Voice from the past gives Banbury family great joy

WWI picture with James McAssey NNL-150428-115213001
WWI picture with James McAssey NNL-150428-115213001

A Banbury family has heard the voice of their great-grandfather for the first time – in a song recorded in a German prisoner of war camp during the First World War.

A Banbury family has heard the voice of their great-grandfather for the first time – in a song recorded in a German prisoner of war camp during the First World War.

The Houston family was stunned when relatives in the Unites States forwarded an Irish Times article bearing a link to James McAssey’s song, No One to Welcome Me Home.

“James McAssey was from County Carlow in Ireland and he was my late husband, Desmond’s, grandfather,” said Valerie Driscoll of Appleby Close.”

She added: “Our five children knew very little about him but a week ago they had a link put up on Facebook by relatives in the USA. They think it’s absolutely fantastic and it’s sad that their own dad – who died when our youngest was only six – wasn’t able to hear it too.” .

The recordings were made during McAssey’s four years as a prisoner of war.

He was one of 35 Irish soldiers serving in the British Army who were imprisoned in Giessen and whose voices were recorded by visiting researchers from Berlin as part of an ambitious linguistic project to analyse their Irish accents.

The shellac discs bearing their songs, poems and stories are kept locked away in a store in Berlin. With each is a sheet bearing information about each performer.

McAssey, a farmer, was mobilized in 1914. After being taken prisoner only days after arriving in France, he remained a POW until 1918.

Mrs Driscoll said:“He had a metal plate put in his skull on returning to Britain.

“He went on to have nine children and one son and a daughter went to the USA. The rest came to England. Mary came over in the Second World War to join the Land Army.

“She met Dennis Houston and they had two sons, Desmond and Spencer. Desmond and I had five children, Andrew, Kathy, Erin, Devon and Debbie, who all live in Banbury. Spencer has two children, Rowen and Liam, who also live in Banbury.”

To hear the song, click on the article by the Irish Times here.