The Plague-Ground – We’ll Meet Again

Architecture has a new word to describe skyscrapers that are so high they really do scrape the sky. They’re called SuperTalls, and most of them are over 100 storeys. There are no SuperTalls in Canada. Our tallest building is rising 85-storeys at 1 Bloor West in Toronto,  which makes it only SuperTall-ish.

There’s also a category of people called SuperOlds who live to be over 100.

Their numbers are rising even faster than SuperTalls. In 1990, only 95,000 people in the world reached over 100. By this year, that’s grown to half a million and by 2050 it’s expected to be 3.6 million.  Being SuperOld can be baked in at birth. If you’re a baby girl born this morning in Tokyo, the chances of you living to be 100 are one in two.

Which brings me to Vera Lynn who died last week at age 103. She was born in 1917 in the First World War; she entertained British Troops in the Second World War; and on April 3rd The Queen ended her address in Britain’s War on COVID-19 by saying “We will meet again” – the title of Lynn’s most enduring song.

Then on May 8th, Lynn appeared as a hologram when she and Katherine Jenkins duetted virtually at the Royal Albert Hall which was empty because of the pandemic.

I first heard We’ll Meet Again in my 20s when Vera Lynn appeared on the Johnny Carson Show. The tune quickly became an earwig for me,  and being a sap for weepy lyrics, I grew teary whenever I heard it again. I confess now that I would seek out this song whenever my heart was broken or bursting.

I’m too young to have any real memory of her or that song or her even more famous White Cliffs of Dover. But my father did when he fought in the Pacific in the Second War, as did my brother Jim when he fought in Korea.

Jean and her sister Joyce also remember. They were very young girls growing up outside Hamilton during the War. As Joyce wrote Jean last week: “One last bit of news, Vera Lynn died today. What memories that news bring back from the past.  Remember the war movies, Jean, and how we cried?  I saw Vera Lynn at Hamilton Place and I cried straight for two hours.  Just had to play “We’ll meet again”.”

My other second-degree memory comes from my friend the singer, Russell Drago.

Twenty years ago, Russell lost his father-in-law, Ivan Basil Jackson, the RCAF pilot who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by George VI. Russell was going into the studio to record and decided to add The White Cliffs of Dover although he’d never sung it before. His band settled on a key and without rehearsal, this is what he created. To this day, and especially last week, he gets e-mails from the world over about the woman who inspired him.  “Something came across the microphone,” he told me, “and I don’t know what it was.”

But Vera Lynn was no One-War wonder. In 2009, at the age of 92, she became the oldest living artist to top the UK Albums Chart with the compilation album We’ll Meet Again: The Very Best of Vera Lynn.

The first person to be told about Dame Vera’s death was her close friend, Queen Elizabeth who is just 94, and whose mother, the widow of George VI, lived to be 101.

SuperOlds all of them.


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12 thoughts on “The Plague-Ground – We’ll Meet Again”

  1. Lovely column, Bob. I’ve listened again to We’ll Meet Again. Her voice is electrifying and soothing and inspiring all at once At the moment, I’m just PlainOld. 25 years to go for SuperOld status. I wonder if it gets me an Air Canada flight.

  2. What a Godsend she was to England & the war movement. Long may her music live on and tug at hearts everywhere.

  3. Peter Caldwell

    Thank you, Bob. I LOVED listening to Russell Drago’s beautiful rendition of White Cliffs of Dover.

  4. Loved Vera Lynn and thanks for introducing me to Russell Drago; loved his group and his voice. Got my hair appt. Whoopie

  5. Bob, nice column and thoughts. My mom~ Irish Canadian who was born in Halifax in ’31 and , I guess grew up with Vera Lynn and all those war songs, had a lovely voice and sang them many times to us as kids. So brings back many memories.

    1. Jane — I’m glad you liked Russell’s album. He’s a wonderful singer — and gladder to know you got your hair appointment.
      I’m going to be waiting a long time for mine!

  6. Katherine Holmes

    I remember as a young child , my family was driving home and it was dark. On the radio, The White Cliffs of Dover started to play. I will never forget that moment or the song. Next best is Ben Heppner and his song, Lilacs in the Spring. So full of hope. We need hope now.

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