Friday, 23 January 2015

Dorothy Una Ratcliffe (1887 - 1967) - British

Dorothy was born Dorothy Una Clough in June 1887 in Preston, Steyning, Sussex, UK. Her parents were Charles Benson Clough from Scarborough in Yorkshire, a barrister and his wife Rose Emily Clough, nee Russell.  Dorothy was the eldest of the Clough girls – Winifred and Pauline were her sisters.  The girls were encouraged to take an interest in current affairs and literature and produced their first magazine when Dorothy was eleven years old.

Dorothy was sent to finishing school in Paris and Germany.  In Paris she studied opera singing, sharing a teacher with Dame Nelie Meba.

While on a family holiday in the Isle of Wight, Dorothy and Pauline met Charles and Victor Ratcliffe.   They were the sons of Frederick Ratcliffe and the nephews of his brother-in-law, chemical millionaire Edward Allen Brotherton, who became Lord Brotherton of Wakefield. Lord Brotherton’s sister Florence Ratcliffe, nee Brotherton, was Charles and Victor’s mother. 

Victor Ratcliffe was also a poet (one of the Forgotten Poets of WW1) and he and Dorothy got on extremely well.  However, on 21st September 1909, Dorothy married Charles, who was the more ambitious of the brothers, at St. Stephen’s Church in Kensington and Pauline became engaged to Victor Ratcliffe.

Dorothy’s marriage to Charles, however, was not a success and Dorothy began to help her husband’s uncle Lord Brotherton who by then was a childless widower.   He became Lord Mayor of Leeds in 1913 – 1914 and Dorothy was his Lady Mayoress – the youngest woman ever to hold the post.   For the Yorkshire Show in Bradford in July 1914, the Yorkshire Evening News set up the Great Yorkshire Show Airline with hourly flights between Leeds and Bradford. Dorothy was the first passenger to take the trip in the Blackburn type 1 plane piloted by Harold Blackburn an aviation pioneer.

During WW1, Dorothy helped Lord Brotherton to equip the Leeds Old Pals Regiment and also helped out with Belgian refugees. Dorothy was responsible for the collection of early printed books owned by Lord Brotherton and now in Leeds University Library.

After the failure of her first marriage in 1930, Dorothy married Noel McGrigor-Phillips with whom she purchased and renovated Temple Sowerby Manor in the Lake District.  This is now the National Trust property Acorn Bank in Cumbria.  Dorothy and Noel travelled extensively in Africa, Iceland and Greece, returning to the UK when war broke out in 1939.  

Noel died in 1942 and in 1947 Dorothy married Alfred Charles Vowles, a professional photographer from the West Country, with whom she toured Scotland in a caravan.  Dorothy refused to change her name so Alfred changed his to Phillips.  In the 1950s, they moved to Anne Street in Edinburgh.

After Alfred’s death, Dorothy went to live in a flat in North Berwick where she died in 1967.

Dorothy Una's WW1 poetry collections were:

"The Dales of Arcady", published by Erskine Macdonald in 1918

"Singing Rivers", published by The Bodley Head in 1922


Catherine W. Reilly "English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography" published by St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978