Friday, 17 April 2015

Irene Butler (1901 - 1944)

Irene was born on 18th March 1901 in Wooler, Northumberland.  Her mother was descended from Count St Paul of the Austrian Empire and her paternal grandmother was Josephine Elizabeth Grey, a Victorian feminist. Irene attended Downe House School, where she was a friend of Jocelyn Ashley Dodd. 

After the war, Irene worked as private secretary to Lord Robert Cecil a former cabinet minister of the British Government.   Irene never married and died on 12th June 1944 near Chard in Somerset.

I receive quite a lot of feedback about my work.   I particularly liked the following comment from a lady called Elliott, who contacted me about Volume 1 of "Female Poets of the First World War":

"My favourite poem is "An English Victory" (on page 44) by Irene Butler who was a pupil at Downe House School during The First World War.   

One of my all-time favourite poets was Ian Curtis from the band Joy Division.  The moment I read Irene's poem it reminded me of much of Ian's work and I feel it is really something that a schoolgirl from 1914 could have such a similar style as a young man in the 1970s."

"An English Victory"

A Cavalry soldier is charging,
A Highlander runs by his side,
Both men are bent on enlarging
The gap in the hosts spreading wide.

Spreading wide in the Fair land of France
The mammoth-like hosts of the Huns,
Destroying with bayonet and lance,
With rifles and swords and with guns.

See how they fly in disorder,
Their hosts have diminished in size,
They fly as far as the border,
And vanish before our eyes.

They vanish for they are defeated,
Not a single soldier stands,
The Cavalry officer seated
On his horse, with his friend shakes hands.

Then may all the brave sons of Our Empire,
Who come from the country and street,
Desire their fame to rise higher,
And for Germany's army - defeat.

Written in Autumn 1914 by Irene Butler from Wooler, Northumberland.

With many thanks to Downe House School for permission to feature some of the poems written by pupils during the First World War in this commemorative exhibition project which is in loving memory of my Grandfather, an Old Contemptible who survived the war, and my Great Uncle, who was killed at Arras on Easter Monday, 9th April 1917 - the same day as Forgotten Poets of the First World War Edward Thomas and R.E. Vernède.

Photo:  Irene Butler