Eternal words for Hartlepool schoolgirl’s brave ancestors

Olivia Williams, 11, pictured with her mum Samantha and dad Darren in the  Crossing at Durham Cathedral. Olivia is to read her own moving poem during the prestigious Festival of Remembrance Concert at the cathedral.
Olivia Williams, 11, pictured with her mum Samantha and dad Darren in the Crossing at Durham Cathedral. Olivia is to read her own moving poem during the prestigious Festival of Remembrance Concert at the cathedral.

A SCHOOLGIRL drew inspiration from her sailor great-great-grandfather and soldier grandfather to write a moving war poem which will be read out in front of hundreds at Durham Cathedral.

Hartlepool girl Olivia Williams will read the poem The Eternal Day at the cathedral’s prestigious Festival of Remembrance concert this Saturday.

Olivia’s great-great-grandfather Luke Fincken, who was in the Royal Navy, was killed in action in the First World War in 1916.

He was injured and on his way home aboard the hospital ship Drina, but died at Scapa Flow off the coast of Scotland.

His name is on the Headland war memorial.

Her grandfather, Graham Fincken, 63, of Peterlee, was a trooper with the Household Cavalry: The Lifeguards from 1966 to 1972 and lost colleagues in The Troubles.

The 11-year-old beat off competition from hundreds of other pupils to win the poetry competition, as part of a Great War schools project when she was a pupil at Barnard Grove Primary School.

And the honour is even more remarkable, as Olivia has struggled with her confidence with English work, having been diagnosed with a mild form of dyslexia when she was about four.

The three-verse poem describes the experience of a soldier waiting to go into battle.

Olivia’s proud mum Samantha Williams, 42, of Hart Station, said: “I am overwhelmed with pride for her.

“I know there will be tears on Saturday.

“She has been practising it and explained to me the sentiment behind it and it brought a lump to my throat.”

Cake designer Samantha, whose late uncles Norman, Joseph and John Fincken also served in the services and whose grandfather John also was in the Navy, will be in the audience with relatives including dad Graham, who hopes to attend despite recently being ill, and Olivia’s dad, Darren Williams, 42, manager of Hartlepool’s Vue Cinema.

“It will mean a lot for my dad to get there,” said Samantha.

“He was getting emotional when Olivia read him her poem.

“She’s only 11, and for her to capture the sentiment and the feeling is amazing, it’s so heartfelt.

“The more she reads it out, the more it strikes her grandfather.

“I asked her what her thought process was about writing it and she said ‘I was just trying to think how a soldier might feel if he was in the trenches and looking along his line of colleagues and waiting to go over the top, waiting for the whistle to blow and not knowing whether he was coming back or not’.

Samantha, also mum to Owen Williams, 17, and Jonah Williams-Lowis, two, said her mum Janice died just after Olivia was born so St Hild’s student Olivia and her grandfather have a special bond.

Barnard Grove deputy headteacher Janine Thompson said: “Olivia’s poem particularly stood out, it was thought-provoking and moved both her friends and teachers.”

The concert, run with the Royal British Legion and the ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, is a moving tribute to all who died in the Great War and in the intervening years.

Other highlights include a reading by North East Agony Aunt Denise Robertson and performances from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Band, the 102 Battalion REME Pipe Band and the Durham ACF Band and Bugles.

Tickets are £18 (£15 for concessions) and available by calling 07910 120727 with proceeds going to The Royal British Legion and the ABF The Soldiers’ Charity.

l Town to stop for war dead: Page 18