Friday 23 January 2015

Dorothy Una Ratcliffe (1887 - 1967) - British

Dorothy was born Dorothy Una Clough in June 1887 in Preston, Steyning, Sussex, UK. Her parents were Charles Benson Clough from Scarborough in Yorkshire, a barrister and his wife Rose Emily Clough, nee Russell.  Dorothy was the eldest of the Clough girls – Winifred and Pauline were her sisters.  The girls were encouraged to take an interest in current affairs and literature and produced their first magazine when Dorothy was eleven years old.

Dorothy was sent to finishing school in Paris and Germany.  In Paris she studied opera singing, sharing a teacher with Dame Nelie Meba.

While on a family holiday in the Isle of Wight, Dorothy and Pauline met Charles and Victor Ratcliffe.   They were the sons of Frederick Ratcliffe and the nephews of his brother-in-law, chemical millionaire Edward Allen Brotherton, who became Lord Brotherton of Wakefield. Lord Brotherton’s sister Florence Ratcliffe, nee Brotherton, was Charles and Victor’s mother. 

Victor Ratcliffe was also a poet (one of the Forgotten Poets of WW1) and he and Dorothy got on extremely well.  However, on 21st September 1909, Dorothy married Charles, who was the more ambitious of the brothers, at St. Stephen’s Church in Kensington and Pauline became engaged to Victor Ratcliffe.

Dorothy’s marriage to Charles, however, was not a success and Dorothy began to help her husband’s uncle Lord Brotherton who by then was a childless widower.   He became Lord Mayor of Leeds in 1913 – 1914 and Dorothy was his Lady Mayoress – the youngest woman ever to hold the post.   For the Yorkshire Show in Bradford in July 1914, the Yorkshire Evening News set up the Great Yorkshire Show Airline with hourly flights between Leeds and Bradford. Dorothy was the first passenger to take the trip in the Blackburn type 1 plane piloted by Harold Blackburn an aviation pioneer.

During WW1, Dorothy helped Lord Brotherton to equip the Leeds Old Pals Regiment and also helped out with Belgian refugees. Dorothy was responsible for the collection of early printed books owned by Lord Brotherton and now in Leeds University Library.

After the failure of her first marriage in 1930, Dorothy married Noel McGrigor-Phillips with whom she purchased and renovated Temple Sowerby Manor in the Lake District.  This is now the National Trust property Acorn Bank in Cumbria.  Dorothy and Noel travelled extensively in Africa, Iceland and Greece, returning to the UK when war broke out in 1939.  

Noel died in 1942 and in 1947 Dorothy married Alfred Charles Vowles, a professional photographer from the West Country, with whom she toured Scotland in a caravan.  Dorothy refused to change her name so Alfred changed his to Phillips.  In the 1950s, they moved to Anne Street in Edinburgh.

After Alfred’s death, Dorothy went to live in a flat in North Berwick where she died in 1967.

Dorothy Una's WW1 poetry collections were:

"The Dales of Arcady", published by Erskine Macdonald in 1918

"Singing Rivers", published by The Bodley Head in 1922


Catherine W. Reilly "English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography" published by St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978

Sunday 18 January 2015

Alberta Vickridge (1890 - 1963)

Alberta was born in Bradford in around 1890.  Her parents were Albert S. Vickridge and his wife Edith, nee Wardlow.  After Alberta came Marian (1891 - 1970) and Hilda (1892 - 1985).  Hilda was the only one of the sisters to marry.  The family lived in Beamsley House in Frizinghall from 1895.

The three girls had a grammar school education, attending Bradford Girls' Grammar School and Alberta went on to attended Bradford School of Art.

The family wintered in Torquay in Devon due to Edith Vickridge's ill health.

Alberta's writing was encourage by her father, who had a volume of her work privately printed for her fourteenth birthday.  She wrote poems and articles which were published in leading newspapers and magazines of the time.

When war broke out in 1914, Alberta would have been about 24.  By then her poems were being published in the magazine "The Wayfarer".   The editor of the magazine was called up and Alberta took over the job of editing the publication until 1927.

Alberta volunteered to join the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) and nursed at the hospital which had been set up in Torquay Town Hall by the Red Cross.  Agatha Christie, another Female Poets of the First World War, was also VAD with the Red Cross in Torquay and served at the same time as Alberta. They became friends.

After the war, Alberta began working on the poem that brought her lasting renown - "The Forsaken Princess" - and in 1924 she entered the poem into a poetry competition at The Southern Counties Eisteddfod, which was held in Torquay that year.  Alberta's poem won and she was awarded a Bardic Chair and Crown.

Alberta was friends with Yorkshire poets Wilfred Rowland Childe, J.B. Priestly, Sydney Matthewman, Geoffrey Woledge and Dorothy Una Ratcliffe.  In 1927 Alberta founded the magazine "The Jongleur" which was published until 1956.   She purchased a printing press and founded her own printing company.

Alberta died at Beamsley House in 1963.

Alberta's collection of First World War poems was published in 1919 under the title "The Sea Gazer (and other poems)" by Erskine Macdonald.   Poems by Alberta Vickridge were also included in the WW1 Anthologies "A Treasury of War Poetry, 1914 - 1919", edited by George Herbert Clarke and published by Hodder & Stoughton in 1919 and in "Poems of the Great War. Selected on behalf of the Belgian Scholarship Committee" edited by John William Cunliffe and published in New York by Macmillan in 1916.

With thanks to Colin Woodbine for replying to my e-mail after seeing his website


Reilly, Catherine W. "English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography" published in 1978 by St. Martin's Press Inc., New York.

Reilly, Catherine W. "Scars upon my Heart" published by Virago Press in 1981.

Photo from and according to Colin supplied by Alberta's nephew - Alberta Vickridge in her VAD Uniform, WW1.

Friday 9 January 2015

"Solitude" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850 - 1919) - American

"Solitude" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox - one of the poets on my ever-growing List of Female Poets of the First World War. When she was in her late 60s, Ella travelled to the Western Front from America in 1917 to entertain the American Troops.  She read them her poems - some of which she composed specially once there - and lecturing them on the importance of 'moral hygiene' …

Travelling all that way and crossing the Atlantic and English Channel by boat in wartime, with the constant threat from enemy submarines and mines, would have been an achievement for a much younger woman.   

This poem, which was written long before the First World War, was one of my Father's favourites.  I feel it rings especially true today (9th January 2015) when the world is mourning the staff of the Paris-based satirical weekly magazine "Charlie Hebdo."

Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
    Weep, and you weep alone;
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
    But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
    Sigh, it is lost on the air;
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
    But shrink from voicing care.

Rejoice, and men will seek you;
    Grieve, and they turn and go;
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
    But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many;
    Be sad, and you lose them all,—
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
    But alone you must drink life’s gall.

Feast, and your halls are crowded;
    Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
    But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
    For a large and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
    Through the narrow aisles of pain.

Sunday 4 January 2015

Anna DURIE (1856 - 1933) - Canada

With many thanks to Steve Cloutier from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, for bringing Ann Durie to my attention.

Born Anna Burgess Peel on 13th November 1856 Thornhill, Ontario, Anna's Father moved the family to New Orleans where he edited a newspaper.

After the Civil War the Peel family went to live in Europe where they witnessed the end of the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune.  Anna studied French, German, art and music.

In 1880, at the age of 24, Anna married Lieutenant Colonel William Smith Durie in New York.  Durie was much older than Anna.   The Duries went to live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and had two children - William Arthur born on 8th August 1881 and Helen Frances born in 1883.  William senior died in 1885, leaving Anna a widow at the age of 30 with two children to bring up.  She worked as a poet and writer for the publications "Canadian Magazine", the "Mail" and "Empire".  Anna also broadcast her poetry on the radio.  In her spare time she was a volunteer with the Red Cross.  She saw that both her children had private educations.

Arthur went to work for the Royal Bank, Toronto.  When war broke out in 1914, he volunteered for the 58th Battalion and was sent to France in 1916.  Whereupon Anna went to live in London, where she stayed in hotels and sent food parcels from Oxford Street shops to her son on the Western Front.

Arthur was wounded in the spine on 1st May 1916 near Sanctuary Wood, Ypres.  As was the custom in the First World War, civilian relatives of seriously wounded military personnel were permitted to visit them so Anna went to visit Arthur.   When he was well enough, Arthur was sent back to England to a convalescent home in Brighton.  Anna followed and Helen soon arrived from Canada.

Passed fit for military service and in spite of his mother's determination to get him a "safe" job, Arthur went back to the Western Front to rejoin his Battalion after Christmas 1916.  His mother sent him a copy of a collection of poems by Robert Service with which he regaled his fellow officers.   However, Arthur was not properly fit so he was sent to Menton in the South of France to further recuperate and his Mother went to Menton to be near him.

Arthur returned to his Regiment in March 1917 and, vowing that she would not return home until the war was over, Anna went back to London where Arthur joined  her for some R and R in September 1917.   After Christmas leave in 1917, Arthur returned to the Front, this time to Lens, France, where he was killed by a shell on 29th December 1917.

After the war Anna and Helen visited Arthur's grave but from the outset Anna was unhappy about leaving her son in France, so she set about rescuing his body.  It took several attempts and a great deal of letter-writing and arguing but she persevered, stole her son's body and took him back to Canada in August 1925, where he was buried in St. James Cemetery, Toronto.

According to the article in "The Toronto Star", a newspaper report in a British newspaper in 1930 reported that wealthy British people also stole the bodies of their loved ones buried on the Western France and there was a brisk trade in smuggling bodies home.

Anna died in 1933.  Her main published poetry collections are "Our Absent Hero", 1920 and "Wolfe and Other Poems", 1929.

A Soldier's Grave in France by Anna Peel Durie, 1920

Here lies a widowed mother's only son.
O gentle winds! temper the airs of heaven
That they blow softly where his young head rests
In friendly soil, rich-carpeted with bloom:
Scarlet and gentian blue and butter-gold,
Flecked with an English daisy here and there.
He was no dreamer, though he soundly sleeps;
Rather a man in whom the joy of life
Foamed sparkling to the brim;  and when great France
Sent fort her her bitter, wailing cry for help,
(That France which holds him here enclasped in earth)
Eastward he turned his face and crossed the seas,
Laid youth and glorious manhood in the dust,
And so stepped into immortality.

Sources:  "Canadian Poetry from World War 1 An Anthology" edited by Joel Baetz, published by Oxford University, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, 2009.

Canada's Early Women Writers -

Photos:  Google Images

Thursday 1 January 2015

Alys Fane Trotter (c.1863-1916) British Artist & Poet

Thank you to Sara Colegrave an art dealer who has researched Alys’s work for inspiring me to seek further information about the First World War poet and artist Alys Fane Trotter.  This is what I have found so far.  If anyone has any further information please get in touch. 

Alys was born Alys Fane Keatinge in Dublin on 16th December 1863.  Her parents were Maurice Keatinge, a Civil Servant and Ellen Flora Keatinge, nee Mayne, from Wiltshire.   The family lived in London before Maurice retired then they went to live in the Manor House at Teffont Evias, Wiltshire, where Ellen Flora was born.   Alys had a sister called Eleanor Fane Keatinge; her brothers were - Richard Augustus, Gerald Francis and Maurice Walter.  In all Maurice and Ellen Flora had seven children.

The Manor House passed to Alys’s mother after the death of Ellen Flora’s elder sisters - Emily who married William Fane de Salis, who owned the estate in Wiltshire and Margaret, who first inherited the property when Emily died.   After the death of their mother, the property passed to Alys' brother Richard Keatinge, who sold it on to his brothers Maurice Walter and Gerald Francis.

Alys married Alexander Pelham Trotter on 25th June 1886 at the Parish Church in Paddington in London. 

Alys and her husband went to live in South Africa for a time, where Alexander was employed by the Cape Colonial Government.  They explored the countryside on bicycles and Alys was inspired by the beautiful Dutch colonial houses. She made copious notes and sketches and wrote and illustrated several books on the subject, among them "Old Cape Colony" which was published in 1903.  

Alys and her husband had two children - Alexander Nigel, who was born in London in 1894, and Gundred Eleanor Trotter born in1889. 

During the First World War, Alexander Nigel joined the Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment) 3rd Reserve Battalion with the rank of Lieutenant. He was killed on 12th October 1914.   

Alys's poetry collections were published as follows:  "Houses and Dreams" by Blackwell, Oxford, 1924 and "Nigel, and other verses" by Burns & Oates in 1918.  

Alys was also an accomplished artist and there are several references to her sketches in books about South Africa.   You will find examples of her artistic work on the website of Sarah Colegrave, an art dealer from London who has researched Alys and her work:

and here is a sketch drawn while Alys was living in  Africa:

Alys also had poems printed in magazines such as "Punch" and "The Cornhill Magazine" and in several WW1 poetry anthologies - "Poems from Punch 1909 – 1920”, published by Macmillan, 1922;  Valour and Vision:  Poems of the War, 1914 - 1918", published by Longmans, Green, 1920 and edited by Jacqueline Theodora Trotter and "Valour and Vision" Poems of the War, 1914 - 1918. A new edition, published by Hopkinson, 1923.  On the 1939 Census, Alys described herself as an Artist.

Alys died at the age of 99 in Wiltshire on 21st December 1961.

Alys's poem "There's a Pathway" in which she remembered a holiday in happier times with her son Nigel in Picardie, has been set to music by Wiltshire composer/musician Frank Harvey.

“There's a Pathway”

There's a pathway through a forest in the Picardie I know,
A port where girls haul up the boats with men and fish in tow,
And the hills run down to the market town where the country-women go.

And behind it is the village, and the coast-line lies below,
And down the road, the dusty road, the carts ply to and fro
By the stately frieze of forest trees beyond the old Chateau.

There were three of us on bicycles upon the road that day,
You wore your coat of hunting green, and vanished down the way.
"Le petit Chasseur, la mere et soeur", we heard the women say.

You vanished as a speck of green among the shadows blue,
And children trudging up the hill stood still and called to you:
"Le petit Chasseur, qui n'a pas peur", they laughed and called to you.

O boys, you wield a bayonet now and lift the soldier's load !
O girls you've learnt to drive the plough and use the bullock-goad !
But the hunter's laid, still unafraid, near the trodden Bethune road.

There's a pathway through the forest in the Picardie I know,
And O I'll dream and wander there; and poppy fields will glow;
And I'll watch the glare of the dusty air where the market wagons go..

From: "Poems of Spirit and Action" ed. W M Smyth, Edward Arnold (Publishers) Ltd (London, 1957), pp. 87-8

Jacqueline Theodora Trotter (born London 1894), who edited both editions of the WW1 Anthology "Valour and Vision: Poems of at the War, 1914 - 1918" was related to Alys - she was the daughter of Alys's husband's step-brother.   

You can view the full text of that First World War Anthology here:   Alice's poems are on pages 12 and 102.


Lancashire-born Catherine W. Reilly's "English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography", (published by St.Martin's Press, New York, 1978) Find my Past 
and Internet searches: