If he had been born a century later, there might have been journalists talking to people who knew him; the television cameras would have focused upon the tearful faces of those who remembered him. If his body had been brought home, there may have been people who lined the streets to pay their respects, as they do in England when the dead from Iraq and Afghanistan are flown back. As it is, perhaps no-one remembers.
His name is usually obscured by a flower pedestal in the church; no-one remains who recognizes his name. Details of him on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website are brief:
Regiment/Service: Canadian Infantry (Central Ontario Regiment)
Unit Text: 20th Bn.
Date of Death: 11/09/1916
Service No: 454343
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Memorial: VIMY MEMORIAL
The Canadian online archives give fuller details, but not much more:
|Place of Birth:||Mountrath, Queen’s County||Country:||Ireland|
|Next of Kin:||Address at Enlistment:|
|Date of Birth:||June 29, 1878||Trade or Calling:|
|Marital Status:||Not Specified||Prior Military Experience:||Not Specified|
|Place of Enlistment:||Date of Enlistment:|
|Age at enlistment:||Height:|
|Religion:||Unknown||Enlisted or Conscripted:||Enlisted|
|Saw service in:||Unknown|
|Cause of Death:||Died in War, unknown cause||Battle Died/Wounded:|
|Date of Death:||September 11, 1916||Age at Death:||38|
|Buried at:||Vimy Memorial, France||Plot:||N/A|
|Prisoner of war:||No||Interned:|
|Gender:||Male||Ethnic Origin:||Not Specified|
|LAC Reference: RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 10663-40|
Preparing for a parish visit to the Western Front in six weeks’ time when a dozen of us will trace the final paths of those who left our parish to die in the mud of Flanders and the Somme, Sam Young will be one of those remembered. It is hard to imagine him leaving Co Laois and creating a new life in Ontario, only for him to leave that behind for the killing fields of France. Had he a grave, it would have been good to have taken soil from his home townland, as it is we shall pause in front of his name at the great memorial at Vimy.
At the beginning of a week when the cult of personality will dominate the media in these islands, the dignity of those who plumbed the depths of human experience and whose names never merited more than a passing mention provides a useful antidote.