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Francis Ledwidge Letter and Poem, 1914-1924, after 1994

 File — Box: 4265.001, Folder: 27

Scope and Contents

This collection contains a photocopy of a 1914 letter from Irish poet and World War I soldier Francis Ledwidge to his cousin, whom he addresses as "My dear Miss Ledwidge," in which he gives some family background and asks her to accept his "very last" poem and a copy of his book when it is published. The file also includes a photocopy of his poem "Growing Old," as well as copies of the title page of The Complete Poems of Francis Ledwidge, with Introductions by Lord Dunsany, published in 1919, and a bookplate bearing the name of Elizabeth Ledwidge next to a page dated January 7, 1924. A note by donor Wade Hall at the top of the letter says: "Originals given to poet Seamus Heaney during taping of TV interview, Jan. 28, 1994 in Louisville."


  • 1914-1924, after 1994

Language of Materials

From the Collection: Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Access to portions of this collection has been restricted by Archives and Special Collections in order to preserve the original materials. Contact University Libraries Special Collections at or 205.348.0500 for information on access to the restricted portions of this collection.

The rest of the collection is open for research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Due to the nature of certain archival formats, including digital and audio-visual materials, access to certain materials may require additional advance notice.

Biographical / Historical

Francis Ledwidge was born at Janeville in Slane, County Meath, Ireland, on August 19, 1887, the eighth of nine children. His parents, Patrick and Anne Ledwidge, gave their children the best education they could afford, but Patrick's untimely death in 1891 or 1892, forced the children to leave school and work to support the family. Francis worked as a farm hand, road mender, copper miner (he was sacked for organizing a strike) and shop assistant. Ledwidge was a keen patriot and nationalist. He and his brother Joseph were founding members of the Slane Branch of the Irish Volunteers, a force sworn to defend the introduction of Home Rule for Ireland. At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the group split into two factions, one that supported the appeal to join Irish regiments in support of the Allies and those who did not. Francis was originally part of the second faction, however after defending his position strongly at a local authority meeting, he enlisted on October 24, 1914 in Lord Dunsany's regiment, joining the 5th battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, part of the 10th (Irish) Division. Dunsany, Ledwidge's patron in Dublin before the war, strongly counseled against enlistment and had even offered Ledwidge a stipend to support him if he stayed away from the war. Although there was some speculation that he went to war because his sweetheart had jilted him, Ledwidge maintained that he could not stand idly aside while others sought to defend Ireland's freedom. Having survived despite huge losses by his company in the Battle of Gallipoli, he became ill after a back injury on a journey in December 1915 through the mountains of Serbia. In January 1917, as a lance corporal, Ledwidge was posted to the Western Front, joining the 1st Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, part of the 29th Division. On July 31, 1917, a group from Ledwidge's battalion was laying a road in preparation for an assault during the third Battle of Ypres, near the village of Boezinge. Ledwidge was drinking tea in a mud hole with his comrades when a random shell exploded alongside, killing Ledwidge and five others. Dunsany arranged for many of Ledwidge's poems to be published posthumously and although his work faded from view for many decades of the 20th century, much of it has come to life again thanks to a renewed interest in the literature of the era.


From the Collection: 3.8 Linear Feet


Formerly MSS.2766

Location Information


Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections Repository

Box 870266
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0266