Retro: Dilm on school’s war memorial

Gene Thompson and Isabel Fyfe, who star in a new silent film telling the story of an unusual World War One memorial
Gene Thompson and Isabel Fyfe, who star in a new silent film telling the story of an unusual World War One memorial
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Sheffield youngsters Gene Thompson and Isabel Fyfe star in a new silent film telling the story of an unusual World War One war memorial.

The film begins in the present day and moves into atmospheric sepia tones to tell how the infant school pupils of Meersbrook Bank Primary School who raised the money to pay for the planting of 30 trees to remember the 240 ex-pupils who served during the war.

The Binfield Road trees outside the school were dedicated in a civic ceremony in April 1919.

A poem that provides the narrative in the film was written by Paul Whitfield, who has researched the story.

He found a 1919 newspaper article that said that the ceremony of dedication included the schoolchildren waving flags and singing the national anthem.

Their headteacher, Mr E Snelgrove, said that the trees “keeps green the memory”, which Paul refers to in the poem.

Miss Cleghorn, Sheffield headmistress and the first female president of the National Union of Teachers, dedicated the trees, saying, “We shall never forget those who have gone and fought and conquered and died for us.

“But in times to come people may forget, then these trees will be a reminder.”

“It is a sad and happy story.” said GeneThompson, aged six.

“It is important that we keep the trees the children planted.” said Isabel Fyfe, aged five.

The youngster said they now want to make a film every year!

The film can be found by following this link: https://youtu.be/Gp1pXUvIgAc

Here is Paul Whitfield’s poem that features in the film in full.

Keeping the Memory Green

When we were young and small the world went mad

And stole our fathers

And our big brothers too.

When we were young and small two hundred and forty

Meersbrook Bank ex-pupils went

To risk their lives in war.

When we were young and small we played Meersbrook streets

And tried to live our lives

Through loneliness and tears.

When we were young and small and peace returned

Some men came back

But some did not return.

When we were young and small we vowed to mark them all

We saved our ha’pennies

And we planted thirty trees

When we were young and small the famous came to help

And Miss Cleghorn said

“These trees will be a reminder.”

When we were young and small we beautified Binfield Rd

To keep the memory green

For the years to come

We will grow old and take our turn beneath the ground,

But we are never gone

As long as trees stand tall in place of us.