GRAEME COUSINS chats to a singer who is hoping to raise money in honour of those who made the ultimate sacrifice
A singer-songwriter, who until the age of 40 had never performed live, has released an EP of songs inspired by the events of the World Wars.
On one of his tracks Lurgan man Mark Savage celebrates nine Ulster men who until very recently hadn’t been recognised on any war memorial.
The 42-year-old Orangeman has been writing songs since he was a teenager but it’s only been in the last couple of years that he’s plucked up the courage to performance them to anyone other than family members and close friends.
Mark, a former Irish League footballer, said: “I’ve been writing songs since I was 18. I’ve a catalogue of about 50 different songs.
“Only really my family and some very close friends knew about it. For my 40th birthday my family bought me some time in a recording studio, so I did four of five of them professionally.
“When I started sharing some of the songs people couldn’t believe it was me singing. I’d kept it very secret.
“I don’t classify myself as a musician. I taught myself to play a bit of guitar, I sing, write a few songs. It’s more of a hobby for me. I’m quite shy so I wouldn’t be interested in touring and the like.”
He said: “When I played the songs in our Orange hall that was the first time I’d performed for a wider audience. People that night were telling me I had to release them properly.
“It went from there and now I’m performing I’ve been all over the country singing.
“I do a lot of singing for the Ancre Somme Association.
“I’ve been singing at Stormont and lots of Ulster Heritage events in Brownlow House, Portadown Town Hall.
“I was asked by Royal British Legion to sing at their Remembrance Service.”
The father of three from Lurgan who now lives in Waringstown is a member of Bleary Crimson Star LOL No 12.
His ‘Never Forget’ EP was released in the past couple of weeks to coincide with Remembrance Day.
He said: “I’ve already got up to number nine in the singer-songwriter chart on iTunes, I’m hoping it can go higher with a bit of a push.
“All the songs are to do with World War One or World War Two.
“‘Shade of Red’ is about the guys going over the top and the spilling of blood.
“I’ve written a song called ‘The Bleary Boys’. About five or six years ago we were knocking down old walls up in the loft of our Orange hall. Behind this wall we found this cenotaph which had been hidden away for some reason.
“On this cenotaph were the names of these guys who hadn’t been recognised on the cenotaph in Lurgan or anywhere else, of guys from our loodge who were killed at the Somme.
“I was commissioned by our lodge to write the song about these nine guys.”
As well as his own orginal material Mark also does a few cover versions like ‘The Green Fields of France’.
He has also written a song about fellow Lurgan man William McFadzean who died at the Somme.
On July 1, 1916, he threw himself onto two armed grenades in a crowded trench. They exploded, killing him but injuring only one other. He was awarded a Victoria Cross for his selfless act of sacrifice.
Mark said: “‘Soldier Boy McFadzean’ was a poem that was written by Lexi Davidson for the unveiling of the bust of William McFadzean in Lurgan.
“I was asked to make it into a song.”
Asked if he had any relatives who fought in the wars, Mark said: “My grandfather who I never met was in the RAF and fought in the Second World War. That’s my connection.
“People tend to forget that we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for what those guys did.”
The proceeds from the sales of Mark’s EP will go towards Somme-related charities.
He said: “I don’t aim to make any money from the songs. It’s just a hobby, everything goes towards charity.”
Not all Mark’s songs are related to war he explained: “I wrote a song for my dad for his 65th birthday about Sunderland. Our family are big Sunderland fans. I’ve a song about a guy reminiscing in Roker Park before we moved to the Stadium of Light.”
He added: “I’d say my songs would fit into the singer-songriter folk genre. I like to tell a story, for a song to be thought provoking.”