A Gaelic Poem—In Memory of the Otranto Disaster off Islay, 6 Oct 1918

Twas the latest month of Autumn,
The sixth day as I recall,
When we hailed the ship Otranto
With full freight and heroes all;
They left home to fight for justice,
Liberty had heard the call,
And the Stripes were now unfurling
On the war-torn fields of Gaul.

Little thought they when they parted
From their friends beyond the main,
That upon the shores of Islay
Soon that Death would make his claim;
Though they fought not in the battle,
Nor did the strife descend,
Far from dear ones, home and kindred,
Still they met a hero’s end.

On the peaceful sward full daisied,
Where the winds of ocean blow,
Shrouded in their own loved banner
Tenderly we laid them low;
And the few that Death had spared us,
To the utmost love can know;
They were tended well and bravely,
As our Gaels were wont to show.

Many are the loving mothers
That now mourn the sons they bore,
Many are the winsome maidens
Lost their loved ones on yon shore.
Never more with hearty greetings
Will they meet then on the Strand,
For alas! They now lie sleeping,
‘Neath the flowers in a distant land.

Till the last dread trump be sounded,
Never will Columbus’ Land
Cease to think with pride, but sadly,
Of green Islay’s distant strand.
There the brave ones in their hundreds
Sleep beneath its grassy sod,
Till they waken on yon morning
In the skies to meet their God.

Translated from the Gaelic poem
by Charles McNiven (Kilchoman, Islay, Scotland)

Note: This is post 3 of 4 today about the H.M.S. Otranto disaster.

[1] Many Were Held by the Sea: The Tragic Sinking of the HMS Otranto, by R. Neil Scott, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 18 Jun 2012 (poem).