Remembering The Great War

After four years of a world at war, after some 65 million troops were marshaled forward, after 20 million soldiers were killed and 21 million more wounded during World War I, The Great War as it was known then, finally ended. It was 101 years ago on November 11, 1918, or "the eleventh day of the eleventh month at the eleventh hour" that the armistice was declared and the guns fell silent.

On Saturday, November 9, I broadcast a segment of A Celtic Sojourn that commemorated the day while exploring its impact of on the world of British and Irish poetry, music, and society.

In the program, available for streaming here, we feature war-era songs by John McCormack as well as anti-war songs by Eric Bogle and Pete Seeger, poems by Wilfred Owen, Rupert Brooke, Siegfried Sassoon and Francis Ledwidge, some taken from a collection, Poets in the Trenches by Martin Butler and a few read by award-winning actor Billy Meleady.

We speak to David Freudberg of PRI's Humankind on Public Radio about the famous Christmas truce of 1914 in Belgium. Poets in the Trenches is a new recording from producer/writer Martin Butler and brings to life actual diary entries from this same extraordinary period. We also hear Robbie O'Connell's version of the John McCutcheon classic Christmas in the Trenches. And Charlie Sennott of The GroundTruth Project helps put the war—and especially the peace signed at Versailles in 1919—in the context of the Middle East conflicts that exist today. Lastly, Professor Tom O'Grady of UMass talks about the war's impact on Ireland.

It was a tragic period in human history and left behind, not surprisingly, a trove of war-inspired music, song, and literature.

Click on the red button above to listen to the segment in its entirety. Comments are welcomed. Brian can be reached at

Title, Writer/Artist/Reader, and Album (if applicable)

"The Minstrel Boy," Jacqueline Schwab, Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns
“The Minstrel Boy," The Corrs, Forgiven, Not Forgotten
“John McCormack” It’s a Long Way to Tipperary, Kiss Me I'm Irish
“Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag,” Reinald Werrenrath, Songs of World War I
“Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht,”Kammersänger Richard Tauber mit Kirchenorgel und Glocken, Morgen Kinder wird's was geben
“Christmas In the Trenches,” Robbie O’Connell, A Christmas Celtic Sojourn
“A Christmas Truce 1914,” Various voices (Martin Butler), Poets in the Trenches
“Oft in the Stilly Night,” John McCormack, Irish Songs, the Later Years
“The Soldier,” Rupert Brook, Snippet, read by Billy Meleady
“Lochaber no More,” 1st Batallion King's Own Scottish Borderers, Blue Bonnets O'er the Border
“The Parable of the Old Man and the Young,” Wilfred Owen, read by Bill Meleady
“All the Fine Young Men,” De Dannan (Dolores Keane), Ballroom
“The Foggy Dew,” Danú, Ten Thousand Miles
“Lament for Thomas McDonagh,” Francis Ledwidge, read by Billy Meleady
“The Bold Fenian Men,” Cathy Jordan, All the Way Home
“Keep the Home Fires Burning,” John McCormack, Songs of World War I
“Aqaba,” June Tabor, Aqaba
“No Man’s Land,” Eric Bogle, Live
“I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier,” Morton Harvey, Keep the Home Fires Burning
“The Band Played Waltzing Matilda,” Liam Clancy, Tommy Makem & Liam Clancy
“Where have All the Flowers Gone,” Dolores Keane and Tommy Sands, The Songs of Pete Seeger