Paying respects to Willie McBride — 5 Comments

  1. the song is very heart warming i only heard it today at a special asembly now i want to know more

  2. I don’t believe the headstone pictured is of the correct Willie McBride and here is why; Song writer Eric Bogle did confirm that the 21 year old William McBride of Roan Armagh, was the inspiration for his song. However, even if he hadn’t, consider these facts. Bogle wrote a song based on a headstone he had seen at that cemetery (although he toured other WW1 cemeteries as well). The headstone pictured in your article is inscribed Private W. McBride along with his date of death. This grave could have been for a 35 year old soldier man named Wesley, Warren, or Walter McBride. Eric would not have known his first name was William – or his age – unless he spent time to research the information.. Back in 1976 when Bogle wrote the song, I question whether that information would have been readily available at the cemetery – and to non family members. And why would he ask for that information when there is another headstone in the Authuille cemetery that clearly belonged to a 21 year old William McBride. I believe Bogle took creative license which is why his Willie is just 19. It made Willie younger, and the song even sadder. I think it was only coincidence and through knowledge of recent research that we know the grave pictured of the other McBride in that cemetery happened to share the same first and last name, was 19 and both belonged to the same regiment. It just makes sense that Bogle would have been inspired by the William McBride whose name appeared on the headstone.

  3. Of course, it is not the grave of Private William McBride, he was a composite figure formed from impressions gathered by Bogle, and the piece states that this is a personal impression, as Bogle’s lyrics are a personal impression.

    The graveyard register, available at the gate of every cemetery would have told Bogle that the “W.” in “W. McBride” was “William.”

  4. You are right…your article does say that you chose this particular McBride as your Willie. I realize you wrote this article in 2009 before Eric Bogle confirmed that the grave that inspired the song belonged to the 21 year old William McBride from Roan Armagh that died in 1916. I came across a BBC article that has a video of that McBride family confirming the fact – along with a picture of that young man. No matter – all the men in those cemeteries are Willy – in one way or another ….as are all the men that are strewn across the fields of France, Belgium, etc with no markers or graves. oceans and continents separating tens of thousands of them from their country and their families – like my children’s great grandfather. It may be why those of us with our dead represented only by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, take such an interest in Willie’s grave.

  5. Odd as it may seem, William McBride having a grave at all was a piece of good fortune. Although there are hundreds of cemeteries and seemingly countless headstones, 55% of those who fought and died with the British army have no known grave. I think the proportion is even higher for those who served in the forces of other countries. At the French memorial at Verdun, the bones of 110,000 men are contained in the ossuary.

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