Monday 23 January 2023

Naomi Mitchison, Baroness Mitchison CBE (1897 – 1999) – British writer and poet

While researching Naomi’s father, John Scott Haldane, for my WW1 commemorative weblog Fascinating Facts of the Great War, I realised that Naomi was a WW1 female poet.  She also served with the British Red Cross during the conflict.

Born Naomi Mary Margaret Haldane on 1st November 1897, Naomi’s parents were John Scott Haldane, a physician, and his wife, Louisa Kathleen, nee Coutts Trotter (1863–1961), daughter of Coutts Trotter FRGS and Harriet Augusta Keatinge. Naomi’s brother was J. B. S. Haldane – who became a scientist.

Naomi was educated at the Dragon School in Oxford and was accepted to study at Oxford University by Lady Margaret Hall College.  However, when war broke out Naomi volunteered to serve with the Red Cross and trained as a Probationer at St Thomas, Hospital in 1917. She then served in the Outpatient Ward, Radcliffe Infirmary, followed by six months working mornings at Wingfield House Military Hospital, Trowbridge.

In 1916, Naomi married Gilbert Richard Mitchison -known as Dick - (1894 - 1970) in Oxford and from then on used her married name for her writing. 

British Red Cross WW1 Record Card
for Naomi

Naomi and Dick had seven children. Their four sons were:  Geoffrey (1918–1927), who died of meningitis, Denis (1919–2018), who became a professor of bacteriology, Murdoch (1922–2011), and Avrion (born 1928), who both became professors of zoology. Their three daughters were Lois (born 1926), Valentine (born 1928), and Clemency, who died in 1940, shortly after her birth.

After a long life and having written many books, Naomi died on 11th January 1999.

Naomi Mitchison’s poetry collections were: “The Laburnum Branch” (Jonathan Cape, London, 1926), in which “Green Boughs” was included on pages 59-60, and “The Cleansing of the Knife and Other Poems” (1978).

Here is one  of Naomi's poems:

“Green Boughs”

My young, dear friends are dead,

All my own generation.

Pity a youthless nation,

Pity the girls unwed,

Whose young lovers are dead.

They came from the gates of birth

To boyhood happy and strong,

To a youth of glorious days,

We give them honour and song,

And theirs, theirs is the praise.

But the old inherit the earth.

They knew what was right and wrong,

They were idealists,

Clean minds, my friends, my friends!

Artists and scientists,

Their lives that should have been long!

But everything lovely ends.

They came from college or school,

They did not falter or tire,

But the old, the stupid had rule

Over that eager nation,

And all my own generation

They have cast into the fire.


From The Skipper’s War – written by the Headmaster ‘Skipper’ Lynam about  pupils of the Dragon School, Oxford – February 12th 1916    “Yesterday, our dear young Naomi Haldane was married to Dick Mitchison, a 2nd Lieutenant with the Queen’s Bays. The marriage took place at the Oxford Registry Office on the High Street. Only a few friends (including Aldous Huxley, the editor of the literary magazine, ‘Oxford Poetry’) attended and the austerity of these times restrained them from holding a party.  We, however, celebrated by taking a half-holiday! Naomi has been training as a nurse at St. Thomas’s Hospital in London, but recently has been helping with the outpatients at the Radcliffe Infirmary.

It is only ten years since Naomi was performing on the OPS stage here in Romeo & Juliet.  How quickly our children grow up!”

March 12th 1921 by dpdevitt

“Naomi Mitchison nee Haldane 

One worthy Old Dragon: Naomi Mitchison (then Haldane), who qualified for the University of Oxford in 1914, having taken the Oxford higher local examination. She became a member of the Society of Oxford Home Students and was able to take a degree course in science. The outbreak of war in 1914 prevented her from completing the course, however, when she went off to train to become a nurse.”

Charles "Skipper" Cotterill Lynam (15 June 1858, Stoke-on-Trent – 27 October 1938) was an English headmaster, yachtsman, poet and author. In 1882 Lynam was appointed assistant master at the Oxford Preparatory School (now called the Dragon School). He became headmaster in 1886 and in 1895 moved the school from Crick Road to Bardwell Road into buildings designed by his father.  The ‘Blue Dragon’ was the name of Lynam’s yuacht. 

Additional Sources:

British Red Cross WW1 Records

Katharine Tynan (1859 – 1931) – Irish-born poet and writer

 With thanks to Historian Debbie Cameron* for finding this information about a poem by Katherine Tynan, (1859–1931) – Irish poet

Katharine Tynan was born on 23rd January 1859 in Clondalkin, Co. Dublin.  Educated at a convent school in Drogheda, Katharine’s early childhood was spent in a thatched farmhouse surrounded by fields and orchards.  Her first poem was published when she was seventeed in a Dublin newspaper.  

In 1884, Katharine went to London for the first time and made friends with the poet Alice Meynell, whose husband, Wilfred, published Katharine’s first collection of poems – “Louise de la Valliere” in 1885.   In 1898, Katharine married Henry Albert Hinkson, a writer and barrister.   Apart from a brief sojourn in Ireland from 1914 until 1919, when her husband was a magistrate in Claremoris, Co. Mayo, the couple lived in England.

Katharine was living in Ireland during the First World War and two of her sons were serving overseas. Her collection “Herb o' Grace: Poems in War- Time” (1918) contained the lyric “The Dream,” which was subtitled “(For My Father).” 

Katharine Tynan was included in the second exhibition of Female Poets of the First World War and is in Volume 2 of “Female Poets of the First World War” – which, apart from other female poets, also contains poetry written by school girls during WW1 and a section on WW1 Knitting, which was kindly supplied by Phil Dawes.

Katharine’s WW1 collections were:

“Collected poems” (Macmillan, London, 1930); “Evensong” (Blackwell, Oxford, 1922); “Flower of youth: poems in wartime” (Sidgwick & Jackson, London, 1915); Herb o’grace: poems in wartime” Sidgwick & Jackson, London 1918); “The Holy War” (Sidgwick & Jackson, London 1916); “Late songs” (Sidgwick  & Jackson, London, 1917); “Poems – edited and with an introduction by Monk Gibbon (Figgis, Dublin, 1963);  “Selected poems” (Benn, 1931); “Twilight songs” (Blackwell, Oxford, 1927).  She also had poems printed in eighteen WW1 poetry anthologies.

Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography” (St/ Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) p. 320  Katharine Tynan Hinkson and the New Witness: "High Summer"; Mrs. Hinkson and the Nation (London): "New Heaven"; "After Jutland," "The Mother," and "At Parting," from “Late  Songs” (Sidgwick & Jackson, London).

“The Dream”

Autograph manuscript signed, [1917–1918]

“The Dream for my Father”

Over and over again I dream a dream,

I am coming home to you in the starlit gloam;

Long was the day from you and sweet 'twill seem

The day is over and I am coming home.

Then I shall find you as in days long past,

Sitting so quietly in the firelight glow;

'Love,' you will say to me, 'you are come at last.'

Your eyes be glad of me as long ago.

All I have won since then will slip my hold,

Dear love and children, the long years away;

I shall come home to you the girl of old,

Glad to come home to you -- oh, glad to stay!

Often and often I am dreaming yet

Of the firelit window when I've crossed the hill

And I coming home to you from night and wet:

Often and often I am dreaming still.

Over and over again I dream my dream.

Ah, why would it haunt me if it wasn't true?

I am travelling home to you by the last red gleam,

In the quiet evening I am finding you.

* Debbie Cameron’s Facebook Pages and Weblog can be found here:


Sunday 22 January 2023

Inez Quilter (1904 – 1978) – British schoolgirl WW1 poet

I decided to find out if there were any schoolchildren who had poems about the First World War published in their school magazines, etc.  So I approached several schools with fantastic results. We arranged an exhibition in 2018

Exhibition panels 2018
Inez was born on 22nd January 1904.  Her parents were Sir William Eley Cuthbert Quilter, Second Baronet and MP for Sudbury and his wife, Gwynedd Quilter, nee Douglas-Pennant.

Her paternal grandfather – Sir Cuthbert Quilter – was one of the founders of the “National Telephone Company” and his telephone number was “London One”. 

Inez wrote this poem when she was eleven years old and it was included in “The Blue Cross Code”, a WW1 anthology published by Jarrolds in 1917. 

In April 1955, Inez married former Yorkshire and MCC cricketer Brigadier Raleigh Charles Joesph Chichester-Constable, who was awarded the DSO in both world wars.

Raleigh died in 1963 and Inez in 1978.

The work of the Blue Cross in 
France, WW1*

‘Sall’: (In Aid of the Wounded Horse)

I’m none of yer London gentry,

Non o’ yer Hyde Park swells,

But I’m only a farmers plough horse

And I’se born among hills and fells.

Yer mus’n’t expect no graces

Fer yer won’t get ‘em from me,

I’se made as nature intended

An’ I’m jus’ plain Sall, d’ye see.

You’ve not seen me in the Row yet

An; yer won’t, if yer try so ‘ard,

I’m not a shoow ‘orse yer forget

But I’m Sall, plain Sall, and Sall goes ‘ard!


Find my Past, Free BMD, 

Cahterine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War:  A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) pp. 2 and 259.

NOTE: The Blue Cross Animal Charity still exists today.  You can find more information about their work here:

* Photo caption:  ‘The care of the wounded horse in Northern France - the work of the Blue Cross at the Front, veterinary doctors receiving a wounded war horse for treatment at a Blue Cross station’ illustration by Fortunino Matania (1881-1963) This is a monochrome water-colour, measuring 14" x 21", published in “Sphere” Magazine, 27 February 1915.

Inez was included included in the second exhibition of Female Poets of the First World War and is in Volume 2 of “Female Poets of the First World War” – wich, apart from adult WW1 female poets, also contains poetry written by school girls during WW1 and a section on WW1 Knitting, which was kindly supplied by Phil Dawes.

Friday 20 January 2023

Susan Masefield - WW1 poet

Looking through the WW1 poets listed in Catherine W. Reilly's "English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography" (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978), I noticed on page 219 a poet called Susan Masefield.  Susan had a poem included in two WW1 anthologies - "One Hundred best poems on the war" Ed. Charles Frederick Foreshaw (Elliot Stock, 1916) and "Poems in Memory of the late Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, K.G." Ed Charles Frederick Forshaw (Institute of British Poetry, Bradford, 1916).  

I have tried without success to find out something about Susan Masefield and wondered if she was the mother of WW1 soldier poet Charles John Beech Masefield, a cousin of the poet John Masefield?  

If anyone knows anything please get in touch. Thank you.Here are the poems by Susan Masefield:

“Original Lyric on “war” by S. Masefield 

‘Tis like throwing stones in water 

When Nations go to War, 

The circle widens ever, 

From centre unto shore. 

'Tis simple to begin it; 

But far-reaching is the end — 

Our British blood is boiling, 

And German pride won't bend. 

To read of all the slaughter 

Makes us shudder and turn pale — 

But I fear we've not yet heard 

The last of Britain's wail. 

God, save our noble Country ! 

God, send us quickly Peace ! 

God, make our hosts victorious !— 

God, make all wars to cease !

From One Hundred of the best poems on the war, Volume 2 By Women Poets of the Empire (Elliot Stock, 1916). Edited by Charles Frederick Forshaw. Page 99 



BENEATH a world of waters dark and deep ,

Low lies our Kitchener, alone, asleep

Sudden "God's finger touched him, and he slept,"

And we with saddened eyes the hero wept !

But still we hear the echo of his voice,

“Weep not! but carry on, and then rejoice !”

His work was done, the hardest "bit” of all, —

Willingly came the men who heard his call

Let all be ever proud who bear his name,

And Kitchener's Army "e'er be kept from shame !

For still we hear the echo of his voice, --

“Weep not ! but carry on, and soon rejoice !”

From “Poems in memory of the late Field-Marshal Lord Kitchener, K.G.” Edited by Charles F. Forshaw, Founder of the Institute of British Poetry (Institute of British Poetry, Bradford, Yorkshire, UK, 1916), page 150.