Saturday 21 October 2023

Barbara Euphan Todd (1890 – 1976) – British writer and poet best known for her ten books for children about a scarecrow called Worzel Gummidge.

Barbara Euphan Todd was born in Arksey, near Doncaster, which was then in the West Riding of Yorkshire, UK on 9th January 1890. Her parents were Anglican Church Vicar Thomas Todd and his wife Alice Maud Mary Todd, (née Bentham). Barbara was brought up in the village of Soberton, Hampshire. Educated at St Catherine's School, Bramley, near Guildford, Surrey.

Barbara left school in 1914, and during the First World War initially worked on the land in Surrey, before joining the British Red Cross VAD in Yorkshire.   From 12/12/1917 until 15/02/1919 she worked in Loversall Hall Auxiliary Hospital in Doncaster.  Loversall Hall Hospital was opened as a Red Cross Ausiliary Hospital in 1914 by Mrs Sophia Skipwith, who owned the Hall.  The Loversall Hall Auxiliary Hospital provided 100 beds. (See Inspirational Women of WW1 weblog for more information about Sophia Skipwith).

After her father's retirement, Barbara lived with her parents in Surrey and began writing. In 1932, she married Commander John Graham Bower (1886 –1940), a retired naval officer. They had no children, but from a previous marriage he had a child - Ursula Graham Bower - who became an anthropologist.

Barbara died in a nursing home in Donnington, Berkshire on 2nd February 1976. Her stepdaughter remembered her as "warm and kind", but recalled mainly her "dry – and sometimes wry – sense of humour", the hallmark of her Worzel Gummidge books.

Barbara's Red Cross WW1 record card


Quite by chance a poem recently written by my friend Linda Copp in America, which she posted on Facebook, led me to look for the author of the "Worzel Gummidge" books.  Although Barbara was a poet AND worked as a VAD during WW1, I haven't yet been able to find any WW1 poems by her. If anyone can help please get in touch. 

Linda has very kindly given me permission to share her lovely poem with you:

"The Scarecrow" By Linda Copp ©

Mr. Scarecrow, you're much too meek,

you're much too gentle, mild.

You're much too kind to scare a crow

or even shun, a child.

In your funny coat, patched and bright

bluey-greens, and buttons gold.

You haven't any un-lite' spots,

least none I can behold.

A smile is crayoned cross the broom,

that stands out as your head.

Its bristles point the other way,

beneath a hat of red.

And painted on that one time sweep,

a funny face, a smirk,

It isn't quite that mean enough,

to let the scaring work.

Your laughter seems to change it,

into a silly grin.

Your gentle eyes of charcoal,

reflect a glow within.

And glow is what you must do,

your colors, dress, and face,

They turned you from intended stress,

into the scare's disgrace.

For the crows, they fly above you

they light upon your brow.

It seems they mock and mimic you

but, to their taunts, you mustn't bow.

For the children they all love you,

you're their very best of friend.

You give them light and magic,

from that heart that shines within.

And so, as straw arms reach out,

to children, love and care,

It's really then no wonder,

My scarecrow, you can not scare.

And though you feel a failure,

so often at your job,

You mustn't fall to sighing,

Oh no, You mustn't sob.

For you've achieved a rarer goal,

than once was one day planned,

You've remained yourself, a friend,

straw borders you have spanned.

And no, you needn't worry,

No, you needn't fret,

Though, they can't see your troubled heart,

broken with regret.

Sunshine, is your master.

Scariness is your foe.

The worlds demands you shackled,

by a heart too kind to know,

That cold and darkness have to be,

a part of any day,

That warmth and sunshine often are lost,

forgotten in their way.

Now, though they call you Scarecrow

there's no villain in your soul.

You've failed at what their names implied

but are names the only goal?

For you're one who has to laugh and sing, 

scary things, you cannot do.

You have to cheer the dreary skies.

You have to turn them blue.

You can't conceal that silly smile,

that wants to be a friend.

You can't be mean and angry,

you can't a teardrop lend.

No, no, my friend, you mustn't cry.

You mustn't feel you've failed.

For, in the end, you did what's right,

your inner self prevailed.

And this is much more a victory,

then you can now, believe.

You've done a harder, wiser, task,

than any crow, could leave.

Pumpkins, children, and the like

kiss you on this morn.

Thank you for your silly mask,

that couldn't hurt and scorn.

And bless you for your loving heart,

your hand a golden glove,

That managed to maintain the touch

that harvested such love!

By Linda A. Copp © 1970


“Worzel Gummidge” - a British television fantasy comedy series, produced by Southern Television for ITV, based on the Worzel Gummidge books by English author Barbara Euphan Todd. The programme starred Jon Pertwee as the titular scarecrow and Una Stubbs as Aunt Sally. It ran for four series in the UK from 1979 to 1981. On a countdown of the greatest British children's programmes, this series was number 50 in the 50 Greatest Kids TV Shows on Channel 5 on 8 November 2013. "Worzel's Song", sung by Jon Pertwee, was released in 1980, reaching number 33 in the UK charts.

Channel 4 reprised the show in 1987 as Worzel Gummidge Down Under, which was set in New Zealand.

A 2019 series starring Mackenzie Crook (photo right) as Wurzel, was produced by Leopard Pictures and broadcast by BBC One on 26 and 27 December 2019. Mackenzie Crook also wrote and directed the series. A third episode was announced as in production by the BBC on 8 September 2020, and was broadcast on Christmas Eve 2020.

A fourth episode had been set to broadcast in 2020 but production ceased due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That episode was broadcast on 6 November 2021, with two further episodes broadcast on the BBC in late December 2021.

Monday 16 October 2023

Mary E. Bond (1897 - 1988) – student poet of WW1

With thanks to Historian Andrew Mackay for finding this poem and poet for us.

Postcard with Mary's poem - sold in aid of
WW1 soldiers' comforts and printed
in Blackburn, Lancashire.

Born in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, UK in November 1897,  Mary's parents were Charles Bond, a coalminer, and his wife, Annie Bond, who was born in Ireland.  The family lived in Oswaldtwistle, Blackburn, Lancashire.  

Mary Ellen Bond was a student at the time of writing this poem and attended Bank Top Congregational Sunday School.  

Mary died in 1988 in Blackburn, Lancashire.  

If anyone has any further information about Mary, has a photograph and/or knows if she wrote any other poems please get in touch.

Bank Top is in Blackburn with Darwen in the County of Lancashire, United Kingdom.

Soldiers’ Comforts 

Almost 18,000 charities were set up to assist people during the First World War.  


Postcard from Andrew Mackay,  
Find my Past website

Friday 13 October 2023

Florence A. Vicars (1870 - ? ) – Poet

While researching another WW1 poet with a similar name - Ambrose Vickers - I noticed an entry in Catherine W. Reilly's "English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography" on page 322 about Florence A. Vicars.  

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find out much about Florence.  According to an entry I found through the Find my Past website, she was born in England and married an Irishman called Joseph J.S. Vickars, who was born in Ireland in 1845.  They seem to have travelled to Canada in 1911.  And there is an entry on the 1911 Census in Canada that lists them as living in Toronto West, Ontario.  If anyone knows anything about Florence please get in touch.

Here is one of Florence's poems:

“GOLD STRIPES A Canadian Mother Speaks”

My Bert 'as just come 'ome again ; 'e walks a little lame, 

But thank the Lord 'e's got 'is eyes, 'is face is just the same ; 

I'm that glad the shrapnel miss'd it, I could look at 'im all day, 

Though I'd love 'im just as dearly if the 'al was shot away.

'E ain't so reg'lar 'andsome, and 'e ain't so ugly too, 

But just an average looker, the same as me and you. 

And there's not a prouder woman in Alberta, I believe, 

When I go out walkin' with 'im, with the gold stripes on 'is sleeve.

There's one 'e says 'e got by bein' just a bloomin' fool ; 

Fair mad 'e was that day the Boches bombed an infant school. 

There was cover for the takin', but 'e couldn't stop to take it; 

Through blood and tears 'e saw their line, and knew 'e 'ad to break it.

The other times, 'e says, 'twas just 'is duty that 'e done, 

And, once, I know, the orficers they thank'd 'im one by one.

So every day I thank the Lord for what we do receive, 

When I walk with Bert in khaki, with the gold stripes on 'is sleeve.

FLORENCE A. VICARS. The Westminster Gazette.

Published in  “WAR VERSE” EDITED BY FRANK FOXCROFT (THOMAS Y. CROWELL COMPANY, NEW YORK , 1918) - p. 127    That poem was allso published in the “Yorkshire Evening Post”, Friday 30 November 1917 

Here is another of Florence's poems:

“Springtime in England A Memory of Exile” by Florence A Vicars, Toronto, 1916 published in the “Westminster Gazette” 4th May 1916. 

Sources: Find my Past, British Newspaper Archive 


Catherine W. Reilly.- "English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography" (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978) - page 322

Tuesday 3 October 2023

Ruth Collie, née Ruth Jacobs, (1888 - 1936) - British-born poet who started her writing career in Winnipeg, Manitoba – whose pen names were Wilhelmina Stitch and Sheila Rand

With thanks to Stanley Kaye (the Poppy Man) for finding this poet for us.  

Ruth Jacobs was born in November 1888 in Cambridge, UK. She was the eldest of three children born to Isiah Wolf Jacobs, a bookseller and accountant, and his wife, Josephine Jacobs, nee Hast. Her maternal grandfather was Marcus Hast, a Hebrew composer who spent 40 years as Rabbi at the Great Synagogue of London.

In 1908, Ruth's future husband, Elisha Arakie Cohen, a lawyer who worked for the firm Daly, Crichton and McClure in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, travelled to England where he met  Ruth. They were married and returned to Winnipeg. In 1910 their son - Ralph - was born.

In 1913, Ruth began writing book reviews for the “Winnipeg Telegram” using the pen name Sheila Rand. In 1917 she was hired as an editor and regularly published poems and short stories. By January 1919, the “Telegram” was in financial trouble and she was recruited by the “Winnipeg Tribune”, where she started to write a column called "What to Read... and What Not." The column included book reviews and also poems she wrote. 

Following the death of her husband in March 1919, Ruth began working at Eaton's, writing advertising copy for their catalogues. She continued to write for the “Tribune” and became literary editor of “Western Home Monthly”. She was also elected vice-president of the Canadian Authors' Association, which led to regular speaking engagements. In 1922, Ruth signed a deal to publish her poetry in several North American newspapers and began to write under a new pen name, Wilhelmina Stitch.

In 1923 Ruth moved back to England to further her son's education. He became a  professor of economics. In 1924, she married Frank Collie, a physician from Scotland. Ruth resumed her writing career and submitted poetry to the “London Daily Graphic”. Her daily poetry earned her the nickname, "the poem a day lady." Her poetry made her name well known and she was regularly called on to speak for community groups. In 1930, Ruth went on a two-month speaking tour of North America where she spoke every day for 50 days.

Ruth died in London in 1936 after a brief illness at the age of 48. 

Memorial plaque dedicated to Ruth Collie under her pen name Wilhelmina Stitch at Golders Green Crematorium. Photograph by Stanley Kaye. 


FOR thirteen years, 

Each first of June, 

We marked our heights upon the schoolroom door. 

With girlish jeers, 

Each first of June, 

I scoffed, O cousin, you must grow still more 

If you would be as tall as I 

Next first of June ! 

My solemn, pale-faced cousin, Fie ! 

To let me win the race. 


Ah me! To-day, 

This first of June, 

They wrote that you in Flanders found a grave. 

So now I say, 

This first of June,   

‘O pale-faced cousin, sleeping with the brave, 

Would I could grow as tall as you 

Next first of June, 

And stride, as British heroes do, 

With head above the clouds!’ 

From: “Canadian Poems of the Great War.” Edited by John W. Garvin, (McClelland & Stewart, Toronto, 1918) – page 184. 

As this WW1 Anthology is available to read as a free download on Archive, you can also read other poems by Ruth published in that volume on pages 183 – 186.

Other sources:  Find my Past, Free BMD and Wikipedia.

Portrait of Ruth taken  by Howard Coster National Portrait Gallery NPG x93858

Howard Sydney Musgrave Coster (27 April 1885 – 17 November 1959) was a British photographer. After serving in the RAF during WW1, he opened a studio in London in 1926. 

Friday 21 July 2023

Enid B. Petre (1890 - 1962) – Britsh poet

With grateful thanks to Historian, Writer and Poet AC Benus* for reminding me that, although Enid Petre was already on the List of Female Poets of the First World War, I had not yet researched and written  a post about her.  

Enid Beatrice Petre was born on 3rd March 1890 in Aligarh, Bengal, India. Her parents were Francis Loraine Petre, a civil servant who worked in India, and his wife, Maude Ellen Petre, nee Rawlinson, who were married in Bengal in 1887. 

In the 1901 England, Wales & Scotland Census, the family were living at No. 27, Gledhow Gardens, Kensington, London, UK.  

During the First World War, Enid served as a nurse with the British Red Cross as a VAD from 19th November 1917 until 28th February 1918.   According to her WW1 British Red Cross VAD Record Card, it seems that Enid worked at the Royal Free Military Hospital in London.

On the 1921 Census, Enid is recorded as living at No. 25 Golborne Street in Kensington, London, UK.  

Enid died on 13th October 1962.

Enid’s WW1 poetry collections were:

“Autumn Leaves, 1915” (A.L. Humphreys, 1916)

“Fallen Petals: Poems” (A.L. Humphreys, 1917)

Sources:  Find my Past

Catherine W. Reilly, “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) p. 252

*AC Benus is the author of a book about German WW1 poet Hans Ehrenbaum-Degele : “The Thousandth Regiment: A Translation of and Commentary on Hans Ehrenbaum-Degele’s War Poems” by AC Benus (AC Benus, San Francisco, 2020). Along with Hans's story, the book includes original poems as well as translations.    ISBN: 978-1657220584

Saturday 1 July 2023

Daisy Minnie Hannah Jones (1895 - 1980) – British poet

 A wonderful poem posted on the Facebook Group Cemeteries and Memorials of the Great War by Dave Barlee, on 26 June 2023 

Dave is Daisy’s grandson.  He gave me permission and sent me some poems plus some information about and a photograph of Daisy.  Dave tells us:

“Daisy penned this poem in September 1914 to my grandfather, William John Jones, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards:

“To W.J.J.”

When across the foaming billows

To a near, but foreign shore

When with all equipment laden

You are marching off to war :-

N’ere forget that one is thinking

Thinking of you far away

Praying that from midst wars rampant 

Safely you’ll return one day

x x x x x x 

When you are in the midst of dangers

And around you comrades fall

When with still undaunted courage 

You are answering duty’s call

Think that there’s one in England 

Who doth for you wait, and pray

That through all encircling dangers 

Safely you’ll return one day

x x x x x x 

When the war at last is ended

And the longed for reign of peace

Over- throws his welcome mantle

And the noise of battles cease:-

Even then shall one be thinking

Thinking of you day by day

Counting how long you’ll be coming

From the war field far away

x x x x x x

A poem from Daisy's notebook
in her own handwriting

Born Daisy Minnie Hannah Cook in Epsom in 1895, when Daisy left school she went into service. She was 19 when she wrote to William John Jones, who had been called back to the colours at the start of the war. I’m not sure where she met him as he was from Neath in South Wales. I presume it must have been when he was in the London area when he joined the Grenadier Guards.

William had served his time by 1916 and was discharged and continued with his job as a steel worker. They moved to Deeside, Flinshire, North Wales. After the death of William, Daisy remarried and became Daisy Thomas. She died in Flintshire in 1980.  

Grandmother was fantastic with her hands and made lace and could do macrame and tatting and was a seamstress too. As I said - a clever lady! 

She wrote quite a lot of poetry in her younger days. The above poems are related to the Great War.”

Additional information:

We find Daisy, married to William John Jones, living in Flintshire, Wales.  By then the couple had a son – Elwyn Idris - and a daughter – Glenys May. 

Original source: Group Cemeteries and Memorials of the Great War 

You can find out more about the importance of cigarettes for the troops fighting on the various Fronts during WW1 here:

Wednesday 17 May 2023

Ruth Pitter, CBE (1897 - 1992) – British poet and artist

Ruth was born Emma Thomas Ruth Pitter in Ilford, Essex, UK on 7th November 1897. However, her birth certificate records her Christian name as just being "Ruth."  Her parents were George Pitter and his wife, Louisa Pitter, nee Murrell, who were both primary school teachers.  Ruth was educated at the Coborn School for Girls in London. 

During the First World War, Ruth was employed at the War Office from 1915 to 1917. She went on to work as an artist at a furniture company in Suffolk -Walberswick Peasant Pottery Co.

Ruth’s parents encouraged her to write poetry from an early age.  In 1920, she published her first collection of poems – “First Poems” (London: Cecil Palmer, 1920) - with the help of the poet Hilaire Belloc.

Ruth was the first woman to receive the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, which she was awarded in 1955. In 1979 she was appointed appointed Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE), to honour her many contributions to English literature.  In 1974, Ruth was named a "Companion of Literature", the highest honour given by the Royal Society of Literature.

After a long and very industrious life during which she published a good deal of her poems, Ruth died on 29th February 1992.

(NOTE; Prisca Coborn or Cobourne (1622-1701), the widow of a Bow brewer, left property at Bow, Stratford, and Bocking (Essex) to maintain a school for not more than 50 poor children at Bow; the boys were to learn reading, writing, and accounts, and the girls reading, writing, and needlework. The Coopers' Girls' School at 86 Bow Road was renamed Coborn School and moved to new buildings at 31-33 Bow Road, London, E 3 in 1898.)

Sources:  Free BMD, Find my Past