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Bravo! Islington: Historian discovers soldier’s First World War song dedicated to borough

PUBLISHED: 12:49 21 August 2018 | UPDATED: 12:49 21 August 2018

Corporal Thomas Uren was from Islington and composed Bravo Islington. Picture: Islington museum

Corporal Thomas Uren was from Islington and composed Bravo Islington. Picture: Islington museum

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A “stirring and fiercely patriotic” song about Islington has been unearthed and performed a century after its composer died in France during the First World War.

Corporal Thomas Uren. Picture: Islington museumCorporal Thomas Uren. Picture: Islington museum

Bravo! Islington was the work of corporal Thomas Uren. Written in 1918, it was performed at Stroud Green Festival for the first time in 100 years in June.

Mark Aston, the local history manager at Islington heritage service, discovered the double sided songs sheet while researching material for the museums upcoming exhibition: “Rallies, rations and rifles: Islington during WW1”.

He told the Gazette: “Like many things in the archive this song is a treasure and although we have a great collection there is always more to find.

“I just thought ‘this is absolutely perfect.

Sheet music for Bravo! Islington. Picture: Islington museumSheet music for Bravo! Islington. Picture: Islington museum

“I wasn’t looking for this particular item but it just ticked all the boxes because it’s something original and we are in the First World War commemorative period.”

Mark said there are some 150,000 items in the archive, so cataloguing them all is a time consuming and gradual process.

Thomas Andrew Uren was born in Clerkenwell in 1894 and he went on to live at 203 Essex Road. He died in action on a french battlefield in 1918.

Thomas was 16 when the 1911 census took place and is recorded as working as an assistant with a provision merchant.

The sheet music for Bravo! Islington. Picture: Islington museumThe sheet music for Bravo! Islington. Picture: Islington museum

But Mark said it was not unusual for boys of that age to be working, as many young men would back then take a job at 12.

He continued: “It’s actually really poignant that we found the song at this time of year as Thomas died on August 21 1918, which is exactly 100 years ago (today).

“I’m not sure if it’s going to become one of the more popular war songs, but it tells us a lot more about the residents and soldiers of Islington during the war.

“They were would have been hugely patriotic and no doubt saw this song as a rousing moral booster. It’s a significant piece of the boroughs history.”

He enlisted in Holloway to the 21st Battalion unit of The Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex Regiment), which was unofficially known as Islington’s Own.

This was a battalion raised by the then mayor of Islington, Alderman George Samuel Ellio in 1915.

Thomas is buried in cabaret-rouge British cemetery, in souchez, pas de Calais, but he is also remembered on the war memorial in Manor Gardens, Holloway.

More than 13,000 people from the borough died in wars between 1899 and the 1950s and they are honoured in the Islington online book of remembrance, which has been curated by Islington local history centre and museum.

These records date from the beginning of the Boer War to after the Second World War and provide biographical insights into the lives and deaths of people from Islington.

“This songs keeps their legacy alive,” said Mark. “It’s a bittersweet story because many of these young men went off to fight and didn’t come back, but then some of them did. I think it’s important for people to come to our exhibition and learn more about these soldiers lives and the history of the borough.”

The song was performed by Patricia Hammond and Matt Redman at the Stroud Green Festival and Mark hopes they will do it again at the Islington museum exhibition in October.

The Stroud Green festival, which has been backed with £9,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, finished last month.

But the festival is still calling for people to submit stories about brave soldiers like Thomas.

A spokesperson for the event said: “Did your parents, grandparents or great-grandparents live in the area during the First World War?

“The Stroud Green Festival would love to hear from you. They are calling for you stories to share and record.”

The festival is a community event that takes place art Holt Trinity Church, in Granville Road, and at the church hall in neighbouring Stapelton Hall Road.

Mark said: “I’m hoping that or two other songs might be found but so far this is all we have from Thomas.”

Overall some 16 million people died during the First World War between 1914 and 1819.

The original manuscript will be on show at the exhibition in Islington museum.

It starts on October 19 and runs until midway through January.

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