Greenlaw remembers poet and composer killed at The Somme

A service to remember the poet and composer Frederick Kelly and others who died during World War One will be held on Remembrance Day in Greenlaw Parish Church

A service to remember the poet and composer Frederick Kelly and others who died during World War One will be held on Remembrance Day in Greenlaw Parish Church

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A Lottery grant of £1,3330 will go towards a celebration at Greenlaw Parish Church of the life of composer and poet Frederick Septimus Kelly on Remembrance Sunday.

Kelly was based in Greenlaw for his military training prior to serving in World War One, and Remembrance Sunday will be exactly 100 years to the day when he was killed at the Battle of the Somme.

Local school children, historical groups, the Air Cadet group and a local musical society are all taking part in the community event at the church on Sunday, November 13, at 3.30pm. Music by other composers killed in the war, such as George Butterworth and Cecil Coles, will also feature in the concert which will raise money for the charity Veterans Helping Veterans as well as church funds.

Performers include violinist Catherine Manson, who was brought up in Greenlaw, and well-known Scottish tenor and radio broadcaster Jamie MacDougall.

Concert organiser Hugh Macdonald came across the link with Greenlaw in Kelly’s recently published war diaries. A man of many talents, composer, concert pianist and Olympic gold medal rower, Kelly looked set for a great career, but after the outbreak of war he signed up as a commissioned officer in the Royal Naval Division and was posted to a training camp at Greenlaw.

Kelly was billeted in the town hall, then in the Castle Hotel and after that in a flat above a grocery shop, now an antique shop.

Concert organiser Hugh Macdonald’s grandfather took over the shop and Hugh explained: “A beautiful piece by Kelly was played in a special First World War concert at the Proms in London two years ago, and having heard that I was amazed to then come across his diaries and the connection with Greenlaw.

“A concert in Greenlaw in his memory and to remember all of those who died at the Somme seemed like an obvious thing to do.”

In his diary Kelly describes playing the organ for his battalion’s Christmas services in Greenlaw Parish Church, giving Macdonald the idea of a concert in the church with music by Kelly and other composers who died in the Great War. There will also be readings from Kelly’s diaries and from poems by World War One poets, including Rupert Brooke, a close friend of Kelly.

“One of the many tragedies of the huge waste of life in the war,” said Macdonald, “was the loss of a whole generation of talented young musicians, writers and artists. Kelly was just one of several young musicians who were never able to fulfil their potential.

“One of the most poignant pieces is based on Good King Wenceslas he wrote to play at the 1914 Christmas Day service in Greenlaw Church.”

Tickets (£10) from Blackadder Minimarket, Greenlaw; Nairn’s Newsagents, Duns and at the door. Phone enquiries: 07952 198234.