Far, Far From Ypres - Martignas Sur Jalle
Posted: 24th October 2014
Charlie Milne writes:
The above trip was initiated by a friendship between myself and a good, long-time friend Michel Bastida who is now the deputy mayor of Martignas. The town of Martignas is twinned with Aboyne in Aberdeenshire, and that twinning was started by a rugby relationship that I and several others have been involved with since 1987.
In discussions and emails with Michel I made him aware of the Far, Far From Ypres performance and what was being done to commemorate WW1. We are both interested in the subject and he was going to be responsible for setting up a 4-day commemoration event at Martignas covering the 15th to 19th of October. He liked what he saw and heard of the show and asked if it would be possible to get performers over there to appear with the show in their local theatre Gerard Philippe.
So we managed to get sufficient volunteers to go across, Ian McCalman revised the script and with assistance from locals, especially Susan Brun - a Scots lady originating from Musselburgh who is married to a Frenchman in Martignas - we worked to produce a decent translation.
We arrived in Martignas on Wednesday 15th October and on Friday 17th we took part in the memorial service for WW1 victims at the village memorial. It has the names of a Gordon Highlander, an American army doctor, a German soldier and two French soldiers, one local to Martignas on the memorial. The parade involved the local 13th regiment “The Dragons”, men from the veterans association locally, the town mayor and officials, the Deputy Prefet for the region, the American consul, the consul of Senegal, many locals and some 200+ children from the local schools, who sang ” Les Marsellies” during the ceremony. Gary West, our piper, played during the ceremony too.
In the afternoon we attended the opening of an excellent WW1 exhibition set up by locals - really wonderful from the front door which was a section of trench topped with barbed wire, to uniforms, weapons, field hospital of the period, model aircraft, tanks… the variety was tremendous.
On Friday afternoon we had a sound check and partial run through of the show, then on Saturday the performance itself. We followed some readings by local people of letters sent by one local man from the front line to his family at home, and the local Martignas choir who sang French songs from WW1 and the Bordeaux Regional youth orchestra. Our performance went down a storm with a standing ovation and continued applause until we came back out to take a final bow - what a fantastic experience.
The reduced cast of performers (15) for this one were Ian McCalman, Iain Anderson, Ian Bruce, Gary West, Brian Miller, Fiona Forbes, Anne Murray, Carole Prior, May Weatherston, Alan Prior, George Archibald, Jim Weatherston, Dennis Wilson, Gordon Stewart and me. Sandy Forbes helped out with the PA technicians. Several spouses also accompanied the team.
All performers were hosted by local people who invited them into their homes, looked after and fed them - as well as taking us out to restaurants and tours of local areas! An unforgettable trip on so many levels as the friendship, hospitality and humour, as well of course as sharing lots of singing will live long in the memory.