Connecting With Ancestors

On Saturday, I ran a creative writing workshop at the Gosport Gallery. Participants chose their favourite piece from the exhibition to use as a time travel machine to travel back and meet their ancestors. The results were surprising and deeply moving as people wrote about their own heart felt family connections to World War One. I was really inspired by much of what was said and the outstanding quality of the writing produced.

This photograph was sent to me by Rosa Johnson, one of the workshop participants, of Alfred (Jack) Piper on the day of his marriage one day before being sent to the front. He did not return.

Rosa Johnson


Here’s a poem I wrote myself inspired by the workshop participants.

For George
by Aoife Mannix

Soldier number seven thousand

found in a summer house.

A small tin box with the Queen’s chocolate

never eaten, a packet of woodbines,

and though they never knew

he died fighting on the Somme,

they discovered they had called

the latest baby after him. A name now

red tinged with family history. A visit

to a graveside, a pilgrimage of lions,

all that courage and waste.


The sheer ignorance of elephants

rampaging in rooms of secrets.

What afterwards was so hard

to put into words. Yet now

one hundred years on,

we hold that bloody uniform

to the light and remember

who they really were,

those boys engraved in stone.


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