Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Dunsden Owen Association

THE Dunsden Owen Association was formed earlier this year to promote Wilfred Owen’s connections with the area

THE Dunsden Owen Association was formed earlier this year to promote Wilfred Owen’s connections with the area and to link Dunsden with the village of Ors, Departement du Nord, northern France, where he died.

From 1911-13, the Great War poet was lay assistant at Dunsden church. Later his parents and sister lived locally and they are buried in Dunsden churchyard.

Five members of the association, John Bodman, Jennifer Leach, Beth and John Timms and Linda Glithro, visited Ors last month as guests of the Mayor, Jacky Duminy.

The visit was timed to coincide with the annual commemoration service, remembering Owen’s death in Ors on November 4, 1918 — sadly, just a few days before the official end of the war.

The short, well-attended service took place in the village cemetery with military standards and a local band playing the British and French national anthems.

Mr Bodman laid a wreath on behalf of the association and children from the village school placed decorated lanterns before his grave.

Peter Owen, the late poet’s great nephew, and Damian Grant, from Lille University, read some of Owen’s poems.

Mrs Timms, who chairs the trustees for Eye and Dunsden village hall, said: “After the ceremony, we enjoyed a feast of local fare at the Salle des Fêtes and were entertained by a wonderful group of French musicians, the Inishmore ensemble, who played haunting traditional Irish music, interspersed by readings of Owen’s poems.

“We were able to speak to villagers and to other French and English people who are interested in Owen’s work.”

During the visit, the group also visited the Forester’s House, where Owen spent his last days in a small, smoky cellar with 11 other soldiers, awaiting orders.

In 2011, the cottage was turned into a memorial that pays tribute both to the last moments of Owen and his men and to the contemporary and universal nature of the poet’s work. Recorded readings of Owen’s poetry (read in English by Kenneth Branagh) are powerful and moving.

Mrs Leach said: “The cottage, Maison Forestière, is entirely white and looks like a sculpture, standing out like a ‘bleached bone’ in the forest. The dark cellar, in contrast, remains untouched. It is a wonderful and fitting memorial.” The Dunsden Owen Association is planning a series of events next year, including:

lA late evening concert vigil on August 4 led by the Reading A440 Choir.

lAn exhibition of local war memorabilia.

lA concert of music and poetry on the weekend of November 8.

lAn audio-visual walking trail, to be launched in September with a film by Jennifer Leach, of Outrider Anthems, and a new work by composer David Breeze.

A fun day and other community events, including a lunch at Dunsden village hall, are also planned.

We also hope to stage a play, One Night In Ors, by the Belgian playwright Xavier Hannotte, whom we met during the visit.

Mr Duminy and a number of villagers will join in the celebrations in 2014, establishing community links between Ors and Dunsden.

If you are interested in learning more about these events or the Dunsden Owen Association, please visit or the Dunsden Owen Association Facebook page.

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