The three brothers who inspired
the writing of this song are Lance Corporal Rowland George Bailey (Died
30th April 1916 aged 24), Lance Corporal Percy Thomas Bailey, (Died
3rd September 1916 aged 22) and Private Cyril Edward Bailey, (Died 26th
September 1915 aged 19).
the time the song was written, family lore had their ages incorrect,
hence the difference in the songs lyrics)
They were the three eldest sons of Rowland & Emma Bailey of Hawkinge,
near Folkestone in Kent, England and my great uncles. The exact dates
that the letters below were written is unknown, however although one
of the letters is written by Private R.G. Bailey by the time of his
death Rowland had been promoted to Lance Corporal.
After visiting the graves and memorial of the brothers in France, I
asked a relative if I could copy some photographs of two of them. On
opening the frames, we discovered the last letters that these boys had
written home to their parents over 90 years ago.
They read as follows:
57 Portland Road,
Dear Dad and Mother,
Just a line or two to let you know I am quite safe and enjoying myself
a treat. Hope you are having a good time. I couldn't help thinking of
you all. How is dear Mother? I do hope she is better. Don't worry over
us three. If you only knew how we are you wouldn't, I lay. Our chaps
down here wanted me to play Banka with them on Xmas night but I thought
of the promise we made to dear old dad some time ago so I didn't play.
Don't worry over us dad we can take of ourselves. Now I think I must
close with love to all.
From your loving son
No 4 Coy, 8 Buffs
C/o Mrs Grevatt,
42 Richmond Road,
My Dear Parents and all
Just a few lines to tell you we got back to camp quite safe at 11.45
and glad to tell you we have gone to Worthing and have got a nice comfortable
place. It's like being at home again. A nice feather bed instead of
hard boards and they find us towels, soap, and a flanel and a basin
each to wash in, Worthing is a big place nearly as big as Brighton.
Now I think this is all this time. So good bye.
From your loving son
Excuse short letter as we are busy now we have got to a fresh place.
The letters appear transcribed exactly, complete
with spelling and grammar as written. Much of the content of these letters
can be found in the lyrics of the song - I hope that all of the sentiment
can also be found. I often wonder how their mother felt each time she
saw a telegram boy turn up at the gate. Having said all that, the song
is for all the mothers and all the sons who have been touched by the
tragedy of war.
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written & performed by Ian Friar
written & performed (all instruments)
by Eoghan Ua Conaill
- I. Friar & E. UaConaill 2008
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