Sunday 31 October 2021

Dora Maria Sigerson Shorter (1866 – 1918) – Irish poet, artist and sculptor

With thanks to Dr Margaret Stetz for reminding me that I had not yet researched Dora who is on the List  of Female Poets of the First World War under Ireland.

Dora by John Lavery
Dora Maria Sigerson was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1866 - the eldest of four children born to George Sigerson, a surgeon and writer, and his wife Hester Varian, who was also a writer. Dora’s siblings were Hester, William and George - both the boys died young.  Dora’s Father was a Professor of Biology and President of the Irish Literary Society. 

The Sigerson family home was at 3 Clare Street, Dublin and was a gathering-place for artists and writers. As she grew up, Dora met many important figures of the emerging Irish literary revival at parties given by her parents. She studied at the Dublin School of Art at the same time as W.B. Yeats. Dora had several of her collections of poetry published, beginning with “Verses” in 1893. Her sister, later called Hester Sigerson Piatt also became a writer. 

In September 1896, Dora married English journalist and literary critic Clement King Shorter (1857 – 1926) in Hampstead, London. The couple lived in Marylebone, London until her death on 6th January 1918.  Dora then wrote using the name Dora Sigerson Shorter.

In 1900, at the height of the Boer War, Clement founded and became the first Editor of “The Sphere” newspaper. “The Sphere" was an illustrated newspaper for the home, published by London Illustrated Newspapers weekly from 27th January 1900 until the closure of the paper on 27th June 1964. DuringThe First World War, the weekly papers were called 'war numbers' and over two hundred issues were published between 1914 and 1919.

"The Sphere" 1914

According to Catherine W. Reilly, Dora Sigerson Shorter wrote several collections of war poems during WW1:

 “Comfort the Women, A Prayer in Time of War” (1915), which was reprinted from “The Daily Telegraph” of 27th February 1915 in a limited edition of 20 copies by Dora’s husband for distribution to friends.

“An Old Proverb ‘It will all be the same in a thousand years’ ” (1916), a limited edition of 25 copies printed privately by Clement Shorter and first published in “The Nation” of 20th May 1916.

“The Sad Years and other poems” (Constable, 1918) a limited edition of 50 copies printed for private circulation.

“The Tricolour: poems of the Irish Revolution” (Maunsel & Roberts, Dublin, 1922).

 Dora had 3 poems published in the WW1 Anthology “The Paths of Glory: A Collection of Poems written during the War, 1914 – 1918”, Edited by Bertram Lloyd (Allen & Unwin, London, 1919), which is available to read as a free download on Archive

 “AN OLD PROVERB” a poem by Dora Sigerson Shorter published in “The Paths of Glory” pp. 104 - 107   "It will be all the same in a thousand years." 

AND in a thousand years 

It will be all the same, 

Whether or no 

Women's tears flow, 

Or battles take us 

To save or to break us, 

Or man against man 

Advance but a span ; 

Hideous in anger. 

Tame in death's languor, 

Shouting and crying. 

Sobbing and dying, 

On the red fields of war ; 

Calling on those afar. 

Mother and child and wife 

There in the midst of strife. 

God, the earth shakes with it ! 

Down in the hellish pit, 

Where the red river ran, 

Hatred of man to man ; 

Maddened they rush to kill, 

That but their single will ; 

Strangle or bayonet him ! 

Trample him life and limb 

Into the awful mire ; 

Break him with knife or fire ! 

So that we know he lie 

Dead to the smiling sky. 

And in a thousand years 

It will be all the same. 

Which of us was to blame ? 

What will it matter then ? 

Over the sleeping men 

Grass will so softly grow 

No one would ever know 

Of the dark crimson stain. 

Of all the hate and pain 

That once had fearful birth 

In the black secret earth. 

Ah ! in a thousand years 

Time will forget our tears. 

Babes in their golden hour 

Seeking some hidden flower 

Will, in those years afar, 

Play on the fields of war ; 

And as they laughing roam 

Mothers will call them home ; 

Laden with fruit and flower 

Run they at twilight hour. 

Cattle will, lowing, stray, 

Little lambs frisk and play, 

Birds nest in hedge and tree, 

All in Time's victory. 

Dark o' night, dawn o' day, 

Dark o' night, dawn o' day. 

Thus in a thousand years 

Time will forget our tears, 

And the lost fields of war ; 

In the good years afar 

When the lads silent lie, 

When women's tears are dry. 

All the wives comforted. 

All the maid's grief is shed, 

Crying babes safe and still 

Sleeping in vale and hill, 

Sobbing of men is mute, 

And scream of dying brute, 

On the red fields of war. 

In those good years afar. 

Only the waving grass. 

Where the shy children pass 

Seeking the hidden flower. 

Glad in their golden hour. 

And as they laughing roam 

Mothers will call them home. 

Laden with fruit or flower 

Run they at twilight hour. 

Over the meadow grass 

Slow the moon's shadows pass. 

Only the chirp of bird 

From the deep hedge is heard. 

This in a thousand years 

Payment of blood and tears, 

Horrors we dare not name, 

It will be all the same. 

What is the value then 

To all those sleeping men ? 

It will be all the same, 

Passion and grief and blame. 

This in the years to be, 

My God, the tragedy !

DORA SIGERSON (MRS. SHORTER) published in her collection  "The Sad Years."  (London : Constable & Co., Ltd., 1918. 58.)

Sources: Wikipedia, Find my Past, Free BMD and Catherine W. Reilly.- “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) pp. 292 and 19.


Saturday 9 October 2021

Elizabeth Gibson Cheyne (1869-1931) – British poet

With thanks to Historian Debbie Cameron for reminding me

that I had not fully researched Elizabeth and for finding the poem, photograph

and cover of one of Elizabeth's collections featured here.

Elizabeth Gibson was born in Hexham, Northumberland, UK in January 1869, the birth being registered in the first quarter of the year and the Baptism taking place on 16th January 1869.  Elizabeth’s parents were John Pattison Gibson, a chemist, and his wife, Judith Frances, nee Walton (1836 - 1902), who were married in September 1861.

Elizabeth had the following siblings: Frances, b. 1864, Clara, b. 1866, John, b. 1872, Constance, b. 1873, Anna, b. 1874, Mary, b. 1876, Wilfrid, b. 1879 and Muriel, b. 1880.   Wilfrid also became a poet.

By 1911, Elizabeth described herself in the Census return as an author.

In September 191, Elizabeth married Thomas Kelly Cheyne in Falmouth. Thomas Kelly Cheyne, FBA (18 September 1841 – 1915) was an English divine and Biblical critic.  She then used the name Elizabeth Gibson Cheyne for her writing.

"A Poet to His Poems"  (1915) by Elizabeth Gibson Cheyne (1869-1931)

published in the magazine “Poetry”, September 1915.

You are born; you are no more mine:

I have let you go forever.

Demoniac or divine,

You shall sail by sea and river;


You shall walk by road and track;

You shall fly through wind and weather;

But nevermore come back,

That our hearts may laugh together.

There is an excellent biography of Elizabeth written by Judy Greenway

Debbie Cameron’s Facebook Group Remembering British Women in WW1 – The Home Front and Overseas is well worth perusing

Monday 4 October 2021

Hester Gatty (1906 - 1973) – British poet and artist who married WW1 soldier poet Siegfried Sassoon

Hester Gatty
Hester Gatty was born In Kensington, London, UK on 16th March 1906. Her parents were Sir Stephen Herbert Gatty and his second wife, Kathleen, nee Morrison. 

Sir Stephen Herbert Gatty (1849-1922) was son of the children's author, Margaret Scott Gatty (herself the daughter of Nelson's confidential secretary and chaplain, Dr Scott) and brother of the writer Juliana Horatia Ewing and herald Alfred Scott Gatty.  Sir Stephen was the Chief Justice of Gibraltar from 16th  January 1895 to 1905 and was formerly a judge of the Supreme Court of the Straits Settlements. On 19th December 1904, he was named a Knight Bachelor.

Hester’s siblings were Oliver Gatty (1907-1940) and Richard Gatty (1909-1975).

“Ventures in Verse by Members of the Scratch Society” was a selection of 31 poems published in December 1924 by Arthur H. Stockwell.   The poems included were written mainly by women authors, though there are three by a Michael Dugdale. Hester Gatty (later Siegfried Sassoon’s wife), was a member of the Society and she has three poems in this book, “From the Hebrides,” “Tired” and “Moon-Beam.” 

The Scratch Society was a group of poets and story writers who formed this society, et regularly in each other's homes and occasionally got their work into print.  Members of the Scratch Society included Georgina Blakiston, Jan Struther and Nancy Cunard.  Evelyn Waugh, Cyril Connolly and John Betjman also attended meetings.  American singer Paul Robeson visited once.

Source:  A post written by David Gray of Siegfried Sassoon Fellowship and posted on the Fellowship's Facebook page.

Here is one of the poems wriitten by Hester and included in the collection: 

I would love to know if Hester wrote any poetry when she was a schoolgirl during the First World War. As some of you may know, I have been collecting poetry written by schoolchildren during 1914 - 1919 and in March 2018 held an exhibition about some of them.  Here is a link to a news report about the opening of the exhibition of Poetry written by Schoolchildren during WW1 at the Wilfred Owen Story, Wirral on 17th March 2018:

Exhibition of Poetry written by
Schoolchildren, The Wilfred Owen Story, Wirral,
March 2018

A poem written during WW1 in honour of "The Lads of Heywood" by a Miss E.H. Bisby, aged twelve

 Miss E.H. Bisby age 12   “The Lads of Heywood” poem 

A poem entitled "The Lads of Heywood" found on Facebook written by Miss E.H. Bisby, aged 12

Heywood is in Greater Manchester.

According to my research, there is a birth recorded for an Edith Harriet Bisby in the first quarter of 1903. She was born in Bispham, Blackpool, Lancashire - Mother’s maiden name Heywood.  I wonder if that was the writer of the poem?

Here is the 1911 Census for the Bisby family.  

1911 Census For England & Wales

9 Wild Street Heywood, Heywood, Lancashire, England

Household members (4 people)

First name(s) Last name Relationship Marital status Sex Age Birth year Occupation Birth place

Ambrose Robert Bisby Head Married Male 45 1866 Superintendent insurance co Tunstall Staffordshire

Emma Bisby Wife Married Female 48 1863 - Heywood Lancashire

Robert Heywood Bisby Son Single Male 18 1893 Peicer cotton mill mule Heywood Lancashire

Edith Harret Bisby Daughter - Female 8 1903 - Bispham Blackpool Lanc

If anyone knows anything please get in touch. 

Sunday 3 October 2021

Catherine Amy Dawson Scott (1865 – 1934 - British writer, playwright and poet.

Catherine is perhaps best known as a co-founder of International PEN, a worldwide association of writers.  Although she was a poet I have not yet been able to find any of Catherine's poems

Catherine Amy Dawson was born in August 1865. Her parents were  Ebenezer Dawson, a brick manufacturer and his wife Catherine, nee Armstrong.  Catherine had a sister - Ellen M. Dawson - born in 1868. The Journalist, writer, novelist and poet Henry Dawson Lowry (22 February 1869 – 21 October 1906) was their cousin. Amy and Ellen’s mother died in January 1877.   In 1878, their father remarried. According to the 1881 Census, the girls and their stepmother were living or staying with her widowed mother, Sarah Ancell, in Camberwell, where Catherine A. Dawson graduated from The Anglo German College

When she was eighteen, Catherine began working as a secretary. In June 1896, Catherine married Dr. Horatio Francis Ninian Scott. They lived in Hanover Square in London, where their first child, Marjorie Catharine Waiora Scott, was born in 1899 and a son, Horatio Christopher L. Scott, was born in March 1901. The family moved to West Cowes on the Isle of Wight in the summer of 1902, where they lived for the next seven years. Another child, Edward Walter Lucas Scott, nicknamed Toby, was born in June 1904.

At the start of the First World War, Dr Scott volunteered to join the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) and was posted to France.   Meanwhile, with the help of the Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, Catherine founded The Women’s Defence Relief Corps in August 1914.   

When Catherine and her husband returned from their wartime service, they found it impossible to resume their relationship as before, after the traumatic (and empowering, for Catherine) experiences of the war.  They were divorced and Dr. Scott commited suicide in 1922.

If anyone can help find poems by Catherine please get in touch.