Sunday 20 December 2020

Mabel Checkley Forrest (1872 – 935) - Australian poet, writer and journalist.

With thanks to Marjorie Earl for her comments and  posts on Cathy Sedgwick's Facebook Page WW1 Australian War Graves in England/UK and for finding the poem about Australian VAD Lydia Grant

Helena Mabel Checkley Forrest was born on 6th March 1872, near Yandilla, Queensland (now part of Toowoomba Region), the daughter of James Checkley Mills and his wife Margaret Nelson, née Haxell, who was educated in France and Germany. She began writing at an early age.

 Mabel also lived in Goondiwindi, Dalby and later Townsville and Charters Towers. The publication of her first volume of poems, “Alpha Centauri”, in Melbourne in 1909, founded Mabel’s reputation as a poet. Her first novel “A Bachelor's Wife”, was included in the Bookstall series in 1914. “The Green Harper (prose and verse) followed in 1915, and “Streets and Gardens”, a collection of verse, in 1922. Several of Mabel’s short stories were translated into Dutch and published In Holland. Starting when she was seven years old, Mabel won a total of 14 prizes in literary competitions. She also wrote poems and short stories for various newspapers and magazines.

Mabel died of pneumonia on 18th March 1935 in Brisbane, after a long illness. She was married twice – her second husband was John Forrest - and was survived by a daughter. 

"Lydia Grant, V.A.D." - a poem by M. Forrest published in the “Sydney Mail”, newspaper, Wednesday, 18 April 1917, Page 28, in memory of  Lydia Grant, V.A.D. The first Australian V.A.D. to go from Queensland, who died while serving as a nurse in WW1 in Manchester, UK in 1917 and was buried in Manchester Southern Cemetery. 

Lydia Grant VAD

Who faced twin foes, Exhaustion and Disease,

And all the active horrors brought by war

To our great Motherland across the seas,

And faltered not where she her duty saw.

SO young

To lay aside life's riches, with the cup

Scarce at your lips. Brown hair and steadfast eyes,

You look to-day from gates of paradise,

While we weep and look up.


Beat at the outer ramparts of heaven's bars

To send our wailing thro' your radiant chant?

Your white feet find their homeland in the stars,

The girl who died for England— Lydia Grant.

Another poem by Mabel:


I was a Pirate once,

A blustering fellow with scarlet sash,

A ready cutlass and language rash;

From a ship with a rum-filled water-tank

I made the enemy walk the plank;

I marooned a man on an island bare,

And seized his wife by her long, dark hair;

Took treasure, such heaps of it! — wealth untold —

Bright bars of silver and chunks of gold!

Till my ship was choked to the decks with pelf,

And no one dare touch it except myself

And my black flag waved to the tearing breeze,

And I was the terror of all the seas!

I was a Fairy once.

I swung in the bows of the silky oak,

And the harebells rang to the words I spoke,

And my wings were fashioned of silver gauze,

And I knew no grief and no human laws.

And I lived where the laces of green leaves sway.

And my life was one long, long holiday.

No tasks to learn, and no bothering rules,

No hectoring grown-ups, and no—more—schools;

But a dance each eve, ’neath the moon’s cold light,

To sit up as late as I liked at night. . . .

For a lance I carried a grass-blade green,

And my shield was cut from an olivine;

I sipped cool dews from the cups of flowers,

My days were threaded of happy hours!

I was a Merman once.

In the gloom of the amber-tinted seas,

With the brown tang clinging about my knees,

With a coral house, and a crab to ride,

Who pranced, and who ambled from side to side;

I wooed a Mermaid with emerald hair,

Dragged the fierce sea-serpent from out his lair,

With his flaming tongue and his awful might,

And I slew him — easy — in open fight!

I had strings of pearls, white as frozen milk,

That were strung for me on sea-spider’s silk;

And I never pined for the upper skies,

Whose blue came down in the dead men’s eyes,

Drowned men with the salt on their blackened lips,

Who slid, drifting in, from the wrecks of ships;

But I took the gold from the belts of all,

To pave the road to my coral hall.

I was a Hunter once,

And I trapped and stalked in a pathless wood,

And the talk of the wild things understood.

With my leather leggings and hat of brown.

I tracked the elk and the redskin down;

Slew a grizzly bear in a mountain cave,

And tweaked the nose of an Indian brave.

Ere I shot the rapids in birch canoe  —

For there was nothing I could not do.

There was naught I did not dare or enjoy,

In the magic world of a dreaming boy!

Sources: Mabel’s Obituary in “The Mercury” Tue 19 Mar 1935 (Hobart, Tas.: 1860 - 1954)

Friday 18 December 2020

Edna Jaques (1891 - 1978) – Canadian poet, writer and lecturer

With thanks to a friend in Canada for sending me this information about Edna

Lecturer, author and poet, Edna Jaques was a popular figure throughout Canada. Her poems sometimes depicted the harsh beauty of the Prairies, but above all they celebrated the daily experiences of domestic life. 

Born in Collingwood, Ontario, on 17th January 1891, Edna moved with her family to a homestead southeast of Moose Jaw in Saskatchewan in 1902. Her education included attending a business college in Vancouver.  Edna married Ernest Jamieson  in 1921  and they had one daughter.


We have kept faith, ye Flanders' dead,

Sleep well beneath those poppies red

That mark your place.

The torch your dying hands did throw,

We've held it high before the foe,

And answered bitter blow for blow,

In Flanders fields.

And where your heroes' blood was spilled,

The guns are now forever stilled

And silent grown.

There is no moaning of the slain,

There is no cry of tortured pain,

And blood will never flow again,

In Flanders fields.

Forever holy in our sight

Shall be those crosses gleaming white,

That guard your sleep.

Rest you in peace, the task is done,

The fight you left us we have won,

And Peace on Earth has just begun,

In Flanders now.

Edna Jaques

Source Information received from a friend in Canada and

Lady Sybil Grant (1879 - 1955) – British artist, poet and writer

With grateful thanks to Art Lewry of Hunter Gatherer Ltd. for sending me so much information about Sybil. 

Lady Sybil Myra Caroline Primrose was the eldest child of Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery and his wife, Hannah de Rothschild, only child of Mayer Amschel de Rothschild (1818–1874) and a granddaughter of Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777–1836). Through Hannah, as her father's sole heiress, the Mentmore Towers estate passed into the Rosebery family.

Sybil’s father, Lord Rosebery, served as Prime Minister to Queen Victoria from 1894 to 1895. On 28 March 1903, at the Guards Chapel, Wellington Barracks, Lady Sybil married Charles John Cecil Grant (1877–1950), a regular soldier who later became a general and a Knight of the Bath. At the time of their marriage Charles was serving in the 1st Battalion Cold Stream Guards based in Aldershot. He later became General Sir Charles John Cecil Grant, KCB, KCVO, DSO.  They had one son, Charles Robert Archibald Grant, who married Pamela Wellesley (born 1912), a granddaughter of Arthur, 4th Duke of Wellington.

During the First World War, Lady Grant was invited to contribute to the Princess Mary’s Gift Book, a book of collected illustrated stories, in the effort to help raise money for the war effort. Other contributions were “A Holiday in Bed” by J. M. Barrie, “Bimbashi Joyce” by A. Conan Doyle, and “Big Steamers” by Rudyard Kipling.  Hodder & Stoughton published the book in 1915 with “All Profits On Sale Given To The Queen’s “Works For Women ” Fund.” As reported in “The New York Times”, Sybil also became the official photographer to the Royal Naval Air Service, in addition to which she produced a weekly war newspaper the ‘Home Letter’ for No. 2 Company, 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards.

Lady Sybil Grant was also a leading supporter of the "Lest We Forget" charitable fund, along with the Reverend Edward Dorling, and on the charity's behalf she organised a fete in the grounds of the family home “The Durdans” each year, when her pottery was often sold and in great demand.

The WW1 poetry collections written by Lady Sybil Grant were “The end of the day: poems” (Hodder &Stoughton, London, 1922) and  “The Unseen Presence” (Erskine Macdonald, London, 1918) – Reilly, p. 144.

Sources:  and

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

Friday 11 December 2020

Margaret Helen Florine RN (1879 - 1949) – American poet and nurse

 With grateful thanks to Chris Dubbs who found me some newspaper articles relating to Margaret and her poetry collection, and to Leo Van Bergan for reminding me that I had not yet researched Margaret.

Margaret was from San Francisco, California, United States of America on 15th January 1879 but I have not been able to find out much about her, other than the fact that she trained as a nurse. The RN after her name means Registered Nurse in America – and Margaret worked in Fabiola Hospital, Oakland, California.   In reviewing Margaret’s collection, the “Petaluma Argus-Courier” newspaper of Wednesday, 13 March 1918, mentioned that she had a sister called Mabel “who teaches in the grammar school”.

Margaret was evidently preparing another collection of poetry because on Tuesday November 20 1917, the “San Francisco Examiner” newspaper reported that Margaret was “shortly to leave for the battlefields, where, as an army nurse, she will gather more material for “Songs of a Nurse”.  

As far as I have been able to ascertain, Margaret died on 7th April 1949.  If anyone has any further information and a photograph please get in touch.

The U.S. Army Nurse Corps (ANC) was established in 1901 as a permanent corps within the U.S. Army Medical Department. Because of the efforts of Dr. Anita Newcomb McGee and advocates for a professional nursing element within the U.S. Army, legislation was included into Section 19 of the Army Reorganization Act and passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate with some modification on February 2, 1901. Prior to the formal and legal recognition of nurses within the Army Medical Department, individuals had been providing care to sick and wounded soldiers as early as 1775.

“The Night Nurse” to M.L.R. by Margaret Helen Florine RN

Your day begins when others work is done,

With duties far more arduous than they know;

For hope has flown, her daily course is run;

She vanished with the sunset’s purple glow.

When she departs the night looms long and black

And filled with terrors never known by day;

Sufferings increase a hundred-fold to rack

The anguished victims, tortured bits of clay.

You calm and comfort with your words of cheer,

And smooth the bed, to snare the vagrant, Sleep;

You try to lure a truant dream, but fears

Like spectres grim around the helpless creep.

Your task is thankless, for as day returns

With fickle Hope you see your efforts scorned.

Your sole reward within your own heart burns,

The knowledge of duty faithfully  performed. 

From “Songs of a Nurse” (Philopolis press, California, 1918), p. 15. The collection  was advertised in the “Pacific Coast Journal of Nursing” (volume 15, 1919, p.770).


“A Cap of Horror: First World War poetry written by female Nurses and Carers” “Een Kap Van Afschuw” - an anthology by Leo Van Bergen (Uitgeverij dt (duidelijke taal), Nijmegen, 2020)

Photo: Nursing Personnel at U.S. Army Base Hospital No.88, Langres, France, ca. 1918 - National Library of Medicine #A06090

Review of “A Cap of Horror: First World War poetry by female Nurses and Carers” - an anthology by Leo Van Bergen (Uitgeverij dt (duidelijke taal), Nijmegen, 2020), with illustrations by Irma Jansen. Dutch title: “Een Kap Van Afschuw”

For this innovative anthology Leo Van Bergan selected poems by seventeen female WW1 poets who wrote in English and translated them into Dutch.  The resulting book is in two halves, which I think is a brilliant idea – in one side are the English poems, turn it over and you get the Dutch translations.    Although Dutch is not one of ‘my’ languages, I have spent time in Dutch-speaking countries and am familiar with the language.  As I studied French, German and Italian in my youth, I am interested in all languages and I feel that through learning other languages we can communicate better and communication is surely the key to a peaceful existence. 

I have researched most of the poets included in this anthology and all of them are on the list I have complied so far – see

However, there was one poet I had not yet researched, so I am extremely grateful to Leo for the chance to research Margaret Helen Florine RN, an American nurse and poet. 

The poets included in Leo’s anthology are:  Enid Bagnold, Mary Borden, Lillian Bowes-Lyon, Vera Brittain, May Wedderburn-Cannan, Eva Dobell, Margaret Helen Florine, Rosaleen Graves, Winifred Mary Letts, Rose Macaulay, Nina Mardel, Carola Oman, Jessie Pope, May Sinclair, Millicent Sutherland, Alberta Vickridge and M. Winifred Wedgwood.  Apart from the poems there is a Foreword in two parts by Leo and by Margo van Mol, a Dutch intensive care nurse and psychologist at Erasmus MC Rotterdam, and a Preface by Sophie de Schaepdrijver, Prefossor of Modern European History at Pennsylvania State University. Leo has also written a comprehensive Introduction to his selection.  Also included are brief biographies of the poets. 

This is a book that will be of great interest to those who appreciate poetry and those who are interested in the First World War – both English and Dutch speakers – as well as to language students.

The wonderful illustrations by Irma Jansen highlight the intensity of the emotions expressed in the poems Leo has selected.

Leo Van Bergen is a Dutch Medical Historian who has written several books about health and the First World War. 

Lucy London, December 2020