Songs of the Somme

June 24th 2016

A song about Sunderland AFC footballers’ experiences during the Battle of the Somme will be performed at Beamish as part of a music project commemorating the First World War.

St Aidan’s Cub Scout group, from Sunderland, are working with the museum to research footballers Charlie Buchan and Norman Gaudie during 1916 in the Songs of the Somme project. The youngsters will then create a song about the pair’s First World War experiences with The Lake Poets musician Martin Longstaff.

The Cubs will perform their song at Beamish during the Battle of the Somme Centenary commemoration weekend, which takes place from 1st to 3rd July.

Songs of the Somme is delivered by Music in the Minster and Sunderland Library Services as part of Asunder, a Sunderland-wide programme commemorating the battle.

Lesley Robinson, Leader of St Aidan’s Cub Scouts, said: “The Cubs are really excited about the project and are looking forward to finding out more and writing and performing their song.

“They have enjoyed looking at artefacts from the time and have found it really interesting.

“This year we celebrate 100 years of Cub Scouting, the fact that the fathers, uncles and brothers of those first Cubs were going to war at the same time is making the Cubs think about what it must have been like and that it’s a time for commemoration and not just for celebration.

“We were honoured to be approached by Music in the Minster to take part in this project.”

Buchan, who made 441 appearances for Sunderland, saw action at the Somme, Cambrai and Passchendaele and was awarded the Military Medal. Gaudie, a Quaker and committed pacifist, was imprisoned in Richmond Castle as a conscientious objector.

Bill Elliott, Community Learning Co-ordinator at Beamish, visited the Cubs to share the stories of Buchan and Gaudie. Bill took along objects from the era and replica army uniforms. He also took a replica Edwardian Sunderland football strip as worn by Charlie

Buchan in the 1913 FA Cup Final, which Sunderland lost to Aston Villa, 1-0. Sunderland did win the First Division that season.

Bill said: “I really enjoyed the evening with St Aidan’s Cubs and their leader Lesley. They displayed an enthusiastic interest in the stories of the footballers and the related artefacts.

“I’m really looking forward to hearing Marty and the Cubs perform their song at the Somme event. Music and songs are very powerful when telling a story.”

The Cubs visited Sunderland Local Studies Library, which is dedicated to collecting local and family history material from the North East, particularly Wearside. Local Studies Manager Julie Boad helped the group to learn about the city’s collection and explore the archive material.

After completing their research, the Cubs worked with Martin, a multi-instrumentalist singer and songwriter who has an interest in local heritage and is a passionate Sunderland AFC supporter.

Martin said: “Being not only a songwriter, but also a keen amateur historian and fan of SAFC I couldn’t be more delighted to be working on this project. I look forward to working with everyone involved to bring these stories to life by way of song.”

Songs of the Somme was commissioned as part of Asunder by Sunderland Cultural Partnership and supported by Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England, Sir James Knott Trust, Sunderland Business Improvement District and 14-18 Now.

Asunder will be taking place in and around the Sunderland Empire on 10th July with a film and live music score performed by Field Music, Warm Digits and Royal Northern Sinfonia, as well as arts and heritage experiences to commemorate the First World War.

For more details and to buy tickets for the film visit

Music in the Minster is an award-winning Sunderland charity that creates opportunities for people to experience singing and opera as participants, performers and audience members.

For more information about the Battle of the Somme Centenary event at Beamish click here.