It is a great honour for me to be invited to read about a time of great anguish in Francis Ledwidge’s life. I hope I can do justice to this wonderful poet.”