A mother’s grief

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In 2014 it can be difficult to imagine the heartbreak and sorrow that spread through Lisburn during the First World War as family after family lost fathers, sons and brothers.

The heartbreak was summed up by one distraught mother, Susan Adams, who lost her son Ralph at the Battle of the Somme in July 1916, just one month before his eighteenth birthday.

Rifleman Ralph Adams was a member of the 13th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles and lived with his mother Susan in Market Lane in Lisburn.

Ralph was killed on July 1, 1916 and is remembered on the Lisburn War Memorial, as well as on the Roll of Honour in First Lisburn Presbyterian Church.

After her son’s death, Susan penned a poem to share her pain.

Forward into the dreadful battle,

The steadfast soldier goes;

No friend, when he lies dying,

His eyes to kiss and close.

Yet never alone is the Christian,

Who lives by faith and prayer;

For God is a Friend unchanging,

And God is everywhere.

In a far distant land though his body now rests,

Far from his home and the ones he loved best,

Still deep in our hearts his memory we’ll keep,

Sweet is the place where he now lies asleep.

For King and country well he stood,

Unknown to cowards’ fears;

In the battle strife he shed his blood

With the Ulster Volunteers.

He volunteered as an Ulsterman,

What more could a subject do;

He fought for King and country,

And he died for the red, white and blue.

They placed the old flag o’er his breast,

Blackened, blood-stained in the fray;

They left him to his endless rest,

There in his cold, cold bed of clay.

They laid him to rest in the land of a stranger,

Where the guns and the cannon disturb not his sleep,

While his fond loving mother away in old Ireland,

Mourns for her son as her vigil she keeps.

Little she thought as he went with a tear –

Little she thought as he went without fear,

He would never return to the land of his childhood,

But be laid to rest like a brave Volunteer.

Had I got one last fond look into his smiling face,

Or had I only got the chance to kneel down in that place,

To hold your hand, dear Ralph, while your life blood ebbed away,

My heart, I think, would not have felt the tears I shed today.

Weep not for me, O! mother dear,

Nor yet be ever sad;

The shorter time I spent on earth

The fewer faults I had.

But the hardest part is yet to come,

When the heroes do return,

And I miss among the cheering crowd

The face of my dear loved son.

He done his duty faithfully.