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: