Music and World War 1 – Ina Boyle (1889-1967)

The centenary of the Armistice brings music that was composed during WW1 into focus. Several works composed by the Irish composer Ina Boyle (1889-1967) reflect the impact of the war on her family and neighbours in Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow.

On 21 October 1914, soon after the outbreak of the war, Captain Henry Stanley Monck of the Coldstream Guards, son of Viscount Monck of Charleville House, was killed in action in St. Julien. There are two plaques in St. Patrick’s Church, Enniskerry – where Boyle’s father, Rev. William Foster Boyle, was curate – a Monck Memorial and a Great War Memorial to commemorate ten members of the parish who lost their lives in the war. A brass communion rail and chancel, designed by Lord Powerscourt, was inaugurated in their memory on Easter Sunday 1919.

On 4 September 1915 Captain Grenville Fortescue, 11th Battalion, husband of Ina Boyle’s cousin, Adelaide Jephson, and father of two children, was killed in action in France at the age of twenty-eight. On 24 May 1918 Lieutenant Patrick Bryan Sandford Wood, R.A.F., aged nineteen, eldest son of the composer Charles Wood, who was married to Ina’s cousin Charlotte, was killed in an aeroplane accident on active service in Italy, where he is buried in Taranto Town Cemetery.

In 1915 Ina Boyle composed two anthems ‘He will swallow up death with victory’ a Funeral Anthem, (Isaaih XXV 8,9) for solo soprano, choir and organ, and ‘Wilt not Thou, O God, go forth with our Hosts’, an Anthem for Intercession for choir and organ. The latter was dedicated to the 36th (Ulster) Division,and was to have been performed by the choir of Derry Cathedral but could not be sung as so many of the men in the choir had gone to war.

A hundred years later it was performed for the first time in 2016 in St. Columb’s cathedral Derry, for the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.

Among Boyle’s ‘Early Compositions’ in TCD Manuscripts Library there is a setting for voice and piano, dated December 1916, of Rudyard Kipling’s poignant poem ‘My boy Jack?

“Have you news of my boy Jack? “

Not this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Has any one else had word of him?”
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind—
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide

The most ambitious work composed by Ina Boyle during the war is ‘Soldiers at peace’ (1916), a setting for choir and orchestra of a sonnet by Captain Herbert Asquith, second son of the British Prime Minister. It was performed in 1920 at Woodbrook, Bray by Bray Choral Society, conducted by Thomas Weaving, then organist at Christ Church cathedral.

Although she paid £11.7.0 in 1918 for publication of the vocal score by Novello the work did not have another performance until 3 November 2018, when it was performed in London by the Highgate Choral Society and the New London Orchestra, conducted by Ronald Corp

Dr. Ita Beausang