Jean Cross on Our Happy Hours Goldie Aw… Widdershins on Our Happy Hours Goldie Aw… Widdershins on The Last Turnip In Drumco… bone&silver on Carpathia Jean Cross on Carpathia
In February 2018, a storm front dubbed “the beast from the east”, hit Ireland. Huge amounts of snow fell. Cities, towns and villages up and down the country saw folks buying up essentials at a rate of knots. Bread was particularly sought after as were vegetables. Jean was talking to her sister about the rush to stock up. Her sister told her that in Dublin, the shops were running low on most things. In fact, she was pretty sure that she had bought the last turnip in Drumcondra. I decided that a sentence like that should be immortalised. So, here is my offering. I hope you like it.
The Last Turnip In Drumcondra
Kathleen me little darlin’ would you nip out to the shops
Get a turnip and some carrots, some fresh peas and some lamb chops
I’m beside myself with worry as I have to make a stew
Mrs Cross is coming over and the Ryan’s are coming too.
“Why in all that’s holy would they step out in this storm?
They’d be better off indoors where its safe and where its warm.”
“You’d be right if things were normal but their power has gone out
And while I think of it acushla, get a few bottles of stout.”
Kathleen grabbed her hat and coat and started on her quest
The temperature was freezing, she was glad she’d worn her vest
The car was out of action, Homefarm Road’s the quickest way
She trudged in that direction the wind causing her to sway.
Bridie stared into her pantry her supplies were running low
She looked out of the window to the blizzard to the snow
She decided she must sally forth and grabbed her coat and keys
She waded through a snowdrift that came right up to her knees.
Which route would be better, who had cleared the path ahead?
Homefarm Road she knew was nearer, but Griffith Avenue instead?
She decided on the latter and strode at a speedy pace
As she turned onto the Avenue a snowball hit her face.
The kids looked shocked and then relieved when she bent down to the snow
She threw back a short volley and her aim was fast and low.
The battle raged for minutes and the missiles filled the air
She left the kids a little damp but none the worse for wear.
Kathleen stood at the main road just opposite the shop
She waited for the traffic lights to make the traffic stop
She watched as a small woman made her way up to the lights
She nodded a short greeting and commented on their plight.
Another woman joined them looking keen to cross the road
She had a bag of shopping and was weighed down by her load.
All three could see the grocer’s shop had very little left
They strained to see the shelves and they were nearly all bereft.
The friendly camaraderie gave way to vying for position
The lights turned green and off they shot, a deadly competition.
Kathleen was first inside the door and without hesitation
Filled a wire basket with canned goods and vegetation.
The other two were on her heels, grabbing what they could
One had central heating yet she went for firewood!
The bread and milk were history but when she looked about
Kathleen was relieved to see a few bottles of stout.
She had the meat, the peas and carrots but she didn’t have the swede
She ran back to the veggies with agility and speed
She saw her quarry lying there, a solitary sight
The other two were bearing down, it could end up in a fight
They gave each other desperate looks as they raced toward the veg
Kathleen was the quicker and her speed gave her the edge
Three hands went shooting forward as they tried to grab their prize
Kathleen came up victorious, determination in her eyes
She paused to catch her breath she overheard the chat
All the veg was gone and that as they say was that
As she lined up at the check- out she couldn’t help but ponder.
Whether she had really bought the last turnip in Drumcondra.
On the night of the 14th of April, 1912, RMS Titanic struck an iceberg. On the morning of the 15th April 1912, RMS Carpathia arrived on the scene of the world’s worst maritime tragedy.
An Atlantic night in April, Carpathia steamed ahead
The air was cold the sea was calm most people were in bed
Sailing from New York and heading for Gibraltar
Shortly after midnight their course they’d have to alter
The wireless man received the news a ship was going down
He knew the implications, get there fast or people drown
The Captain was informed that they’d received an SOS
Could that really be the Titanic in distress?
A reply was sent immediately that help was on its way
Although they couldn’t get there until the break of day
The heating was turned off, want gave way to need
Every bit of power was converted into speed
The crew made preparations and tried not to make a sound
They did not tell the passengers they’d turned the ship around
The captain thought it best to avoid unnecessary panic
The passengers would soon know what had happened to Titanic
Two hours since the call came in, two more hours to go
The ship was giving all it had but still, it felt too slow
Californian was closest, she could be there by now
The last message from Titanic, she was sinking by the bow
The first lifeboat was sighted in the early morning light
There was no sign of Titanic, she had not survived the night
The lifeboats were located and the people brought aboard
Where was Californian, where was Captain Lord?
The survivors were looked after by the passengers and crew
Some gave up their cabins, it was something they could do
Blankets were distributed and the Galley had been told
To have hot drinks at the ready, the survivors would be cold
The search for more survivors turned out to be in vain
Husbands, wives, kith and kin would not be seen again
Everybody was in shock, there was very little talk
Eventually, the Captain set a heading for New York
The rescue ship sailed off with the seven hundred souls
Who only hours ago had watched the tragedy unfold
The sea was getting rough, then it began to rain
Many people vowed not to cross the sea again
It was hard to comprehend that only days had passed
Since Titanic left her moorings in the city of Belfast
Embarkation at Southampton, Cherbourg and Queenstown
Many people said she was the jewel in White Star’s crown
Now that jewel lay broken at the bottom of the sea
And fifteen hundred souls were lost, a dreadful tragedy
Some had claimed that man now was nature’s master
Nature had replied with this maritime disaster
The rescue ship drove on and then on Thursday night
New York came into view, a very welcome sight
Thousands stood out in the rain to see the ship arrive
Many still not knowing if their loved ones were alive
On the pier people waited, hoping against hope
Dockers at the capstans, each tied off a rope
The survivors came ashore, each with a tale to tell
Of the night they lost Titanic, of the night they went through hell.
I have been interested, fascinated, obsessed if you will with RMS Titanic for many years. The stories of the people who sailed looking for a better life, the tales of the pampered aristocrats and the experiences of the men and women who made up the crew fired my curiosity. I decided that I would like to create my own tribute to the people who sailed on that fateful voyage in April 1912. This is for them.
The Captain stood upon the bridge aboard his ship Titanic
He looked around, he saw no ice there was no need to panic
Maintain course and heading, do not reduce the speed
I’ve crossed this ocean many times and there is no need.
The stokers in the boiler rooms were working round the clock
They had kept the fires burning since they left Southampton dock
The fumes, the dirt, the heat and the sweat upon their backs
Were only ever seen as smoke rising from the stacks.
The passengers in steerage thought their cabins rather grand
Many of them wished that they could live like this on land
Everything was all brand new, so bright and fresh and clean
Yes, many of them thought it was the best they’d ever seen
On the promenade on A deck several people took a stroll
They wore their furs and topcoats and so didn’t mind the cold
The liner had provided them with what they felt was theirs
Luxury and comfort and a lift as well as stairs
The lads up in the wireless room worked at a breakneck pace
Sending First Class telegrams while in range of Cape Race
Their wages were dependant on the number they could send
And both of them agreed that they would have a bit to spend
Mr Andrews sipped his brandy and he puffed on his cigar
He had built a ship so grand, it outstripped the rest by far
The largest ship afloat and they said it was unsinkable
He never liked that claim, it made him think of the unthinkable
He was joined by Mr Ismay the White Star Line’s top brass
Ismay proudly stated the ship was indeed first class
If only it could reach New York faster than the rest
Then the world would surely know that Titanic was the best
The engine room was noisy as she went ahead full steam
The Chief had every confidence in his engineering team
The engines hadn’t been run in they really were quite new
But if they encountered problems his men knew what to do
The waiters serving dinner on brand new plates and dishes
Attended to the first class guests fulfilling all their wishes
The menu had ten courses including oysters, soup, roast meats
Plenty of fresh vegetables and ending with sweet treats
The steerage fayre though not so grand was better than of old
When third class people had to bring their own and eat it cold
Ham and eggs for breakfast and roast beef for their main
Cold meat or bread and cheese for tea, no cause to complain
In second class the menu was almost as good as first
With plenty of selection and drinks to quench one’s thirst
The food was good and though perhaps not so many courses
There were fish and fowl, and roast meats with many different sauces
The men up in the crow’s nest were having quite a night
The binoculars were missing there was no moon, so, no light
The frigid air stung their eyes and made it hard to see
If anything was in their way that might spell jeopardy
The boat deck was deserted, not a passenger nor crew
To witness that the lifeboats would only hold a few
“Clear the decks” Ismay had said, the decision had been made
To carry fewer lifeboats but, still please the Board of Trade
The Bridge crew maintained course and speed as the Captain had directed
Despite the telegraphs received no ice had been detected
The stately ship sailed swiftly on, as she had since leaving Cork
They were bound to make the headlines when they tied up in New York
In the Crow’s Nest Frederick Fleet was filled with sudden dread
He rang the bell, he phoned the bridge crying “Iceberg right ahead!”
“Hard a port” Murdoch cried “Engines full astern”
He watched and hoped Titanic would have time to make the turn
The orders had been followed by a fast efficient crew
All eyes were on the iceberg, there was nothing left to do
Shards of ice cascaded down and landed on the deck
Had the ship been damaged? A man was sent to check
The icy water breached the hull along the starboard side
There was nothing anyone could do to stem the rising tide
The doors were sealed the engines stopped the impact was assessed
Mr Andrews told the captain, we have three hours at best
The collision wasn’t violent as we understand the word
There was no sudden jolt or a bang that could be heard
Just a tinkling of dishes, just a ripple on a gin
Were the only indication of the trouble they were in
The wireless room received the news, the ship was in distress
The signals went out straight away, CDQ and SOS
The lifeboats were made ready and the passengers were told
“Put on your life jackets, wrap up warm, it’s very, very cold”
“Californian isn’t answering although they are quite near,
Carpathia reports they are, at best, four hours from here”
Glances were exchanged, but not a word was said
By the time that help arrived, hundreds would be dead
Not everyone believed that the ship would really sink
Some went off to their cabins, others had another drink
The passengers in third class found their exits had been blocked
Every way they went, the metal gates were locked
The passengers soon realised that the bow was going down
They hurried to the boat deck, they were not prepared to drown
The boats were being lowered to the black and icy sea
Not one of them was filled to its full capacity
There was an air of desperation as the last boat pulled away
The band up on the boat deck were continuing to play
The sea was getting closer, their chances very slim
With an understanding nod, they finished with a hymn
The wireless room fell silent the boys had done their job
They would have to try to save themselves amid the frantic mob
The last rocket had been fired and its final glow of light
Shone down upon the tragedy unfolding on that night
The people left aboard the ship knew their time was running out
There was no chance of rescue of that there was no doubt
Some people jumped into the sea and hoped to reach a boat
Others made a frantic search for something that would float
The stern was rising steadily, the bow had disappeared
The ship was going down at the time that they had feared
People in the lifeboats, both passengers and crew
Watched in awe and horror as Titanic broke in two
The sounds that rent the air that night were terrible to hear
Cries for help, of anguish, of unmitigated fear
No one came to save them, they were left to their own fate
Just one lifeboat turned around, but they had left it far too late
Carpathia was sighted in the early morning light
She took aboard the people who had survived the night
Hot drinks and warm blankets, there was very little talk
Eventually, the Captain set a heading for New York
The search for more survivors turned out to be in vain
They found three hundred bodies, some they could not name
Interred in Nova Scotia, their journey at an end
But for some of the survivors, their souls would never mend
Fatalities in First Class were relatively few
Compared to those in steerage, and of course the crew
The safety of that grand new ship was surely compromised
The decisions that were taken were clearly ill-advised
The bulkheads had been lowered to make room for the stairs
The lifeboats had been left behind to accommodate deck chairs
Sailing on at twenty knots ‘though they had been warned of ice
Doomed fifteen hundred people to pay the tragic price
So, that’s the story of Titanic, in Belfast she was built
Her maiden voyage ending with her resting on the silt
Of the deep and dark Atlantic, a hundred years ago
A ship, a berg a moonless night, now, the rest of it you know.
This is the memorial park in Lahardane in County Mayo. Fourteen people left the parish, to travel to America aboard the Titanic. Only three survived the journey.
When I was a kid, my parents took me and my brothers and sisters to the Gala. It was held every year in a huge field in Litherland, a town about five miles or so north of Liverpool. There was a parade and people would line the streets to see the bands and the floats and the Morris dancers go marching, trundling and skipping by. The crowds would wend their way to the field to enjoy the fun fair, the tug of war, the candy floss and ice cream. At the end of the day, they would make their weary way home perhaps chatting about the high lights of the day, or whether to get chips for supper.
The entrance to the field was on Kirkstone Road.
My granny arrived in Liverpool from Ireland when she was six years old. All but one of her ten siblings had died as children. Her surviving sister, Kate, married and had a family. We would visit from time to time and I remember being fascinated by her strong Irish accent. My granny being younger had picked up the Liverpool accent. Kate was tall and thin and kind. She lived on Kirkstone Road.
My late sister lived in various locations in Liverpool. Her last address, quite by chance, was Kirkstone Road.
A couple of years ago I started to trace my family tree. One of my 3x great grandmothers, Rebecca, was born in Devon in 1834. She married in Wales in 1858 and died in Bootle in 1923. Her first husband, William, was born in Kendal in the Lake district in 1830. Times being what they were, he was working as a farm labourer at age eleven. By the time he was twenty-one he was a husbandman. He died aged thirty-four in 1864. On the evening of the 1851 census, he was visiting the people that used to own the farm that he worked on as a boy. They now ran a public house. The Kirkstone Inn.
Last summer, Jean and I went over to England and decided to visit the Inn. It was a strange feeling walking in William’s footsteps. We had lunch and I gave the landlady a copy of the 1851 Census form. She was delighted and said that she would put it in the scrapbook that she kept for all things related to the Inn. She invited us to browse through the contents. It was an interesting read and as we sat there I couldn’t help but wonder at the Kirkstone coincidences. Funny old world, isn’t it?
It had been a rallying cry for decades. Through marches, beatings, prison, hunger-strikes, force-feeding, even death in the case of Emily Davison. Through derision, punishment, hate and slander that cry rang out. At meetings, outside parliament, on the streets, on the doorstep, wherever people gathered, the suffragettes were there and the cry was always the same, simple utterance, Votes for Women! The fight was a long and bitter one. Finally, Lloyd George’s government capitulated.
This year marks the centenary of the introduction of women’s suffrage in the United Kingdom and, hence, in Ireland. Looking back from our time it is hard to appreciate the depth of the sacrifice and the personal cost of the commitment our sisters held so steadfastly to. So, here at Author, Author we plan to write about the women who won that right for us. Over the next twelve months, we will highlight the contribution of some of the women who stepped out of their homes, reached for the hands of their sisters and changed history.
Let me introduce you to, or reacquaint you with, Charlotte Despard. This extraordinary woman was born in 1844 and during the course of the next ninety-five years was to engage, head on with the major movements and upheavals of her time. A slim, fiery figure who fought for the urban poor in London in the 1870’s, joined Kier Hardy’s Labour Party, met Eleanor Marks, Gandhi and of course, the Pankhursts. In the 1930’s she was still galvanising the crowds in Trafalgar Square in Anti-Franco rallies.
Charlotte French was born into a wealthy family. She was apt to run away to explore beyond the gates of her family’s estate she was always curious about the world and the people who inhabited it. In 1870 she married Maximillian Carden Despard. When he died twenty years later, she made the decision to dedicate her life and energy to working for the poor. She moved to London and set up clinics, clubs and centres to address the poverty of the working class. She immersed herself in political theory and emerged a dedicated socialist. The hardships endured by the poor women she now lived among made a lasting impact. In a speech in 1910, Charlett Despard said:
“Fundamentally all social and political questions are economic. With equal wages, the male worker would no longer fear that his female colleague might put him out of a job, and ‘men and women will unite to effect a complete transformation to the industrial environment… A woman needs economic independence to live as an equal with her husband. It is indeed deplorable that the work of the wife and mother is not rewarded. I hope that the time will come when it is illegal for this strenuous form of industry to be unremunerated.”
Below are a couple of photos from her long career. Interestingly both appear to be from the same spot in Trafalgar Square in London.
Not sure what point our girl is hammering home here. But it seems to be in support of a Socialist rally.
This is from an anti-fascist rally in the 1930’s. (Isn’t she wonderous!) Notice at least one woman is now out and about at political rallies.
In 1906 Charlotte joined the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) run by Emmeline Pankhurst and her Daughters, Christabel and Sylvia. She had this to say about joining the movement:
“I had sought and found comradeship of some sort with men. I had marched with great processions of the unemployed. I had stood on the platforms of Labour men and Socialists. I had tried to stir up the people to a sense of shame about the misery of their homes, and the degradation of their women and children. I had listened with sympathy to fiery denunciations of Governments and the Capitalist systems to which they belong. Amongst all these experiences, I had not found what I met on the threshold of this young, vigorous Union of Hearts.”
Charlotte took up the cause of women’s suffrage with imagination and vigour. Fearless in defence of her sisters when the police moved in, she was arrested three times. She was unstoppable and inexhaustible. However, she and others became frustrated at the undemocratic nature of the WSPU and left to form the Women’s Franchise League (WFL). The WFL sought suffrage for all women, unlike the WSPU which campaigned to extend the vote to women of property in line with the right of propertied men.
Charlotte marching with her sisters.
When the First World War broke out in August 1914, the WSPU immediately ceased campaigning and Emmeline Pankhurst urged her members to help the war effort, in whatever way they could, including, from 1916, supporting conscription drives. In contrast, Charlotte Despard was a pacifist who spoke against the war and conscription. Oddly enough, her brother, John French, was the head of the British Army and Commander in Cheif on the disastrous Western Front.
Immediately after the war, Lloyd George’s government introduced the Representation of the People Act which granted the vote to propertied women over thirty. At the same time, it extended suffrage to include all men over twenty-one. Working-class women would have to wait for another decade before they could go to the ballot box. It wasn’t what Charlotte Despard had fought for but it was a start.
Charlotte and Maud Gonne outside Mountjoy prison in Dublin in 1920 supporting republican prisoners. Delighted to add here that my granny was there at that time too. She told us often enough that she spent her honeymoon outside the prison trying to get word of her cousin, Jack, who was lifted by the Black and Tans (military thugs).
By 1918 Charlotte was spending more and more time in Ireland, the birthplace of her father. The country was gripped by rebellion as the struggle for independence from Britain intensified. Charlotte threw herself into the fight. She supported the union movement in their bitter battle with employers in Dublin. She continued her work for the poor.
During the War of Independence when the British threw everything they had at us, John French, Charlotte’s brother, (remember the Western Front?) was the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, ie the highest representative of the crown. While he embarked on a campaign of intimidation and cruelty, she toured the country documenting the atrocities of his soldiers and police officers.
Maud Gonne (much more on her in a later piece) who was herself an extraordinary woman recalled their shared activities and how they sailed through roadblocks to carry on their revolutionary activities.
‘With her, I was able to visit places I should never have been able to get to alone… it was amusing to see the puzzled expressions on the faces of the officers … when Mrs Despard said she was the Viceroy’s sister’.
Charlotte Despard was a talented and inspiring leader. She had an impressive grasp of the politics of her day and she fought tirelessly to make the changes she thought necessary so that we, the women and men of later generations could enjoy lives of equality and fulfilment. We may not have achieved all she would have liked for us but it wasn’t for lack of trying on her part. We owe her a debt of gratitude. Thank you, Charlotte Despard.
Women fighting for our right to vote.