Ode to the Somme

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Blog of Belfast’s Lord Mayor, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir

There are few things as beautiful as an open peaceline which is what greeted me in Townsend Street,where the Shankill joins the Falls, on Friday. 

Courtesy of the Shankill Women’s Centre and An Chultúrlann, residents from both sides of the divide joined to host a colourful street party celebrating the Belfast of yesterday. We had a rag man, a milk man and a fishmonger as well as sweeps and lamplighters. 

But the big treat for me was being welcomed into the stunningly beautiful Townsend Street Presbyterian Church by the dynamic Rev Jack Lamb. Once boasting a congregation of 1100, the church had seen its numbers diminish over recent years but, thanks to the efforts of local people, its congregation is on the increase again.  

With an imposing organ and old-style pews, the church makes a wonderful community space and indeed the sacred music playing during Friday’s street hooley was Frank Sinatra’s hymn to New York — with the Rev Jack providing harmonies. 

This coming together of our community set the scene for my installation dinner — a celebration of all our people — on Saturday night in City Hall when we were graced with the presence of Belfast Poet Laureate Sinéad Morrissey, that giant of poetry Michael Longley, the LGBT Quire choir, the Open Arts Community Choir — complete with napping guide dog — the sublime Joby Fox, ArtsExtra from India and the Methody Harpists. Dr Ian Adamson, former Lord Mayor of Belfast read his powerful ode to the dead of the Somme while Geraldine Hughes, our greatest acting daughter, came home from New York to emcee. 

At the dinner and today at the Belfast Day to celebrate our city’s diversity, representatives of the faiths read the Prayer for Belfast. Last night, Sheik Mohammad El Rashidi read the Muslim version of the prayer while Fr Des Wilson in Irish and the Rev Margaret Ferguson in English read the Christian version. Today, at the culmination of Belfast Day, Rabbi David Singer, my Jewish chaplain read the Jewish version of the prayer in both Hebrew and English alongside Fr Des and the Rev Margaret.

It was another wonderful moment for a Belfast which embraces its diversity and its wonder, like the open peace line, another sight for long-sore eyes.

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Ode to the Somme

On the sacred day of  1st July every year, we commemorate the sacrifice of our loved ones who died for freedom. We do not seek to glorify war but rather to see that it does not happen again.

To the people of France we say:-

“People of France, mother of nations, we thank you for your generosity and kindness to these our children who rest now in peace in the most beautiful gardens on earth. We pray that their sacrifice will not be in vain and that there will be no more war and that the peoples of Europe will walk together in mutual forgiveness, understanding and respect until the end of the world”.

Au people de France nous disons:-

“Peuple de France, mére des nations, nous vous remercions de votre générosité pour nos enfants qui reposent en paix dans les jardins les plus beaux du monde. Nous prions pour que leur sacrifice n’ait pas été vain, pour qu’il n’y ait plus de guerre, et pour que les peuples d’Europe puissent marcher ensemble et se pardonner, se comprendre et se respecter mutuellement jusqu à la fin des temps”.

Zu den Franzosen sagen wir:-

Bevölkerung von Frankreich, Mutter von Nationen, wir danken Ihnen für Ihre Grosszügigkeit und Freundlichkeit für unsere Kinder, die in diesen schönen Gärten in Frieden ruhen. Wir beten, dass das Opfer unserer Kinder nicht umsonst gewesen ist und dass es zu keinem weiteren Krieg mehr kommen wird, dass die Völker Europas in Vergebung, Verständnis und Respekt miteinander in die Zukunft gehen können.

To the sons of Ulster and Soldiers of Ireland we say:-

“Sons of Ulster, Soldiers of Ireland do not be anxious. The war is over – both here and in you beloved Ireland. The Western Front is no more and Ireland at last is at peace with herself and with her people. We will always remember you, so long as the sun shines and the rain falls and the wind blows and the great river Somme runs gently to the sea”.

Innui, deir muid le fir Uladh agus le fir na hÉireann:-

“A Fheara Uladh agus a Shaighdiúirí na hÉireann, ná biodh imni oraibh. Tá an Cogadh thart – ní amháin san áit seo, ach in bhur dtír dhílis féin in Éirinn. Níl an Fronta Thiar ann níos mó, agus, so deireadh, tá tír na hÉireann faoi shíocháin léi féin agus len a pobal. Ach chomh fada is a shoilsíonn an ghrian, agus a thiteann an fhearthainn, agus a shéideann an ghaoth, agus chomh fada is a théann abhainn mhór an Somme go caoin chun na farraige, bedh cuimhne againn araibh go deo”.

And in honour of the brave American and Canadian soldiers who also fought here, I speak in Lakota (Oglala Sioux), the Hymn of the Warriors

Ho Tunkasila Wakan Tanka
Oyate oyasin unsiwicalapo na owicakiyapo
Nahan waci wicasi na waci winyan wopila tanka
Nahan oyate oyasin canku luta ognamani owicakiyapo
Lecel wacin ho hecel lena, oyate kin nipi kte.
Mitakuye Oyasin

 Which in Wasicu(English) is 

Grandfather Great Spirit, Almighty God,

Have pity on and help all the People
Many Thanks for the Performers, male and female,
Help all the People to walk the Red Road of Peace
This I ask so that the People will prosper
You are all my relatives

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