‘The Talking Wall’ – a poem inspired by a war memorial

Hatton War MemorialLt Commander Locker Madden, RN (ret.), a member of a well-known naval family and descendant of Captain William Locker, Nelson’s first captain, has recently become interested in the UKNIWM and has been energetically photographing war memorials in the north of Scotland.  A published poet, he was moved to write ‘The Talking Wall’ after recording the war memorial in Cruden West Parish Church.

Our thanks for permission to reproduce the poem. 

The Talking Wall 

I was reading the dead: their names
‘In affectionate remembrance’
when the wall spoke, “William Fraser,
George Johnstone”, killed by blind chance
of war; “John Leslie, George Minty.”
I was unprepared to make reply
to the stone tones, “Duncan McLeish”
it continued. I wondered why
the wall (“Adam Rollo” it recited and
“David Sangster”) should talk the terror
of these deaths from one Great War;
“Doctor William Smith”. It underlay the horror
which each one of those families had felt,
“James Spence, Alexander Thomson”, no solace
that I had read for myself the final name:
the heroic resonance of “William Wallace.”
That’s bad enough; a tiny community
unmanned. I asked the wall
where were the next war’s names
and silence fell. There were no dead at all
and I remember an old woman saying “There wisnae loons tae coort.*”
after that First War and therefore no new
generation which could have loved and fought.

*There were no young men to court

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