Friday, 5 July 2019

Anna Gordon Keown (1899–1957) - British author and poet

With thanks to Connie Ruzich for reminding me that I had not yet researched
Anna Gordon Keown who is on the List

Anna Gordon Keown was born on 8th December 1899, the daughter of Robert Keown, a London wool merchant, and his wife Sarah, nee Gordon. Anna had the following siblings: : Robert, born in 1894 and Elizabeth, born in 1895.

Anna and her sister were educated initally at home by a Swiss governess and then at Cheltenham Ladies College and in Dresden, Germany. In 1921, Anna married William H. Seymour but the marriage did not last and in 1927 the couple divorced. 

In 1943, Anna married writer and physician Dr Philip Gosse (1879–1959), son of the poet Sir Edmund Gosse. When Anna died, Philip presented a large collection of literature to the University of Leeds in her memory. This is known as the Keown Collection and is contained within the Brotherton Collection.

“Reported Missing” by Anna Gordon Keown was written during the First World War

My thought shall never be that you are dead:
Who laughed so lately in this quiet place.
The dear and deep-eyed humour of that face
Held something ever-living, in Death's stead.
Scornful I hear the flat things they have said
And all their piteous platitudes of pain.
I laugh! I laugh! -- For you will come again -
This heart would never beat if you were dead.
The world's adrowse in twilight hushfulness,
There's purple lilac in your little room,
And somewhere out beyond the evening gloom
Small boys are culling summer watercress.
Of these familiar things I have no dread
Being so very sure you are not dead.

“War Verse” New York Crowell 1918 Ed. Frank Foxcroft and 7th Edition

The introduction to Anna Gordon Keown’s Collected Poems, published in 1953, was written by Siegfried Sassoon, whose family were close friends of the Gosse family.


Find my Past and Free BMD

Catherine W. Reilly, “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978)  p. 187 “Collected Poems” by Anna Gordon Keown (Caravel, London, 1953) with an introduction by Siegfried Sassoon

Illustration:  Cover of one of Anna's books.

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Ena Limebeer (1897 – 1984) – writer, artist and poet - schoolgirl poet of WW1

Ena was featured in the Exhibition of Poetry Written by School Pupils during the First World War, held at The Wilfred Owen Story in Birkenhead, Wirral, in March 2018

Ena Victoria Limebeer was born on 17th June 1897 in St. Mary Islington, Middlesex, in the north of London, UK. Her parents were Alfred J. Limebeer, an electrical mechanician, and his wife, Annie Emilia, nee Jefford.  Ena had two siblings – Alfred John, b. 1891, and Effie, b. 1895.

Educated at the North London Collegiate School in Camden, a school exclusively for girls, founded in 1850 by Frances Mary Buss, Suffragette and pioneer of advanced girls' education, Ena went on to study art and become a writer and artist.

On 9th June 1923, Ena married political scientist, originally from Bucharest, David Mitrany (1888 - 1975). The couple went to live in Kingston Blount, near Oxford. In 1929, Ena and her husband moved to America, where David had a visiting professorship at Harvard University and lectured at Yale University. In 1933, he became a permanent member of the newly established Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton University. In September 1939, Ena and David returned to Britain.

After their return from America, Ena and David lived at The Lower Farm in Kingston Blount and also had a flat in London in Grove End Road, London NW 8. David Mitrany died in July 1975 and, following the death of her husband, Ena lived in Westminster, London.

Ena had poems and short stories published in magazines such as “New Age”, “The New Statesman”, “The Nation” and “The Athenaeum”, where Leonard Woolf was the literary editor. A collection of Ena’s poems was published by the Hogarth Press in July 1924: "To a Proud Phantom" - hand-printed and hand-bound by the Woolfs.

Ena also became famous for her watercolour paintings and exhibited them in the UK and at the Paris Salon during the 1960s. She painted all her life and after the publication of her last novel, focused entirely on painting. Ena signed her pictures in block letters: either EB or ENA LIMEBEER.  She died in the winter of 1984 in Westminster.

 “A Hero” by E. Limebeer, Form VI, North London Collegiate School

Was he dead? Had I heard it aright?
No, for there was his image imprinted in gold on my mind.
Does he live? The prince of men’s sight
No, for I wander ‘neath cypress, his flower-decked tomb to find.

Then ‘tis true? They told me, I know:
But I find not his tomb in the shadows down in the cypress glade.
And softly they answer and low,
“Only a rough wooden cross stands quiv’ring ‘neath Ardennes’ grey shade.

“Not as other men died,
Fighting with failing breath.
None were close at his side,
To sweeten the pangs of his death.

“Straight he stood and his eyes
Saw more than his slayers knew.
He watched his life sun rise,
His death star fade from view.

“They laugh at him who died
To keep his captain’s word,
And deeply in his side
In scorn they plunge their sword.

“And now beneath the shade
Of Ardennes’ leaves he lies.
Mourn not! All stars must fade
When Suns in glory rise.”

(First published in North London Collegiate School Magazine, 1915) and reproduced here by kind permission of Jenny Bartlett, Librarian, North London Collegiate School, to whom grateful thanks are due for her help in finding other poems written by pupils during WW1.

Ena also features in Volume 2 of Female Poets of the First World War -

“To a Proud Phantom”. Hogarth Press, London, 1924

Exhibition of Poetry Written by Schoolchildren during WW1,
WOS, March 2018

Here is a link to a news report about the opening of the exhibition of Poetry written by Schoolchildren during WW1 at the WOS on 17th March 2018:

Additional information from:

Self Portrait by Ena from

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Laurie Cruwys (1900 – 1983) – Wimbledon School WW1 Poet

The idea to research poetry written by schoolchilren during WW1 came to me after
reading "Peter Pan's XI" about J.M. Barrie's Recreational Cricket Team who played their last cricket match at Downe House School

Exhibition of Poetry Written by School Children during WW1

Born on 15th June 1900 in Clapham, Laurie was the only child of Lawrence Cruwys, a Metropolitain Police Court Usher, and his wife, Sarah Louise, nee Hicks.

Laura attended Wimbledon High School (then known as Wimbledon Hill School), which was one of the schools in the Girls’ Public Day School Trust.  The GPDST was set up in 1872 to offer reasonably priced secondary education to girls of all classes.  Laura was about twelve years old when she wrote this poem:

“Oh! Up and Fight!” by Laurie Crowys, Lower IV Class

Come lads, come boys, come men young and old,
Oh! Put down your axe,
And leave your plough,
Lay down your pen,
And take up the gun.
Oh! Up and fight for the dear Motherland
That has borne and bred and kept you.
Away to the War and conquer your foes,
For your home that is queen of the seas.
Oh! Up and fight for the dear Motherland
That is queen of the brave and the free.
And when ye have conquered your numerous foes
Come back to bonnie Old England,
And take up your axe,
And go back to your plough,
And do all that your duty bids you.

Laurie Cruwys

By kind permission of Kelly Jones, Archivist, Wimbledon High School

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Katharine Tynan (23 January 1859 – 2 April 1931) – Irish writer and poet

"Windy Corner in the Battle of Jutland",  Charles Edward Dixon
Remembering all those who lost their lives in the Battle of Jutland, a sea battle of the First World War that took place on 31st May – 1st June 1916, here is a poem by Katharine Tynan entitled “After Jutland” from George Herbert Clarke, Editor (1873–1953),  “A Treasury of War Poetry” (1917), p. 327

The City of God is late become a seaport town
For the clean and bronzed sailors walking up and down
And the bearded Commanders, the Captains so brave,
Bringing there the taste of the sea from the salt sea wave.

There are boys in the City's streets make holiday
And all around are playing-fields and the boys at play;
They dive in clear waters, climb many a high tree,
They look out as they used to do for a ship at sea.

The sailor keeps a clean soul on the seas untrod;
There is room in the great spaces for the Vision of God
Walking on the waters, bidding him not fear;
He has the very cleanest eyes a man can wear.

There's salt wind in Heaven and the salt sea-spray,
And the little midshipmen boys are shouting at their play,
There's a soft sound of waters lapping on the shore,
The sailor he is home from sea to go back no more.

Katharine Tynan (1859 – 1931) – Irish writer and poet

Katharine was born on 23rd January 1859 into a large farming family in Clondalkin, County Dublin, and educated at St. Catherine's, a convent school in Drogheda. Her first poetry was published in 1878. She met and became friendly with the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins in 1886.

After her marriage in 1898 to writer and barrister Henry Albert Hinkson (1865–1919), Katharine  usually wrote using the name Katharine Tynan Hinkson.. Her daughter, Pamela m. Hinkson (1900–1982), also became a writer.

Katharine was a close associate of William Butler Yeats and corresponded with the poet Francis Ledwidge.

Katharine Tynan Hinkson died on 2nd April 1931 in Wimbledon, London.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

"Many such as She - Victorian AustralianWomen Poets of World War One" by Michael Sharkey

"Many such as She - Victorian Australian Women Poets of World War One" is much more than just another WW1 poetry anthology. 

Michael Sharkey goes into a great deal of detail about all the poets featured who were from the Australian State of Victoria.  In addition to biographical details and photographs, Michael has also included several poems by each of the women poets featured.

"Many such as She - Victorian AustralianWomen Poets of World War One", Editedf by Michael Sharkey - published by Walleah Press, Tasmania, Australia in 2018.

I will have to check my List of Female Poets to make sure they are all included.

Friday, 31 May 2019

Nellie Letitia McClung (1873 – 1951) – Canadian writer, poet, suffragette and politician

With grateful thanks to Liz Tobin for suggesting I research Nellie McClung and for sending me the link to Nellie’s book

Helen Letitia Mooney was born on 20th October 1873 in Chatsworth, Ontario, Canada, the youngest daughter of John Mooney, an Irish immigrant farmer and his Scottish-born wife, Letitia, nee McCurdy. Nellie’s siblings were Will, George, Elizabeth, Jack and Hannah.

Her father's farm failed and the family moved to Manitoba in 1880. She received six years of formal education and did not learn to read until she was nine years old.  Nellie later moved with her family to a homestead in the Souris Valley of Manitoba.

Between 1904 and 1915, Nellie McClung, her husband Robert McClung, a pharmacist, and their five children - four sons and a daughter - lived in Winnipeg, Manitoba where, from 1911 until 1915, McClung fought for women's suffrage.

In both the 1914 and 1915 Manitoba provincial elections, Nellie campaigned for the Liberal party on the issue of the vote for women. She helped organize the Women's Political Equality League. A public speaker known for her sense of humour, Nellie played a leading role in the successful Liberal campaign in 1914.  However, when Manitoba became the first Province in Canada to grant women the vote on 28 January 1916, Nellie was living in Edmonton, Alberta.

Nellie founded the Winnipeg Political Equality League and the Federated Women's Institutes of Canada and the Women's Institute of Edmonton, of which she was the first President. She was active in the Canadian Authors' Association, the Canadian Women's Press Club, the Methodist Church of Canada, the Calgary Women's Literary Club.

Nellie was active in many organizations. She was one of ‘The Famous Five’ (also called The Valiant Five), with Irene Parlby, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Emily Murphy and Louise McKinney. In 1927, the five put forward a petition to clarify the term "Persons" in Section 24 of the British North America Act 1867. This section had served to exclude women from political office. The petition was successful, clearing the way for women to enter politics in Canada.

Nellie died on 1st September 1951, but her legacy lives on.

Nellie wrote 16 books. Her first, “Sowing Seeds in Danny”, was published in 1908, and became the best seller of the year in Canada, eventually running into 17 editions.  Her other works include "The Second Chance,"
  "The Black Creek Stopping House," and "In Times like These"

Two of Nellie’s poems – from “The Next of Kin - Those who Wait and Wonder” by Nellie L. McClung, (Thomas Allen, Toronto, 1917), which is available as a download on Gutenberg: this …


  Sing a song of the Next of Kin,
    A weary, wishful, waiting rhyme,
  That has no tune and has no time,
    But just a way of wearing in!

  Sing a song of those who weep
    While slow the weary night hours go;
  Wondering if God willed it so,
    That human life should be so cheap!

  Sing a song of those who wait,
    Wondering what the post will bring;
  Saddened when he slights the gate,
    Trembling at his ring,--

  The day the British mail comes in
  Is a day of thrills for the Next of Kin.



  O Thou, who once Thine own Son gave
    To save the world from sin,
  Draw near in pity now we crave
    To all the Next of Kin.
  To Thee we make our humble prayer
  To save us from despair!

  Send sleep to all the hearts that wake;
    Send tears into the eyes that burn;
  Steady the trembling hands that shake;
    Comfort all hearts that mourn.
  But most of all, dear Lord, we pray
  For strength to see us through this day.

  As in the wilderness of old,
    When Thou Thy children safely led,
  They gathered, as we have been told,
    One day's supply of heavenly bread,
  And if they gathered more than that,
  At evening it was stale and flat,--

  So, Lord, may this our faith increase--
    To leave, untouched, to-morrow's load,
  To take of grace a one-day lease
    Upon life's winding road.
  Though round the bend we may not see,
  Still let us travel hopefully!

  Or, if our faith is still so small--
    Our hearts so void of heavenly grace,
  That we may still affrighted be
    In passing some dark place--
  Then in Thy mercy let us run
    Blindfolded in the race.

Source: Wikipedia

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Alice Gore-Jones (1887-1961) – Australian Poet

Alice was born in Toowong, near Brisbane, Australia on 29th May 1887. She was educated in Queensland and New South Wales and began writing and publishing poetry at an early age. 

Alice worked for many years as a journalist on the social pages of Brisbane newspapers, most notably the  “Telegraph”, now no longer published.

Alice died in 1961.

“Spring, 1916” by Alice Gore-Jones

The purple jacaranda bells are fluttering in the air;
The mango trees are budding, there is sunshine everywhere.
By silver creeks the willows droop their long green shining hair.
The peewee sends its piping call from tree-tops far and high;
A limpid stretch of azure is the pale unruffled sky;
While an ancient joy is stirring that will never never die.
Though the world be rocked with anguish till its outer portals ring,
You cannot rob existence of this strange and subtle thing,
When the sap in man and nature hears the hoyden call of Spring.
When the sap in man and nature feels a swift and sudden stir,
And the pipes of Spring are pulsing through the perfume-laden air,
Ah! the pity of youth's pageant that the young dead may not share.

From Alice Gore-Jones’ WW1 collection “Troop Trains”( Hassell, Adelaide, 1917).

“The Link” a Circular Letter published weekly during WW1, linking Queenslanders at Home and at the Front, had this to say about Alice’s collection in their issue Vol. I.— No. 15, September 27th 1917.


Some of you at home have already purchased
' Troop Trains" and other verses, by Alice
Gore-Jones, which came just too late for notice
last week. I hope lots of them will be posted
to you lads for Christmas, I would like to quote
some and started with 'that intention, but "The
Link" has to be small to go as a letter and
there are so many I'm sure you would like.


Thursday, 23 May 2019

Mary Gabrielle Collins (1874 - 1945) - British poet

Mary Gabrielle Collins was born on 31st August 1874 in Penderyn, near Aberdare, Wales, the eldest of eight children born to Henry Ellis, a banker, and his wife, Mary Collins, nee Akerman.  Mary had the following siblings:  Kate, Gwendoline, Henry, William, John, James and Isabel. The children were educated at  home by a governess and the family had a German and a French maid servant.

By 1901, Mary had moved with her mother to London and was living at 67, Wiltshire Road, Brixton. By 1911, she was living in Temple Fortune, Golders Green. She was a writer and journalist and acting editor of a religious publication.   Mary became a minister in the the Congregational Church and was based at the North Bow Congregational Church. Mary died in 1945 and was cremated at Golders Green Cemetery, London.

Mary Gabrielle Collins’ WW1 poetry collection was entitled “Branches unto the Sea”. It was published by Erskine Macdonald, London in 1916.

I very rarely comment on the poems featured. I don’t think it is fair unless one is able to discuss the poem with the writer.  However, it is interesting that Mary’s most famous poem “Women at Munition Making” is heavily criticised these days but, as I see it, Mary is simply ‘telling it like it is’.  The First World War was a terrible shock to the whole world - roles were reversed and every man, woman and child did their bit.

“Women at Munition Making”

Their hands should minister unto the flame of life,
Their fingers guide
The rosy teat, swelling with milk,
To the eager mouth of the suckling babe
Or smooth with tenderness,
Softly and soothingly,
The heated brow of the ailing child.
Or stray among the curls
Of the boy or girl, thrilling to mother love.
But now,
Their hands, their fingers
Are coarsened in munition factories.
Their thoughts, which should fly
Like bees among the sweetest mind flowers
Gaining nourishment for the thoughts to be,
Are bruised against the law,
‘Kill, kill’.
They must take part in defacing and destroying the natural body
Which, certainly during this dispensation
Is the shrine of the spirit.
O God!
Throughout the ages we have seen,
Again and again
Men by Thee created
Cancelling each other.
And we have marvelled at the seeming annihilation
Of Thy work.
But this goes further,
Taints the fountain head,
Mounts like a poison to the Creator’s very heart.
O God!
Must It anew be sacrificed on earth?

Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978)
Find my Past

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Eva Gore Booth (poet) and Con Markievicz (artist) – Irish sisters

I couldn not write about Eva without mentioning her elder sister, Constance.

 “...two girls in silk kimonos both beautiful, one a gazelle” W. B. Yeats

Eva Gore-Booth (1870 - 1926) - Irish

Eva and her sister Constance were described as being 'flamboyant' and 'reactionary'.  It sounds as though they were strong, independent women.  They were both passionate supporters of the growing feminist movement at that time and created a publication called "Urania", which discussed questions of gender and sexuality.  They were also actively involved in the political scene in Ireland.  The sisters died within a year of each other,.

Eva Selina Laura Gore-Booth was born on 22nd May 1870 in County Sligo, Ireland, the daughter of Henry Gore-Booth, a wealthy Anglo-Irish landowner.

As was usual for wealthy families in those days, Eva was educated at home by a governess who had studied at Cambridge and taught Eva music, drawing, poetry, Greek, Latin and Italian.  Shy, sensitive and not very strong, Eva began writing poetry at an early age.  Eva met the poet W.B. Yeats when he stayed at her parents’ home in 1894, and they discussed each other’s poetry.

In 1895, Eva became ill with TB and was sent to Italy to recuperate in 1896.   While there Eva met Esther Roper while staying at the home of George MacDonald, a Scottish writer.   Esther was the daughter of a factory worker who later became a missionary and was already involved in the women’s suffrage movement in Manchester, under the patronage of Millicent Fawcett.  Appalled at the treatment of factory workers, especially when compared to her own background, Eva decided that she had to do something positive.

 On her return to Ireland, Eva started a branch of the Irish Women’s Suffrage and Local Government Association in Sligo.  She then moved to Manchester to share a home with Esther Roper, who remained Eva’s companion until her death.  They became joint secretaries of the Women’s Textile and Other Workers Representation Committee and started a journal called “Urania”, which was a vehicle for their pioneering ideas.  They were both very active in the emerging women’s movement, becoming involved in politics and campaigning for votes for women, as well as defending the rights of barmaids, flower sellers, women who worked in coal mines and circus performers.

 In 1916, Eva campaigned for the release of her sister, Constance, who had been sentenced to death for her part in the 1916 Rising – The Easter Rebellion – the campaign during Easter Week 1916 to establish an independent Ireland and end British rule.

 After the War, Eva and Esther joined the Committee for the Abolition of Capital Punishment and worked tirelessly in the cause of prison reform.  As time went by, Eva’s health deteriorated but she continued to write poetry as well as plays.  She died in Hampstead, London on 30th June 1926.

 Eva’s poetry was highly praised by Yeats.  After Eva’s death, Esther collected her poems together, writing a biographical introduction to go with them.

Portrait of Eva painted by her sister, Constance

Sources:  Lewis, Gifford.- “Booth, Eva Selina Gore- (1870 – 1926). (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2014)

Tiernan, Sonja.- “Eva Gore-Booth:  An Image of Such Politics” (Manchester University Press, Manchester, 2012)

Va’s WW1 poetry collections were:  “Broken Glory” (Maunsel, Dublin, 1918)  and “Poems” (Longmans, Green, London, 1929).   She also had poems included in three WW1 poetry anthologies. Other collections by Eva were:  “The Perilous Light” , “Poems”, “The One and the Many”,

“In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markievicz”
By William Butler Yeats (13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939) - Irish poet

The light of evening, Lissadell,
Great windows open to the south,
Two girls in silk kimonos, both
Beautiful, one a gazelle.
But a raving autumn shears
Blossom from the summer's wreath;
The older is condemned to death,
Pardoned, drags out lonely years
Conspiring among the ignorant.
I know not what the younger dreams –
Some vague Utopia – and she seems,
When withered old and skeleton-gaunt,
An image of such politics.
Many a time I think to seek
One or the other out and speak
Of that old Georgian mansion, mix
Pictures of the mind, recall
That table and the talk of youth,
Two girls in silk kimonos, both
Beautiful, one a gazelle.

Dear shadows, now you know it all,
All the folly of a fight
With a common wrong or right.
The innocent and the beautiful
Have no enemy but time;
Arise and bid me strike a match
And strike another till time catch;
Should the conflagration climb,
Run till all the sages know.
We the great gazebo built,
They convicted us of guilt;
Bid me strike a match and blow.

W. B. Yeats, "In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markievicz" from “The Winding Stair and Other Poems” (Kessinger Publishing, 1933)

Constance Markievicz (1868 – 1927) – Irish artist

Constance Georgine Gore-Booth was born at Buckingham Gate, in London on 4th February 1868, the elder daughter of Sir Henry Gore-Booth, 5th Baronet, an explorer and wealthy Anglo-Irish landowner, and Georgina, Lady Gore-Booth, nee Hill.

The Gore-Booths lived on a large estate in the north of County Sligo in a manor house called “Lissadell House”. During the potato famine of 1879 –1980, Sir Henry provided free food for his tenants. This instilled in both Constance and her younger sister,  Eva, concern for those less fortunate than themselves. The Gore-Booth children were educated at home, as was the custom at that time and Constance soon became an accomplished artist.

In 1886, Constance undertook a grand tour of the Continent of Europe and was presented to Queen Victoria at court in London. She decided to study art seriously and in 1892 she enrolled in the Slade School of Art in London. The move began Constance’s involvement in the women’s movement and she joined The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. She then went to live in Paris, where she met Count Casimir Markiewicz, who had given up his law studies to train as an artist in Paris. Count Markiewicz was from a wealthy family of Polish land-owners in Zywotowka, in what is now The Ukraine. The Count’s wife died in 1899 and he married Constance in London on 29th September 1900. The couple had a daughter – Maeve, born on 13th November 1901 in Ireland – who was brought up by her maternal grandparents at “Lissadell”.

Constance took on the role of mother to her step-son Nicolas. The Markiewicz family moved to Dublin where Constance gained a reputation as a painter and the couple, moving among the literary and artistic people of Dublin, founded the United Artists Club, designed to bring like-minded people together. They attended the theatre, painted and held tea parties. During this period of her life, Constance became aware of the struggle for independence and became politically active, joining Sinn Fèin and Inghinidhe nah Éireann (Daughters of Ireland) and working among the poor.  In 1913, Count Markiewicz moved back to his Polish home, though the couple remained in close contact.

When her sister asked for her help during a campaign in Manchester, Constance went to her aid, driving a carriage drawn by four white horses to highlight the cause of women’s suffrage. In 1909, Constance founded Fianna Eireann, a para-military Scouts group for teenage boys, which led to the creation of The Irish Volunteers in 1913. Constance continued to take an active part in political demonstrations and in 1916, she took part in the Easter Rising. She was court-martialled and
sentenced to death, whereupon her sister, Eva, campaigned actively for her sister’s release. Constance’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment and she was sent to Aylesbury Prison in England.

In 1917, following an amnesty, Constance was released from prison but she was imprisoned again in 1918 due to her campaign against conscription.

In the General Election of 1918, Constance was elected for the Constituency of Dublin St. Patrick’s, thus becoming the first woman to be elected to the House of Commons. However, she did not take her seat in the British Parliament. Instead, Constance was elected to the newly-created Dáil, becoming the first Irish female Cabinet Minister. She continued to campaign and was again imprisoned.

In the elections of June 1927, Constance was re-elected as candidate for the new Fianna Fáil Party but died on 15th July 1927 before taking up her seat. Her husband, Count Markiewicz, their daughter Maeve and her step-son Nicolas were at her side.

Constance is buried at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.

Photograph of Constance and Casimir on their wedding day.

Paseta, S. “Markievicz (nee Gore-Booth), Constance Georgine, Countesse Markievicz in the Polish nobility (1868 – 1927). (Oxford University Press, 2004)

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

May Herschel Clarke (1894 – 1955) - British poet and journalist

May Herschel-Clarke is one of the poets on my List of Female Poets of the First World War.  Although May was included in Catherine W. Reilly’s WW1 anthology “Scars upon my Heart”, unlike m ost of the other poets included, there were no biographical details for May, so Catherine cannot have discovered anything about her either.

I put out a query to my Twitter friends and JosieHolford @JosieHolford replied at once and, thanks to her brilliant detective work, I was able to find out a little more about May.  Josie has her own amazing website –

May was born in Woolwich, London, UK on 19th March 1894. She was registered as ‘May Herschel, last name Clarke’.  Her parents were Charles Frederick Clarke, a surgeon, and his wife Minnie Emma Clarke, nee Cox, who were married in Woolwich in 1892.  An extensive search has not revealed why May was given the name Herschel.

I have not been able to find out where May was educated but we know from the 1939 Census that she became a journalist.   From 1913 – 1915, May’s articles about the suffragettes were published in the daily newspaper “The Herald”.  “The Herald” was a national newspaper, published in London from 1912 – 1964. 

As May was 20 years old when war broke out in 1914, it seems likely that she would have volunteered for some kind of war work. However, I could not find her name on the British Red Cross website for those who joined the WW1 Voluntary Aid Detachments. 

May’s poem “The Debt” was published in “Votes for Women” on Friday, 22nd January 1915

May’s most famous WW1 poem is undoubtedly “The Mother”, which she wrote after reading Rupert Brooke's poem “The Soldier”. “The Mother” (see my post of 13th May 2019) was first published in the journal “T.P.s Weekly”, the editors of which were: November 1902 - June 1914: T. P. O'Connor; July 1914 - April 1916: Holbrook Jackson.

However, May wrote a great many other poems, for instance

“Nothing to Report”

One minute we was laughin', me an' Ted,
The next, he lays beside me grinnin' - dead.
‘There's nothin' to report,' the papers said.

May died in Woolwich in 1955.

May’s WW1 poetry collection “Behind the Firing Line, and Other Poems of the War” was published in 1917 by Erskine Macdonald, London.

Here is May’s poem in appreciation of Alma Taylor “England’s answer to American film-star Mary Pickford” was published in the magazine “Pictures and the Picturegoer”.

From “Alma”

Not yours the air of high romance,
The flashing eye, the burning glance,
The haughty look of cold distain,
The pass’nate mouth and raven tress –
But rather the shy comeliness
Of Springtime in an English lane.

In “British Stars and Stardom: From Alma Taylor to Sean Connery”, Edited by Bruce Babington (Manchester University Press, Manchester, 2001)

Alma Louise Taylor (1895 – 1974) - British film-star

Alma Taylor was born in London on 3rd January 1895. She made her first screen appearance as a child actor in the 1907 film “His Daughter's Voice” and went on to appear in more than 150 film roles. Alma also acted in a number of larger-budget films such as “Shadow of Egypt”, which was shot on location in Egypt in 1924. Alma was one of the most important British filmstars of the 1910s and early 1920s. In 1915, she was voted the most popular British performer by readers of “Pictures and the Picturegoers”, beating Charlie Chaplin into second place.

After 1932, Alma acted very occasionally, with roles in “Lilacs in the Spring”, “Blue Murder at St Trinian's”, and “A Night to Remember” during the 1950s. Alma died in London on 23rd January 1974, at the age of 79. 

Photograph of Alma taken for the Cecil Hepworth Film Company.


Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978)
Catherine W. Reily “Scars upon my Heart” (Virago Press, London, 2008)
Find my Past
Free BMD
The British Newspaper Archive

Monday, 13 May 2019

May Herschel-Clarke (1894 – 1955) - British poet

I have been unable to find biographical details for May.  If you can help, please get in touch.

May Herschel-Clarke is one of the female poets on my List.  Her poem “The Mother”, written after reading Rupert Brooke's sonnet “The Soldier”, was published in the journal “T.P.s Weekly”, the editors of which were:  Nov. 1902-June 1914, T. P. O'Connor. July 1914 - April 1916, Holbrook Jackson.

“The Mother”

If you should die, think only this of me
In that still quietness where is space for thought,
Where parting, loss and bloodshed shall not be,
And men may rest themselves and dream of nought:
That in some place a mystic mile away
One whom you loved has drained the bitter cup
Till there is nought to drink; has faced the day
Once more, and now, has raised the standard up.

And think, my son, with eyes grown clear and dry
She lives as though for ever in your sight,
Loving the things you loved, with heart aglow
For country, honour, truth, traditions high,
—Proud that you paid their price. (And if some night
Her heart should break—well, lad, you will not know.

May Herchel-Clarke

May’s WW1 poetry collection “Behind the Firing Line, and Other Poems of the War” was published in 1917 by Erskine Macdonald, London.


Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War:  A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) p. 167.

Monday, 6 May 2019

Margaret Postgate Cole (1893 – 1980) - British politician, writer and poet

Dame Margaret Isabel Cole, DBE

Margaret Isaabel Cole worn in Cambridge on 6th May 1893.  Margaret’s parents were John Percival Postgate, a university lecturer, and his wife, Edith Postgate, née Allen. The family lived in Stapleford, Chesterton and Margaret had the following siblings:  Raymond, b. 1897 and Percival, b. 1900.

Margaret was educated at Roedean School and Girton College, Cambridge.  Cambridge University did not permit women to graduate formally with degrees until 1947, however, when she left university, Margaret became a classics teacher at St Paul's Girls' School.

During the First World War, Raymond Postgate applied for exemption from military service, on the grounds that he was a conscientious objector. His application was turned down and he was sent to prison.  Margaret’s support for her brother led to a belief in pacifism and she began a campaign against conscription, during which she met George Douglas Howard Cole (1889 – 1959), who was Head of the Research Department of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, and adviser to the Trades Unions on war-time economic problems..   They were married in August 1918.  George was also a poet.

The Coles worked together for the Fabian Society before moving to Oxford in 1924, where they both taught and wrote.

In the early 1930s, Margaret abandoned her pacifism in reaction to the suppression of socialist movements by the governments in Germany and Austria and to the events of the Spanish Civil War.

Margaret wrote several books including a biography of her husband. Margaret's brother Raymond became a labour historian, journalist and novelist. Margaret and her husband collaborated to write several mystery novels.

Harold Wilson awarded Margaret an Order of the ritish Empire (OBE) in 1965 and she became a Dame of the British Empire in 1970.

Margaret died on 7th May 1980.

Margaret Postgate Cole’s WW1 poetry collection “Poems” was published by Allen and Unwin, London in 1918.

She also had a poem included in “An Anthology of War Poems “ compiled by Frederick Brereton (pen name of Frederick Thomson Smith), which was published by Collins, London in 1930.

Margaret and her husband also collaborated on a WW1 collection of poems – “The Bolo Book” (Labour Publishing Company, Allen & Unwin, 1921)

“The Veteran”

We came upon him sitting in the sun
Blinded by war, and left. And past the fence
There came young soldiers from the Hand and Flower,
Asking advice of his experience.
And he said this, and that, and told them tales,
And all the nightmares of each empty head
Blew into air; then, hearing us beside,
"Poor chaps, how'd they know what it's like?" he said.
And we stood there, and watched him as he sat,
Turning his sockets where they went away,
Until it came to one of us to ask "And you're-how old?"
"Nineteen, the third of May."

Published in “Poetry” Magazine, August 1918

“The Falling Leaves”  November 1915

Today, as I rode by,
I saw the brown leaves dropping from their tree
In a still afternoon,
When no wind whirled them whistling to the sky,
But thickly, silently,
They fell, like snowflakes wiping out the noon;
And wandered slowly thence
For thinking of a gallant multitude
Which now all withering lay,
Slain by no wind of age or pestilence,
But in their beauty strewed
Like snowflakes falling on the Flemish clay.

From “Poems” (Allen and Unwin, London 1918).

Sources:  Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) and Find my Past

Marian Allen (1892 – 1953) - British artist, writer and poet

Eleanor Marian Dundas Allen was born on 18th January 1892 at Toxteth Park (now St Scholastica's School), Glebe in Sydney, Australia.  Her parents were George Boyce Allen, a barrister, and his wife, Isabella Allen, nee Dundas, a cousin of Admiral Fairfax of the Royal Navy, Commander of the Australian Squadron.

By 1908 Marian and her family were living in Woodstock Road, Oxford, UK.  In around 1913 – 1914, Marian first met Arthur Tylston Greg, to whom she became engaged to be married and to whom her poetry collection is dedicated.

Marian's brother, George Dundas Allen, went to study law at New College, Oxford. One of his fellow students was called Arthur Tylston Greg and it seems likely that he and Marian first met when Arthur Greg visited his friend.

When the First World War started in August 1914, Arthur and Dundas (as Marian Allen's brother was known) abandoned their studies and joined the army.

Arthur, who was commissioned into the 3rd Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment, was involved in the battles that took place around the Hill 60 in Belgium and in May 1915, he was badly wounded. By 1916, Dundas had joined the Royal Flying Corps and was awarded the Military Cross.  Arthur also joined the Royal Flying Corps where, as Captain Greg, he trained to fly D.H.4 bombers.

On Wednesday, 4th April 1917, Marian and Arthur said farewell for the last time when Arthur Greg left Charing Cross Railway Station for Boulogne, to join 55th Squadron. He was shot down over St Quentin on 23rd April, St George's Day, 1917. Arthur is buried at Jussy Cemetery. "Love is stronger than death" is the inscription on his gravestone. Marian Allen heard the news and some of her finest poems, many of them sonnets, were written almost immediately. She completed "To A. T. G." on 2nd May, and "I like to think of you..." on 10th May.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Marian Allen was a successful writer and illustrator of books for children.  She also designed book covers.

Marian died in Oxford on 12th September 1953.

Marian Allen’s WW1 poetry collection “The Wind on the Downs” was published by Hymphreys, London in 1918.   She also had a poem included in the WW1 anthology “War Verse”, edited by Frank Foxcroft (Crowell, New York, 1918). 

“The Raiders”

In shadowy formation up they rise,
Dusky raiders with their bat-like wings.
The night is studded with a thousand eyes
And its dim cloak on desolation flings.
The wind through stay and wire moans and whines,
The engines throb with thrilled expectant breath.
Eighty  miles to eastward on the lines
They go and carry with them stings of death.
The spirit of Adventure calls ahead,
They leave the earth behind them battle-bound
And rise untrammelled from the war-stained ground,
Grey moving shadows o’er the lonely dead,
Flying unflinching as an arrow flies
Down the uncharted roadway of the skies.

Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War:  A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) p. 40 and p. 10

Find my Past

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Cicely Fox-Smith poem "Farewell to Anzac"

Cicely Fox-Smnith (1882 - 1954) was among the very first female poets of WW1 I researched for this commemorative exhibition project.  For ANZAC Day, here is a poem written by Cicely about the Anzacs:

“Farewell to ANZAC”

Oh, hump your swag and leave, lads, the ships are in the bay -
We've got our marching orders now, it's time to come away -
And a long good-bye to Anzac Beach - where blood has flowed in vain
For we're leaving it, leaving it, game to fight again!

But some there are will never quit this bleak and bloody shore -
And some that marched and fought with us will fight and march no more;
Their blood has bought till Judgment Day the slopes they stormed so well,
And we're leaving them, leaving them, sleeping where they fell.

(Leaving them, leaving them - the bravest and the best -
leaving them, leaving them, and maybe glad to rest!
We've done our best with yesterday, to-morrow's still our own -
But we're leaving them, leaving them, sleeping all alone!)

Ay, they are gone beyond it all, the praising and the blame,
And many a man may win renown, but none more fair a fame;
They showed the world Australia's lads knew well the way to die;
And we're leaving them, leaving them, quiet where they lie.

(Leaving them, leaving them, sleeping where they died;
Leaving them, leaving them, in their glory and their pride -
Round the sea and barren land, over them the sky,
Oh, We're leaving them, leaving them, quiet where they lie!)

Cicely Fox Smith

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Lucila Godoy y Alcayaga – pen name Gabriela Mistral - from Chile (1889 - 1957)

I have tried to include poets from as many different countries as possible in order to demonstrate the global impact of the conflict.

Chile was important because of the country’s nitrate mines - nitrates were required in the manufacture of explosives.  Exports to Germany ceased at the beginning of WW1, which forced Germany to seek alternative supplies and resulted in her scientists discovering synthetic nitrates.  After the War, Germany exported those synthetic nitrates, which, it could be argued contributed to the economic decline of Chile.

The sea Battle of Coronel in November 1914 took place off the coast of Chile and in 1917, Germany's policy of 'unrestricted submarine warfare' affected every sea-faring nation directly and others indirectly (imports, travel, etc.).

Chile reacted in February 1917 by making a formal diplomatic protest, stating that the German measures were unacceptable and that Chile reserved the right to defend her ships should they be attacked by German submarines.

Gabriela Mistral was the pen-name of Lucila Godoy y Alcayaga, who was born in Vicuna, Chile on 7th April 1889.

Gabriela’s Mother brought her up alone because her father left the family when she was just three years old.  Gabriela’s Mother was not in good health, so she had to become the bread-winner and became a teaching assistand when she was sixteen.

A year later, Gabriela met Romeo Ureta and they fell in love with each other.  Sadly, Romeo took his own life three years later, which, together with the loss of a nephew, had a lasting impact on Gabriela.

From them on Gabriela wrote, publishing several collections of poetry and articles about education., and she continued teaching. 

In 1945, Gabriela became the first woman Latin American poet to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.  The Nobel citation read:

“…for her lyric poetry which, inspired by powerful emotions, has made her name a symbol of the idealistic aspirations of the entire Latin American world“

“Song of Death” by Gabriela Mistral

Old Woman Census-taker,
Death the Trickster,
when you’re going along,
don’t you meet my baby.

Sniffing at newborns,
smelling for the milk,
find salt, find corn meal,
don’t find my milk.

Anti-Mother of the world,
People-Collector –
on the beaches and byways,
don’t meet that child.

The name he was baptized,
that flower he grows with,
forget it, Rememberer.
Lose it, Death.

Let wind and salt and sand
drive you crazy, mix you up
so you can’t tell
East from West,

or mother from child,
like fish in the sea.
And on the day, at the hour,
find only me.


Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Amalia Guglielminetti (1881 – 1941) – Italian poet

Italy joined the conflict on the side of the Allies on 23rd May 1915, declaring war on her former ally The Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Amalia was born in Turin on 4th April 1881.  Her parents were Pietro Guglielminetti and his wife Felicita, nee Lavezzata.  When Pietro died, the family went to live with Felicita’s mother.  Amalia was educated in a convent school and began writing poetry in 1901 for the Sunday Supplement of the newspaper “Gazetta del Popolo”.  Her poetry collections were published in 1903, 1908, 1917 and 1925.  Between 1916 and 1925, Amalia wrote childrens’ stories.

Amalia travelled throughout Italy lecturing and urging women to speak out for themselves.  She created and edited “La Seduzioni”, a literary magazine.  In Amalia’s own words “to found a literary review is, for a woman, a more momentous event than that of taking a husband.”

Amalia died in 1941 in Turin, following a fall during an air raid.

“L’antico pianto” by Amalia Guglielminetti

Quindi prosegua per cammini ombrosi,
a fior di labbro modulando un canto
che per me l’altra notte mi composi.

Poichè talor non piango io il mio pianto,
lo canto, e qualche mia triste canzone
fu come il sangue del mio cuore infranto.

Tempo fu che le mie forze più buone
stremai in canti a’ piedi d’un Signore
che m’arse di ben vana passïone.

Io piangevo così note d’amore,
come la cieca in sul quadrivio, volta
al sole, canta il suo buio dolore
e non s’avvede che nessun l’ascolta.

As previously explained, when I began this commemorative exhibition project “Female Poets of the First World War”, I tried to find poets from as many countries of the world in order to demonstrate the global impact of the conflict.  To this end, some of the poems included do not relate directly to WW1.  However, as a poet, I feel certain that the world- changing events of 1914 – 1919 would have inspired a poet to write, even though their work may not have been published.

I also prefer to leave the poems in their original languages - though I sometimes manage to find translations, this is not always possible.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Edith Irene Södergran (1892 – 1923) was a Swedish-speaking Finnish poet

In order to demonstrate the global impact of the First World War, I have tried to find poets from as many countries as possible.  To this end, some of the poems included do not relate directly to the war.  However, all the poets included were alive and capable of writing poetry during the 1914 – 1919 period.  As a poet, I contend that it is highly likely they would have written about the war even if their poems were not published, or they have been published and we have not yet discovered them.

Edith Irene Södergran was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia on 4th April 1892.   Her parents, Mats Södergran and Helena, née Holmroos, were both born in Finland but had Swedish as their Mother tongue.

When Edith was a baby, the Södergrans moved to the village of Raivola on the Karelian Isthmus, where her grandfather, Gabriel Holmroos, had purchased a house for them.

Edith was educated at the girls school in Petrischule in St. Petersburg. The school was situated opposite The Winter Palace, which meant that Edith to experience the troubles in Tsarist Russia at first hand.  In 1904, her father was diagnosed with Tuberculosis, and in May 1906 he was admitted to Nummela sanatorium in Nyland. He was sent home and died in October 1907.

Edith was a keen photographer. German was the language she mainly used at school and with her friends.  Her first poem was written in German.

In November 1908, Edith began to feel ill and was diagnosed with ‘inflamation of the lungs’.  In 1911, she and he rmother travelled to Switzerland, where they hoped Edith would receive treatment for her illness.

Her time in Switzerland had a pivotal effect on Edith's life. From a remote part of Finland she went to an intellectually rich country where, not least in the Sanatorium, she mixed with gifted people who hailed from different parts of Europe. With them she felt a connection that she had rarely felt in St. Petersburg. Edith wrote two poems, Trädet i skogen ("The Tree in the Forest") and Fragment av en stämning ("Fragment of a Mood"), which express her sorrow and memories of her time in Switzerland.

Edith and her mother returned home In the spring of 1914.  At the beginning of the First World War, Finland was an autonomous Grabd Duchy within the Russian Empire.

Edith continued to write poetry but from 1920 onwards she abandoned her poetry and did not write again until August 1922;

Edith died on 23rd June 1923 at her home in Raivola, Russia and was buried at the village church.

“A Wish”

Of all our sunny world
I wish only for a garden sofa
where a cat is sunning itself.

There I should sit
with a letter at my breast,
a single small letter.
That is what my dream looks like.

Edith Sodergran

Monday, 25 March 2019

Cicely Fox-Smith (1882 - 1954) – British Poet

Cicely was born on 1st February 1882 in Lymm, Cheshire.  Her parents were Richard Smith, b. 1843, a Barrister, and his wife, Alice Wilson Smith, nee Wolstencroft, b. 1851.  Cicely had the following siblings: Richard Andrew, b. 1877, Philip Wilson, b. 1879, and Margaret Scott, b. 1880.

Cicely was educated at Manchester High School for Girls from 1894 – 1897, writing poetry and describing herself as “something of a rebel”.   Her first collection of poems - “Songs of Greater Britain” - was published in 1899, when Cicely was sixteen.

Cicely and her sister moved to Canada, where Cicely worked as a shorthand typist for the British Columbia Lands Department.  She spent much of her spare time on the waterfront, which contributed to her knowledge of nautical matters, which was, in turn, reflected in her poetry.

Cicely and her sister returned to England before 1914 and went to live in Hampshire.   Cicely wrote with such authority about the sea that many people supposed she was a man.  In all, she published more than 630 poems in a wide variety of publications.   Cicely also wrote novels, short stories and articles. 

During the Second World War, Cicely lived with her brother Philip and sister Margaret, who was also a writer, in Soberton House, Dreoxford, Hampshire.

At the age of 67, Cicely was awarded a pension by the Government “for services toliterature”.

Cicely died in Bow, Devon, on 8th April 1954.

The WW1 poetry collections of Cicely Fox-Smith were:

“The Naval Crown: Ballads and Songs of the War” (Elkin Mathews, London 1915)

“Fighting Men: Poems” (Elkin Mathews, London, 1916)

“Small Craft and Other Poems” (Elkin Mathews, London, 1917)

“Songs and Chanties 1914 – 1916” (Elkin Mathews, London, 1919)

“Rhymes of the Red Ensign” (Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1919)

“Sea Songs and Ballads, 1917 – 1922” (Methuen, London, 1922)

and her poems were published in seventeen WW1 poetry anthologies.

Cahterine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War:  A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978)
“Armed Merchantmen: An Old Song Re-Sung”

By the Liverpool Docks at the break of the day,
I saw a flash packet, bound westward away;
And well did I mark how each new-mounted gun
Like silver did gleam in the first morning sun.

Bound away, bound away, where the wide waters flow,
She's a Liverpool packet - oh, Lord, let her go!

For thieves be abroad on the ocean highway
To harass our traders by night and by day,
But let such attempt her, to take or assail,
They may find to their cost she's a sting in her tail.

She's a crack ocean liner - now catch her who can! -
Her crew are true British and game to a man;
The pirates of Potsdam had best have a care -
She's the Navy's stepdaughter, and touch her who dare!

Bound away, bound away, with a bone in her mouth,
She passes the Bar light, she turns to the south,
A Liverpool packet that stays for no foe -
Safe, safe on her journey, oh, Lord, let her go!

Bound away, bound away, where the wide waters flow,
She's a Liverpool packet, - oh, Lord, let her go!

Cicely Fox Smith

Saturday, 23 March 2019

Mary Webb (1881- 1927) – British poet

Mary Webb was one of the poets featured in the first exhibition we produced -  Female Poets of the First World War - which was held at The Wilfred Owen Story in Birkenhead, Wirral in November 2012

Mary was born Mary Gladys Meredith on 25th March 1881 in Leighton,near the Wrekin in Shropshire, eight miles south west of Shrewsbury. Her father was a schoolmaster and he taught her at home before sending her to a finishing school in Southport.

Mary began writing poetry at an early age. She married Henry Bertram Law Webb in 1912 and during the First World War, Mary lived near Pontesbury. She was deeply affected by the events of the First World War and was very worried about her three brothers. In 1925, Mary was awarded the “Femina Vie Heureuse” Award for her book “Precious Bane”. 

Mary suffered ill health and died at St. Leonards-on-Sea, Sussex on 8th October 1927, aged 46. She was buried in Shrewsbury. Her work began to be appreciated after her death – she was referred to as “the neglected genius”. There is now a Mary Webb Society – about which more details can be found on the website at and a school in Shrewsbury – The Mary Webb School And Science College - has also been named after her.

“Like a  Poppy on a Tower"

Like a poppy on a tower
The present hour!
The wind stirs, the wind awakes,
Beneath its feet the tower shakes.
All down the crannied wall
Torn scarlet petals fall,
Like scattered fire or shivered glass
And drifting with their motion pass
Torn petals of blue shadow
From the grey tower to the green meadow

"The Door"

I heard humanity, through all the years,
Wailing, and beating on a dark, vast door
With urgent hands and eyes blinded by tears.
Will none come forth to them for evermore?
Like children at their father's door, who wait,
Crying 'Let us in!' on some bright birthday morn,
Quite sure of joy, they grow disconsolate,
Left in the cold unanswered and forlorn.
Forgetting even their toys in their alarms,
They only long to climb on father's bed
And cry their terrors out in father's arms.
And maybe, all the while, their father's dead.

"To The World"

You took the rare blue from my cloudy sky;
You shot the one bird in my silent wood;
You crushed my rose--one rose alone had I.
You have not known. You have not understood.
I would have shown you pictures I have seen
Of unimagined mountains, plains and seas;
I would have made you songs of leafy green,
If you had left me some small ecstasies.
Now let the one dear field be only field,
That was a garden for the mighty gods.
Take you its corn. I keep its better yield--
The glory that I found within its clods.

Poems  previously published in “Poems and The Spring Of Joy” by Mary Webb (London: Jonathan Cape,1928).

Mary’s WW1 poems were also published in three WW1 poetry anthologies.

English musician Richard Moult has set several of Mary’s poems to music and
these can be found on his 2006 CD “The Secret Joy” released by Cynfeirdd (CYN040).

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Maria Dobler Benemann (1887 – 1980) - German poet

Maria Elisabeth Dobler was born on 5th April 1887 in Herrnhut and grew up in Dresden. Her parents were Johannes Theodor Dobler and Marie Elisabeth Dobler, nee Linnich.

In 1906 Maria married Ernst Gerhard Benemann, a bookseller and founder of the Horen publishing house. The couple had a daughter and a son. While living in Worpswede, they become friends with the artist, designer and architect Heinrich Vogeler and with the poets Richard Dehmel, Rainer Maria Rilke, Franz Werfel and the architect Walter Gropius.

Maria’s husband joined the German Army in WW1 and kept a diary recording  his time in Visé in Belgium. The Germans entered Belgium on 4th August 1914, and entered Visé on that day as part of the opening movements of the Battle of Liège. A small group of Belgian gendarmes opposed the advancing Germans and two of their number, Auguste Bouko and Jean-Pierre Thill, were killed in the action, thus becoming the first Belgian casualties of the First World War.  On 7th August, in the Lixhe section of the town, the German 90th Infantry Regiment killed eleven civilians and destroyed eleven houses.

When Ernst’s friends went home on leave, they told Maria that while in the devastated town, her husband had found a piano intact in a bombed out house. He sat down and played the piano. The story inspired Maria to write a poem about the incident. Ernst Gerhard Benemann was killed in 1915.

Maria’s publications were “Wandlungen. Gedichte” Verlag der Weißen Bücher, Leipzig 1915.
“Die Reise zum Meer” Märchen. Kiepenheuer, Weimar 1915.
“Kleine Novellen” Kiepenheuer, Weimar 1916.
“Leih mir noch einmal die leichte Sandale” Erinnerungen und Bewegungen. Christians, Hamburg 1978.

Maria died in Überlingen on 11th March 1980.

Read Maria’s poem "Visé (After a Letter from the Field)": …

Monday, 11 March 2019

Alice Williams (1863 - 1957) - Welsh poet, artist and charity worker

Alice Helena Alexandra Williams  was born on 12th March 1863 at Castel Deudraeth, Merionethshire, Wales.  She was the youngest of the fourteen offspring born to David Williams, who was a solicitor and Liberal Member of Parliament for Merioneth, and his wife Annie Louisa, nee Loveday.  Unlike her brothers, Alice did not receive a traditional education but she neverthless became an accomplished poet, writer and artist.

During the First World War, Alice was Vice Chairman of the Merioneth Women’s War Agricultural Committee and also worked for the French Wounded Emergency Fund in London, Paris and Geneva. She wrote and published a number of plays and pageants, among them “Liz”, a propaganda play which was performed all over Wales in 1915 to raise funds for the French Wounded Emergency Fund and another entitled “Brittania”.

With some of her friends Alice set up the Signal Bureau in Paris which gave assistance to people looking for injured, missing or displaced persons.   The French Government awarded Alice the Medaille de la Reconnaissance Française.  In 1917, Alice was made a Welsh Bard, her bardic name being Alys Meirion.

After the First World War, Alice helped to set up the Women’s Institute Movement in Britain and became the President of the Deudraeth WI.  She donated a parcel of land and helped to raise funds for the building of Britain’s very first Institute Hall at Penrhyndeudraeth.  The building was opened by Mrs Lloyd George.  Alice was elected on to the Committee of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes as their first Honorary Secretary and was later elected to the Executive Committee.

Alice then became General Secretary of the Federation, a paid post.  She went on to found “Home and Country”, the official journal of the Women’s Institute, a post which she held until 1920.

The setting up of branches of the Lyceum Club in Paris and Berlin were also due to Alice’s hard work and dedication.  The Lyceum Clubs were set up in the early 1900s for women interested in the arts, sciences, social concerns and in the pursuit of lifelong learning – they are still going strong today.

In 1919, Alice founded the Forum Club, a women’s club in London for Women’s Institute Members. Alice took on the role of Chairman at the Club’s inception and from 1928 to 1938.   As well as accommodation for members and their maids, the club sported a dining room, lounge, photographic dark room, a room that could be hired for exhibitions, a bridge room, billiard room, library and hairdressing salon – a haven for women who, unlike their male counterparts, until then had nowhere similar to go when in London.

An accomplished artist, Alice was a member of the Union des Femme Peintres et Sculpteurs in Paris and of the Union Internationale des Aquarellistes, also in Paris.  She died on 15th August 1957, aged 94.


Information kindly supplied by Professor Stephen Cribari from information held at the Women’s Library, LSE, London;

Friday, 8 March 2019

Mary Winifred Wedgwood (1873 - 1963) – British WW1 VAD and poet

Mary Winifred was born on 16th November 1873 in London, UK. Her parents were Ebenezer Wedgwood, a Draper, and his wife Hilda Wedgwood.  Mary’s siblings were Edith Wedgwood, b. 1866 , Ethel, b.1870, Catherine, b. 1872 and Joshua George Engles, b. 1878. The family lived in Kew, Richmond, UK.

During the First World War, Mary Winifred was a volunteer with the 26th Devon Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachment from November 1915 until March 1919.  The hospital in which Mary Winifred worked as an unpaid volunteer was housed in Torquay Town Hall.

With thanks to Debbie Cameron for finding Mary Winifred's Red Cross VAD record card.

M. Winifred Wedgwood's WW1 poetry collection, "Verses of a V.A.D. kitchen-maid" was published by Gregory & Scott, Torquay in 1917.

“Christmas 1916: Thoughts in a V.A.D. Hospital Kitchen”

There’s no Xmas leave for us scullions,
We’ve got to keep on with the grind;
Just cooking for Britain’s heroes,
But, bless you! We don’t really mind.

We’ve scores and scores of potatoes,
And cabbages also to do,
And onions, and turnips, and what not,
That go in the Irish Stew.

We’re baking and frying and boiling,
From morning until night;
But we’ve got to keep on a bit longer,
Till Victory comes in sight.

Then there’s cutting the thin bread and butter,
For the men who are very ill;
But we feel we’re well rewarded;
For they’ve fought old Kaiser Bill.

Yes! We’ve got to hold on a while longer,
Till we’ve beaten the Hun to his knees;
And then ‘Goodbye’ to the kitchen;
The treacle, the jam and the cheese.

by M. Winifred Wedgwood

Source:  Catherine W. Reilly "English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography" (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978)

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Rosaleen Louise Graves (1894 – 1989) – British WW1 poet and VAD nurse

I have always liked the work of Robert Graves, so I was really pleased to discover his sister, Rosaleen was also a poet.

Rosaleen, sister of the WW1 soldier poet and writer Robert Graves, was born in Wimbledon on 7th March 1894.   Her father was Alfred Perceval Graves, who was also a poet. He was the second son of The Rt. Rev. Charles Graves, Bishop of Limerick. (1846 – 1931). Alfred, who was also a poet, was a school inspector. Rosaleen’s mother was Amalie (‘Amy’) Elizabeth Sophie (or Sophia) von Ranke (1857 – 1951), eldest daughter of Professor Heinrich von Ranke MD, of Munich.  Rosaleen’s grandmother was the daughter of Norwegian astronomer Ludwig Tiarks.
Robert and Rosaleen Graves, c. 1920

Reading Rosaleen’s poem “The Smells of Home” in Dominic Hibberd’s anthology “The Winter of the World “ made me wonder if Rosaleen had been a nurse during the First World War, so I contacted the British Red Cross Archives – before their list of WW1 VADs was put on line – and, sure enough, she had.

Rosaleen joined the Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachment on 17th September 1915 and worked at Chislehurst VAD Hospital, Kent for three months.  She worked at Paddington VAD Hospital in London from April to July 1916 and then in the 4th London General Hospital, where she met Siegfried Sassoon when he was sent there for treatment. Rosaleen was posted to France at the end of 1917, where she worked at No. 54 General Hospital. Rosaleen served until 14th March 1919.   She was awarded a Scarlet Efficiency Stripe.

Rosaleen was a poet and a gifted musician with the ambition of becoming a concent pianist.  However, after the War, Rosaleen trained as a doctor and became a general practitioner.  In the Spring of 1932, Rosaleen married James Francis Cooper at St. Martin’s in London.  The couple had three children.

Among Rosaleen’s published works are “Night Sounds and other poems”, published by Basil Blackwell in Oxford in 1923, “Snapdragons Poems“ by Rosaleen Graves Cooper and “The Silver Mirror. Breton Folk Air”, words translated from the Breton by A.P. Graves and arranged by R. Graves (1928).

Rosaleen died on 3rd August 1989 in Wimbledon, London, England.

I have been trying to discover whether Rosaleen Graves may have met Wilfred Owen.  As Wilfred attended the wedding of Robert Graves in London, I was curious to know whether Rosaleen had been there too but it seems she was unable to get leave.

To this end, I recently asked The Robert Graves Society Facebook Group whether Rosaleen attended the wedding of her brother, Robert, in London in 1918.  I received a lovely reply from Hilaire Wood, a Society member:

' According to Robert's father's diary, quoted by Richard Perceval Graves in The Assault Heroic, p 191: "We were almost the first arrivals but the church filled up. Family (Amy, I and six children, including Perceval and Susie but dear Roz had failed to get leave) CLG, Lily, Rosy... Miss North... and no end of others -" '
Rosaleen's poem "The Smells of Home" was first published in "The Spectator" on 30th November 1918 and is included on page 269 of the WW1 Anthology "The Winter of the World Poems of the First World War", edited by Dominic Hibberd and John Onions, published by Constable and Robinson Ltd., London, 2007.

Photographs and additional information kindly supplied by Roger Cooper, Rosaleen's son.

Rachael Bates (1897 - 1966) – British

Rachel was born on 7th March 1897 in Great Crosby, West Derby, UK, which is now in Merseyside but was in Lancashire at that time.  Her parents were Joseph Ambrose Bates, a painter and decorator, and his wife, Edith Annie, nee Grimshaw.  The family lived in Cambridge Road Great Crosby (Merseyside), where Rachel worked as a secretary at “The Liverpool Daily Post and Echo” in the editorial department.

During the Second World War, Rachel moved to Sawrey in the Lake District.  She died in 1966 and was buried on 18th January 1966 at St. Michael and All Angels Cemetery in Hawkshead, Cumbria.

Rachel’s poetry collection “Danae and Other poems” was published by Erskine Macdonald, London, in 1922.

“The Anachronism” by Rachel Bates

Not here, not here do I belong —
These clanging nights, these iron days
Afford no beauty for my praise.
No inspiration for my song;

Amid the cold, incurious race
That seeks no traffic with the stars
Nor any news of ancient wars,
I have no certain dwelling-place.

But in a ruder, Braver day
Whose kings knew better than to die
Upon their beds contemptibly,
My dreams pursue their glittering way.

Not here, not here, but long ago
Above the crash of splintered swords
I shouted wild, ecstatic words
Across the bitter fields of woe.

And they that heard were doubly men
And leapt into the tide of death
With burning eyes and gusty breath
.And smote and fell and smote again.

What mattered then the myriad laws
Of petty wrongs and feeble right —
Oh, sweeter, sweeter far to fight
And die in some dear, hapless cause !

Not now, not now, but yesterday
You leaned above me and your hair
Fell downward through the golden air
And took fresh beauty on its way;

Across my heart I felt it flow
In broken light, and all your words
Flew down to me like homing birds —
Not here, not here, but long ago !

From “Danae and other poems”, pp 16 - 17

With thanks to Rachael's second cousin John Clark for pointing out that I had previously spelt Rachael's name incorrectly.

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Pansy Ommanney (1898 - 1975) – Artist, poet, inventor

Liz Tobin found me a poem about Airships and sent me the link. I ched out the website and contacted Art Lowry, who has researched Pansy.  Art says: “Born in Holywood, Dunfriesshire, Scotland in 1898, Pansy’s parents were Major William Graham Chambers (formerly William Goulay Dunn and from a famous golfing family) and Nina Grace Chambers (the publishing family).

By the time she was three, Pansy and her parents were living at Glenbrittle Lodge, Minginish on the Isle of Skye. The family travelled to Canada in 1911, living on Vancouver Island, before returning to London in 1915. Pansy had three brothers, Robert Laing Chambers (a trooper of the 1st Australian Light Horse who was killed in action at Gallipoli on 18 May 1915) and Murray Goulay Chambers,  and a sister, Nina Iris Grahame Chambers.

On 15th July 1919 Patsy married Patrick Gream Nelson Ommanney at the Holy Trinity Church, Brompton, London. At the time of the marriage Patrick was a Major in the RAF, ex-Lieutenant, RN and former commander of the rigid airship R27.

Pansy was an artist and a poet – probably from a young age. Her verses were published in "The Tatler", "Sphere", "Windsor Magazine", "Chambers’ Journal" and "London Mercury". Much in the same style as the poetry of well-known airship advocate Dame Sybil Grant, a collection of Pansy’s poetry was published in a book called "Tunes On A Barrel-Organ" in the 1920s. As well as poems of love and loss as might be expected, there is one poem with a strong airship theme…

Find out more here:

With thanks to Liz Tobin for finding the link to the Art Lowry's article about Pansy, which has the following poem about airships:

“We! (A Forecast)”

We are the pride of nations
(The world stands by to gaze),
Fearing our power and wondering,
They watch us on our ways.

Silent our strength, untried as yet,
Though we may light world fires :
Questing we ride the elements,
The winds hiss through our wires.

O little ships of ancient days
We watch you down below,
Trade is our job, but war a game
We somehow seem to know.

Where we might help a little ship,
Or watch it sink and die…
Turning, the airship, long and grey,
Slid back across the sky.

Monday, 25 February 2019

Mary Elizabeth Boyle (1881 - 1974) - Scottish Poet and Writer

Mary was born in Crieff, Perth, Scotland in 1881.  Her father was a Rear Admiral in the British Royal Navy, who was appointed a Naval Aide-de-Camp to Queen Victoria on 4th August 1890.  Her mother was Agnes Peile Lumsden Boyle.  Mary had the following siblings:  Agnes M. b. 1880, Dorothy Catharine, b. 1886, Archibald Robert b. 11th August 1888 and David E. b. 9th September 1890.  The children were initially educated at home by a Governess.

Mary’s brother, David Erskine Boyle, became a professional soldier. He joined the 2nd Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers and was killed in the early days of WW1 at Le Cateau, near Cambrai on 26th August 1916. David Erskine Boyle is remembered on the Memorial at La Ferte-Sous-Jouarre, Seine-et-Marne, France.

Mary’s brother Archibalde Robert also joined the Army – the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. “Archie”, as he was known, survived the war and was awarded two Military Crosses – one on 23rd June 1915 and the other on 25th November 1916.

Mary’s sister Dorothy married Frank Douglas Browne in Kohat, Bengal, India in 1907.

Mary’s WW1 poetry collections were:  “Aftermath: Poems” (Heffer, Cambridge, 1914) – dedicated to the  memory of her brother, David - and “Pilate in Exile at Vienne” (Heffer, Cambridge, 1915).

Connie Ruzich has posted one of Mary’s poems on her wonderful website Behind Their Lines  here:

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Janet Begbie (1897 - 1953) - British poet and writer

Janet Muriel Begbie was born in London in 1897.  Her parents were poet, writer and journalist Edwin Harold Begbie (1871 – 1929) and his wife, Alice Gertrude, nee Seale.  Harold contributed to national newspapers and raised a great deal of money for East End of London charities such as the Salvation Army.  Janet had the following siblings: Joan, Gertrude, Eve and Eleanor.

Janet began writing poetry at an early age, encouraged and influenced by her father.  Harold did not approve of sending girls to school, so his daughters were educated at home.  Their music teacher, Edwin Farwell, was one of the few males allowed into the house to teach the girls.

Janet’s First World War poetry collection, “Morning Mist” was published by Mills and Boon in 1916.   Janet’s younger sister, Joan, also wrote poetry. 

Under the pen-name Elizabeth Croly, Janet wrote and published several books.  She fell in love with her music teacher and they were married in 1926.

Janet died in Poole, Dorset in 1953.

“I shouted for Blood”

I shouted for blood as I ran, brother,
Till my bayonet pierced your breast;
I lunged thro' the heart of a man, brother,
That the sons of men might rest.

I swung up my riffle apace, brother,
Gasping for breath awhile,
And I smote at your writhing face, brother,
That the face of peace might smile.

Your eyes are beginning to glaze, brother,
Your wounds are ceasing to bleed.
God's ways are wonderful ways, brother,
And hard for your wife to read.

With grateful thanks to Janet’s Great-nephew Roger Quin for his help with information about the Begbie family and for permission to use the Begbie family photograph.