October 2019
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Three Chords and the Truth

Posted By on September 15, 2019

Officers of the Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade.

Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade officers sing-along. Lieutenant Colonel W.K. Walker with guitar.
(Canada Illustrated Weekly, May 11, 1918, page 163)

Art in Storytelling

Its poetry…words…wordsmithing…art…cadence…metaphor. Its heartache and longing, joy and celebration, finding a path, search and discovery, its about others and…its about self.

How many times have I rummaged about the endless papers of forced lyrics and find amongst them the ones that have remained? Sometimes we try too hard to repeat our talents, some days best left to drift ’til the tide brings us back to shore. With chords to the side of the papers C – F – G / G – C – D the fingers re-find the melody…three chords and a voice. Life’s experience…story.

Time reaches to you…Just like a willow

I have been asked about and encouraged to write about story-telling…where does it come from, how do you find the words? And just like this evening when I have started on one path and found that path wanting, I shift course through the brambles to these words. Perhaps no better, but these words, this night I feel. That feel is heart…the drum within our person…one heart one soul, words from oneself that may perhaps take another to paper and pen, keys and keyboard, soundtrack or film. These are voices to be encouraged.

And it took me back to something

Placing self in story, the adventurer’s adventure becomes personal and relatable. I search former days and recall words that provide the compass points of today…I see your face so clearly once again…I’ve been walking for most of the night…Wouldn’t it be nice to find…each lyric about someone or someone’s someone.

Three chords and the truth are not my words but those of Harlan Howard. His reflection on his chosen voice of country music is the summation of all I describe here -personal and relatable, heart and soul. Story and storytelling – faces, voices, present, distant, laughter and tears and as I search my memories my eyes close briefly and in that twilight glow I see them.

This evening’s original path took me the University of Victoria’s MacPherson library in search of our featured image depicting officers of the Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade. One can only hope that after fighting on the Somme these soldiers found solace in their strings…and perhaps a song from home. Note the double-necked acoustic guitar played by Lieutenant Colonel W.K. Walker, piano and mandolin players.

Thanks to the good people at PBS and to Ken Burns’ new documentary series Country Music. This evening’s words were inspired by Country Music Live at the Ryman and the PBS preview: Country Music. Lyrics: Time reaches to you (Lovett  1989), And it took me back to something (Kristofferson 1964), I see your face…I’ve been walking…Wouldn’t it be nice (Ferguson, dates unknown), In that twilight glow (Fred Rose ca. 1947).

Special thanks to Rosemary who has always lovingly encouraged me as I walk along my path in search of story and words, to Shannon for her belief in my storytelling and to Casey Williams who encouraged me and gave me voice.

Did you know?

The first commercially successful recording of a country music song featured  Fiddlin’ John Carson, The Little Log Cabin in the Lane, Okeh Records, June 14, 1923.

A year previous A.C “Eck” Robertson and Henry C. Gilliland recorded four country songs for the Victor Talking Machine Company. Only two songs were released, “Arkansaw Traveler” and “Turkey in the Straw”. Sales however were poor. Carson’s recording led to a boom in the recording of “Hill Country Music”.

Whispered Words

Posted By on August 24, 2019

Liverpool War Memorial.

And The Victory That Day Was Turned Into Mourning Unto All the People. Detail from The Liverpool War Memorial.
(P. Ferguson image, March 2017)

Let it Be

The four shot Americano is delivered to me from the hand of another…Let it Be…I read. Worn upon their person the message is further attached to a warmly smile together with gentle eyed kindness.

The Beatles…forever with a message…about love…(about war)…and…forever the desire for peace.  As the world winds about its path terminally in a single direction, its inhabitants wander in endless directions, counter to the earth’s physics. The world knows where it is going perpetually; while we wander its edges, its fringes for our little living time in its orbit. We pick a path, divert, wander, change course, stop and start over. We counter the earth’s penchant for strictly forward movement…yet still we share this main path as scrambling, frantic bursts of energy. In this way we balance one and other…earth and person…let it be.

Love locks along the Mersey, Liverpool.

All you need is love. Love locks…everlasting love…along the Mersey, Liverpool.
(P. Ferguson image, March 2017)

Whether it’s the light we seek or balance, our personal wanderings take us to many edges and fringes in our lifetimes. We create chosen paths…we find time to take us to places of our relevance, of our interests and of our curiosities. Some days I ask where to go next…other days I am content to remain within…and yet other days I dream of when to return.

But this day with gentle words within my being and wondering when the next words might come I read and reread the lyric…let it bewhisper words of wisdom… and I am drawn by segue to one person’s words…its whisper.

They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages.
(Barrack Obama. Inaugural address, 20 January 2009)

Liverpool Blitz

Panoramic view of the Liverpool Blitz. The River Mersey in the background. (Wiki Image)

… and then a completely different day in Liverpool

There are things to do as our train arrives and we are eager to scatter about the city in search of what we seek. With some sites we are familiar and of the known places we seek ruins from the Liverpool Blitz, the Mersey waterfront, the Three Graces – the Liver Building, the Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building…charm, beauty and creativity. Along the way we will find new interests and surprises…it is to be a fine day here along earth’s perpetual path. The words and memories will come two years later…let it be attached to a warmly smile together with gentle eyed kindness.

The whisper…listen closely…there is still a chance that they will see…there is still a light that shines on me…shine until tomorrow…let it be.

The Beatles Statue at Pier Head, Liverpool. Donated by the Cavern Club.

The Beatles Statue at Pier Head, Liverpool. Sculpted by Andrew Edwards.
(P. Ferguson image, March 2017)

Did You Know?

Liverpool was attacked on several occasions during the Second World War. The first major raid taking place 28 August 1940. During the May Blitz of 1941 (a seven-night bombardment) more than 6,500 homes were destroyed, 190,000 homes damaged, leaving 70,000 people without homes.  About 4,000 people were killed in the Merseyside area during the Blitz.

The four members of the Beatles were all born in Liverpool during the Second World War. Peace be with them.

  • Ringo Star (7 July 1940)
  • John Lennon (9 October 1940)
  • Paul McCartney (18 June 1942)
  • George Harrison (25 February 1943)

The Beatles statue was donated to the City of Liverpool by the Cavern Club, the night club birthplace of the band. Sculptor Andrew Edwards also created the All Together Now Christmas Truce WWI Statue.

"All Together Now Christmas Truce WWI statue" Belgium.

All Together Now Christmas Truce WWI statue, Mesen, Belgium.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2016)

Tyneside Pipers: First Day of the Somme

Posted By on July 1, 2019

Poppy Cross amidst the mud of the Soome.

Poppy cross amidst the field of battle…somewhere on the Somme.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2017)

La Boiselle this day so many years ago…

This Day – 1 July 2019

When I can…I walk this ground, towards La Boiselle…

We are in this place, peaceful now, but where the hearts of men once beat with adrenaline as they advanced. Their rhythms interrupted by the stuttering power of the seemingly endless machine gun, the burst of shell, grenade and all matter of hurt. Today we can only hope that the souls of those who fell here are at rest and that the souls of their surviving friends (in their day) found peace once again. All I can do as a visitor is hope…to wander…see…and record…my thoughts this same day but for 2019.

That Day – 1 July 1916

The Tynesiders were on our right, and, as they got the signal to advance, I saw a piper – I think he was the Pipe Major – jump out of the trench and marched straight towards the German lines. The tremendous rattle of machine gun and rifle fire completely drowned the sound of his pipes, but he was obviously playing as though he would burst the bag, and, faintly through the roar of battle, we heard the mighty cheer his comrades gave as they swarmed after him. How he escaped I can’t understand, for the ground was literally ploughed up by the hail of bullets; but he bore a charmed life, and the last glimpse I have of him as we, too, dashed out showed him still marching erect, playing on regardless of the flying bullets and of the men dropping all around him. (A War Correspondent)

(Seton and Grant, Pipes of War, University Press, 1920 p. 25)

At that time, 1 July 1916, four Pals battalions (Northumberland Fusiliers) of the 102nd (Tyneside Scottish) Brigade advanced. The 20th Battalion (1st Tyneside Scottish), 21st Battalion (2nd Tyneside Scottish), 22nd Battalion (3rd Tyneside Scottish) and the 23rd Battalion (4th Tyneside Scottish). The attack commenced at 7:30 am with the battalion played into the battle by their pipers.

Near La Boiselle.. Looking from the Memorial at Lochnagar Crater.

Near La Boiselle. Looking from the Memorial at Lochnagar Crater, Somme, France.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2006)

The First Day of the Somme saw the Tynesiders attack up through Mash Valley towards the Glory Hole at La Boiselle. Starting from the Tara-Usna Line from behind the British front line they had to cross 1 mile of open ground before coming upon no man’s land. About 50 men managed to survive across this terrain and into Sausage Valley located south of La Boiselle and very near to Contalmaison. This was the furthest advance of the day, but for these men, they would spend the rest of their Great War as prisoners of war.

The 102nd (Tyneside Scottish) Brigade suffered the worst losses of any brigade on this black day of the British Army. The day was bleak the British army suffering 57,470 casualties of which 19,240 were fatal.

20th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers (1st Tyneside Scottish)
584 casualties – 320 killed

21st Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers (2nd Tyneside Scottish)
Total casualties unknown – 131 killed

22nd Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers (3rd Tyneside Scottish)
537 casualties – 162 killed

23rd Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers (4th Tyneside Scottish)
23rd Battalion     629 casualties – 240 killed

Looking towards the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France.

Looking across the battlefields towards the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France.
(P. Ferguson image, October 2009)

The Tyneside Battalion Pipers
List of Pipers compiled from Seton and Grant Pipes of War. I have provided amendments to this record. In addition, several service numbers are given in Pipes of War only as partial numbers. Many are not included in this listing.

1st Tyneside Scottish
Pipe Major John Wilson.
Awarded the Military Medal for Bravery in the Field.

Lance Corporal Garnet Wolsley Fyfe (Killed) 20/237
Shown in Commonwealth War Graves Commission as 23rd Battalion [4th Tyneside Scottish].
Buried at Ovillers Military Cemetery, France.

Piper Alex Boyd (Wounded)

Piper Ernest Arthur Boyce (Missing) 20/223
Commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, France.

Piper E. Scott (Wounded)

Piper Stephens (Wounded)

Piper John William Fellows (Missing) 20/1585
No. 1 Company. Commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, France.

Piper James Downie (Missing) 20/154
Commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, France.

Piper Charles McLean (Wounded)

Piper Robert Davidson (Missing) 20/1594
Commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, France.

Piper William Inglis (Wounded)
Recorded as Wounded as well as Killed in Pipes of War. Not traced in Commonwealth War Graves Commission records.

Piper George Taylor MM. Awarded the Military Medal for Bravery in the Field.

2nd Tyneside Scottish
Piper Munro Strachan

Piper John Strachan (Wounded)

Piper Alex Scott

Piper William Alexander Scott (Missing) 21/1230
Commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, France.

Lance Corporal W. Clark

Piper G.C. Griffiths

Piper James Phillips (Killed) 21/1151
Commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, France.

Piper J.M. Phillips MM 1225

Piper James Phillips Mentioned in Despatches 1525
After his pipes were shattered he began bombing the enemy trenches.

Piper James Carnegie

3rd Tyneside Scottish*
Piper A. Boyd (Wounded)

Piper J. Stephens (Wounded)

Piper J. Steele (Killed)
A Joseph Steele is recorded as killed 1 July 1916 with the 2nd Tyneside Scottish. No other details traced.

Piper E. Finley (Killed)

Piper R. Greaves (Died of Wounds)
Not traced in Commonwealth War Graves Commission records.

Piper T. Wilson (Killed)
Not traced in Commonwealth War Graves Commission records.

* (Service numbers not published in Pipes of War)

4th Tyneside Scottish

Pipers’ names not recorded in Pipes of War.

Fine Cutlery and Rooms of Nations

Posted By on June 22, 2019

French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau.

French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau 1906 – 1909 and 1917 – 1920.
(Wiki Images)

Il est plus facile de faire la guerre que la paix.
It is far easier to make war than to make peace.
Georges Clemenceau

The Versailles Hotels

Today the menu may include pumpkin soup, roasted sea bass, and “Taboureich” oysters together with Krug Grande Cuvée Champagne. Nearer to the time…of our interest…Filets de soles Jean-bart, Jambon madère et épinards and Crême d’Isigny.

The Trianon Palace Hotel, Versailles, France.

The Trianon Palace Hotel, Versailles, France.

We contemplate…to imagine and wonder over menus…setting our stage. The discussions of a past that affects our today occurred here amongst the fine cutlery and rooms of nations. Delegations gathered here at Versailles for the Paris Peace Conference…the British at the Trianon Palace and the Germans at the Hotel Reservoir. What were the words shared here about a difficult most recent past? Meeting upon meeting – 145 informal gatherings… decisions made by Allied nations to confront another – Germany.

Ulrich von Brockdorff-Rantzau

Ulrich von Brockdorff-Rantzau, leader of the German delegation to the Paris Peace Conference 1919.
(Wiki Image)

In an extremely tense plenary session in the Trianon Palace on May 17, 1919, Clemenceau handed the treaty to Count Ulrich von Brockdorff-Rantzau, head of the 160-member German delegation. As he did so, the French leader spat out in cold, biting language that “it is neither the time nor the place for superfluous words…The time has come when we must settle our accounts. You have asked for peace,” Clemenceau concluded. “We are ready to give you peace.” In a shocking move, the Germans had decided not to rise in receiving the document from Clemenceau… (Crucible of Power.  Howard Jones, 2008, p. 110).

Repercussions for a hundred years and more…

Hôtel des Réservoirs, Versailles, France.

Hôtel des Réservoirs, Versailles, France.


Posted By on May 29, 2019

The Murrayville War Memorial.

The Murrayville War Memorial near Langley, British Columbia…shadows in the mist.
(P. Ferguson image, October 2018)

A late night to be sure

Trees hang over the road…this way home. Dark as those that absorb all light, blue-black sky, silver ripples bared across the water. To write of the night…the dark…exceptional stillness, save for scampering thoughts. This night I have been, watched and listened.

Northern France...our guardian trees. (P. Ferguson image, April 2007)

Northern France…our guardian trees.
(P. Ferguson image, April 2007)

I have seen trees as witnesses, branches as arms, fingers reaching – pointing across to the presences they sense. And those limbless ones, memorial shards to the dark days of men. There is hope in trees, but within their bark a record of hurt…blemishes upon their rings…they are their own fellowship…I have a perception that trees are wise.

Tree section in the In Flanders Fields Museum.

Tree section on exhibit at the In Flanders Fields Museum, Ieper (Ypres), Belgium. The black blemishes of the Great War within its 177 rings.
(P. Ferguson image, November 2018)

Our folly, with our thinking, to find a way to speak for all to see, to hear…a soft waver within…what are words without meaning, to play with expression…a watch to keep…the trees beating hearts pulse in the gentle flutter of their leaves. The day rests with its wisdom to begin tomorrow as shepherds of trees watch in a vacuum of diminishing light.

Punchbowl Crater, National Cemetery of the Pacific, Hawaii.

Punchbowl Crater, National Cemetery of the Pacific, Hawaii. Tree roots entwined with the marker to Ernest C. Anderson, 29th Marines.
(P. Ferguson image, August 2010)

To what do I speak? Images from a film this night that explores an imagination of one man…Tolkien. Middle ground my middle earth stretching to find in his imagination my own. The paths to Mordor, Sindarin Black Land…dark as those that absorb all light. How many of us experience the realms within this earth and sky, amongst all things spirit, ent, wraith and burning eye?

Imagination – the silent voice of creativity and now to find the pen.

Brookwood Military Cemetery.  The reddening of the leaves, nature bleeds.(P. Ferguson image, September 2010)

Brookwood Military Cemetery, Surrey, England. The reddening of the leaves. Nature bleeds.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2010)