How writing about a war horse helped me cope with grief

Last year I had the privilege of writing the Carillon Tower and War Memorial’s children’s book about Songster, Loughborough’s very own war horse. A friend of mine, Liz Waddell, did the illustrations, and we were helped throughout by Mary Baird and Mel Gould of the Carillon. I learned a lot from the experience – historical things about the military and World War One specifically, as well as how Loughborough coped with the declaration of war.

But I also learned things about myself. My dad died from cancer whilst I was working on the book and I lost the will to do anything, let alone be creative. We were on a tight deadline, though, so Liz did all that she could without any text before very quickly needing some of the story to help inform her artwork. Not wanting to let her down was finally the thing that made me sit and write. It was a struggle, I won’t lie, but in the end our friendship top-trumped my grief.

The lovely feedback we’ve received about the book since has made it all worthwhile and the wonderful opportunities we’ve had to share it with others an added bonus. It’s been a heart-warming and enriching experience for us both.

So much so that we decided to commemorate Animals in War by placing a blanket of purple poppies on the Songster armature in Queen’s Park on Remembrance Sunday. We asked on social media for people to send us home-made purple poppies and the response has been fantastic.

Once again, we were overwhelmed by how people engaged with the story of Loughborough’s plucky little chestnut gelding and were very grateful to everyone who supported us – with purple poppies and through buying the book.

But even without all that I was a winner simply by the act of writing it.  It helped enormously to get me back on track.  And I’m pretty certain my old dad would’ve been proud.


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