“The Gathering” lyric from the “High Wood”

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Foss and I have had a very constructive couple of days and have managed to nail “The Gathering”. I admit to having been dreading this and there was a chance we might duck it after the recent forced changes in band arrangements and time becoming pressed.We knew exactly what we needed, something relatively quirky like a cross between “Institution Waltz” and “The Company” that would sit between the power charge of “Crucifix Corner” and the dark, brooding heaviness of “Thistle Alley”, the two “battle” lyrics, the first being optimistic and the second resigned to fate.

In the context of the story across the 5 song suite it sits third with the first, “High Wood”, being a take on the wood itself across the ages, beginning in modern times, touching on the distant past and finishing as WW1 begins and introducing a world stage.

The second, “Crucifix Corner” is the first assault on the wood and specifically one of the first and last major cavalry charges of the war that ended up in the stalemate that would continue for months and is represented in the lyric for “Thistle Alley”, part 4 of the suite.

“The Gathering” is about the raising of the “Pals Battalions” when General Kitchener undertook his famous poster campaign to bring together volunteers into a new version of the British army to fight alongside the professionals already in France. It was an optimistic time and the realities of the trenches had not yet struck home and the casualty rates not making the impact they would a year or so later which resulted in conscription being introduced. Flanders at that time was still perceived as a field of promise and glory.

I didn’t want to become too tied to the period and have tried to give the lyric a timeless feel as the entire suite takes in modern day soldiery and jingoism and patriotism has been used throughout history to rally nations. In saying all that I have leaned on a style that you might expect from songs of the early 20th century and we are including a brass band and pipes in the musical arrangements to colour the emotions around  the raising of the “Pals Battalions”

As you are now seeing this is a very complex piece of songwriting and is practically a musical rather than a “traditional” rock song formula.I cannot remember ever being under so much pressure as the subject matter deserves tremendous respect and involves so much research and care and attention to make it credible and hopefully something I can be proud of having being involved with creating.

Without further ado, this is

The Gathering

The newspaper headlines were big and bold; our country was going to war,

To fight for the freedom of nationhood, to defend us from invading hordes,

The general pointed with steely glare, delivered the rallying call,

We signed off our lives with a stroke of a pen, joined our pals in the line

We took the King’s shilling with pride.

From the towns and the cities we came, from the fields and the countryside, the mines and the factories

Volunteers on the square, labourers and unemployed, clerks and delivery boys

Skirling pipes charge the air, raising the cheering crowd, casting out any doubts

Victory will soon be assured, we know God’s on our side at the heart of the gathering

Farewell to our homes and our families,

Farewell to the lives we once knew

Farewell to our youth and our innocence

We marched off with the band to the promise of a brave new world.

 

And I’ll write you a letter each passing day and I’ll cherish your every reply

I’ll tie them with ribbons and Flanders lace; hold them close to my heart in a sweet embrace

Tell the children that I shall return, laden with medals and dripping with garlands

We’ll sit by the banks of the Tyne and I’ll regale you with stories of honour and glory

We’ll make up for all the lost time, jig to the fiddles, and weave the White Willow

In the evening like ferns we’ll entwine, our bodies surrender we give to the gathering

I‘ll long for my home and my family,

I will long for the life I once knew

I’ll long for my youth and my innocence

I’ll long for a brave new world.

 

In the holds of the ships out of training camps, from the railheads to trudge open roads

Shouldered rifles on heavy souls, our fears will add to our load

Farewell to our homes and our families,

Farewell to the lives we once knew

Farewell to our youth and our innocence

We marched off with the band, pals in battalions, to the promise of a brave new world

Joining the gathering, pals in battalions, to fight for a brave new world

Pals in battalions, we took the kings shilling and paid for a brave new world

 

Copyright DDICK 2013

RFC officers at Karlsruhe POW camp 1918

RFC officers at Karlsruhe POW camp 1918

As a magical  “Fellini” postscript Simon Moston sent me this photo. Not only was there an RFC officer POW camp in Karslruhe (my paternal Granddad was RFC ground crew in Arras) but it turns out that the “Baden Wurttemburger” regiment who faced the 51st Highland division at Beaumont Hamel ( with whom my maternal grandfather fought serving with the 8th Royal Scots) also come from that area in Germany. As they have the only surviving full regimental records from that period (most of the other German regimental historical documents were destroyed during WW2) it may be possible to find out if way back in 1916 elements of my girlfriend Simone’s family actually served and fought against my grandfather William Paterson’s battalion! And there lies a wonderful twist of fate!