Remembering Bernard O’ Reilly, a Soldier of Australia and old Aughagreagh
Its a long way to Australia from old Aughagreagh,
Where his family left from decades before
And the ladies he laughed with when he visited that day
Shall enjoy his laughter and company no more.
In Belgiums flat fields between Holland and France
Which Germans had taken in 1914
Hard won from the Worcester’s who won back Gheluvelt
Then tactically retreated from where John Dopping Boyds units had been.
These men both of Longford extraction (the latter Orange, O’Reilly green)
Fought on the same side under same flag facing same foe
We look back today a century or more on
Think of their fight and his death long ago.
It was not Reilly’s fate to survive that cruel war
Dopping Boyd lived long to old age
Such is life’s heartless blows in war where all is fair
In a trial of endurance and rage.
The parcel came back, what was left of his things,
Two crucifixes, scapulars, pen and pellets of ink…
A few photos that brought comfort among the shots and the shells
Oh, of what a future did he after the war for himself think?
But there was one thing that his father desired to have
Outlined in the letters to and from from departments that crossed
(His father too had not long left to live)
As his widow followed up the watch seemingly lost.
How frail our lives in, even when not in war…
We remember, a silent prayer say,
Remember the heros who died, for what did they fight?
Remember Bernard O’Reilly of Australia and Aughagreagh.
Bernard O Reilly grew up in Australia, to where his forefathers had emigrated from Aughagreagh in North Longford some years before. His memories of a visit home to the village of Ballinalee left an impression on him – as did the local ladies! – but alas the war took him at a place called Polygon Wood.
He is not the only Longford connection to Polygon Wood.
Another man of Longford extraction, this time an Anglo Irishman, was at the defence of the town of Gheulvelt, and the Worcester attacked from Polygon and took back the village in Halloween 1914. A rag tag auxillary unit was thrown together by John Dopping Boyd who covered the Worcester’s tactical retreat, according to some sources for a number of days.
After the war there was an exchange of correspondence about a watch of his which was lost, which is poignant as his father did not live to see it returned though his other effects were. Its these little things that matter when war reduces man to what he can carry in his pocket.
He was but one of 5700 Australian casualties in those few days
* The battle – an outline
* The unit