Deerness Remembers - 100 years on......

St Ninians Kirk

This poem was written by Huw Gwynn-Jones and inspired by the war memorial in St Ninian's Kirkyard.

As I was blown down the hill to Ninian’s,
Eastern outpost, land’s end and graveyard, 
shrine to Deerness lads conscribed to die 
in a cause they were told was common,
marching at the beck and call of the times to
a waiting patch of Orkney green,
their death’s forgiving shore,

I passed through sided fields, clustered homecomings
of lapwings, blood red shanks and curlews,
beaks bowed respectfully to the ground, and sensed
the nightly line of old familiars
wake to fill their lungs with damp ground air
and stretch their legs. And I wondered to myself,
“Why are they still in uniform?”

And I wondered what they do down here 
in the night’s ambivalence, in simmer
dim and the sad Remembrance light.
Do they still dream of spent days and lives
and laughter, now set neglectfully
in aspic? Do they dance a while, or feel 
the sting of still salty tears? 

Where do they smoke and suck
their empty pipes now,
play their cards, brew tea and
cast their lots?

Today, as we remember, their Last Post 
is a haunting, the uncaught
song of a lonely seal 
in slow surrender to the waves.