“To my Daughter Betty, The Gift of God” – Father’s Day Remembrance

Statue commemorating Thomas Kettle, St. Stephens Green, Dublin, Ireland. Photograph uploaded to Lives of the First World War by Adrienne Downes.

Statue commemorating Thomas Kettle, St. Stephens Green, Dublin, Ireland. Photograph uploaded to Lives of the First World War by Adrienne Downes.

This Father’s Day we pay tribute to the millions of men whose lives were changed forever by the First World War, and especially those who never returned home to their families. In this blog post by Lives of the First World War Public Engagement Officer Catherine Long, we remember the tragic story of Thomas Michael Kettle.

 

Thomas was born in Dublin in 1880. He was the eldest of six children of Andrew and Margaret Kettle. He married Mary Sheehy in 1910 – they were both graduates of the National University of Ireland, both writers and Thomas was also a Barrister and Professor of National Economics. Four years after marriage, their daughter Elizabeth was born.

Thomas joined the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and took part in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. In September of that year he wrote a poem to his daughter:

You’ll ask why I abandoned you, my own,

And the dear heart that was your baby throne,

To dice with death.

 

To my Daughter Betty, The Gift of God

In wiser days, my darling rosebud, blown

To beauty proud as was your mother’s prime,

In that desired, delayed, incredible time,

You’ll ask why I abandoned you, my own,

And the dear heart that was your baby throne,

To dice with death. And oh! they’ll give you rhyme

And reason: some will call the thing sublime,

And some decry it in a knowing tone.

So here, while the mad guns curse overhead,

And tired men sigh with mud for couch and floor,

Know that we fools, now with the foolish dead,

Died not for flag, nor King, nor Emperor,

But for a dream, born in a herdsman’s shed,

And for the secret Scripture of the poor.

Thomas' name on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. Uploaded to Lives of the First World War by Charlotte Czyzyk

Thomas’ name on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. Photograph uploaded to Lives of the First World War by Charlotte Czyzyk.

Thomas never did return home. He was killed in action at Guinchy in France on 9 September 1916. He does not have a known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.

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