Monday, 23 February 2015

An Interesting WW1 website

The Admin. very kindly posted details in the Book Section of their website about Volume 1 of "Female Poets of the First World War" but there are over a hundred and fifty very interesting books on their list, with titles and photographs of the front covers.  Well worth a look.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

A School Exhibition

I have just received this photograph from a teacher who contacted me recently.  I sent along some of the exhibition panels and this is the wonderful display they have made.

Well done everyone!

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Exhibition of Female Poets at Lytham Heritage Centre, Lytham, Lancashire, UK until 28th February 2015

A small exhibition of female poets is currently on display as part of the "Lancashire in WW1" Exhibition at The Heritage Centre in Lytham, Lancashire from 10th February until 28th February 2015. 

Open from 10 am until 4 pm Tuesdays - Sundays, the Centre is run entirely by volunteers.  Entry is free but all donations are gratefully accepted.

Lytham Heritage Centre,
2 Henry Street
Lancashire FY8 5LE
Tel.:  01253 730787

Photo:  Ceramic Artist Marie Kershaw with some of the poppies she has made which are on display at the Heritage Centre.  Photo:  Paul Breeze,

Sunday, 8 February 2015

The Nott Sisters - Jane Prothero, Martha Lucy and Mary

The only member of the Nott family to be included in Catherine W. Reilly's "English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography" is Jane Prothero Nott (page 239), whose WW1 collection of verse "A Little Book of Verse" was published by Erskine Macdonald in 1921.  

Phil Dawes has done an amazing amount of research into the three Nott sisters who all wrote poetry during WW1.  Thank you Phil: 

Mary Telfair Nott 1858 - 1947
Jane Prothero Nott 1859 - 1944
Martha Lucy Nott 1873 - 1946

Your mention of Jane Prothero Nott sent me back to Bristol looking for Martha Lucy Nott once again. 

Three spinster sisters, all teachers, set up a private school in 1893: Felixstowe Girls School, Bristol. Mary Telfair Nott was the eldest and the two others were Jane Prothero Nott and Martha Lucy Nott.  Martha Lucy called herself 'Marlu' even on the 1911 census when she was joint-Head, which explains why she was hard to track down.   She was a late comer to the family and she must have come as a great surprise to her parents, being born 13 years after the 'last' child of five, Robert .  Her mother Emma Nott nee Protheroe (sic) was 46 when Marlu was born.  Her father Robert Nott had started off as a Railway Cashier who then worked his way up to a senior financial position.  The girls had a Governess when young so they were home-educated initially but Jane later attended Bristol School of Science and Arts where she won a geometry prize. Marlu attended Redlands High School and she won prizes in English, French and Arithmetic.  After leaving school she started work as a music teacher. 

By 1893 all the sisters were teaching and they banded together and started their own new school, Felixstowe Girls' School in Upper Belgrave Road, Clifton. Father and mother moved in with them and several teachers and servants were employed. In 1901 there were only 8 boarders but in 1911, by which time both parents had died, there were 35 boarders including some children of Indian expats.   Martha Lucy and Jane were both published writers. Marlu usually published under the name M. L. Nott but it seems likely that her pen name, used occasionally, was Mary Lancaster Nott - as no such person exists in the records. 

In 1908, thanks to a Royal visit and tour of Bristol, we find out the school motto. A reporter went around town recording the residents' efforts at decoration and at the school he noted the school's motto in floral work which was surprisingly whimsical: 'Still in thy right hand carry gentle peace'. No doubt all the sisters had agreed on this motto but it was probably Martha's idea. In the same year she published a series of tracts with equally whimsical titles including: 'With the Dagger and the Flowers', 'Our earthly strongest power', The Roses were too weak the Battle to win'. Miss Mary Nott some time later produced a version of Alice in Wonderland. All this must have been intended to stimulate the girls' creativity and it possibly reflects the spiritual side of the Arts and Crafts Movement which Jane would have undoubtedly met at Art School. The Notts couldn't afford to be slack on academic standards however, as there were many rival private schools in the Bristol area competing for scholars.  

In the pre-war period Bristol was a hot bed of the suffrage movement with several branches operating there, including male groups.  There were numerous 'stunts' carried out and some vandalism by both pro- and anti-suffrage supporters.  One wonders what line the Nott sisters took with their young charges.  

The school continued uninterrupted during WWI but it must have been a difficult time with food shortages and men away fighting including relatives of some of the girls. The Nott sisters' own two brothers would have been too old to fight. There were also blackouts as the armaments factories around Bristol were thought likely to be at risk of Zeppelin bombing raids.  It seems certain that the girls would have been encouraged to do knitting and sewing for the soldiers. 

Martha Lucy, writing as M. L. Nott did some war time 'good works'. She wrote the music for a children's song in 1914, and she collected an anthology of Animal Poems and Stories in 1916. She wrote a short work called 'Peace! Justice! Liberty!  It is undated but we can assume that it was connected with the war. She also helped to organise two further anthologies. One was a book to raise money for war horses: The Fund for Wounded Horses at the Front. She collaborated with Sir Henry Newbolt and others on this book. One of the contributors was writer and propagandist Harold Begbie. The other book was a collaboration in aid of the charity Comforts for Soldiers.  The war horse book had its cover sketched by a New Zealand private soldier and a copy was sent to the mayor of Dunedin.  Jane P. Nott had a poem published in 1917 in the Poetry Review Vol. 8, alongside poems of WW1 poets Teresa Hooley and Eleanor Norton.

After the war, Jane continued writing and she published a collection of her own poems 'A Little Book of Verse' (Erskine Macdonald) in 1921. She had poems included in 'The New Spirit in Verse', 1922 and had two poems - 'In Saxon England' and 'At Paddington' - included in the County Series Of Contemporary Poetry, 1927.   In 1930 the Nott sisters retired and the school was taken over by a similar establishment which had started life as a Plymouth Brethren school. It continued as a school until 1940 when the front of the Felixstowe school building suffered bomb damage and was declared unsafe.  Teachers and pupils moved out and ended up in the Welsh countryside for the duration of the war.

The three sisters moved into a house locally and lived together until their deaths. They all died over the short period of 1944 to 1946. Requests for any claims against Martha Lucy Nott's estate, posted in 1945, described her as: 'known as Marlu'.  Mary was the last to die and her effects were auctioned off in May 1947. In addition to furniture and ornaments there were several violins, a harmonium and a 1934 sixteen horse power Morris Saloon. It would appear that Miss Mary Nott was still in the driving seat until she was 88. 

Phil Dawes
February 2015

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

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Dorothy Perch Lewis (1888 - 1918)

I received a very interesting e-mail the other day via this weblog from a lady whose husband collects WW1 medals.  She told me that her husband  "bought a collection which came with some papers and amongst these were letters from the soldier's family (sadly he died) to the Lewis' and a note the soldier wrote telling his parents the Lewis' had visited him in hospital, there was also this book of poem's Dorothy's mother had had 'a few' printed (I think after Dorothy's death in 1918) one of the Poems was dedicated to the solider who died, Bernard Pigg.  Dorothy's mother Mary wrote to Bernard Pigg's mother saying how much she missed Dorothy and wanted Mrs Pigg's thoughts on the book, this letter and the book had been kept with the medals so must have been important to the family. 
Whilst I find the medals interesting what I really love is the human story behind them, Dorothy obviously came from a wealthy family."

Dorothy is already on my List of Female poets of the First World War as she is mentioned on page 200 of Catherine W. Reilly's Bibliography of First World War English Poetry.  This is what I have been able to find so far about Dorothy.  If anyone has any further information, copies of poems and a photograph please get in touch.

Dorothy Perch Lewis (1888 - 1918) 

Dorothy was born in Cardiff in 1888.  Her father was William Morgan Lewis (b. 1856), a colliery and ship owner and coal merchant and her mother was Mary H. Lewis (b. 1861), nee Higson.   Dorothy was their youngest child and her siblings were Winifred, born in 1886 and William born in 1887.  

Dorothy was the niece of Isaac H. Parsons (b. 1869), an electrical engineer from Leicester, through his marriage to her mother's sister Jane Birch Higson (b.1870).  Dorothy's cousins were Henry Kelvin Parsons (b. 1903), son of Isaac Hardy Parsons and Jane Birch Parsons, who lived in Market Harborough and Hardy Falconer Parsons (b. 1898) and Ewart Moulton Parsons (b. 1899) and Lyull Ash Parsons (1903), sons of Isaac's brother, the Reverend James Ash Parsons (b. 1867), a Wesleyan Church Minister, and his wife Henrietta Sophia, who lived in  London.

Dorothy died on 31st October 1918 and her mother had Dorothy's poems printed privately in Cardiff in 1919 under the title "Poems" by Dorothy Perch Lewis.

When Dorothy's father died, he left £1,250 to King Edward Hospital Cardiff for a 'Dorothy Lewis' bed to be endowed.  To find today's equivalent of the donation you multiply by 200.  There is a Dorothy Lewis Care Home still in Cardiff.

With many thanks to the ever-vigilant Phil Dawes who confirmed what I have found and added this:

Hardy Parsons: VC winner died in WWI aged 20 killed by flamethrowers.  Hardy Falconer Parsons and Hardy Kelvin Parsons were cousins. Their fathers were (Rev). James Ash Parsons born Rye 1867 and his brother Isaac Hardy Parsons born Rye 1868.  Their Grandfather was Isaac Parsons, a bookseller from Rye.

Hardy Falconer Parsons  - born Blackburn 1897

Second Lieutenant
Date of Death:
Gloucestershire Regiment
 1st/2nd Bn. attd. 14th Bn.
Grave Reference:
A. 16.


Additional Information:

Son of the Rev. and Mrs. J. Ash Parsons, of Leysian Mission, City Rd., London. Educated at Kingswood School, Bath. Medical Student at Bristol University, preparing for Medical Missionary Work.


An extract from "The London Gazette," dated 17th October 1917, records the following:
"For most conspicuous bravery during a night attack by a strong party of the enemy on a bombing post held by his command. The bombers holding the block were forced back, but Second Lieutenant Parsons remained at his post, and, single-handed, and although severely scorched and burnt by liquid fire, he continued to hold up the enemy with bombs until severely wounded. This very gallant act of self-sacrifice and devotion to duty undoubtedly delayed the enemy long enough to allow of the organisation of a bombing party, which succeeded in driving back the enemy before they could enter any portion of the trenches. The gallant officer succumbed to his wounds."

Sources:  Catherine W. Reilly "English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography" (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978); and
Additional information about Hardy Falconer Parsons war record supplied by Phil Dawes.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Madeline Ida Bedford (1885 - 1956) - British

Many thanks to Clive Barrett, who broke off his own research into Yorkshire WW1 poet and artist Constance Ada Renshaw to help me with this.

Madeline Ida was born in Woolwich in 1885.   Her parents were Edward, a Civil Engineer from Waterford in Ireland (b. 1849) and Sarah Dinah (born (1858).  Her siblings were Ellen (b. 1878), Alice M. (born 1883) and Edward Terence (born 1896).  Edward Bedford must have worked in India for Ellen was born there.

The family lived in Woolwich in London in 1891 and in Erith in Kent in 1901.  They must have been fairly well off because they had servants.  By 1914, the family had moved to Belvedere in Kent.

During the First World War, Madeline's brother Edward Terence Bertyn Bedford was a Captain in the 34th Siege Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery.  He was killed on 28th May 1917 during the Battle of Arras and is buried in the Achiet-le-Grand Communal Cemetery Extension in Pas de Calais, France.

In 1919, Madeline Ida married married Ernest Bolton Morris at St.Martins-in-the-Fields, London on 24th June They had records one child, a daughter - Madeline B Morris - who was born in Greenwich in 1922.  A Madeline B. Morris married a Bernard O. Green in Westminster in 1946. 
Madeline Ida died in 1956 and the probate record indicates that her daughter’s husband’s name was Bernard Osborn Green.  Madeline Bolton Green was the beneficiary of Madeline Ida Bolton Morris’s estate. 

Madeline's WW1 poetry collection, "The young captain, and other poems:  fragments of war and love" was published in 1917 by Erskine Macdonald.  Her most famous poem "Munitions Wages", was first published in the Farewell Souvenir magazine of HM Munitions Factory in Gretna.  Those magazines were produced for the Dornock and Mossband munitions factories, so it seems Madeline may have worked in one of those factories, as indeed many women of all backgrounds did during the First World War.  

The Gretna Factory is now a museum called "The Devil's Porridge".  The term "Devil's Porridge" was coined by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle when he visited the factory, which opened in 1916.

Photo from the Museum The Devil's Porridge in Gretna, showing why Sir Arthur Conan Doyle coined the phrase.  Munitions factories were vital to the cause of winning the war.  The soldiers said that those who worked in munitions factories faced as much danger as those who were fighting.   Many munitions workers were killed or injured.

Find out more about the museum here
You can also Like their Facebook page here

The Devil's Porridge Museum, Daleside, Butterdales Road, Eastriggs, DG12 6TQ.

The photo of two volunteers re-enacting "munitionettes" stirring "The Devil's Porridge" was supplied by Richard Brod, who also kindly sent me copies of the poems published in the Farewell Souvenir Magazines written by the women workers at the factories.

Sources:  Find My Past
Catherine W. Reilly's "English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography, (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978)

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Commemorative Event in Belfast

Dr Ann M. McVeigh is giving a talk about women in the First World War, including women poets, for International Women’s Day.
The event will be held on 6th March 2015 at Belfast’s oldest library, The Linen Hall Library, established in 1788, and takes place from 12 noon until 4pm.  It includes speakers from the Northern Ireland War Museum and PRONI, and includes a tour of the Linen Hall Library and the museum.  The event is free and all are welcome.  LInen Hall website:
International Women's Day is celebrated on 8th March.  Find out more about 2015 events planned here

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Reviews of "Merry it was to laugh there" a WW1 commemorative show based on poetry

With thanks to Julie Easlea for sending me these reviews: 
MERRY IT WAS TO LAUGH THERE Jubilant Productions at the Cramphorn Theatre 04.07.14 A century on, so much remains of the War To End All War.
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MERRY IT WAS TO LAUGH THERE Jubilant Productions at the Mercury Studio, Colchester 11.09.2014 for The Public Reviews A Mercury homecoming for this time...
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Merry It Was To Laugh There, Mercury Studio Theatre, Colchester.
THERE have been quite a few theatrical productions marking the anniversary of the First World War this year but perhaps none as accessible and as poignant as this one.
Merry It Was To Laugh There is a little bit like the best history and English lesson you ever had at school.
It has poems and songs from the era but also little snippets of First World War facts placing those poems in the context of the conflict.
Beautifully performed by actors Tim Freeman and Christine Absalom, who made a more than welcome return to the Colchester theatre where they have performed numerous times before, at times it does makes for sombre viewing.
Millions of needless deaths will do that.
But what makes this production so utterly watchable is the lightheartedness and laughs that juxtaposes the misery.
The gallows humour from the Tommys on the frontline and the bawdy musical hall banter when humanity tends to shine a light through terrible moments of darkness.
Those moments, along with the matter-of-fact diary entries from an officer on the frontline, were the highlights for me.
A hint of the indomitable spirit that people had during such horrific times.

Christine Absalom, Tim Freeman and Ignatius Anthony established huge reputations as members of Dee Evans Mercury Theatre Company. Thus, Halstead’s mayor, David Hume and his partner, Penny, were lured like many of us, to the sold-out Mercury Studio recently where, as the cast of touring company,Jubilant Productions, they performed Merry It Was To Laugh There.
Our expectations were superbly fulfilled. Producer, Jules Easlea’s WW1 show has, as the title suggests, much humour in it. Christine’s teacup percussion and Tim’s excreta enthusiasm plus Robert Graves’ wit and A Tommy’s frequent comic quips, are carefully placed, amid poignant poetry, from women as well as men, while the informative diary extracts impress too.
Impeccably staged, costumed and lit, the 2 actors also speak in French and German and sing. Incidentally, all dialogue & lyrics are off by heart. My how they sing, a cappella, with not a radio mike in sight! Iggy’s measured lucid tones perfectly balance the faultless action of his comrades on the front line. The timbre of little Flora Easlea’s voice reciting Sal, is a delightful touch. More please!
Pat Rudkins

Jules Easlea

JubilantPRPress, PR & Events
Jubilant Productions: Innovative and Original Theatre

More Female Poets of the First World War

With many thanks to Phil Dawes who sent me the fruits of his latest research this morning:

Mrs. A. L. Holmes (1866 – 1925)

Amy Louisa Holmes, nee Rix was born in  Lambeth.  Amy was the Mother of Private Philip George Holmes who died in France, listed as Died of Wounds - Gas.

Amy married Thomas Weekes Holmes a Master Printsetter. They lived in Cheam, Surrey, UK.  They had four children. Philip was aged twelve in 1911.

Amy wrote "The Great Sacrifice", 1918 in memory of Philip George Holmes of the 2/7 Manchester Regiment who was killed in action on 23rd July 1917 at Petit Synthe, France.

Mrs J.O. Arnold (1860 - 1933)

A.V. Arnold was the pen-name of Adelaide Victoria Arnold 1860 -1933, nee England. Her father, James England, was a Clergyman and Professor of English Literature. They lived on the Wirral Peninsula. Adelaide married John Oliver Arnold in June 1883.  He was a Professor of Metallurgy at Sheffield University College and also crime novelist; the couple had three children. They went to live in Sheffield.  Adelaide died in Kendal in 1933.

Adelaide does not give a job description on any census until 1911, when she lists herself as ‘Writer of Fiction’. 

According to Catherine W. Reilly, Mrs Arnold had a poem published in the WW1 Anthology "War Verse", edited by Frank Foxcroft and published by Crowell, New York in 1918.

M. L. Nott

Published in 1908 with titles like: ‘With the Dagger and the Flowers’, ‘Our Earthly Strongest Power’ and ‘The Roses were too weak to win the Battle’.

I thought this might have been Martha Lucy Nott, a music teacher from Clifton, Bristol and I spent some time on her but later on I found her published name was Mary Lancaster Nott (in addition to M. L. Nott).  She wrote material from 1908 to 1918 – also collected poems together for publishing in anthologies for good causes vis: Relief for War Horses and Comfort for the Troops. She may have had a New Zealand connection, as a New Zealand Private from Dunedin did the drawing for her horse book cover – and she sent the book to the mayor of D. to publicise it.
Reilley lists a Jane Prothero Nott who published "A little book of verse", Erskine Macdonald, 1921.

Many thanks indeed Phil.

The search goes on...