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Blue Plaque for renowned soldier and poet to be unveiled at Ebrington Square

01 August 2017

A renowned soldier and poet, Francis Ledwidge (I887-I9I7), is to be commemorated later this week as a Blue Plaque is unveiled in his honour at Building No.46 in Ebrington Square.

The Ulster History Circle and Derry City and Strabane District Council have worked in partnership to create a five year Blue Plaque programme for the city and district to ensure those who made a positive contribution to the city and district are remembered and commemorated.

The Blue Plaque will be unveiled to Francis Ledwidge, often referred to as the ‘Poet of the Blackbird’, on Friday 4th August at Ebrington Square. Ledwidge, who was born in Slane, County Meath, was once stationed at Ebrington Barracks in the city during his time served with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in 1916. It is believed he wrote many of his most famous pieces of poetry there and the introduction to his ‘Songs of Peace’ collection, alongside his patron and mentor, Lord Dunsany.

The Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor Maolíosa McHugh said, “It is very important we remember and commemorate those in our community who have made a positive contribution to our lives. Last month we celebrated archaeologist Mabel Colhoun with a blue plaque now stationed at the Tower Museum and this month we celebrate Irish war poet, Francis Ledwidge, whose work is highly respected and admired around the world.

“I would like to commend the Ulster History Circle for their work in ensuring the history and heritage of the city is recognised and that individuals like Francis Ledwidge are rightly recognised. Everyone is welcome to attend the unveiling and I encourage everyone to come along and learn more about this remarkable man.”

Writers and famed poets recognise Ledwidge’s contribution to the art of writing and history, with the late, great, Seamus Heaney commenting, “Ledwidge very deliberately chose not to bury his head in local sand and, as a consequence, faced the choices and moral challenges of his times with solitude, honesty and rare courage. This integrity, and its ultimately gratifying effects upon his poetry, should command the renewed interest and respect of the Irish people.”

Chris Spurr, Chairman of the Ulster History Circle added, “This plaque to commemorate Francis Ledwidge, the poet of the blackbird, is the first in our new partnership with the Derry City and Strabane District Council, to erect five blue plaques over the next number of years within the Council’s area. 

“Francis Ledwidge was both a published poet and a seasoned soldier when he arrived at Ebrington in 1916. Throughout his life and in his work, he displayed integrity towards all that he undertook, and he continues to be an inspiration to our age, and into the future. One hundred years after his death in 1917, we are delighted to unveil this plaque at Ebrington, and the Circle would like to thank the Derry City and Strabane District Council for their financial support towards the plaque, and the Tower Museum, the Nerve Centre and the Executive Office-NI for their assistance.”

Ledwidge, who is best remembered today for his lament for Thomas McDonagh, June and Behind the Closed Eye, had one book published during his lifetime - ‘Songs of the Fields’. His patron and friend, Lord Dunsany arranged that further collections of Ledwidge’s work be published after his death in 1917 on the battlefields of Belgium during the Battle of Passchendaele including a book titled ‘Songs of Peace’ and ‘Last Songs’.

The Ulster History Circle and Derry City and Strabane District Council will launch a further five Blue Plaques throughout the city and district over the next five years dedicated to: Annie Russell Maunder (1868 - 1947), an Irish astronomer and mathematician; Mrs E.H. O'Doherty, founder of the Féis Dhoíre Cholmcílle; Brigadier General Ambrose Ricardo (1866 - 1923) and Dorothy Parke (1904 - 1990), a teacher and composer.

The unveiling of the blue plaque to Francis Ledwidge will take place on Friday 4th August at No. 46 Ebrington Square at 12.00 noon. For further details on the Blue Plaque programme within the Derry City and Strabane District Council area visit www.derrystrabane.com.