As the Caledonian Sleeper arrived into Edinburgh’s Waverley Station at twenty minutes past seven this morning travellers might have been forgiven for thinking that they had slipped back in time. Out from the train — in full First World War uniform — stepped war poet Wilfred Owen, 100 years to the day after he first arrived in Edinburgh to be treated for shell-shock at Craiglockhart War Hospital. Today’s Wilfred Owen was the historian and actor David Clarke and he was accompanied on his journey by the poet’s nephew, Peter. They were met at the station by Edinburgh’s Rt Hon Lord Provost, Frank Ross and Edinburgh’s Makar, Christine De Luca who read a poem written for the occasion. Violinist Thoren Ferguson played on a violin made by Steve Burnett from a sycamore taken from the Craiglockhart estate, and hiding inside is one of Owen’s pomes, Written in a Wood 1910.
During his time at Craiglockhart (now an Edinburgh Napier University Campus), Owen wrote two of his best remembered poems, Dulce Et Decorum Est and Anthem For Doomed Youth. It was here here too that he met anti-war poet Siegfried Sassoon. Commenting on this meeting of minds, Owen’s nephew Peter said: “Wilfred Owen’s poetry has influenced poets of all times and ages. This legacy was only made possible th
rough a meeting of minds with Siegfried Sassoon at Craiglockhart. If Wilfred has an afterlife, no aspect would have pleased him more than the way his words have been used and modified by poets that came after him. Both Auden and Spender were influenced by Wilfred. Edmond Blunden wrote of him and his poems.” He added: “A poet’s poet Wilfred said of himself but would have never dreamed of his ever-growing legacy. This all began here in Edinburgh, at Craiglockhart, now Edinburgh Napier University.”
To mark the centenary, re-enactors followed in Owen’s footsteps from Waverley, along Princes Street to the Waldorf Astoria Caledonian Hotel. As they walked they raised funds for Poppy Scotland. The event was organised by Wilfred Owen’s Edinburgh 1917-2017.
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.