The Green Fields Of France (Willie McBride)

I heard this song performed in a pub the other night. Perhaps I’ve been living under a rock, but I’d never heard it before.  I am not ashamed to say it made me cry. The song was written by Scottish songwriter Eric Bogle after he sat beside the graveside of Private William McBride of the Iniskilling Fusilliers (Ireland). On the day that the real Willie McBride died –April 22, 1916 at The Battle Of the Somme– the fighting was particularly fierce. The men were waist deep in water in the trenches as the German bombardment rained down on them. The green fields of France ran red with blood that day. I’ve included a video version of the song by The Furies, the Irish group who made the song famous. 

Well how do you do young Willie McBride?
do you mind if I sit down here by your graveside
and rest for a while ‘neath the warm summer sun
I’ve been walkin’ all day and I’m nearly done
I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen
when you joined the great fallen of 1916
Well I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean
Willie McBride was it slow and obscene

CHORUS

Did they beat the drum slowly did they play the fife lowly, 
did they sound the death march as they lowered you down
did the band play the last post and chorus,
did the pipes play the “Flowers of the Forest”

And the beautiful wife or the sweetheart for life
in some faithful heart are you forever enshrined
and although you died back in 1916
in that faithful heart are you forever nineteen?
or are you a stranger without even a name
enshrined forever behind a glass pane
in an ould photograph torn tattered and stained,
fading to yellow in a brown leather frame?

CHORUS

Now the sun shines down on the green fields of France
a warm summer wind makes the red poppys dance
The trenches have vanished under the plows,
there’s no gas no barbed wire, there’s no guns firing now
but here in this graveyard it’s still No Man’s land,
the countless white crosses stand mute in the sand
for man’s blind indifference to his fellow man,
to a whole generation that was butchered and damned

CHORUS

Now Willie McBride I can’t help wonder why
Do those who lie here do they know why they died
Did they really beleive when they answered the call
did they really believe that this war would end wars
Forever this song of suffereing and shame
the killing the dying was all done in vain
for young Willie McBride it’s all happened again,
and again, and again, and again and again

34 thoughts on “The Green Fields Of France (Willie McBride)

    1. Thanks Simon. Yes, doing well, in Ireland at the moment, actually! This song was so sad! I had to write about it even if only to help me remember it myself. Hope you’re well too! 🙂

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  1. I love this song. The first time I heard it was by a renaissance group called the Corsairs. It’s hauntingly beautiful and yes, does have a tendency to pinch the back of the throat. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I liked it too. I went searching for different versions of the song and settled on this one for the photos and the ‘classic’ rendering of the music. So touching, I’m such a weeper!

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