Jeanne Rathbone

Notable Galway Women Walk

Posted in Notable Galway Women Walk 2019 Heritage Week, Uncategorized by sheelanagigcomedienne on July 31, 2019

I will be leading a walk as part of Galway Heritage Week 2019 featuring fourteen Notable Galway Women on Sunday 25th August at 12.00 meeting at The Browne Doorway Eyre Square. For further info email

JEANNE RATHBONEThis walk evolved from the blogs I had written on each of these inspiring Galway women. I wrote about these women of Galway as my response  to the two trite Galway Girl songs. I had objected to these two ditties as they were in the tradition of the male gaze songs about stereotype colleens which describe their appearance. One gave rise to Ireland’s annual beauty contest The Rose of Tralee which have been attended by the  Taoiseach sitting in the front row.

Who had an affair with philandering poet and sent him 12 sonnets when their affair ended?

Which of them spoke French, German, Italian and Irish?

Who became a ‘Lady Factory Inspector’ monitoring employment laws for women?

Who did President Ó Dálaigh stop his motorcade to chat to in Galway?

Who had an affair with Charlie Chaplain?

Who rode the bicycle given to her by Constance Markievicz?

The entry on the National Heritage Week website reads states;

Join Jeanne Rathbone to hear about a selection of 14 extraordinary women who have made telling contributions to the world of Arts, Science and Politics.

Sites visited will include those associated with Lady Gregory, Margaretta D’Arcy, Nora Barnacle and Clare Sheridan among others. Suitable clothing and footwear advised.


Do come and join us and if you can’t check out some of these great women of Galway and share with anyone that you think would be interested as all these women deserve to be acclaimed and more widely celebrated.



1 Margaretta D’Arcy political author and political activist near Brown Doorway,

2 Rita Ann Higgins at Richardson’s  pub where her poem is featured.

3 Una Taaffe Shop Street

4 Maureen Kenny Portwest High Street formerly Kenny’s bookshop

5 Siobháin McKenna stage and film actress An Taibhearc Middle Street

6 Garry Hynes Theatre Director on Druid Lane

7 Dolores Keane Singer at The Quays

8 Clare Sheridan Sculptor at Spanish Arch

9 Mary Devonport O’Neill Poet and playwright Jury’s Hotel

10 Lady Augusta Gregory, playwright, Abbey Theatre founder 47  Dominick Street

11 Nora Barnacle muse and wife of James Joyce at 8 Bowling Green

12 Alice Cashel Irish Nationalist and Councillor,  Courthouse

13 Ada English Psychiatrist Courthouse

14 Alice Perry Civil Engineer Courthouse

15 Michelene Sheehy Skeffington,  botanist and gender equality campaigner Courthouse

As you can see there is one added as we couldn’t walk past Taaffes without mentioning Una.

Here are a few queries to spark your interest.



1Margaretta D’Arcy Author, political Activist at the Browne Doorway Eyre Square

2 Rita Ann Higgins Poet at Richardson’s  pub.

3 Una Taaffe Galway character shop Street actress

4 Maureen Kenny Bookseller and cultural hostess Portwest High Street formerly Kenny’s bookshop

5 Siobhán McKenna renowned actress An Taibhearc Middle St

6 Garry Hynes Theatre Director Druid Lane

7 Dolores Keane Singer The Quays

8 Clare Sheridan Sculptor Spanish Arch

9 Mary Devonport O’Neill Poet and playwright Jury’s Hotel

10 Lady Augusta Gregory (1852-1932) Dramatist, folklorist and theatre manager 47 Dominick St   now Galway Arts Centre

11 Nora Barnacle muse and wife of James Joyce Bowling Green

12 Alice Cashel Irish Nationalist and Councillor The Courthouse                                                                                                                                                                                   13 Ada English Psychiatrist and Nationalist                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 14  Alice Perry Civil Engineer

15 Michelene Sheehy Skeffington,  botanist and gender equality campaigner

Duval suffrage family of Lavender Sweep

Posted in Duval Suffrage Family of Lavender Sweep, Uncategorized by sheelanagigcomedienne on April 19, 2019

Elsie and Family at 97 Lavender sweepThis is the Duval family who lived at 97 Lavender Sweep when this was taken. The back garden is the same as ours now that we have knocked down our air-raid shelter.

97 Lavender Sweep

I only recently discovered that the Duval family lived here and it is where Elsie was born. The usual address for the family was given as 37 Park Road which was renamed Elsynge Road. Elsie is sat at the front. I only found out when the suggestions for the next Wandsworth green plaque had her on the short list. Elsie is the more high profile of them with more information on her.  She was born in 1892 and I checked the electoral register in Battersea Heritage library and found Ernest Duval, her father,  was listed but, of course, it did not include his wife Emily who went on to become an active suffragette and Battersea Councillor in 1919.

Ernest and Emily Duval had six children, four girls and two boys. They,   with their children, were keen suffragists. Elsie  joined the Women’s Social & Political Union in 1907, the year after her mother. Unlike her mother, however, she did not leave the organisation to join the Women’s Freedom League when the Pankhursts changed the constitution, but the mother and daughter did work together for three years in the Men’s Political Union for Women’s Enfranchisement which Victor Diederichs Duval (1885–1945), Elsie’s brother, founded. Norah, Barbara and Winifred were the other three daughters who were also suffragettes. Their father Ernest was a member and regular speaker for The Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage. Tragically, of these six children four died young. Elsie, Winifred and Barbara from the devastating influenza pandemic after the WW1, and Ernest had died in 1904 aged 22.

I have been contacted by norah’s grandson Adrian.  He writes, Elsie has the reputation of a martyr which diverts attention from the contributions of other members of the family. The grounds for that reputation are a bit shaky, I think, because there is reason to believe that she was not strong anyway; the “old mitral stenosis” mentioned on her death certificate suggests rheumatic fever in childhood, an ailment which almost certainly led to the early death of her older brother Ernest Edward, in 1904 at the age of 22. Battersea in those times was not a healthy place to raise a family.

The Duval family through marriage were connedted to two other committed women’s suffrage families as Victor married Una Dugdale and Elsie marrried Hugh Franklin.

The Women’s Suffrage Movement: A reference Guide 1866-1928 By Elizabeth Crawford has entries on Emily, Elsie and Hugh and Victor and Una are in  Rise Up Women by Diane Atkinson.

I will give separate accounts of Emily, Elsie and Hugh and Victor and Una.

Emily Duval

Suffragette Emily Hayes Duval, a prisoner at Holloway Prison in London, in prison uniform and sewing mail bags, circa 1908. (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)

Emily Duval 1861-1924 had joined the WSPU in 1906 but left for the Women’s Freedom League and became Chair of the Battersea Branch. I assume that she was, at that stage influenced by Charlotte Despard and loyal to her local suffrage activists who also left the WSPU to join the WFL which had Charlotte as it’s President. By the spring of 1909 Emily had served two prison sentences for her part in WFL protests. In October 1908 Emily and her seventeen year old daughter Barbara were arrested when Muriel Matters chained herself to the grille in the House of Commons. Emily paid her fine and Barbara was released after promising to refrain from further militancy until  she was twenty-one. Mrs Duval was accused in court of being ‘a lady agitator who was bringing up her daughter to be a lady agitator’ In February 1909 she served six weeks in Holloway, almost all in the hospital wing suffering from acute neuritus.

She rejoined the WSPU in 1911 thus ending her four year membership of the WFL because she thought they were not militant enough and wnet on to break windows at the Local Government Board and was sent to bprison for two weeks and Victor was sentenced to five weeks at Pentonville prison at the same time. Four members of the Duval family went on a deputation to Parliament Emily, Elsie, Barbara and Victor.. This was after the tenth ‘Women’s Parliament’ was called to Caxton Hall which was wherethey left from at the start of each Parliament when the WSPU would march to the House of commons and try to deliver a petition to the Prime Minister.

When Emily was sentenced to six months, in Winston Green Prison for breaking two windows in Regent Street, she told the magistrate that she had been ‘brutally knocked about and thrown on her back’.  She referred to the large numbers of young women who were driven into prostitution by poverty , she addressed the court ‘I should like to say that I shattered the glass because I wish the government to come to their senses, and money can replace broken glass, but it cannot replace the innocence of girls who are outraged daily…. I am prepared to die for Votes for Women ‘ Four months into her sentence Emily went on hunger strike and was force-fed over a two week period.

Emily gave an account of being force -fed in a statement she dictated at Birmingham WSPU office. In the hospital wing the doctor had listened to her heart and begged her to take the feeding cup rather than been fed by the nasal tube, but she told him that hse would rather have her head cut off than do such a thing. They covered her with towels and held her head back and the tube was pushed up her nose,’which was most agonising – my nerves seemed to prick all the passages of my nose and some in my throat . I did not know  how to breathe , I did not struggle or flinch, just gripped the wardresses’ hand very tight’  When they finished feeding her and she got her breath back , she told them ‘Mr McKenna deserves shooting.’  The next morning the prison doctor urged her to eat bt Emily refused and was force-fed once again. The tube was forced down her throat which was ‘agonising’, it seemed as though I was being suffocated. I could not breath it was simply horrible’. She was helped back to her cell where her throat bled and she vomited’all over the place’. She was force-fed several more times and released on 25th June before her sentence was complete and went  to  a nursing home to convalesce. (From her statement 30th June 1912 which is in a private collection.)

Emily Duval was elected Battersea Councillor  in 1919 along with Caroline Ganley who became MP in 1945 and Mrs Jessie Hockley who was secretary of the Battersea Railway Women’s League. Emily died in 1924. It was so sad that three of her daughter did not live to vote as they died in the awful influenza epidemic.

 There is not much information on Norah but she too was imprisoned.         “On 1 March 1912, Mrs Duval was arrested again along with her daughter Norah, this time for smashing windows in Regent Street.  Norah, was sentenced to four months imprisonment at the Newington Sessions on 13 March 1912, for window smashing. She told the court, ‘I wish to say that what I did I did entirely on my own responsibility, and not, as the jury would infer, as the dupe of others. I did it because I want the same political tights as my brothers enjoy today. When asked by the judge whether she would be willing to give up breaking the law, Norah Duval replied, ‘No, certainly not. It is the only thing we can do. We cannot get redress in any other way”.

We also know that Norah stayed with the Rutters in Leeds.  Frank Rutter was an art critic and and founder member of the MPU. Their home became a sanctuary for for suffragettes to recuperate from hunger striking. There is an occasion when a baker delivery van drew up outside their home and Norah was disguised as the delivery boy while the driver dressed as a man was Leonora Cohen when Lilian Lenton 1891-1972 walked out of the house as the delivery boy to be driven off. Lilian continued to evade recapture by continuing to dress as a boy or as an old women becoming the Elusive Pimpernel she went on to lead an active life.

Elsie DElsie Duval 1892-1919 was the most active suffragette of Emily’s daughters.  There is more information on Elsie available as she fell in love with and married Hugh Franklin who was very active in the Men’s Political Union for Women’s Enfranchisement which he had joined on 22 Feb 1910 which had been founded by her brother.

Elsie and Hugh’s archive which is part of the National Archive is kept at the Women’s Library at the LSE .                      

Elsie and dog

Hugh was the fourth of six siblings and had three brothers and two sisters Alice, Hugh, Helen and Ellis, along with their mother, turned from the Liberal Party tradition of the family and took the path set by Caroline’s sister Henrietta who had set up the Jewish League for Women’s Suffrage.

Alice, a staunch socialist, would later become a leader of the Townwomen’s Guild  ; Helen became forewoman at the Royal Arsenal, where she was forced to resign for supporting female workers and attempting to form a trade union, and Ellis became vice-principal of the Working Men’s College. Through Ellis, Hugh was also the uncle of the famous crystallographer Roasalind Franklin.

Hugh Frankin, the son of Arthur Franklin, the senior partner in a banking firm, was born in 1889. His mother, Caroline Franklin, was a member of the National Union of Suffrage Societies  He was educated at  Clifton College and in 1908 went to Caius College to study engineering. After hearing the Pankhursts at the Queen’s Hall he become committed to the cause of  women’s suffrage and joined Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage.

The paper written by June Marion Balshaw gives an account of political couples and chapter six is about Elsie and Hugh and their families.

Hugh Franklin

CHAPTER SIX.     More than just ‘a sporting couple’: the militancy of Elsie Duval and Hugh Franklin                                                                                                             

This chapter will consider the political partnership of Elsie Duval and Hugh Franklin who were both involved in the suffrage campaigns of the early twentieth century and yet the level and extent of their commitment has not been acknowledged in subsequent histories and accounts of suffrage.’ I will first examine their individual activities and motivation for becoming involved in the suffrage campaign and the ways in which this both created and reinforced their continuing separate identities. I shall also consider the extremities of their actions, the ways inwhich they were represented and how this subsequently affected both their personal and political activities. By taking this approach, a good insight is provided into the changing nature of the relationship between the WSPU and the MPU as militancy escalated as well as enabling a discussion of suffrage and judaism to be included .Finally, I shall explore the impact of suffrage on Hugh Franklin’s political and personal life after Elsie Duval’s premature death. Hugh Franklin and Elsie Duval were born in 1889 and 1892 respectively, making them among the younger supporters of votes for women. They were both arrested several times between 1910 and 1913 and Hugh Franklin was imprisoned on three occasions whilst Elsie Duval experienced Holloway prison twice.

Their militant activities were extreme and included alleged arson attacks on a house, a railway station and a train.  They met through Victor Duval, Elsie’s brother, and although they did not many until 1915, their romantic involvement had begun several years earlier.3 Nevertheless, throughout the period of suffrage militancy they continued to conduct their militant activities separately, creating very distinct identities and effectively put the personal side of their relationship ‘on hold’  choosing instead to focus on their individual political endeavours. In this sense,their commitment to the cause cannot be questioned but why they chose to function in this way warrants further discussion.There are a number of factors that determined their political activity which also reveal the complexities of being involved in the suffrage movement at this time. Membership of the MPU and the WSPU was segregated by gender and, as ‘will be seen, the evolving nature of the relationship between these two organisations and their policies would not have enabled Hugh Franklin and Elsie Duval to function as a political partnership in the same way as the Pethick-Lawrences. As relative ‘late-corners’ to the cause, not least because of their ages,their introduction to the suffrage campaigns was influenced, and to an extent dictated by, family alliances

Elsie Duval was arrested on the 23 Nov 1911 for obstructing the police. After this event, she was officially accepted by the Women’s Social & Political Union (WSPU) as a militant protest volunteer. Whilst on remand, Elsie had her “state of mind inquired into” writing “They have got it into their heads that I am sixteen years of age. You know I refuse to give my age.”

On 27 Jun 1912, Elsie was arrested for smashing a Clapham Post Office window. Subsequently she was remanded for one week in custody ‘for the state of her mind to be enquired into’, and then sentenced to one month in the third division at Holloway, during which time she was forcibly fed nine times before being released on the 3 Aug 1912. She was arrested again in Apr 1913 for loitering with intent (with Phyllis Brady) and was again sent to prison for a month. She was forcibly fed during both remand and whilst serving her sentence, being seriously ill throughout and often resisting strenuously. Her prison diary for this year refers to ‘pain at the heart’ after one of these incidents.

Elsie letter

She was released under the Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill-Health) Act, 1913, (commonly known as the ‘Cat and Mouse’ Act) which allowed for prisoners to return to prison on recovery. Duval was the first prisoner released from Holloway under the Act and the second to be released (Hugh Franklin was the first) from any prison. During her last imprisonment (according to Hugh Franklin’s biographical notes) a charge was being prepared for burning Lady White’s house at Egham, with ‘Phyllis Brady’, (Olive Beamish) for which the latter received five years’ imprisonment. Duval  also burnt Sanderstead station and other places, before her arrest, together with ‘Phyllis Brady’.

At the time of the attack, no-one was arrested. However, on the 12th April 1913 Phyllis Brady (real name Olive Beamish) and Millicent Dean (Elsie Duval) were approached by a police officer whilst walking in Croydon at 1.45am. They were both carrying leather travelling cases and claimed they were returning from holiday. They were followed by the policeman and decided to drop their cases and run but were caught and arrested for being found with inflammable material with the intention of committing a felony. According to some sources, both women had been responsible for burning Sanderstead station and other unnamed targets. They were also suspected of the burning of Trevethan house, and a case was being built against them.

However, they were not charged for this offence but instead were remanded in custody and then sentenced to 6 weeks imprisonment in Holloway jail. Both went on hunger strike and were forcibly fed. While they were in prison ‘The Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill Health) Act 1913’ came into force. Commonly known as the ‘Cat and Mouse Act’, this allowed prisoners who were in danger of dying to be released and then taken back into prison shortly after when they had recovered a little. Elsie and Olive were the first prisoners to have been released under the act on the 28th April 1913. Both absconded after they had been released and did not return to prison.

Churchill was Home Secretary and he was widely blamed for the police excesses on display. Hugh was angered by what he had seen, began to follow Churchill to heckle him at public meetings. On the train back from a meeting in Bristol,  Hugh met Churchill and set on him with a dog whip , shouting “Take this, you cur, for the treatment of the suffragists!”

The attack was widely reported, even reaching the headlines of The Times and for the Franklin family, it was a great embarrassment. He was imprisoned for six weeks and dismissed as Sir Nathan’s secretary. In March 1911, he was sentenced for another month for throwing rocks at Churchill’s house. Hugh took part in the hunger strikes that were then being waged by the suffragettes, and was force-fed repeatedly during his imprisonment. The force feeding turned him into an activist for penal reform.

Elsie and Hugh left for France to avoid the re-imprisonment that her terms of temporary release had demanded. She spent several months working as ‘Eveline Dukes’ in Germany, Belgium and Switzerland armed with false testimonials provided by friends.

In Europe, Elsie went under the alias Eveline Dukes and had many fake references allowing her to get employed in various different countries. Using the several character references she had, all provided by people who knew her such as her brother Victor- who  she got a job in Germany as a governess for 10 months. She then spent three months in Brussels learning  French and doing office work, followed by two months in Switzerland. At first she believed she may have been able to travel with Hugh but actress and fellow suffragist Winifred Mayo warned against this. In March 1914, during her time abroad, she received a letter from Jessie Kenney writing under the alias C. Burrows which said: ‘Miss Pankhurst thinks it would be better for you to stay where you are for the time being and until you get stronger’. But when World War One began in 1914 Elsie and Hugh returned to the UK after a general amnesty was granted to the suffragettes. After this she became active in the war work of the WSPU.

She and Hugh Franklin were finally married in a Jewish ceremony at the London Synagogue in September 1915. She had converted to Judaism. Hugh’s  mother attended the wedding but not her father.  Elsie had asked Emmeline Pankhurst to be one of their witnesses but she wasn’t well enough at that time.  Two years later, she joined the Pankhursts’ Women’s Party.

Sadly Elsie died on the 1 Jan 1919 of heart failure, a victim of the influenza epidemic. She had, undoubtedly, been weakened by her treatment in prison when she was force-fed.

Victor Duval

Victor Duval

Victor Duval 1885-1945 had been the secretary of the Clapham League of the Young Liberals. He resigned from it after seeing a woman thrown out of one of John Burn’s meetings- the one time socialist of Battersea was now very much seen as a renegade once he joined the Liberal Government, especially by our suffragette Charlotte Despard.

In 1909 Victor helped Marion Dunlop to stencil her petition on the walls of St Stephen’s Hall in the House of Commons and in October 1910 he had co-founded the MPU

MPUThe Men’s Political Union for Women’s Enfranchisement was based at number 13 Buckingham Street. The MPU had been founded at a meeting held at the Eustace Miles Restaurant (just the other side of the Strand) in 1910. One of the founders – and the hon. organising secretary of the MPU – was Victor Duval. The premises were also, I think, the offices of his family firm, Duval & Co. Victor’s mother, Emily Duval, had been one of those who transferred allegiance from the WSPU to the WFL and would doubtless have been a regular visitor to number 18 on the other side of the street.

Duval’s book ‘An Appeal to Men’, criticises the ongoing reliance on politics as a driver for change, his reasoning being due to the ineffectiveness of the “fourteen Woman Suffrage Bills…introduced into Parliament since 1870. This saw Duval respond by provoking an urgency for radical action, with his ‘Men’s Political Union for Women’s Suffrage’ personifying this aim, being described as ‘The national bastion for male militancy   I liked the descrition of their role in the WSPU 1911 Christmas Fair, where they ran the ‘Fun of the Fair’ section of the event that included a Roundabout, Hoopla, and a Shooting Gallery. This Shooting Gallery was run jointly with the Croydon branch of the WSPU and was advertised as where “Suffragists and Anti-Suffragists alike can try their skill with an air-gun” so that participants “will realise that muscular force is not the basis of all Government or even of all fights… but that skill and determination have to be taken into account.” The entertainments also included Suffrage Shies, a Suffrage Punch and Judy show written by Inez Bensusan, a member of the Actresses’ Franchise League.

Victor was was imprisoned for a week for a disturbance after he addressed Lloyd George outside City Temple. Heserved on the committee of the International Women’s Franchise Clubs. He published two pamphlets the other was ‘Why I went to prison’. H espent two years of the war in Salonika serving with the Royal Engineers. He rejoined the Liberal Party and stood unsuccessfuly at three elections.

Una Duval

Una Dugdale, suffragette and marriage reformer, was educated at College before studying in Hanover and Paris. Una was a debutante daughter of Commander Edward Stratford Dugdale and his wife, who were supporters of the suffrage movement. Una was educated at Cheltenham Ladies College, and later in Hanover and Paris where she studied singing She was niece of  Arthur Peel 1st Viscount Peel, Speaker of the House of Commons. Apparently, her parents household had five servants and they had a holiday home near Aberdeen. Her sisters Daisy and Joan were  also active suffragettes. Joan wrote a play 10 Clowning Street.

In 1907, after hearing Christabel Pankhurst speak in Hyde Park, Una joined the Women’s Social and Political Union. Una worked alongside Emmeline Pankhurst to campaign for women’s rights and the vote in Scotland as she accompanied her on her Scottish tours.

She was part of confrontational direct actions undertaken by suffragettes and, in 1909, was arrested and imprisoned for a month following her involvement in the raid on the House of Commons. Una was the co-founder and treasurer of the Suffragette Fellowships. I found this wonderful BBC radio recording Of Una Duval. Please do listen.

Una and Daisy Dugdale

Una and Daisy Dugdale

Una met Victor when he acted as best man at Frank Rutter’s  wedding on 13 January, 1912,  at the Savoy Chapel. She scandalised society by refusing to include the word obey in her vows. She saw marriage as an equal partnership,She was advised that if she did not, the marriage would not be legal. However, at the wedding, she did not repeat obey after the clergyman spoke. He said that he hoped there would be an amended form of the service created. Her father accompanies her down the aisle but did not ‘hand her over’ to her husband to be. Christabel Pankhurst, Constance Lytton and the Pethick-Lawrences attended dressed in WSPU colours. The Mirror ran the headline, ‘The Bride Who would Not Promise to Obey.’

I found newspaper references to it in international newspapers like the Chicago Examiner and the New York Herald Jan 13th 1912. I discovered – the joys of the internet- that Victor’s best man was an actor called Ernest Thesiger (I also found out that Ernest  was an expert embroiderer and written a book on it. and that he was Dr Septimus Pretorius in The Bride of Frankenstein with our own Notable Woman of Lavender Hill Elsa Lanchester)

It was so good to discover that the Duval famous suffrage family and their extended families lived down the road and thrilled to find the photo of them in their backyard. I had known about them but then just had to blog an account of them as they were now going to be included in my Notable Women of Lavender Hill walk.

I am due to give a talk via Zoom to the Battersea W1 on 16th June 2020.  The number of notable women included has grown since I first started doing the walks. Jeanie Nassau Senior 1828-1877, first woman civil servant at Battersea Town Hall, Olive Morris Black activist, Catherine Gurney OBE 1843-1930 Police Welfare provider, Normanby House Lavender Hill (demolished),  Charlotte Despard 1844-1939 suffragette, socialist and Sinn Feiner, at 177 Lavender Hill,  Caroline Ganley CBE MP 1945-1951 lived at  5 Thirsk Road , Ethel Mannin1900-1984 prolific author lived at 28 Garfield Road,  Deaconess Isabella Gilmore 1842-1923, 113 Clapham Common Northside, Marie Spartali 1844-1927 Pre-Raphaelite artist lived at The Shrubbery Lavender Gardens, Laura Barker 1819-1905 composer Lavender Sweep House, Emily, Norah, Elsie, Winifred and Barbara  Duval Suffragettes  97 Lavender Sweep, Biddy 1871-1966 socialist/feminist and Elsa Lanchester, 1902-1986 Hollywood actress – The Bride of Frankenstein – who lived at 27 Leathwaite Road, Violet Piercy first British female marathon runner 21 Leathwaithe Road  Penelope Fitzgerald 1916-2000 author and booker prize winner for Offshore 1979 lived at 25 Almeric Road  and Pamela Hansford Johnson CBE 1912-1971 novelist lived at 53 Battersea Rise, Farrago restaurant.

I will, in due course, be applying for an English Heritage plaque for the Duval family. There is a dearth of  English Heritage plaques commemorating women. There are sixteen EH/LCC plaues in Battersea but none to women. Now there are three plaques of these Notable Women of Lavender Hill. They are Caroline Ganley CBE MP 1945-51 at 5 Thirsk Road, Charlotte Despard 1844-1939 socialist, suffragette and Irish nationalist on 177 Lavender Hill Labour Party HQ since 1923 and funded by her and  Pamela Hansford Johnson 1912- 1981 novelist and critic at 53 Battersea Rise.

Alice Cashel Irish Nationalist,Galway Co Councillor and co-Founder Cumann na mBan

Posted in Alice Cashel, Irish Nationalist and Co Councillor, Uncategorized by sheelanagigcomedienne on May 7, 2018

Alice Cashel is a Notable woman of Galway. She played her part in the fight for independence and served as Judge and Co Councillor. She was imprisoned in Galway jail for six months. She travelled by bicycle and had to go on the run. So. she is undoubtedly another feisty Galway woman for us to remember.

Alice Cashel 1878 – 1958) was an Irish nationalist and founding member, with Annie McSwiney, of the Cork Cumann na mBan who became a Galway Co Councillor.


Galway Nationalist activists.

She was born in July 1878 in Birr, Co. offaly. Alice’s sister was married to James O’Mara, who became a Home Rule MP in 1900 and resigned in 1907 to join Sinn Féin. Alice became an early supporter of Sinn Féin in Cork and was a co-founder of Cumann na mBan’s Cork branch circa 1914-15. She campaigned for Sinn Féin in the by-elections in South Armagh in February 1918 and East Cavan in June 1918.


On 15th August 1918 she held a meeting in Clifden which was banned by the authorities and broken up by the police. She went on the run for a time. During the war of independence 1919-21 she went to live at her sister’s house in Cashel House in Connemara (now a hotel); the house was raided in April 1920 and she was arrested. She was jailed for one week and her release was celebrated with the lighting of a bonfire at Cashel Hill.

The Bureau of military History statement recounts other adventures while she was hiding from the authorities at Cashel. On June 7th 1920, she was co-opted onto Galway County Council and was elected Vice-Chairman on 18th June 1920; she held the position until 1921. Alice, like many involved in the republican movement, made a witness statement. in the fifties. They make very interesting reading.

I cycled to Galway where I continued my organising work. The bicycle used on these trips was one belonging to Countess Markievicz. on the morning of the Clifden meeting, I had a letter from her from Holloway Jail in London telling me that she was sending me her bicycle as she knew mine was decrepit – she had used it in the Armagh election. It arrived that morning, just in time for me to go ‘on the run’. I left it, later on, to the Connemara Volunteers. Father Tom Burke,who had got Liam Mellows away disguised after the Rising, brought me away from Galway – as his sister – to his home in Headford.

 Christine Cozzens has written about Alice                           

Alice M. Cashel (1878-1958) was one of these revolutionary women. A committed and energetic supporter of rebellion in Ireland from the moment she joined the Sinn Féin party in 1907, she gave her whole life to the cause of Irish independence. To name just a few of her roles, she served as a political organizer, a spy, an educator, a Sinn Féin judge, a finance specialist, vice-chairwoman of the Galway County Council, and author of a pro-rebellion young people’s novel The Lights of Leaca Bán that was taught in schools in the early years of the fledgling Irish Free State.

In the course of supporting an independent Ireland, Alice worked beside many of the leaders and notables of the Easter Rising and the War of Independence including Eamon De Valera, Constance Markievicz, Terrence MacSwiney, Arthur Griffith, Erskine Childers, Bulmer Hobson, George Nobel Plunkett, Sean Heggarty, Alice Stopford Green, Ada English, Kevin O’Higgins, Seán MacEntee, and W. T. Cosgrave. Given the times, she was remarkably mobile. Her activities took her all around both southern and northern Ireland, often on a bicycle and very often on the run from the police or the infamous Black and Tans, auxiliary soldiers the British employed to quash revolutionary activity in Ireland. From reading her own account of what she did during this period, I was intrigued by Alice’s sense of humor, her initiative and toughness, and her indomitable spirit.


Cumann na mBan

Her roles on the council and in the courts were all part of the Republic which had been declared in Dublin. Eventually her home was raided by the Black and Tans. She escaped and made her way to Dublin. Once there the family business had reason to send her to France where she was able to confer with Sean T O’Kelly in Paris. She returned to Galway where she over turned an agreement known as the Galway resolution which had repudiated the authority of the Dail. Cashel was arrested in January when she tried to attend a council meeting. Dr Ada English One of my chosen 14) was also arrested on the same day, 19 January 1921. They were imprisoned with Anita MacMahon of Achill.  Alice was detained until 25 July 1921.Galway County Council.

Alice finished her sentence on July 25 1921. ‘The Governor of the jail, Mr Harding, was a kindly man but of course he had to carry out the rules of the institution. We saw visitors under the eyes of our warders, with a table between us and them. The situation on my part was ludicrous. I was in jail on account of my work in the County Council, but the secretary of the Council used to come and see me, and I gave him instructions and he reported to me on the meetings of the council.’

In summer 1918 she went to Connemara to organise Cumann na mBan.

Once released Alice moved to Dublin where she worked for Erskine Childers’s office (a Fianna Fail politician and President whose father Robert  was a leading republican, author of the espionage thriller The Riddle of the Sands, and was executed during the civil war). At that time she used the name Armstrong since her own name was too well known. She predominately worked in propaganda offices until the treaty was signed. She returned to Galway and was appointed to roles in the council there. She tried to resign on the grounds of being against the treaty they had just signed in London.

Alice Cashel novel

In 1935 she published a young adult novel called The Lights of Leaca Bán, which soon became a widely taught text in Irish schools.  The very readable but didactic tale offers a highly idealized version of the national struggle, and by extension, a vision for the new Irish state.  The novel was widely used in Irish schools. The story is set just before and during the 1916 Easter Rising through a family in the west of Ireland.

Alice lived in St. Catherine’s, Roundstone Co. Galway. We regularly visit Roundstone which, incidentally is a mis-translation as Cloch na Rón translates to the stone of the seal.

She was friends with the author Kate O’Brien who had also settled in Roundstone. She wrote about women asserting their independence and featured gay characters – one of her books was banned in Ireland and another in Spain. She was friendly with the O’ Mara’s who were also from Limerick.

Alice’s house should have a commemorative plaque. Alice died 22nd Feb 1958 at the Regional Hospital, Galway and was buried with honours on the 25th in New Cemetery, Bohermore, Galway.

Alice Cashel gravestone

Sir George Shearing, Battersea boy, jazz pianist and composer

Posted in George Shearing, Jazz supremo- a Battersea boy., Uncategorized by sheelanagigcomedienne on November 8, 2016

George Shearing was a boy from Battersea who became an international giant of jazz.  The Battersea Society commemorated him with plaque on Northcote Lodge School 26 Bolingbroke Grove SW11 which was previously Linden Lodge School for the Blind which he attended from when he was twelve till he left at sixteen.

His autobiography Lullaby of Birdland was edited by Alyn Shipton whounveiled the plaque and spoke about George and how he came to edit it. It took  place on Saturday 22nd April 2017. There were written tributes from Brian Kay, who played with George in his King Singers days, Lord David Blunkett and Lady Ellie Shearing. Charlotte Kirwan,  who is an ex-pupil of Linden Lodge had played a duet with George when he visited the school in 1962, played again. We had music from Northcote Lodge School band. The school’s Principals Sir Malcolm and Lady Colquhoun generously provided the catering at the reception afterwards.


Lullaby of Birdland was one of his most famous compositions named after the eponymous club he played in early on in his career in America. He had a huge influence on jazz and the ‘George Shearing Sound’ became very familiar to jazz afficianados.


The youngest of nine children, George was born into a poor, working-class family. His father delivered coal for the same company Cockerell’s ( coal merchants to the Queen) for nearly fifty years and his mother cleaned trains by night at the nearby depot, having cared for her children during the day. George used to joke about how his Dad’s occupation got translated as a ‘coal miner’ An inveterate punster, he sometimes referred to his father as “Not the Cole Porter, but a coal porter’ .He also quipped about his brother Jim being a conductor  ‘Really?’ ‘Yes, on the 49 bus’

George mentions his four sisters and brother who still lived at home when he was born  Margaret, Dolly, Mary, Lily and Jim. They lived at 67 Arthur Street, later renamed Rawson Street now demolished. The railway ran at the back of their house near Latchmere Road. He described it as almost a cul de sac. His Dad bought him the piano for £5 and paid £3 for a few lessons with Mrs Dearsley when he was aged 5 but she said he was already too advanced for her.


Blind from birth, George showed musical aptitude, memorising tunes he had heard on the radio and picking them out on the family’s piano, taking lessons from a local teacher. He attended Shillington Street Primary School which had a department for blind children which was nearby and then continuing his studies for four years at the  Linden Lodge School for the Blind in Bolingbroke Grove, SW11 facing Wandsworth Common. (This was erroneously described as in the countryside on an American website)

He talked about how he played cricket on the street and was given a bicycle and the toys and games played which included braking bottles. He described how from when he was about ten his father would enter the horse that he used for delivering the coal into the annual horse show in Regents Park and he would help him prepare the horse and livery and they would set of at six in the morning and George would play the harmonium. He won fifteen first prizes over the years. Although his mother worked hard bringing up nine children and cleaning trains she also became an alcoholic. He admits that he didn’t feel so close to his parents or family because of his education.

He wrote about his Linden Lodge School days and Mr Newell his music teacher and how he would practice for two hours in the piano in the school sitting room. It was Mr Newell who suggested to George’s parents that there wasn’t much point in him studying classical music as his  preference was already evident for jazz.

He was offered a university musical scholarships, he turned them down in favour of paid work as a solo pianist in a pub when 16 at the Mason’ s Arms, in Lambeth Walk later renamed the Lambeth Walk in 1951 and opened with fanfare by pearly Kings and Queens  now residential flats.

George concentrated first on popular songs and then branching out into jazz. He tells how he used to go on to posh hotels like the Mayfair or the Hyde Park Hotel and started to wear tuxedo and tails till Lou Jaffa the pub governor said that he had to choose between the pub or the hotels.


The Lambeth Walk formerly the Mason’s Arms where George had his first paid job

He achieved a degree of prominence with Claude Bampton’s newly formed, all-blind stage orchestra in 1937, joining as second pianist: press coverage of the time describing this as “a phenomenal venture”.

He made his first solo radio broadcast in 1938 and began to record regularly, either as a soloist or with groups led by Vic Lewis and the top players of the day.

During the war years he toured with the violinist Stephane Grappelli and worked in London throughout the Blitz. The trumpeter Tommy McQuater remembered playing and drinking with Shearing in London clubs and then coming out into the total blackout. Shearing would lead the sighted musicians through the pitch-black, rubble-strewn streets and set them on their respective routes home. A case of the blind leading the blind-drunk, as McQuater had it.


George and Grappelli during This is your life with Aspel

George had met Trixie Bayes and they got married in 1941. They had gone to live in Pinner. Their daughter Wendy was born in 1942 and they had a son David George who was born blind but sadly died before his first birthday.

He was encouraged to emigrate to the States by American visitors to Britain like Fats Waller, Mel Powell, Glenn Miller and Coleman Hawkins.In 1946 they went to the States without Wendy to see for themselves and emigrated in 1947.”I expected to slay everyone when I got here, because I could play in the style of Art Tatum, Fats Waller, Teddy Wilson and Bob Zurke,” he said. Well, the people started to say ‘Oh, that’s nice. What else can you do?’ My wife at the time was kind of annoyed and she’d say, ‘What do you want him to do, stand on his head?

His recording of “September in the Rain” became an international hit. Its success established him as a hot property on the jazz nightclub and concert circuit. It established something else as well: the signature sound of the George Shearing Quintet sound which was not quite like anything listeners had heard before — or have heard since.“When the quintet came out on 1949, it was a very placid and peaceful sound, coming on the end of a very frantic and frenetic era known as bebop,”

In the 1950s, George  pursued an interest in Latin-inflected jazz. He had another hit record with Mambo Inn (1954) and appeared leading a Latin ensemble in the 1959 film Jazz On A Summer’s Day. In the same year he recorded the hugely popular album Beauty and the Beat with the singer Peggy Lee


George and Neil Swainson in tandem

During the 1960s Shearing began giving concerts with symphony orchestras, usually playing a concerto in the first half and leading the quintet with orchestral backing in the second. He derived particular satisfaction from this demonstration of technical accomplishment.

Shearing’s musical partnership with the singer Mel Torme, which lasted almost a decade, had begun in the early 1980s, and brought out the best in

George and Trixie divorced and George met and fell in love with Ellie Giffert a singer he had met and they were married in 1984 by Ellie’s brother Melvin who was a minister in the Lutheran Church in Harvey Illinois.

George was the subject of the BBC programme broadcast in February 1992 of This is Your Life. He was performing at Ronnie Scott’s on the night.


George with his sisters on This is your Life

George remained fit and active well into his later years and continued to perform, even after being honoured with an Ivor Novello Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993. In 2004   his memoir, Lullaby of Birdland, which was accompanied by a double album “musical autobiography”, Lullabies of Birdland. Shortly afterwards, however, he suffered a fall at his home and retired from regular performing.

George was invited by three Presidents to play at the White House –  Ford, Carter and Reagan. He was appointed OBE in 1996. In 2007 he was knighted. “So,” he noted later, “the poor, blind kid from Battersea became Sir George Shearing. Now that’s a fairy tale come true.”


He was quite a prankster and had a punning sense of humour.  I liked the Nat King Cole story about ‘smelling the money’ trick  and telling an audience,  if they had got held up getting to a gig, to blame him as he was the driver.

One of the great loves in his life besides his family was his seeing eye dog, a Golden Retriever named Leland whom he called “Lee.” The two traveled together for well over ten years and after the dog’s death, Shearing devoted himself to the cause, by doing benefit appearances on behalf of Guide Dogs for the Blind,  the organization which had provided him with Lee originally.

alan-shiptonAlyn Shipton, who grew close to Shearing in his later years, said that Shearing was a uniquely warm, funny and straightforward man. “Being blind, he always said he had no knowledge of racial or color issues,” explained Shipton. “He listened to musicians and accepted them for how they played, not who they were. When we agreed to write the book together, we did it on a handshake, no contract, just mutual trust. And George was also extremely generous. When the book we wrote together was finished, and we’d just signed off the proofs, he treated me to an hour’s solo recital in his Manhattan apartment. Just me, George and his piano. I wondered if he recalled a particular Teddy Wilson solo, and he played it to me note for note from memory, even though it must have been years since he heard it. It was a privilege and pleasure beyond words.”

George and Ellie used to come to their home in the Cotswolds in the summer with visitors like neighbour Brian Kay whom he had played with in his King’s singers days, visiting and going to jam with the Dankworths in their Stables studio Wavendon Bucks.


George and the King Singers rehearsing

One thing that that especially touched him was when the George Shearing Centre for people with learning and multiple disabilities in Este Road Battersea was named in his honour.


I was impressed by his anti racist stance and found this reference .

A Final Word On Pianist George Shearing From A Former Bandmate …

During most of my time with George, touring the U.S. was always littered with racial land mines, not always in the South.

When we would travel by car, it didn’t matter what part of the country, we would constantly get stopped and ticketed by the cops because of the mix of colors inside the car.

It was against the law in a lot of States for race mixing and the Shearing band was one of the first integrated groups in the business. Many times we’d show up at a gig and the club owner, promoter or manager would freak out because they didn’t know we were a mixed race band and would refuse to let us enter the club. That’s when George would mess with these people. He would ask them what was the problem. The offender would say he can’t have Black people in his club and George would then ask “What is a color?”

Since George was blind from birth, technically it was true that he didn’t know what the hell a color was, but George wanted to make the person explain their own racism to a person who couldn’t see. The person would try and always fail to logically explain it and would eventually give in and let us play, especially when George would say “If my musicians can’t enter, then neither will I.”

I loved the section about his trips to Ireland. In the 70s Louis Stewart  began his lengthy association with George Shearing (with whom he has toured America, Brazil and all of Europe and recorded eight albums). George was invited over for the Cork International Jazz festival. On the way over, for the first time, he found the safety cards on the Aer Lingus aeroplane were in Braille.Then when he arrived he was met by a group of people who asked if he would join them at blind convention at a hotel which catered for blind people. On check in you were handed a map of your room telling where the furniture was etc. He enjoyed meeting the people there and played a little on the upright piano there. When he asked where they got all the Braille material he was told Arbor Hill Prison in Dublin and how it came about when prisoners were watching Parkinson interviewing George when he had mentioned the lack of Braille safety cards. They went to their Governor and said ‘They didn’t want Mr Shearing to be able to say about Ireland and so with some lobbying  on their behalf Aer Lingus was persuaded to act on the suggestion.

George was so impressed that he said to Ellie ‘I’d like to go and play for them sometime’ He duly went to the prison to give a concert a few years later with his bass partner Neil Swainson, was given a guided tour, met the piano tuner who said it was ‘Like shooting ducks in a fog’ as the atrium was so echoey. He was presented with a Braille version of Irish folktales, met a prisoner at the tea party who specialised in Braille music. George said to him “Next time I come I’d love to see more of your handiwork” “Mr Shearing I won’t be here. I am getting out and I have a job as a music Brailler” which really heartened George and he concluded that he may have played a minor role in making the world a safer place for the blind.

I do recommend his autobiography and I am so pleased that the Battersea Society we will  honoured one of our international artists who hailed from Battersea.

Tom Taylor 1817-1880, dramatist and editor of Punch

NPG Ax7534; Tom Taylor by Southwell Brothers

by Southwell Brothers, albumen carte-de-visite, 1863

I was intrigued to learn that the house opposite ours, at 84 Lavender Sweep, contains a fanlight over the door which came from the demolition in 1880 of the house which had been owned by Tom Taylor and it had been called Lavender Sweep. Tom Taylor had quite a CV. He was a playwright, critic, editor of Punch, Professor of English Literature at London University, a barrister, a civil servant and friend to many writers and theatrical people who visited him in Lavender Sweep.  He was a busy man.

I would like to see a Battersea Society commemorative plaque on the house that was home to Tom and his wife Laura who was a musician and composer before she met  and married Tom in 1955.

I think we should commemorate Laura Barker composer and her husband Tom Taylor. She didn’t compose very much after they married except for the occasional piece to accompany one of his plays. She published again after she was widowed. She features as one of my Notable Women of Lavender Hill.

Probably his most famous play was Our American Cousin being the play Abraham Lincoln was watching the night he was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre, Washington D.C by  actor and Confederate  sympathizer John Wilkes Booth on April 14th 1865. He also injured our namesake Major Henry Rathbone who had accompanied the President and his wife.

Taylor, who previously satirised Lincoln in PUNCH wrote a poem  about the assassination  in tribute to him, perhaps an element of guilt..

Abraham Lincoln foully assassinated

You lay a wreath on a murdered Lincoln’s bier,
You, who with mocking pencil wont to trace,
Broad for the self-complacent British sneer,
His length of shambling limb, his furrowed face,

His gaunt, gnarled hands, his unkempt, bristling hair,
His garb uncouth, his bearing ill at ease,
His lack of all we prize as debonair,
Of power or will to shine, of art to please;

You, whose smart pen backed up the pencil’s laugh,
Judging each step as though the way were plain;
Reckless, so it could point its paragraph
Of chief’s perplexity, or people’s pain:

Beside this corpse, that bears for winding-sheet
The Stars and Stripes he lived to rear anew,
Between the mourners at his head and feet,
Say, scurrile jester, is there room for you?

Yes: he had lived to shame me from my sneer,
To lame my pencil, and confute my pen; —
To make me own this hind of princes peer,
This rail-splitter a true-born king of men.

My shallow judgement I had learned to rue,
Noting how to occasion’s height he rose;
How his quaint wit made home-truth seem more true;
How, iron-like, his temper grew by blows.

How humble, yet how hopeful he could be:
How in good fortune and in ill, the same:
Nor bitter in success, nor boastful he,
Thirsty for gold, nor feverish for fame.

He went about his work, — such work as few
ever had laid on head and heart and hand, —
As one who knows, where there’s a task to do,
Man’s honest will must Heaven’s good grace command;

Who trusts the strength will with the burden grow,
That God makes instruments to work his will,
If but that will we can arrive to know,
Nor tamper with the weights of good and ill.

So he went forth to battle, on the side
That he felt clear was Liberty’s and Right’s,
As in his peasant boyhood he had plied
His warfare with rude Nature’s thwarting mights,—

The uncleared forest, the unbroken soil,
The iron-bark, that turns the lumberer’s axe,
The rapid, that o’erbears the boatman’s toil,
The prairie, hiding the mazed wanderer’s tracks,

The ambushed Indian, and the prowling bear; —
Such were the deeds that helped his youth to train:
Rough culture, — but such trees large fruit may bear,
If but their stocks be of right girth and grain.

So he grew up, a destined work to do,
And lived to do it: four long-suffering years’
Ill-fate, ill-feeling, ill-report, lived through,
And then he heard the hisses change to cheers,

The taunts to tribute, the abuse to praise,
And took both with the same unwavering mood:
Till, as he came on light, from darkling days,
And seemed to touch the goal from where he stood,

A felon hand, between the goal and him,
Reached from behind his back, a trigger prest,—
And those perplexed and patient eyes were dim,
Those gaunt, long-laboring limbs were laid to rest!

The words of mercy were upon his lips,
Forgiveness in his heart and on his pen,
When this vile murderer brought swift eclipse
To thoughts of peace on earth, good-will to men.

The Old World and the New, from sea to sea,
Utter one voice of sympathy and shame!
Sore heart, so stopped when it at last beat high;
Sad life, cut short just as its triumph came.

A deed accurst! Strokes have been struck before
By the assassin’s hand, whereof men doubt
If more of horror or disgrace they bore;
But thy foul crime, like Cain’s, stands darkly out.

Vile hand, that brandest murder on a strife,
Whate’er its grounds, stoutly and nobly striven;
And with the martyr’s crown crownest a life
With much to praise, little to be forgiven.

NPG Ax30385; Tom Taylor by John & Charles Watkins

Tom Taylor 1864 by John and Charles Watkins

Tom Taylor dramatist and editor of ‘Punch,’ was born at Bishop-Wearmouth, a suburb of Sunderland, on 19 Oct. 1817. His father, Thomas   was self-educated, having begun life in early boyhood as a labourer on a small farm in Cumberland. By thrift, industry, and intelligence he became  head partner in a flourishing brewery firm at Durham, and, on that city being incorporated, was one in the first batch of aldermen in the new municipality. Tom’s mother Maria Josephina, though born in Durham, was of German origin.

Tom was educated first at Grange school in Sunderland, and afterwards at the university of Glasgow, where he carried off three gold medals. Finally, in 1837, he entered Trinity College, Cambridge. There he graduated B.A. in 1840 in mathematics and in classics.  In 1842 he was elected a fellow of Trinity, and proceeded M.A. in 1843. For the next two years Taylor pursued the career of a ‘coach’ at Cambridge, and met with great success. In the interests of his younger brothers he declined the ample annual allowance hitherto placed at his command by his father, and resolved thenceforth to support himself on his fees as tutor and upon the income of his fellowship.

During 1842, Taylor, together with his Cambridge friends Frederick Ponsonby who was Earl of Bessborough. (Fred Ponsonby, a Battersea Labour Party member was the fourth Baron but is now a life peer. He sings with the Festival Chorus that Dave sings in), Charles G. Taylor and William Bolland, formed the Old Stagers, which is recognised as the oldest amateur drama society still performing.


He left Cambridge in 1845 and was appointed professor of English literature and the English language in the London University. He held the post for two years. Meanwhile, having kept his terms as a law student at the Inner Temple, he was called to the bar in  November 1846. For a while he went the northern circuit. But a new opening was offered him in 1850, when, consequent on the passing of the Public Health Act, the board of health was called into existence, and Taylor was appointed assistant secretary under the presidency of Sir Benjamin Hall.

He married,  Laura, daughter of the Rev. Thomas Barker, vicar of Thirkleby in Yorkshire on 19 June 1855. She had a musical career before they met. She had played violin with Paganini and Louis Spohr and had published various compositions and contributed the original overture and entr’acte to her husband’s ‘Joan of Arc. They had two children Lucy and Wycliffe, who became an artist.

In August 1854 he was promoted to the position of secretary. When the Board of Health was absorbed in the Local Government Board his post became that of secretary to the sanitary department. He eventually retired 1871, when his office was abolished. Apparently, he often walked from Lavender Sweep to work at Whitehall.

But Tom Taylor owed his fame and the greater part of his income to other occupations. From his first settling in London he had engaged in journalism working on the ‘Morning Chronicle’ and the ‘Daily News’ as a leader-writer. He had also started his lifelong connection with ‘Punch,’ and until 1874 he was an active member of the staff becoming editor in that year he succeeded Shirley Brooks as editor, and he held that office till his death six years later.


Caricature of Tom Taylor by Sir Leslie Ward

For many years he was art critic for the ‘Times’ and the ‘Graphic.’ He also edited ‘Charles Robert Leslie’s Autobiographical Recollections’, completed Leslie’s ‘Life of Sir Joshua Reynolds’ and edited as ‘Pen Sketches by a Vanished Hand’ (1879) the essays of his friend Mortimer Collins. He had already translated ‘Ballads and Songs of Brittany’ from the Barsaz-Breiz of Hersart de la Villemarqué, and in 1874 he published an entertaining volume called ‘Leicester Square: its Associations and its Worthies’ .

NPG x18489; The Green Room by London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company

The Green Room cast signed copy. Tom is seated right.

However, he found his true vocation as a playwright. From his early boyhood he had written and acted plays, and as soon as he settled in London he worked assiduously for the theatre. A self-confessed populist, his intention was to create plays his audiences would enjoy, and many of his works were adaptations of existing French plays, or dramatisations of the novels of Charles Dickens or other popular novels of the time. He was also a prolific writer of dramatic works and in thirty-five years he supplied more than seventy plays to the principal theatres of London. He was fond of theatrical life in all its aspects. He played several parts as an actor, and is said to have been successful as Adam in a performance of ‘As you like it’ at Manchester.

The first piece of Taylor’s that signally attracted the public was ‘To Parents and Guardians,’ a farce at the Lyceum.  ‘The Fool’s Revenge,’ an adaptation of Victor Hugo’s ‘Le Roi s’amuse,’ ‘’Twixt Axe and Crown,’  ‘Joan of Arc’ ,‘Lady Clancarty,’ and ‘Anne Boleyn,’ which was produced at the Haymarket in March 1875, and was Taylor’s penultimate piece and only complete failure. Other successful plays by Taylor ‘Diogenes and his Lantern’, ‘The Vicar of Wakefield’ , ‘The Philosopher’s Stone.’, ‘Our Clerks’, ‘Wittikind and his Brothers,’ ‘Plot and Passion’  ‘A Nice Firm’,‘Two Loves and a Life,’ in conjunction with Charles Reade,‘The King’s Rival.’  ‘Helping Hands’, ‘Retribution,’ from Bernard’s ‘Loi du Talion’,’Going to the Bad’ . ‘Barefaced Impostors’, ‘Nine Points of the Law,’ ‘Up at the Hills’, ‘The Babes in the Wood’  ‘Sense and Sensation’ , ‘Henry Dunbar,’ ‘The Sister’s Penance’  ‘The Hidden Hand’,‘Settling Day’  A collection of his early pieces appeared in 1854. He published a collected edition of his historical dramas in 1877.

Much of his archive material is now housed in the V and A collection in Blythe House thanks to Jack Reading (1916-2004)  who pursued an interest in theatre history. It includes original working drafts and final drafts of play-texts, notebooks, sketchbooks, images and scrapbooks and personal ephemera. Jack was a founder member of the Society for Theatre Research a and  became a trustee of the Theatre Museum Association.

I  found his handwriting in his many letters to Laura very difficult to read. I was amused by letters his parents , including the ones about money.

Tom and Laura Taylor’s home was one of four grand houses with a grand carriageway called Lavender Sweep and was between Lavender Hill and Battersea Rise with a lodge at either end. Lavender Sweep lodgeIt features in the Survey of London and there are descriptions of how the house was extended over time. The back of the house seems so much larger than the front.The house had been expanded much by the time the Taylors bought it.

Lavender Sweep House from the back

There had been a a billiard room on its north-west side, 30ft by 20ft, built by Reading Watts of Belgravia, and joined to the conservatory by an unusual flight of steps within a glazed, sloping passageway. A magnificent detached 42ft conservatory to the north-west of the house, with semi-circular ends rather in the manner of Richard Turner’s Palm House at Kew, reached by a tiled and glazed passage were added when the Tayors moved in in 1858 when it was sold the house to its final occupants. Tom Taylor added a large study ‘to his own design’. From the Survey of London;  A visitor in the 1870s found every wall in the house, even in the bathrooms, covered with pictures; a pet owl perched on a bust of Minerva; and a dining room ‘where Lambeth Faience and Venetian glass abound’.

Lavender Sweep House drawing room

Among his friends and visitors to Lavender Sweep were Dickens, Thackeray, Henry Irving, Ellen Terry  and Lewis Carroll , who took a number of photographs of the house. The regular Sunday soirees attracted lots of overseas visitors too. he was a good friend of Jeanie Nassau Senior who was the first woman civil serant and she was a neighbour at Elm House on Lavender Hill which is on the site of  Battersea Town Hall/Arts Centre.

Ellen Terry wrote in her memoirs ‘to us he was more than this he was an institution‘. In her autobigraphy she said ‘it clearly became the home from home for the people from all the walks of literary, artistic and theatrical life that Taylor was part of”. 


Ellen Terry

Lavender Sweep was a sort of house of call for everone of note…At Lavender Sweep, with the horse-chestnut blossoms strewing the drive and making it look like a tessellated pavement, all of us were always welcome…Such intimate friendships are seldom possible in our busy profession, and there was never another Tom Taylor in my life….The atmosphere of gaity which pervaded Lavender Sweep arose from his kindly, generous nature, which insisted that everyone could have a good time….I have already said that the Taylor’s home was one of the most softening and cultural influences of my early life…his house was a kind of mecca for  pilgrims from America and from all parts of the world….. Yet all the time occupied a position in the Home Office and often walked from Whitehall to Lavender Sweep when his day’s work was done….lavender is still associated in my mind with everything that is lovely and refined. My mother nearly always wore the colour and the Taylor’s lived at Lavender Sweep.This may not be an excellent reason for my feelings on the subject, but it is reason good enough.   

Tom Taylor died at his home Lavender Sweep on 12 July 1880. When the property was put up for sale in October, although the house and its well-timbered grounds were commended by the auctioneer, it was the 1,200ft of frontage to Lavender Sweep and Battersea Rise that were the pull. That was when Lavender Sweep and surrounding roads were developed.

Laura died in March 1905 and had gone to live in Porch House Coleshill Berkshire with Lucy and two servants, Barbara Nugent and Jane Blake, both of whom had worked for the Taylors in London.

Lucy Taylor died in 1940. Her brother Wycliffe died in 1925. He had been painted by Millais when he was 5 years old. Lucy left the house to her sister-in-law  who sold it in 1949. Apparently, in 1962 Mary Ure, who had been married to playwright John Osborne, lived here with her second husband actor Robert Shaw where they entertained their theatrical friends. A nice bit of serendipity. In 1970, Mary Ure sold the house to the present owner, Edmund Peter Wycliffe Helps, a consultant at Charing Cross Hospital. He was the great nephew of Lucys and had been a regular visitor to Porch House in his youth. Through blogging about the Taylors of Lavender Sweep I have been contacted by their great great grandson Rupert Stutchbury who is an actor living in Cork. He, too, is keen to keep the legacy of the Laura and Tom Taylor going.

I shall be giving a talk in Battersea Library lavender Hill on Tuesday 26th May on four 18th Century houses around Lavender Hill which includes Lavender Sweep House, their neighbours and friend Jeanie Nassau Senior, first woman civil servant of Elm House, on the site of Battersea Town Hall/Arts Centre and Marie Spartali, Pre-Raphaelite artist of The Shrubbery Lavender Gardens and Gilmore House which was next door. It  became the deaconate presided over by Deaconess Isabella Gilmore who was sister of Marie’s good friends William Morris and his wife Jane. Well, I have to share my knowledge of former neighbours.


Jimmy Gralton

Posted in Jimmy Gralton, only Irishman deported from Ireland, Uncategorized by sheelanagigcomedienne on May 30, 2016

James Gralton, 1886-1945  known as Jimmy , was an inspiring Irishman who was deported from Ireland in 1933. he was the one an only Irish person to be deported and he was deported for political reasons as ‘an undesirable alien’. This could be done on the grounds that he had become a naturalised American citizen when he had lived and and worked in New York. It is ironic that it was De Valera’s government who deported him without trial.  DeValera, was Taoseach then, was not shot by the British along with his fellow comrades in 1916 because he HAD American citizenship. He betrayed the ideals of the proclamation. In 1931 the Cumann na nGaedheal government had sought to enlist the support of the Catholic Church in promoting a red scare throughout the country.  The 1932 election campaign saw the government attempt to portray Fianna Fáil as a Trojan horse for communism and  De Valera as an Irish Kerensky who would be swept aside by more radical elements within the republican movement who sought to create an Irish soviet government .

Thanks to the wonderful Ken Loach there is a film about this great socialist Jimmy’s Hall who should be remembered alongside Larkin and Connolly when it comes to the struggle between nationalism, the Catholic church and socialism in Ireland. The film is about his life and the hall that he built for the people for dances, educational classes and political meetings and the agrarian actions against landlords and evictions.

James Gralton was born in 1886 in Effernagh in Co.Leitrim and grew up on a poor farm of just 25 acres. His parents were Micheal Gralton and Alice Campbell. There were four girls and three boys in the family: Winnie, Mary Ann, Alice and Maggie Kate were the girls, and the boys were Jimmy, Charles and a little boy who died young. He was encouraged to read by his mother, who operated a mobile library, but left school at 14. He found local conditions of employment too poor and intolerable to him so he went to Dublin and joined the British army. There he refused to shine the leggings and buttons of officers and received 84 days bread and water. He then refused to serve in India in protest of British polices in Ireland and for this was imprisoned for a year and then deserted. He next experienced the hard life on the Liverpool docks and Welsh coalfields but in 1909 moved to New York where he settled. He had by now seen and been affected by the modern world and had become a socialist. In New York he established the James Connolly Club and became active in the trade union movement there.                                                          James Gralton when younger

In 1922 he made his first visit home and built the Pearse-Connolly Hall in his native Effernagh to replace the previous parish hall which had been burnt down by the British army in reprisal for a shooting of an officer. The hall quickly became an integral part of the community and was used for classes including Irish, English, music, civics and agricultural science. It was also used as a venue to settle land disputes and teach tenants rights. Dances were also held there. He was seen as a major threat to the status quo of the region and the Free State army made a failed attempt to arrest him there in August 1922. Knowing he was ahead of his time and experiencing such opposition he left again for New York.

Please sign petition to have his deportation order rescinded and an apology from the government     

He returned in 1932 to look after his parents after his brother Charlie had died and hoped that the time might at last be ripe for some progressive politics. He founded and led the Revolutionary Workers Party and reopened the hall and began again holding meetings and dances there. He also spoke at many evictions of tenants and joined the local IRA. The establishment of the time felt very threatened by his ideas and ways and the local parish priest called the hall a “den of iniquity” from the pulpit and said that it should be closed. This all resulted in a shot being fired into the hall and an attempt being made to blow it up. It was eventually burnt to the ground on Christmas Eve 1932. Gralton had been home less than a year.

James-Gralton. being deported

Under mounting pressure from the Catholic Church the De Valera led Fianna Fail government ordered Gralton to be deported as an “undesireable alien”. He went on the run for six months and found many willing to protect him but was ultimately found and deported in August 1933, making him the only Irish person to have ever been deported from their own country and the source of a deep national shame.

Back in New York he became a trade union organiser and member of the Irish Workers’ Club. He reprinted James Connolly’s pamphlets, raised funds for the International Brigades in Spain, and for the remainder of his life was an active member of the Communist Party of the USA. He died there in 1945 aged 56.

Shortly before his death from stomach cancer, in New York on 29 December 1945, he married Bessie Cronogue (d. 1975), a woman from Drumsna,  County Leitrim, only a few miles from where he had been brought up.

Jimmy gralton plaque sign

A plaque to him has also been erected in Carrick-on-Shannon in more recent years. The site of the hall, opposite the Swan Lake bar in Effernagh, which is marked by a plaque, has become something of a point of pilgrimage for many in the socialist movement and otherwise who would today share his progressive ideas.




Filmed in the village of Drumsna which is only a few kilometers from Gralton’s birthplace in Effrinagh.                                           Jimmys hall


Here is a link to a blog by Donal O Drisceoil who was historical advisor on “Jimmy’s Hall.”

Dr. Donal Ó Drisceoil   He is a Senior Lecturer in History at University College Cork and has published widely on Irish political, labour and radical history. This article is reproduced with permission of Sixteen Films, where is was first published in the production notes for “Jimmy’s Hall,” the studio’s latest film.

Jimmy Gralton returned to Leitrim from New York in June 1921, just as the Anglo-Irish war was coming to a close. That conflict between the Irish independence movement and the British state had largely sidelined unresolved issues of land ownership, workers’ rights and class power in general within Irish society. These now briefly emerged more clearly. Gralton’s radical class politics, particularly the challenge to local landowners posed by the land courts based in his Pearse-Connolly Hall, made him powerful enemies. As civil war loomed over the terms of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in the early summer of 1922, he was driven out by the pro-Treaty Free Staters, who would soon take power in a partitioned Ireland.

While Gralton enjoyed the relative political freedom and socio-cultural vibrancy of New York in the ‘roaring twenties’, the Free State government of Cumann na Gaedheal, in alliance with the Catholic Church, ruled over an economically stagnant Irish Free State that was socially restrictive and culturally repressive. Inequality worsened, policies favoured bankers, business owners and cattle-exporting big farmers, and the urban working class and rural poor fared badly. The Labour Party was a weak and ineffectual opposition. In 1926 anti-Treaty republican leader Eamon de Valera and his followers split from Sinn Féin, who refused to sit in the Free State parliament, and formed the Fianna Fáil party, which entered parliament in 1927. It took advantage of the weakness of the Labour Party and the left to win the support of workers and small farmers in the depression after 1929. At the same time, it reassured elites, including the bishops, of its adherence to Catholic and capitalist principles. Fianna Fáil’s promise to release political prisoners, undo the Treaty and actively seek an end to partition ensured the initial support of the IRA and, despite red-scare mongering, it won power in 1932.


The victory of Fianna Fáil coincided with Gralton’s return to Ireland to help his elderly parents run the farm following the death of his brother. This was a honeymoon period for progressives in Ireland following a decade of repression and conservatism. The socialist republican and novelist Peadar O’Donnell summarised it thus: ‘the bright world of 1932, when Cosgrave’s Government was smashed, and bitter years of defeat and defamation were avenged… “executions” and “excommunications” denounced and disowned.’ These were ‘days of brave music’, wrote O’Donnell, when Fianna Fáil’s victory promised ‘Land, Work, Wages, the Republic.’ Gralton threw himself back into agitation – aimed mainly at maintaining pressure on Fianna Fáil to deliver on its progressive promises, such as land for the landless. He rebuilt the hall, bringing music and dance to the youth and hope to the struggling poor.


But dark clouds hovered above this new political landscape. The Catholicisation of the state was crowned in June 1932 when over a million Catholics attended the Eucharistic Congress. Censorship and ecclesiastical condemnation of ‘evils’ such as dancing, jazz and ‘immodest fashions in female dress’ intensified, and new laws would soon restrict social freedom even further, especially for women. The tariff war with Britain initiated by de Valera hit the pockets of large farmers hardest, which helped to radicalise the prosperous pro-Treaty constituency in a fascist direction, symbolised by the adoption of the ‘blue shirt’ uniform by the Army Comrades Association (ACA) in 1933. Anti-communism became violent, with attacks on socialist meetings and buildings and the silencing of the left within the IRA. Gralton’s socialism, combined with the challenge his hall presented to Church control, made him a prime target for a coalition of enemies: the Church, local big farmers and businessmen (organised in Catholic societies such as the Knights of St Columbanus, as well as in the fascistic ACA), the police Special Branch and conservative elements of the local IRA.

In December 1932 the rebuilt Pearse-Connolly Hall was burnt to the ground by rightwing IRA men and in February 1933 (following the example set by the Northern Irish government in deporting British communist Thomas Mann in October 1932) Gralton was served with a deportation order, based on his naturalised US citizenship. It was signed by de Valera’s first minister for justice, James Geoghegan, a right-wing Catholic with strong connections to the reactionary power nexus in Gralton’s area. Jimmy went on the run but, despite local support and a national ‘Gralton Defence’ campaign, he was eventually tracked down and deported to the USA in August 1933, never to return. The national Committee which formed had such notables as Barney Casey of the Workers Union of Ireland, Seamus McGowan of the Transport Union, Patrick Flanagan of the National Union of Railwaymen, Donal O’Reilly of the plasters Union, Peader O’Donnell, Sean Murray, George Gilmore, Mrs Despard, Frank O’Connor and others.  Despite the campaign of the Defence Committee the De Valera government refused to rescind the deportation order. The ‘brave music’ faded, along with the glowing embers in the ashes of Jimmy Gralton’s hall.

Here is a link to clip of Jimmy’s Hall

Jimmys hall photo

Jimmys hall priest

There is a really good documentary on him.



Such severe punishment for his ‘crimes’ seems improbable 81 years on. A dissident voice, Gralton was victimised by the political and religious establishment after daring to establish a dance hall in rural Ireland. A self-educated, community-serving man, Gralton’s hall was built to serve as a venue for the local people of Leitrim.

Community dances, singing lessons, poetry appreciation sessions, boxing classes, and debates about workers’ rights were held there. It sounds innocuous. But for the Catholic Church and the Irish ruling class, the hall and the man who built it represented something dangerous and subversive — the fact that the people were beginning to think and act for themselves.

There is a booklet about Jimmy with a preface by Declan Bree Your Socialist representative in Sligo. In 1996, Bree, then a Labour TD for Sligo/Leitrim, requested to see the Irish government files relating to Gralton, but after an ‘extensive’ search he was told by then justice minister Nora Owen that they were missing. It all adds to the feeling that the State would rather forget the whole affair.
They hunted you Jim Gralton from your fathers ancient home.
And shipped you like their cattle across the ocean foam
Those rich men are so holy they decreed that you must fly.
So in their Christian charity you are left alone to die.
The Connolly Association Australia website


Jimmy Gralton memorial

Jim set up the Irish Worker’s Group in New York. He became a trade union organiser, encouraging the involvement of women within the unions, and set about promoting, republishing and distributing the works of James Connolly. During the Spanish Civil War, he raised funds for the International Brigades who were going to Spain to fight against fascism and in defence of the Republic.

A committed and unrepentant communist up to his last breath, Jim Gralton died in exile in New York on December 29 1945 and is buried in Woodlawn cemetery in the Bronx area of the City.

Byrne, speaking at Gralton’s graveside in the Bronx in 2005 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of his death, Charlie said:“Let all of us who believe in the principles for which Gralton stood, pledge ourselves anew to the continuation of the fight for the complete political, cultural and economic rights of the working classes in all lands, no crying, no weeping over his grave at Woodlawn. There is work to be done, so let us carry on; Gralton would have it that way.’

This is one Irishman who deserves to be remembered, commemorated and his deportation to be rescinded. He was the only one who was shamefully deported by the powers of the Catholic church and the gombeen Irish state set up by De Valera. ( His daughter Maureen was my botany lecturer at University College Galway and was a somewhat dour woman!) But many, many more were forced into exile and had to emigrate because of those same conditions that pertained in Ireland after partial independence.

So, please sign the petition and remind people of the Jimmy Gralton story whenever you can.

He deserves to be remembered as do all those who were forced to emigrate from Ireland because of those awful, repressive and conservative elements in Irish society after partial independence of Catholic Church, corrupt politicians and the greed of the wealthy elite.


Jimmy Gralton memorial and flags

Chad Varah founder of Samaritans and vicar of St Paul’s church St John’s Hill SW11

Chad Varah

Chad Varah was a clergyman who founded the Samaritans, was vicar of St Paul’s Church on  St John’s Hill Battersea SW11 from 1949-53 and scrptwriter/visualiser for comics through his friend and fellow vicar Marcus Morris who described Varah as “the wild card of the Church of England”

He was never a conventional clergyman. His chief concern from the start was to help individuals rather than spreading the gospel. In his autobiography Before I Die Again he said”Church people were all too often narrow-minded, censorious , judgemental intolerant, conventional”

I think he is another strong candidate to receive a Battersea Society blue plaque. I’ve  got a little list!

Edward Chad Varah, the eldest of nine children, was born on November 12 1911 at Barton-on-Humber, where his father, Canon William Edward Varah, was the vicar (he named his son after the founder of the parish, St Chad).

chad plaque2

From Worksop College he went on an exhibition to Keble College, Oxford, to read Natural Sciences, but he changed horses midstream and achieved only modest success in PPE, getting a third class degree..

He was, however, secretary of the university’s Russian and Slavonic clubs, thus beginning a lifelong interest in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and was also founder-president of the Scandinavian Club (not least because of the access it gave me to long-legged, blue-eyed blondes).

He married Susan Whanslaw in Wandsworth in 1940 and they had five chidren including triplets. She later became a key figure in the Church of England as world president of the Mothers’ Union during the 1970s, steering through important changes in the organisation’s statutes.

Chad Walbrook

The Samaritans website › About us › Our organisation › The history of Samaritans  explains how he came to establish The Samaritans and  dedicated his long life to providing emotional support, caring for people, and teaching others how to do so..

“I wasn’t suicidal. I wasn’t at a loose end. I was busy and needed as Vicar of St Paul’s Clapham Junction, Chaplain of St John’s Hospital Battersea, Staff Scriptwriter/Visualiser for Eagle and Girl strip cartoon magazines and Scientific and Astronautical Consultant to Dan Dare!

eagle comic

When I wasn’t running an ‘open’ youth club, or bawling prayers at geriatric patients, or teaching in my Church School, or cycling around giving Holy Communion to the sick, I was pounding my typewriter up to 2 or 3am earning my living, as my stipend was only enough to pay my secretary. There was no time to discover whether I was happy or not, and I’ve managed to keep it that way.

A lightbulb moment

It had been 18 years since I made my debut in the ministry by burying a 14 year old girl who’d killed herself when her periods started because she thought she had a sexually transmitted disease – which had a profound affect on me.

I read somewhere there were three suicides a day in Greater London. What were they supposed to do if they didn’t want a Doctor or Social Worker from our splendid Welfare State? What sort of a someone might they want? Well, some had chosen me, because of my liberal views. If it was so easy to save lives, why didn’t I do it all the time? But how would I raise the funds to offer this kind of support and how would they get in touch at the moment of crisis.”

When he was offered charge of the parish of St Stephen Walbrook, in the summer of 1953 he knew that the time was right for him to launch what he called a “999 for the suicidal”. At the time, suicide was still illegal in the UK and so many people who were in difficult situations and who felt suicidal were unable to talk to anyone about it without worrying about the consequences. A confidential emergency service for people “in distress who need spiritual aid” was what Chad felt was needed to address the problems he saw around him. He was, in his own words, “a man willing to listen, with a base and an emergency telephone”. 15 years after the emergency 999 number was set up, the number MAN 9000 was chosen for the helpline that was  number of the church!

In February 1954, Chad officially handed over the task of supporting the callers to the volunteers and Samaritans, based on the principles that it is today was born.


Chad Varah and volunteer Samaritans

From then Chad became known as the ‘Director’ and he continued to be in charge of many aspects of the service such as selecting and training volunteers until 1974. His involvement with Samaritans has continued through the years, primarily working on developing a network of international support services to mirror Samaritans’ work in the UK but also in shaping the organisation.

Varah revelled in the extensive travel which his work involved. He soon became familiar with airports of the world, seized an opportunity to fly from Bahrain to London on Concorde, and wherever he went gave classes on dealing with sexual problems.Language problems did not hinder him — he was fluent in French and knew some Russian.

Befrienders International now operates in more than 40 countries, including some where there is no easy access to phones or emails, and where people will walk for hours to receive emotional support. As an inveterate traveller, Varah visited continuing these journeys into his nineties.

It was only as The Samaritans’ 50th anniversary in 2003 approached that he felt it necessary to express his disapproval of, and disappointment with, some of the ways both The Samaritans and Befrienders International were being directed.

However, in the summer of 2005 a rapprochement was reached when he enjoyed a particularly happy meeting with the new chief executive and the then chairman of The Samaritans, listening enthusiastically to news about all those people who continue his original enlightened and essential work. Varah was delighted when, in 2006, his eldest son, the late Michael Varah, was appointed to sit on the organisation’s newly created board of trustees.

Varah was a man of immense intellect and linguistic skills, of eclectic interests, originality and practicality. He engaged in consultancy work for the sex education magazine Forum for 20 years till 1987 – in that year, in recognition of this efforts, the aids charity The Terrence Higgins Trust made him its patron, a role he held till 1999.

Only in 2003, at the age of 92 and 50 years after he had founded the Samaritans in its crypt, did he finally retire as rector of his beloved church, St Stephen Walbrook, and prebendary of St Paul’s Cathedral. He was, at the time, the oldest incumbent in the Church of England.

The desire to speak his mind and take on contentious issues never left him: some would say that it was what had kept him going. He would not easily drop an issue in which he believed.

Among many awards, Varah was made a Companion of Honour in the Millennium Year honours list. His wife died in 1993, and he is survived by four of his children. He died November 8 2007.

In 2012 three trains were named after him .Felicity, his daughter,  said of the honour:
“My father never drove a car, he believed in public transport, especially trains.  In his lifetime he would have travelled thousands of miles visiting Samaritans branches up and down the country. He would say it is the best form of transport and would have been delighted that both he, and Samaritans, is being recognised in this way.”

I think Battersea should commemorate Chad Varah , one time vicar of St Paul’s church and founder of such an important organisation worldwide and which has been so influential in the understanding of suicide and mental health.

St Paul’s Church, St John’s Hill, Battersea, SW11 1SH now developed as a nursery on the ground floor and four residential  units and a house at the back.St Pauls Battersea

Pamela Hansford Johnson Battersea Rise literary connection

Posted in Pamela hansford Johnson Battersea Rise literary connection, Uncategorized by sheelanagigcomedienne on December 2, 2015

Pamela Hansford Johnson 1912-1981  was born and lived at 53 Battersea Rise SW11 the ground floor of which is now Farrago, an Italian restaurant run by Paolo Rossetti.    It was formerly Tim’s Kitchen which is mentioned in the two recent biographies of PHJ. It now has a Battersea Society commemorative plaque which I organised and which was unveiled on Sunday 19th May. 2019 . The South London Press published this article which was adapted from my blog on 30th May 2019. Toby Porter, the editor, has said he will feature each of the Notable Women of Lavender Hill which is most satisfying. I do sometimes feel I am like their agents.

Pamela was the author of 27 novels, a critic and a Proustian scholar. Wendy Pollard wrote the first of these  biographies.    I got our library on Lavender Hill to order it, as a matter of principle, and hogged it for months! I was intrigued to read the first paragraph in the introduction to it.  Some years ago, idling  while on holiday  in a second-hand bookshop in Galway, I came across a penguin edition of a novel called Too Dear for My Possessing. The name of the author, Pamela Hansford Johnson ….
This was probably Kenny’s bookshop which is long established or Charlie Byrne’s – both well known Galway bookshops.

The more recent and shorter one is by Deirdre David published by Oxford University Press.

PHJ Deirdre davidPamela HJ biog by Wendy pollard

Pamela was the daughter of Amy née Howson, an actor and singer with the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, and Reginald Johnson, a colonial administrator who worked as chief storekeeper on the Baro Kano Railway in what is now Ghana. He was frequently absent, and she grew up with her mother’s family of actors and theatrical administrators. Her mother’s father, C E Howson, worked for the London Lyceum Company, as Sir Henry Irving’s Treasurer.

Pamela described her home in the first of the autobiographical essays contained in her book Important to Me, as “a large brick terrace house”on Battersea Rise. Battersea Rise runs between Clapham Common down and across the valley of Northcote Road/St. John’s Road and up to the Roundhouse pub going over the railway line near the site  of the tragic Clapham Junction railway disaster in December 1988 when 35 people were killed and 500 people injured when three trains collided.

PHJ Farrago

The house had been bought by her grandfather in the 1890s, a time when she claimed  “it looked out on fields where sheep might safely graze. But by the time I was born, the railway had come, and the houses had been built up right over the hills between it and us. Not pretty, I suppose.” I think her description of the house looking out on ‘fields where sheep may safely graze’ was somewhat fanciful for 1890 as Battersea Rise was a main road then and the streets in behind, Lindore and Almeric, had been built on the former mansion and grounds of the Ashness family by Thomas Ingram the most prolific of Battersea’s Victorian developers according to the Survey of London. The railway had come in 1863.


The delightful painting by Leonora Green entitled View from my window looking across at the Northcote pub up Battersea Rise towards number 53 is very much how it would have been in Pamela’s day.


Batt Rise Leonora

Most commentators claim Pamela was born in Clapham which is wrong!  We are used to such confusions and some of us get more irritated than others about this! Of course, Battersea Rise is close to Clapham Common and, with its leafy, rustic connotations, is why our station got misnamed. More recently Google maps can be blamed for the confusion which became very apparent at the time of the Clapham Junction riot when journalists referred to Clapham High Stree.

The Survey of London commented ‘No doubt for snobbish reasons residents usually gave their addresses as being in Clapham, Clapham Common or Wandsworth, but Battersea very seldom, unless Battersea Rise, a name with cachet’ .  

Her grandfather Charles had come from Australia in the 1870s and his family had been involved in theatre and musical entertainment there. He went on to work as an administrator for Henry Irving who had attracted his attention when Charles was playing in the orchestra of the Lyceum in London. Bram Stoker, who had been a civil servant and part time critic in Dublin became Irving’s theatre manager but the two two men clashed. Charles referred to Stoker as Irving’s secretary and Pamela related:One day he came home with a greyish volume in his hands, and said to his children, ‘Stoker has written a beastly book. It’s all about people who suck other people’s blood and lunatics who eat flies.’ He put it straight on the fire. It was, of course, the first edition of Dracula. (Important to Me: Personalia (1974 pp.67-68)



This Irving connection was important in Pamela’s early life and the hallways of their house were hung with Irving ephemera –  photographs, playbills, programmes and costume sketches . This and the anecdotes she would have heard came into play in her novel Catherine Carter (1952).

Pamela related that as Irving liked to deck his stage with good-looking people her grandmother Helen and her three daughters occasionally got non-speaking roles in his more lavish productions which toured. I was not impressed by a badly punctuated letter sent from Dublin from said grandmother Helen : Begorra and bejabers here we are right here! And don’t I like Dublin faith and I do especially the jaunting cars and the whiskey and the Guinness stout.

When Amy and Reginald married they joined Amy’s mother and her sister Kalie at 53. Pamela considered herself classless and thought of herself and family as Bohemians but  admitted in her memoirs that: I am afraid that my family was afflicted with a degree of snobbery : the thought of ‘marrying into trade’ afflicted them.

Pamela was christened at St Marks Church Battersea Rise and she attended services there.


St Marks battersea Rise

It has now become evangelical under the vicar Paul Perkins and runs an Alpha course for well-off but unfulfilled adherents and has been accused of homophobia Maverick church deepens C of E divide over gay marriage ..

Her father died suddenly when he came back on leave and his widow was left with debts and economies made. All manner of lodgers were taken in and PHJ wrote: one was speedily removed, being suspected of sleeping sickness: one, a rubicund Welshman, got into fights on the stairways with my Uncle Charlie: one, who posed as a doctor living with his sister, sat quietly upstairs manufacturing pornographic literature, until the police caught up with him. (Important, p.67)

Pamela had attended Clapham County Girls School and began writing then. She wrote a poem called The Curtain which was published in a magazine The Town Crier when she was fourteen and it is unlikely the editor knew it was from self-asssured a young teenager who became an acclaimed novelist.

Pamela poem

She thrived at school and loved theatre and novels and wrote in Important to me:

From the age of eleven to about fourteen, I and a few like-minded school friends saved up for our Saturday treat. This was invariably the same. We would climb to the top of the Monument, where we would eat our sandwiches, and look out on the panorama of London. Then we would go to the Old Vic – Lilian Bayliss’ theatre – to sit on a hard gallery seat – price 6d .

She was involved with the Quondam Club, the old girls society and she remained close to Ethel A. Jones, the headmistress throughout her time at the school, until the death of the latter in 1966.

Her mother encouraged her to bring her friends- girls and boys home and little parties were allowed. That way mother thought she could keep a watchful eye on daughter.  PHJ could not go to university. Instead, her mother enrolled her in a six-month secretarial course at the upmarket Triangle Secretarial College in South Molton Street, Mayfair. Through the College she obtained a job, in May 1930, as a shorthand typist with associated secretarial duties at a branch of an American bank, Central Hanover Bank and Trust Co, Regent Street. She kept on writing including doggerel about children for Woman’s Friend including this cringe-making one on the birth of Princess Margaret.

A jewel in a Royal crown
Into the world a Princess came,
And all the fairies, smiling down
Upon her, sought to find a name.
But they could think of nothing meet
For one so small – so very sweet.
Yet, as she glowed both soft and bright,
Cuddled within her cradle-bower,
They all agreed to name the sprite
After a jewel and a flower;
So, with one voice, the fairies chose
To call her Margaret and Rose!
(Note: the name Margaret means a pearl.
Pamela and Dylan Thomas

Pamela and Dylan Thomas

In later life Pamela invoked where she was brought up. In  June 1957, dining with C. P. Snow, at the Governor General’s residence in Malta, she recorded in her diary her impression of an‘exceedingly glamorous’ evening—‘lights in trees, beautiful garden….Oh,a long way from Clapham Junction’ (272). When visiting Eton after Philip, her son by Snow, had won a scholarship there, she observed: ‘O, a long way from Clapham Junction!’ Commentator Nicolas Tredell concludes: “This might suggest a snobbish disdain for low origins but come as the base by which to measure her upward mobility”

She had various boyfriends by the time she met Dylan Thomas. Her poem ‘Chelsea Reach’was published in the Sunday Referee and, as a prize for the best poem the newspaper had published in the last six months, a volume of her poetry, Symphony for Full Orchestra, appeared in 1934. In September 1933 another Sunday Referee poem, ‘Thy Sanity Be Kept’, led her to begin a correspondence with its author, an unknown Welsh poet called Dylan Thomas. The correspondence developed into a romance, with meetings in London when he came to stay at Battersea Rise and so did his family and she went to Swansea. No doubt, he wanted more sex than he was getting from her. They showed each other their work. In one letter he wrote: You’ve got a style and a matter of your own. … can’t think of anyone’s stories printed today that are better . You are bloody good…you’ve got nearly everything that Katherine Mansfield possessed and a good deal more. ..Go on, go on my darling lady.

There was serious talk of marriage. Dylan had told her he was the same age as her in his first letter, was actually not yet nineteen when their correspondence began and thus too young to marry at that time without his parents’ permission. Her mother erroneously and dramatically claimed to Phillip Snow, brother of PHJ’s second husband that they had got to the steps of Chelsea Registry office  and she followed them there and had forbidden the marriage!! Their stormy relationship and his letters to Pamela are recounted in the biography and he does come across as a young brat. They used to meet in the Six Bells on the Kings Road.

About the time of her first novel Pamela, mother and aunt sold up and moved to Chelsea. Pollard suggests that socially, central London was the place to which she aspired and reckoned a passage from Johnson’s fifteenth novel, An Impossible Marriage (1954),applies to young Pamela herself; W.1. It had a magical sound in those days for the young living far beyond in the greater numerals:S.W.11,N.W.12,S.E.14. Perhaps it still has. It meant an excitement, a dangling of jewels in the dusk, music and wine. It meant having enough money not to get up on the cold,sour mornings and catch the crowded bus. 

Much later in 1956 she and Snow moved into a mansion flat at 199 Cromwell Road and in 1968, they moved to their last home, 85 Eaton Terrace in Belgravia. According to her biographer her mother and aunt were buried in St Mark’s Cemetery but she must have meant St Mary’s cemetery which is opposite the church.

PHJ left Battersea when she was 22 in 1934 and so I finish this second literary connection to Battersea Rise. I have written a separate blog besides this one and updated with the plaque unveiling. her.

I wrote this initially as part of a trio on Battersea Rise literary connections.The recent one was of John Walsh who wrote The Falling Angels a memoir about growing up in an Irish household at 8 Battersea Rise as his father was the doctor. He was our GP and he attended medical school at UCG at the same time as my uncle Bernard.

The first connection is EM Forster writing about his aunt Marianne Thornton from the abolitionist family who lived at Battersea Rise House


A very interesting connection with that beautiful house with Pamela is that her daughter Lady Lindsay Avebury who unveiled the plaque is the widow of Lord Avebury who was Eric Lubbock Liberal MP before he inherited the title.  John Lubbock later first baronet was a banker who had previously owned Battersea Rise House in 1787. The Lambeth Library held an exhibition of PHJ just before it close and became Omnibus Theatre.   The Library was opened on 31 October 1889 by Sir John Lubbock, Vice-chairman of the London County Council, and an enthusiastic advocate of free libraries. On 31 October 2014, the 125th anniversary of the opening of the Library was celebrated by a large gathering of supporters of Omnibus, including Sir John Lubbock’s grandson Lord Avebury. Serendipity!












White Weddings are past their sell by and anti-feminist.

Posted in Uncategorized, WHITE WEDDINGS ARE ANTI-FEMINIST AND PAST THEIR SELL BY. by sheelanagigcomedienne on November 27, 2013

Why do people continue with the White Wedding tradition? I find it very difficult to understand why this persists and why women want to end up looking like other brides on their wedding day, wearing a very expensive dress that only gets worn once.

From Wiki: A white wedding is a traditional formal or semi-formal wedding originating in Britain. The term originates from the white colour of the wedding dress, which first became popular with Victorian era elites, after Queen Victoria wore a white lace dress at her wedding; however, the term now also encapsulates the entire Western wedding routine, especially in the Christian religious tradition, which generally includes a marriage ceremony followed by a reception.

Here is a Mass Moonie wedding ceremony. Surely, this should put any one off from having such a ritual. MOONIE MASS WEDDINGS IS THE FIRST REASON AS TO WHY WHITE WEDDINGS HAVE HAD THEIR DAY.

Moonie mass wedding

The tradition of a white wedding is commonly credited to Queen Victoria’s choice to wear a white wedding dress at her wedding to Prince Albert in 1840. THIS IS THE SECOND REASON TO ESCHEW THE WHITE WEDDING DRESS TRADITION.


Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

Royal brides before Victoria did not typically wear white, instead choosing “heavy brocaded gowns embroidered with white and silver thread,” with red being a particularly popular colour in Western Europe more generally. European and American brides had been wearing a plethora of colours, including blue, yellow, and practical colours like black, brown, or grey. As accounts of Victoria’s wedding spread across the Atlantic and throughout Europe elites followed her lead. Because of the limitations of laundering techniques, white dresses provided an opportunity for  conspicuous consumption. They were favoured primarily as a way to show the world that the bride’s family was so wealthy and so firmly part of the leisure class that the bride would choose an elaborate dress that could be ruined by any sort of work or spill. The colour white was also the colour girls were required to wear at the time when they were presented to the court.

By the end of the 19th century the white dress was the garment of choice for elite brides on both sides of the Atlantic. However, middle-class British and American brides did not adopt the trend fully until after World War 11. With increased prosperity in the 20th century, the tradition also grew to include the practice of wearing the dress only once. As historian Vicky Howard writes, “[i]f a bride wore white in the nineteenth century, it was acceptable and likely that she wore her gown again …” Even Queen Victoria had her famous lace wedding dress re-styled for later use.

The portrayal of weddings in Hollywood movies, particularly immediately after World War II, helped crystallize and homogenize the white wedding into a normative form.

Here are a few more weddings of British royals. First up is LIZ AND PHIL

Liz and Phil


The white wedding style was given another significant boost in 1981, when three-quarter billion people—one out of six people around the globe—watched Prince Charles marry Diana Spencer in her elaborate with a 25-foot-long train. This wedding is generally considered the most influential white wedding of the 20th century. THEY DIVORCED.

Chas and Di

SARAH and ANDY  now DIVORCED but apparently good friends

Sara and Andrew


Anne and Mark


Edward and Sophie

After the ROYALS ,  THE TRAVELLERS are the next most extravagant in the WHITE WEDDING  stakes.

tRAVELLER DRESS          Traveller bride

Traveller couple


Unfortunately, the WHITE WEDDNG  has become a fairly universal and been replacing other cultural and ethnic traditions.

chinese                                  japanese bride


Black coupleBlack couples

I too had a white wedding dress when we got married in 1967 in Ireland. I went along with the tradition in my pre-feminist days. I paid £11 for my dress and my friend Joan, who got married that same year 1967 hired her dress and ALSO  paid the same.  I later used the material from my dress to make a lampshade!! My headdress was referred to by my mother-in-law as a Dutch cap when she told her friends about it!! Our wedding photo in the car

Although women were required to wear veils in many churches through at least the 19th century, the resurgence of the wedding veil as a symbol of the bride, and its use even when not required by the bride’s religion, coincided with societal emphasis on women being modest and well-behaved. MODEST AND WELL-BEHAVED!!!

It is time that this outmoded fashion for expensive virginal white wedding dresses which are only worn once was dropped as the significance of it is so anti-feminist and so Stepford wives and Barbie.

BarbieBlack Barbies

RoyalsBarbie 2

Edith’s Naming Ceremony in front of Moore’s THREE STANDING FIGURES in Battersea Park.

Posted in Edith's Naming Ceremony by 3 Standing Figures Battersea Park, Uncategorized by sheelanagigcomedienne on October 2, 2013

Here is a photo of Edith’s Naming Ceremony which was held in front of Henry Moore’s THREE STANDING FIGURES which is on a mound facing the lake in Battersea Park in the tropical garden.


Here  we are Edith, Rachael, Kieran,her Mum and Dad, with me in front of the figures where we held her lovely Naming  Ceremony

Edith's Naming in front of Three Standing Figures

Here are the three of them with the view from the standing figures.

Edith and her Mum and Dad