Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Celia, Lady Congreve (1867 – 1952) – British poet and WW1 nurse

Celia was born in India on 24th April 1867. She was baptised Cecelia Henrietta Dolores Blount la Touche on 3rd November 1867, in Rajkot, India, where her father was based.  Celia’s parents were Charles William Blount La Touche, a British Army Officer, and his wife, Rosa Wilhelmina, nee Müller.

On 3rd June 1890, Celia married Walter Norris Congreve VC KCB MVO (who was later knighted and became General Sir Walter Congreve), known as “Squibs” or “Old Concrete”, at St. Jude’s Church in Kensington, London, UK. Walter was an Army officer who served in the British Army during the Second Boer War and the First World War.  After WW1, he was General Officer Commanding the Egyptian Expeditionary Force between 1919 and 1923, Commander-in-Chief Southern Command between 1923 and 1924 and Governor of Malta from 1924 until his death in Malta in 1927.

Celia and Walter had the following children: William La Touche Congreve, VC, DSO, MC, Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur, Rifle Brigade, b. 1891 on the Wirral - William, known as “Billy”, was killed in action in 1916;
Commander Sir Geoffrey Cecil Congreve, DSO, RN., b. 19th July 1897, who was killed in WW2, and
Major Arthur Christopher John Congreve, b. 1903, who also served in the Second World War. Geoffrey Cecil Congreve was created a baronet of Congreve in the County of Stafford in July 1927.

In 1891, Celia was registered as living in Burton Hall (later Burton Manor), Burton, near Neston, Wirral, UK.

During the First World War, Celia served as a nurse in Belgium and France and was awarded the Reconnaissance Francaise and the Belgian Medaille de la Reine Elisabeth for being one of the last nurses to leave Antwerp with the wounded in 1914. She was also awarded the French Croix de Guerre for her bravery as a nurse at Rosières-aux-Salines, near Nancy, France.  The hospital was shelled and bombed by aircraft in 1918.

Celia died in Harrow on 4th September 1952.

Cellia’s WW1 poetry collection was “The Castle and other verses” (Humphreys, London, 1920).  One of her poems was included in “The Fiery Cross: an anthology”, edited by Mabel C. Edwards and Mary Booth (Grant Richards, Lonbdon, 1915) and, more recently, Dr Vivien Newman mentioned Celia in her book “Tumult and Tears:  The Story of The Great War through the eyes and lives of its women poets” (Pen & Sword History, Barnsley, Yorkshire, 2016).

Sources:  Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War:  A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burton_Manor
http://www.vconline.org.uk/william-l-congreve-vc/4586228117
https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=vZ-aBQAAQBAJ&pg=PT201&lpg=PT201&dq=celia+congreve&source=bl&ots=XE0rb4Fq1o&sig=5pV-UPGpv_eI2Gt-L556IJUcuHg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjkzO2jxsvbAhVLKsAKHU3XBA44ChDoAQhbMAk#v=onepage&q=celia%20congreve&f=false

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Ella Higginson (1862 – 1940 ) - American

I find it very exciting to discover a WW1 female poet I have not heard of  and Ella Rhodes Higginson falls into that category.

With grateful thanks to Marielle Stockton, Research Specialist in the Library of American Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, USA, for her posts on Twitter, that led to the discovery of Ella Higginson and to an exchange of e-mails, to Dr. Laura Laffrado, Professor of English at Western Washington University and the Director of the Ella Higginson Recovery Project and to Debbie Cameron for reminding me to look at Twitter.

Ella was born in Kansas, the youngest of six children. Her parents were Charles Reeve Rhoads and his wife, Mary A. Rhoads.  Ella began writing poetry at an early age and had one of her poems – “Dreams of the Past” -  published in  “The Oregon City” newspaper in 1875.

Ella Rhoads married Russell Carden Higginson. He came from a prominent family on the east coast that had established themselves during America's colonial period. Russell Carden Higginson is a cousin of Thomas Wentworth Higginson, the editor of Emily Dickinson's poetry. Ella is therefore relatec by marriage to the poet Mary Thacker Higginson, who was the wife of Thomas Wentworth Higginson.

During the First World War, Ella was a volunteer with the Bellingham Branchy of the American Red Cross and received the Red Cross Medal for her service.

“Song of the Evergreen Pine” is a poem that the Washington State Federation of Women’s Clubs asked Higginson to write for their 1915 convention. This poem appears in Ella Higginson: A Tribute, a slim volume published after her death in 1940 in which she selected many of the poems that would appear in it. This poem appears in no other books of Higginson’s.

The rivers to the ocean flow,
The sunsets burn and flee,
The stars come to the darkling sky,
The violets to the lea;
But I stay in one lone sweet place
And dream of the blue sea.

The harebell blooms and is away,
The salmon spawns and dies;
The oriole nests and is on the wing,
Calling her sweet good-bys;
But I, when blossoms and fruit are gone,
Yearn, steadfast to the skies.

I am a prayer and a praise,
A sermon and a song;
My leaf-chords thrill at the wind’s will
To nocturnes deep and strong;
Or to the sea’s far lyric melodies
They echo and prolong

When April flashing up the hill
Freshens my green attire,
I light my candle tall and pale
With holy scarlet fire—
And straight their incense mounts to God,
Pure as a soul’s desire.

My branches poise upon the air,
Like soft and living wings;
My trembling leaves the wind awakes
To a harp of emerald strings—
Or through the violet silences
A golden vesper sings.

I am a symbol and a sign . . .
Thro’ blue or rose or gray;
Thro’ rain and dark; thro’ storms of night,
Thro’ opaline lights of day—
Slowly and patiently up to God
I make my beautiful way.

“For Honor and for God” was printed on the front page of the Bellingham Herald on September 18, 1917. It was also published in a handbook of the Bellingham State Normal School, one of the state colleges for training teachers. This poem appears in no books of Higginson’s.

America, stand up! The time has come
      To blow shrill bugle-calls throughout this land.
      Drop the white flag of peace from they're firm hand,
And bid the long, wild rattle of the drum
Quicken the blood of men from shore to shore.
      Nations, on our swords gathered is no rust!
      Peace if it may be; red war if it must!
For we love peace—but we love honor more.


Fling out again o’er every battle-ship
      That old white flag with the inspired device—
      The pine-tree springing from the lowly sod
Thrilled big with prayer to its trembling tip!
      Then will the old fire melt these veins of ice,
      And we will fight—for honor and for God!

“God Has Not Spoken Yet” appears in the American Reveille in April of 1910, but in Ella Higginson: A Tribute the poem is reprinted and there it says that it was written in April of 1918. I believe that the poem was perhaps revised by Higginson and printed in a newspaper or periodical in 1918. This poem appears in no other books of Higginson’s.

God has not spoken yet!
The world’s dread horror struggles to its close;
Where France’s slopes today with blood are wet,
Next year will bloom the lily and the rose.

God has not spoken yet!
But when God speaks—whose side will God be on?
Will he the Invaders’ crimes forget,
Give night and shame, or Liberty and dawn?

God has not spoken yet—
But courage must not fail, nor faith grow weak;
To work! for Freedom’s sun must never set!
God has not spoken—but God will speak!

[under poem in type: “(Hohenzollern changed to Invaders.)—E. H.”] 

An interview with Dr. Laura Laffrado https://www.c-span.org/video/?316868-1/ella-higginson-pacific-northwest

Follow Marielle’s tweets here https://twitter.com/HigginsonBlog

The Photograph of Ella taken during the 1890s is from her Wikipedia entry (27 May 2018).

Friday, 27 April 2018

Mary Symon (1863 – 1938) – Scottish Poet

With thanks to https://twitter.com/GirvansFallen on Twitter for reminding me that I had not yet researched Mary Symon, who is on my List of Female Poets of the First World War.

Mary was born on 25th September 1863 in Dufftown, Moray in Banffshire, Scotland. Dufftown is in the ancient parish of Mortlach.  Her parents were John Symon, a Saddler and Merchant who was a Provost of Dufftown, and his wife, Isabella Symon, nee Duncan.  Mary had a younger sister, Elizabeth, who was born in 1866.

Mary began writing poetry at an early age. She was educated locally at Mortlach Public School, then attended the Edinburgh Institute for Young Ladies. She attended classes at Edinburgh University and graduated from St. Andrew’s University .

Mary died in Dufftown on 27 May 1938

Mary’s WW1 collection "Deveron Days, poems" was published by Wyllie, Aberdeen in 1933.  Mary's poem was also published in "A Book of Twentieth-Century Scots verse" (Gowan & Gray, Glasgow, 1925). 

For an article by Leanne Welsh about Mary’s poem "The Soldiers' Cairn", please see:  http://www.westscotlandrce.co.uk/the-soldiers-cairn.html

 
“The Soldiers' Cairn” by Mary Symon

Gie me a hill wi' the heather on't,

An' a reid sun drappin' doon,

Or the mists o' the mornin' risin' saft

Wi' the reek owre a wee grey toon.

Gie me a howe by the lang Glen road,

For it's there 'mang the whin and fern

(D'ye mind on't, Will? Are ye hearin', Dod

That we're biggin' the Soldiers' Cairn.

Far awa’ is the Flanders land

Wi' fremmit France atween,

But mony a howe o' them baith the day

Has a hap o' the Gordon green.

It's them we kent that's lyin' there,

An' it's nae wi' stane or airn

But wi' brakin' herts, an' mem'ries sair,

That we're biggin' the Soldiers' Cairn.

Doon, laich doon the Dullan sings—

An' I ken o' an aul' sauch tree,

Where a wee loon's wahnie's hingin' yet

That's dead in Picardy;

An' ilka win' fae the Conval's broo

Bends aye the buss o' ern,

Where aince he futtled a name that noo

I'll read on the Soldiers' Cairn.

Oh! build it fine and build it fair,

Till it leaps to the moorland sky —

More, more than death is symbolled there,

Than tears or triumphs by.

There's the Dream Divine of a starward way

Our laggard feet would learn—

It's a new earth's corner-stone we'd lay

As we fashion the Soldiers' Cairn.

 

……………………………

 

Lads in your plaidies lyin' still

In lands we'll never see,

This lanely cairn on a hameland hill

Is a' that oor love can dee;

An' fine an' braw we'll mak' it a',

But oh, my Bairn, my Bairn,

It’s a cradle’s croon that’II aye blaw doon

To me fae the Soldiers' Cairn.

 



And Find my Past

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Hannah Sarah Taylor, nee Lawson - A 'silver-haired' poetess


Meanwhile, over on Twitter, BlitzDetective has found me a WW1 female poet who entertained people sheltering in air raid shelters during the WW2 Blitz by reading her poems to them.  I am hoping to enlarge upon this find.

My grateful thanks to BlitzDetective for contacting me with such an amazing find: 
Hannah Sarah Lawson was born on 21st June 1867 in Camberwell, London, UK.  Her mother was nee Barnett.  In 1889, Hannah married John Harry Taylor and they had two children – Cyril, born 17th July 1902, and Alice.


During the Second World War, in an air raid shelter in Blenheim Grove, Peckham, UK, a make-shift brazier gave out warmth and light.  A few people got out of their bunks and gather quietly in the firelight.  A little silver-haired old lady was reading from a thick exercise book:

“Forward, onward, upward and though your heart may break,

 Faith can pierce the densest mist that hides the highest peak.

Then when your life’s work’s ended, and you cross death’s silver streak

Earth will be just a little better for your climb towards the peak.”  

“I wrote that in 1914”, said 73 year old Mrs Hannah Taylor in a report in the “South London Press” newspaper during WW2:

It’s nearly 60 years since this Peckham widow wrote her first poetry – it was blank verse - a small play inspired by a recitation she had heard.  The playlette is enacted for their own amusement by herself and a few friends in her home at King’s Cross.  Since then, during a busy life, as mother of five and wife of a hard-working husband, she has gradually filled the pages of a number of exercise books with neatly written plays and stanzas, ranging over all topics – moral, political and romantic.  Many of the people who listen to her poems while the Blitz rages outside, have heard her reciting from the platform at Co-operative and Band of Hope concerts.
They may also enjoy the drawings of 38-year old Cyril Taylor hung up on the walls of the air raid shelter as a background to his mother’s poetic evening.   She has a mother’s pride in them.
Mrs Taylor told a “South London Press” reporter who saw her at her home in Copleston Road, Peckham – she said “I have never tried to get any of my stuff published.  Whenever I have something to say, I put it into poetry.  Before the war, I recited my verses at a great many concerts.  Now I have taken the books in which they are written to a shelter for safety and read them at night as some like to listen.”

This woman who has dedicated her spare time to brightening the hours for others has a heart-ache of her own.  Each time the postman knocks at her house with its boarded windows, she hurries to scan the letter hoping it will contain news of her daughter, Alice and the Belgian husband with whom she returned to Belgium after the last war.  They had previously lived at Hannover Park, Peckham.  When they last wrote, the husband, Mr Theo Larsen, was Manager of the Carleton Hotel, Antwerp and their private address was Rue Berchemhoff, no. 5, Berchem, Province of Antwerp.  This letter said that the Germans had crossed the Belgian frontier.  No correspondence had followed.

“I have written to the Red Cross but they haven’t been able to help me”, says Mrs Taylor. “I keep wondering what has happened to my girl.”  Meanwhile, reading aloud by the brazier in the shelter, she tells Hitler
“Whatever you do to our people, however you smash London Town,
We still have Old England, our England, You can’t keep Old England down.”

From “The South London Press” during WW2.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Exhibition of Poetry written by Schoolchildren during the First World War

My latest exhibition, which features Poetry Written by Schoolchildren in the UK during the First World War, is now on display at The Wilfred Owen Story in Argyle Street, Birkenhead, Wirral, UK.  The exhibition was opened on 17th March 2018 (the day before Wilfred Owen's birthday) and a bust of Wilfred Owen sculpted by Anthony Padgett was unveiled on the same day by local MP Frank Field.  Here is a link to a BBC North West Tonight news report of the event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=78b40hAbqb8
 
Among the poets featured are the girl who went on to use the pen-name Temple Lane, the daughter of poet E.V. Lucas and the future wife of Geoffrey Faber who founded the publishing company Faber & Faber because she did not like the smell of the Faber family brewery.
 
Entry is free and the WOS is open from Tuesdays to Fridays from 12 noon until 2 pm (winter opening times) but it is advisable to phone first as the museum is manned by volunteers - 07903 337995. 
 
The Wilfred Owen Story,
34 Argyle Street,
Birkenhead, Wirral, UK,
CH41 6AE
 
Panels from previous exhibitions held at the WOS, including that featuring some of the poets involved in the Battles of Messines (Mesen), Passchendaele and after in 1917, Poets of the Battle of Arras in 1917, Poets of the Somme 1916, Female Poets of the First World War, Inspirational Women of World War One and Fascinating Facts of the Great War, are available to view on file at The Wilfred Owen Story.  Other exhibitions are planned.
 
Photo of the exhibition panels taken by Paul Breeze of www.poshupnorth.com
 

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Alice R. Cron (1859 – 1935) – British

Alice was born Alice Rebecca Taylor in Hackney, London, UK in 1859.   Her parents were Robert Stephen Taylor and his wife Alice. Alice Rebecca had the following siblings:  Mary Louisa, b. 1861, Henry Morris, b. 1863, Annie E., b. 1858 and Catherine (Kitty), b. 1869

In 1880, Alice married a German national called James Philip Cron, a glove manufacturer.   In 1891 they lived in Heathland Road, Stoke Newington and in 1911 they lived in Amhurst Park, Stamford Hill, Hackney.

Alice died on 8th August 1935 and was buried in Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington.

I would love to know more about Alice.  As she is described as a writer and poet on her headstone, I would love to find other poems written by Alice and to find a photograph of her. If anyone can help, please get in touch.

Alice’s poem (see left) “The Call of their King“ was published on page 46 of “One Hundred of the Best Poems on the European War, Volume 2 By women poets of the Empire“, edited by Charles Frederick Forshaw and published by Elliot Stock in 1916.  This WW1 anthology is available to read as a free down-load on Archive:


 
With grateful thanks to Marina Szijanto for reminding me that I had not yet researched Alice and for sending me the beautiful photograph of Alice’s headstone, which she recently visited.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

A book about WW1 poet Millicent, Duchess of Sutherland - "The Hospital in the Oatfield: The Art of Nursing in the First World War


“The Hospital in the Oatfield:  The Art of Nursing in the First World War” Edited by Natasha McEnroe and Tig Thomas, published by The Florence Nightingale Museum, London, 2014. £7.99 from the Museum Shop.

“A physician gives his blessing, the surgeon does the operation.  But it is the nurse who does the work.”  Henry Souttar, Surgeon
 
In 1915, French artist Victor Tardieu painted some of the scenes at the Hospital in the Oatfield, organised by Millicent, Duchess of Sutherland in France in the early days of WW1. I found out about those paintings while researching women poets of the First World War for an exhibition in November 2012 – Millicent was among the first poets I researched.   The paintings were on display for sale at an auction house in London, so I was very pleased to learn that the Florence Nightingale Museum in London had purchased them.

I was even more delighted to find out that there is a book about the paintings – this is indeed good news for those unable to visit the Museum.  In this beautiful book, you will find a chapter about Victor Tardieu, as well as lovely colour prints of his paintings.

But this is not just a book about Tardieu’s paintings, or about Millicent Sutherland. Natasha McEnroe and Tig Thomas have done a brilliant and meticulous job of editing the eight guest-written chapters and ensuring continuity.  These articles are interspersed with brief quotes taken from diaries and records kept by nurses Olive Dent and Enid Bagnold at the time of WW1, together with some amazing black and white photographs, a large number of which were taken by Dr. Oswald Gayer Morgan who worked with the Duchess of Sutherland. 

The book begins with a Foreword by Millicent’s grand-daughter, Elizabeth Millicent, Countess of Sutherland.  Chapter 1, by Simon Chaplin and Natasha McEnroe, is about the Duchess and includes contributions from relatives of two of the doctors who worked with Millicent.  Chapter 2, by Emily Mayhew is about the nurses of WW1.  Chapter 3, about voluntary and professional nursing in WW1, is by the late Sue Light, whose website Scarlet Finders is a wonderful reminder of her work.  Chapter 4, by Eric von Arni, explains the work of The Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, while Chapter 5, by, Christine Hallett, is entitled “The Traumas of Conflict”.  Chapter 6,, by Danuta Kneebone, is about Tardieu and his paintings and Chapter 7, “The Stylish Nurse 1914 – 1918” by Frederic A. Shaarf and Jill Carey, tells us about some of the American nurses of WW1, what they wore and where the sourced their uniforms and leisure wear.

The final chapter of the book, “All the Living and all the Dead” by Holly Carter-Chappell, Collections Assistant at the Florence Nightingale Museum, describes the Victorian and Edwardian ways of mourning which changed dramatically during the war to end all wars and touches upon the collective mourning experienced in Britain that continues to this day, especially for those of us who have relatives killed in the conflict who have no known grave.

I found a lot of very interesting information in the book and it is hard to pick out just a few items for the purpose of this review.  A photograph of a nurse washing her hair using a bowl on page 19, answered a question I have asked for a long time.  I wondered how on earth the nurses managed to keep clean with their long skirts and long hair in the truly awful conditions they worked and lived in.  A photograph of the dismantling of the Hospital in the Oatfield in the autumn of 1915 on page 23 is also fascinating.

I was particularly interested in a detailed explanation of gas gangrene on page 8, followed by the Carrel-Dakin method of wound irrigation. There is a photograph of the system on page 9. 

It is also interesting to read about the recreational activities of the nurses, who worked very long hours in such difficult conditions but shocking to read of the number of nurses killed or drowned by enemy action during the war. 

The last, very positive word, goes to Olive Dent, one of the WW1 nurses quoted in the book, which I feel is very fitting.

With an Epilogue, Bibliography and brief biographies of contributors, this is a book you will want to refer to again and again and it is a fitting tribute to the wonderful women who nursed during the First World War.  When you compare the standards, facilities and medication of the 21st Century with what was available in the early days of the 20th Century, their work, the number of lives they saved against all odds and their dedication and good humour in the most awful conditions, becomes all the more remarkable.

Emily Edridge (1853 – 1939) – British

It is always exciting to discover a hitherto unknown poet and, thanks to a dear friend in America, here is another.

Emily Edridge was born on 21st January 1853 in Bilston, Staffordshire.  Her parents were Richard Edridge, a tea importer, and his wife Henrietta.  Emily had the following siblings:  Julia (b. 1852), Fanny (1855 – 1949), Alice (1859 – 1924) and Kate (b. 1856).  In 1911, the family lived in Tetterhall Road, Wolverhampton.

Educated at home, Emily demonstrated an aptitude for writing poetry and had her work published in local newspapers.  Her poetry collection “Winter Flowers and Other Verses” was published in 1932 and includes several poems about the First World War.

Russell Markland included an example of Emily’s work in his anthology “Staffordshire Poets” (1928), which was co-edited by Charles Henry Poole.

My grateful thanks to Mark for sending me this information about Emily. I am now looking for some of her poems.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Emma Wright Brown 1917

With sincere  thanks to Lynne Sidaway for sending me this poem from "The Times Despatch", Richmond, Virginia, USA of 2nd September 1917. Lynne tells me that the poem seems to have been entered into a competition organised by the newspaper:

"A Poem" by Emma Wright Brown

A soldier lay dying on the battlefield:
He had been shot by a German soldier,
A Red Cross nurse by him kneeled,
To see what was the matter.

He is dying” she said. “Oh , what shall I do,
“He will die if he stays here much longer”
A moment more she thought she knew
The poor dying soldier.

Again she looked into his face;
So peaceful and calm he lay.
She asked the Lord to give her grace
To save him another day.

She did not recognize him to be
Her only beloved brother
Who had been stolen away so long ago
From his poor old darling mother.

At once she noticed a scar on his leg
That was made during his childhood:
She knew now he must be her brother
So calm and peaceful and good.

The rain now began to fall
While mournings filled the air
Then he gave up!
And his last words were
Tell Mother I’ll be there.”

 
Emma Wright Brown

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Chris O'Hara's "Scars upon their Hearts" composition using women's poetry of WW1

North West composer Chris O'Hara approached me some years ago via this weblog, with regard to poetry written by women during WW1.  

Chris wanted to set some of the poems written by women to music and has now completed his work.  It is entitled "Scars upon their Hearts” and Chris selected the poems “There Will Come Soft Rains” by Sara Teasdale,“The Dancers” by Edith Sitwell, “Perhaps” by Vera Brittain and “Rouen” by May Wedderburn Cannan.

"Scars upon their Hearts" will be premiered on 24th March 2018 during a commemorative concert organised by The Manchester Chorale.  The concert is to take place at Bury Parish Church, Bury, Lancashire, BL9 0AH.  The concert features Faure’s Requiem and begins at 19.30.

Tickets are £10 or £5 concessions on the door, from Bury Tourist Board at the Fusiliers Museum or via the Manchester Chorale website https://www.manchesterchorale.org.uk/