Sunday, 5 November 2017

Catherine W. Reilly (1925 – 2005) – British Librarian and writer ("Scars Upon My Heart")

I began my research into poetry written by women during the First World War by reading Catherine W. Reilly's anthology "Scars upon my Heart".  Then I discovered her "English Poetry of the First World War:  A Bibliography" and this has been my constant companion ever since.  I always check there first when I am researching a poet. I could not have made much progress without those two publications, so I felt I ought to add a tribute to Catherine W. Reilly's wonderful pioneering research into women's poetry of WW1.
Catherine Winifred Reilly was born on 4th April 1925 in Stretford, Lancashire, UK, the eldest of four children. Her mother’s maiden name was Macaulay and her maternal grandmother came from Ireland.  Catherine won a scholarship to Hollies Convent, a Roman Catholic Grammar School in south Manchester, which was evacuated to Clitheroe in Lancashire during in 1939.

When Catherine left school she worked for the public libraries in Manchester.  In 1947 she became Assistant Borough Librarian for Trafford in Lancashire.

Catherine is most famous for her war poetry anthologies:

“Scars Upon my Heart*: Women’s Poetry and Verse of the First World War” and “Chaos of the Night**:  Women’s Poetry and Verse of World War Two”.

For her research into the amazing “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography” which took four years to complete at a time when the Internet was still a dream, Catherine was awarded a Fellowship of the Library Association.   In that work she identified 2,225 British men and women who wrote and published poetry or verse during the First World War, with a section at the back naming some of the Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, South African and American poets of the era.

In 1980, Catherine attended Merton College, Oxford where she studied for an M.Litt.  The result of that was “English Poetry of the Second World War: A Bibliography” which was published in 1986 by G.K. Hall & Co., Boston, Mass., USA.  For that work Catherine received the Besterman Medal for Bi*bliography.

Catherine also published “Winged Words***: Victorian Women’s Poetry and Verse” (Enitharmon, 1994) and was working on an early Victorian women’s poetry anthology when she died in Sale, Cheshire, UK on 26th September 2005.

*Title taken from a line in a poem by Vera Brittain.

**Title taken from a line in a poem by Frances Cornford.

***Title taken from a line in a poem by Mary Coleridge.