The Great War

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  • People in History

The Great War

In 1914, Patrick published his first novel, . This was closely followed by The Rat-Pit. These two novels are considered as one piece of work, as the second book follows on from the first. Both novels are autobiographical to a large extent, as they describe the life of a navvy in Scotland and England. They are considered to be his greatest achievement as a writer.

Upon the outbreak of war in August 1914, Patrick enlisted in the London Irish Rifles. By this time, he had become a celebrity in London and was known as 'the navvy poet' to many. He continued to write and publish essays during his service until he was injured in 1915 and sent back to London. While recovering, he met and married Margaret Gibbons, a London socialite and romantic novelist.

The war had an immense effect on Patrick and he wrote about his experiences in numerous poems and novels, including The Great Push, published in 1916.

Here is a short poem MacGill wrote about life in the trenches during World War I called 'Death of the Fairies':

'Before I joined the army I lived in Donegal,

Where, every night, the fairies would hold their carnival.

But now I'm out in Flanders where men like wheatears fall,

And it's Death and not the fairies who is holding carnival.'