Sheela-na-Gig aka Jeanne Rathbone

Tom Taylor, dramatist, 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 busy man.

I don’t think this house will get a blue plaque but nevertheless we should remember Tom Taylor, his connection to Battersea and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln which I tell any visitors to our house.


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 Major 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.

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

TAYLOR, TOM (1817–1880), dramatist and editor of ‘Punch,’ was born at Bishop-Wearmouth, a suburb of Sunderland, on 19 Oct. 1817. His father, Thomas Taylor  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 Taylor’s mother (1784–1858), 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 as junior optime in mathematics and in the first class of the classical tripos. 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.


Taylor left Cambridge and in 1845 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. Mrs. Tom Taylor, a skilled musical composer, 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.

But 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

In art criticism Taylor also made some mark, and for many years was art critic for the ‘Times’ and the ‘Graphic.’ He numbered C. R. Leslie, W. P. Frith, and other artists among his closest friends, and among his miscellaneous works was a valuable biography of Benjamin Robert Haydon . 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.

Taylor, however, 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. His mastery of stage-craft was great, and many of his pieces still keep the boards; but he lacked dramatic genius or commanding power of expression.Taylor 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.


Photograph taken By Lewis Carroll

Much of his archive material is now housed in the V and A collection thanks to Jack Reading (1916-2004)  who pursued an interest in theatre and 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 and the International Federation for Theatre Research and helped to spearhead a campaign for the establishment of a Theatre Museum in the UK and later became a trustee of the Theatre Museum Association.

Tom Taylor’s home which he had built was one of four grand houses between Lavender Hill and  Battersea Rise.Among his friends and visitors to Lavender Sweep were Dickens, Thackeray, Henry Irving and Lewis Carroll , who took a number of photographs of the house.Ellen Terry, who was another of the many visitors to the house, ‘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.   

Taylor died at his home Lavender Sweep on 12 July 1880.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 Elizabeth Blake, both of whom had worked for the Taylors in London before the family moved to Coleshill. Lucy Taylor died in 1940. 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.


Porch House Coleshill where Laura and Lucy Taylor lived after Tom died


Laura and Lucy Taylor at Porch House


Mary Devenport O’Neill poem GALWAY

Posted in Mary Devenport O'Neill Irish poet and playwright, Uncategorized by sheelanagigcomedienne on July 28, 2016
This is a brief letter I sent to the Galway Advertiser about the poem GALWAY by Mary Devenport O’Neill suggesting that the first verse be included in the Galway Poetry Trail which was initiated by Tom Kenny of  Kenny Books.
Mary devenport o neill

Galway Poetry-Trail-smA series of commemorative plaques featuring the writing of well known Irish and International poets  have been installed around the City of Galway.

Often with a Galway twist, this series has become known as the Galway Poetry Trail and has so far included James Joyce, Mairtín Ó’Direáin, Seamus Heaney, Pádraic Ó’Conaire, Walter Macken, Louis MacNeice, Kevin Faller, Moya Cannon, Patricia Burke Brogan, W.B.Yeats, Gerald Dawe, Rita Ann Higgins, Gerard Hanberry, George Moore, and this year Máire Holmes and Arthur Colahan have been added

Dear Editor,

I think the first verse of Mary Devenport O’Neill’s poem should be commemorated in The Galway Poetry Trail. I think she has been unfairly neglected.

I know a town tormented by the sea,
And there time goes slow
That the people see it flow
And watch it drowsily,
And growing older hour by hour they say,
‘Please God, to-morrow!
Then we will work and play’
She was born in Loughrea in 1879 she attended the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art for teacher trainings and boarded at The Dominican Convent, Eccles Street, Dublin and went on to write poetry and established herself as a writer and one of the literati of the Irish Free State.
The  O’Neills’ salon was attended over a period of years by all of the major literary figures of the time including Æ, Jack B. and W.B. Yeats, Sibyl le Brocquy, Lennox Robinson and Austin Clarke.
Yours sincerely,

I had sent Tom Kenny, whom I know of old, an email when I was in Galway on holiday in July.
and he replied:
Dear Jeanne,

Thanks for your note. Mary Davenport O’Neill has been on our list from the beginning,but we can only do so much with our limited budget. The poem is fine but it is a bit long so we have to think carefully about where to place it.

The project is ongoing, we are now up to seventeen plaques, and it will always be a balance between living and deceased writers. We are also hoping that poets will start to write specifically for the trail.

I hope you are well. Things are good in sunny Galway and we are all anxiously waiting for The decision of the European Capital of Culture 2020 judges. We will know tomorrow.

Beatha agus Sláinte


(Galway’s bid was successful. Yea.)

I don’t accept the excuse as women are so unrepresented in the Poetry Trail. And I think Galway- a town tormented by the sea is a punchy epiteth for Galway. We’ll see!

Here is the poem. I used to have a handwritten copy of it in any bedsit I had when emigrated to London along with the Louis Mac Niece Galway poem.

GALWAY by Mary Devenport O’Neill


I know a town tormented by the sea,
And there time goes slow
That the people see it flow
And watch it drowsily,
And growing older hour by hour they say,
‘Please God, to-morrow!
Then we will work and play,’
And their tall houses crumble away.
This town is eaten through with memory
Of pride and thick red Spanish wine and gold
And a great come and go;
But the sea is cold,
And the spare, black trees
Crouch in the withering breeze
That blows from the sea,
And the land stands bare and alone,
For its warmth is turned away
And its strength held in hard cold grey-blue
And the people are heard to say,
Through the raving of the jealous sea,
‘Please God, to-morrow!
Then we will work and play.’

And here is MacNiece’s which was written in Galway when he was told about the outbreak of war when Poland was invaded. He was on Nimmo’s Pier at the time where the plaque is.
.Mac Niece Galay Poem
Galway by Louis MacNiece.
O the crossbones of Galway
The hollow grey houses,
The rubbish and sewage,
The grass-grown pier,
And the dredger grumbling
All night in the harbour:
The war came down on us here.Salmon in the Corrib
Gently swaying
And the water combed out
Over the weir
And a hundred swans
Dreaming on the harbour:
The war came down on us here.

The night was gay
with the moon’s music
But Mars was angry
On the hills of Clare
And September dawned
Upon Willows and ruins
The war came down upon us here

Mary Devenport O’Neill was born in Loughrea in 1879. She attended the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art for teacher training and boarded at The Dominican Convent, Eccles Street, Dublin and her address is recorded as Sea Road Galway. She moved to Dublin with her mother and sister. She married Joseph O’Neill in 1908. He was also from Galway and was an author and Permanent Secretary of the Department of Education.
They lived at 2 Kenilworth Square, Rathgar Dublin
The  O’Neills’ salon was attended over a period of years by all of the major literary figures of the time including Æ, Jack B. and W.B. Yeats, Sibyl le Brocquy, Lennox Robinson and Austin Clarke.

Mary Devenport O’Neill has been forgotten and neglected in a way that many women writers and achievers have been. The backdrop to this was the prevailing puritan streak in Church and State, the same smothering conservatism that had driven the nation’s greatest cultural figures to take refuge abroad (Joyce, Wilde, Beckett, Yeats) or, for the men, to escape to the relative freedom of the bars of Dublin frequented by the likes of Behan, Kavanagh and O’Brien.

The vision of the new Irish State as promulgated by the narrow-minded, sexist President DeValera which was broadcast over the radio to the nation on St Patrick’s Day 1943 sticks in the craw of so many Irish women.

A land whose countryside would be bright with cosy homesteads, whose fields and villages would be joyous with the sounds of industry, with the romping of sturdy children, the contests of athletic youths and the laughter of comely maidens, whose firesides for the wisdom of serene old age.

She worked with W.B. Yeats on  A Vision . This short poem is from her one book, the 1929 Prometheus and Other Poems. Her work is all out of print and does not appear in many of the numerous anthologies of Irish verse.


It seems to me
I live perpetually
On the cloudy edge of the sound of a bell
For ever listening.
I cannot tell
If it is memory
Of something that rang beautifully
Or if a bell will ring.

She published three verse plays,Bluebeard (1933), Cain(1945) and Out of The Darkness (1947). Her final play War, The Monster was performed by the Abbey Experimental theatre Company in 1949 but was not published. When she was fifty, she published a collection of poetry Prometheus and other poems (London: Jonathan Cape 1929)- thirty-three lyric poems, four “dream poems”, one long poem, and a verse-play. This was the first collection of poetry published by an Irish poet, besides Yeats, which could be considered modernist

.Mary devenport o neill and husband Joseph

She published regularly in The Dublin Magazine and contributed reviews to The Bell and The Irish Times. Two of her plays were performed by Austin Clarke’s  Lyric Theatre Company. She engaged in lengthy correspondence with Clarke from 1929-48 concerning the production of her work and combining choreography with verse for these productions. Bluebeard, a ballet based on her play, was choreographed by Dame Ninette De Valois  as one of the final productions of the Abbey School of Ballet.

There is an interesting article about her poem entitled  A Crooked Slice of Bread

A Crooked Slice of Bread

A convent parlour with a floor

Of shining boards and a glass garden door,

A wide ring of slippery chairs,

Saints on the wall – a young saint with a skull,

An old saint thin with prayers –

Sea-shells upon mats of coloured wool;

An oval table set with bread

And wine the colour of foxglove

And little vases,

Such as children dress their altars with in May;

In these I poured the wine,

But why did he who got the first vase shove

His vase away?

I stopped pouring the wine;

And then as if a rain-cloud spoke he said,

‘You’ve given me a crooked slice of bread.’

I turned and found a loaf so stale and dried

‘Twas hard as sandstone, and a knife

As thin and waving as a blade of grass;

And then while centuries seemed to pass

All things had faded but the task I tried.

Do I in some less palpable life

That slides along one side of this

(Using the force and strength I miss

In this life here) work hard instead

To cut that straight smooth even slice of bread?


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

Sisters Ida and Louise Cook, Battersea characters and heroines.


  • Ida and Louise

I read about Ida and Louise Cook who lived in Battersea at 24 Morella Road. Louise Carpenter  wrote about them in Granta.                                                 I was delighted that the Battersea Society hosted a talk on these two fascinating sisters given by Louise Carpenter.

They were two ordinary civil servant sisters who came from Sunderland with their family to Battersea.They were born at the beginning of the last century; Louise quieter and more intellectual in 1901; Ida chatty and confident – naturally garrulous – three years later in 1904 in Sunderland, Northeast England where their father, a Customs and Excise officer, was posted.where they lived for sixty years. But then they fell n love with opera which included traveling to America and Europe as they ‘followed their stars’ which became funded by Ida’s earnings as a Mills and Boons author of 112 books and their rescuing Jewish refugees and their families in the thirties, till war broke out.

As someone who is interested in people who have lived in or been associated with Battersea I was intrigued about them and their story and believe that they should be remembered and commemorated in Battersea and beyond. I bought Ida’s book Safe Passage. The original title was We followed our Stars which is the better and more accurate description.

We followed our stars

I was delighted to find this audio interview with them on a visit to America after the publication of We followed our Stars which was the original title of Ida’s memoirs.

I will now shamelessly quote eloquent reviewers in my quest to have these sisters commemorated in Battersea.


Ida with Tito Gobbi and his autobiography which she helped to write.

The original title embraces the whole of the book, which is about the sisters’ enthusiastic pursuit of opera stars; their enjoyment of Covent Garden queue culture; saving for (literally) years to sail to New York, flying to Cologne, and taking the night train to Milan, all to see one particular singer or to hear one particular conductor. Ida Cook was an early paparazza, snapping candid shots of the stars on her Box Brownie as they emerged from the Covent Garden stage door. She and Louise became close friends with the American singer Rosa Ponselle, the Italian coloratura Alita Galli-Curci, the Austrian conductor Clemens Krauss and the Romanian soprano Viorica Ursuleac. There’s quite a bit of name-dropping  – ‘Years and years afterwards, Callas said to me …’ – but most will be lost on readers who are not musicologists. It’s the passion for music, and the warm friendships that grew up between these fans and their stars, that give this memoir its emotional depth.


Ida and Louise with Rosa Ponselle – one of the stars that they followed

Following their stars gave the Cook sisters the ideal cover story for their increasing trips to Germany and Austria to get Jewish refugees out. They used the guarantee system of visas, invented by the British consul in Frankfurt am Main, Robert Smallbones, by which the Nazi authorities allowed the departure of Jews to Britain if they had a guarantee of financial support in Britain. The Cook sisters found the guarantees and arranged the ‘safe passage’ of 29 German and Austrian Jews, focusing on getting families out as well as children. Ida financed this with her earnings as a fiction editor and as an increasingly successful novelist, and Louise taught herself German to be able to do the interviews with refugees and the authorities. To provide refugees with an income, they smuggled out furs by sewing in British labels, and got fabulously valuable jewellery past suspicious German customs agents by wearing it as if it came from Woolworth’s. Reselling these valuable items in Britain gave the refugees start-up financial security, so that often the guarantees of financial support that the Cooks were offered by friends and strangers were not needed. Since the Cook sisters were well-known at Cologne airport and in Vienna as eccentric English sisters who adored opera, their comings and goings were accepted. This is a tremendous story, and it is the heart of the memoir, but there is so much more.

Ida and Louise in finery

Ida and Louise in their finery ready for the opera

 The Cooks’ refugee work ended when war was declared, and they separated to carry out war work in Britain. Ida was assigned to superintend a night shelter at the Elephant and Castle, in south London. Her descriptions of enduring the Blitz, the physical effects of bomb blasts, what it sounds like when the buildings above are crashing into ruin, and the smell and colour of burning buildings, are extraordinarily powerful, which leads to another important aspect of this memoir (another aspect ignored by the publicity): she’s a terrific writer. Her style is apparently artless chattering, evoking the cheerful secretary that she was in her early twenties, and masking the sisters’ bravery during their humanitarian relief work. There is emotional truth to be found beneath the apparently trivial detail of the daily lives of these young professional women in 1930s London. Ida’s memoir is packed with the detail of ordinary lives from the 1930s that so often get ignored: dress-making from Mab’s Fashions on a tight budget, where shopgirls had their lunches, her work as a catastrophically useless sub-editor on one of the new fiction magazines that proliferated between the wars, and how the opera fans kept in touch, and kept music in their lives, during and after the war. The scene where the Cooks have arranged a party for all their Covent Garden queuing friends immediately after the war, and make a long-distance call to Rosa Ponselle in New York, who sings for them down the phone: well, that brought tears to my eyes. As did the scene during the Blitz when another singer and her accompanist had the 200 inhabitants of the night shelter singing Ben Jonson’s lyric ‘Drink to Me only With Thine Eyes’.

It is a very evocative read of their times as well recording their efforts in helping Jewish refugees because they were in a position to do so.

Ida and Eamonn Andrews

Ida appearing on This is Your Life with Eamonn Andrews in 1956. ‘perfectly wonderful evening….still happily dazzled”

Anne Sebba wrote the forward to the book                                                                                                                                                She wrote had it not been for the strong sense of justice in their upbringing, the sisters may not have had the courage to pursue their dangerous mission. Their mother’s instilling of values to the two young girls was one of the most touching parts of the story, says Sebba. “In the book, Ida says: ‘Our parents just taught us what was right.’ They just knew it instinctively.


Ida died of cancer in Parkside Hospital, Wimbledon, in 1986 and was later cremated at Putney Vale. Mary Louise joined her not long after in 1991.

They were recognized by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Authority as righteous.In 2010 they were each posthumously named ‘British Hero of the Holocaust’ by the British Government.

Our wish to have them commemorated with a plaque at the home in 24 Morella road SW12 has been turned down by the owners  on the grounds of privacy and security.

The talk is to take place on Thursday 19th January 2017 at St Mary’s Church.


Louise Carpenter

Thursday 19 January 2017
 Talk about Ida and Louise Cook
Time: 6.30pm for 7.00pm

Biographer Louise Carpenter tells the extraordinary story of two opera-mad
sisters, one of them a prolific writer for Mills & Boon, who decided to use their obsession and their new-found wealth for a higher purpose – to transport Jews out of Germany as Europe careered towards the Second World War.
Venue: St Mary’s Church
Location: Battersea Church Road, London SW11 3NA
Cost (per person): £5 payable on door


The presentation by Louise was great and it was well attended. One audience member said that he had been pushing for their story to be taken up by film/tv producers. We agreed how it has all  the ingredients for a feature film or documentary.

Caroline Shearman commented on this post in Battersea Memories :They were my neighbours. I lived at number 26. Wonderful inspiring women. Very sad th at a blue plague will not be going on their home. They are true heroines. Such bravery. I still treasure the books they gave me as a child. They opened up the world to me and gave me a love of reading. May they rest in peace.

I would loved to hear more from Caroline about her former neighbours. I will keep trying to have these sisters commemorated in Battersea.

Posted in Bronze-age beer-making at Cordarragh headford with Billy Quinn by sheelanagigcomedienne on January 26, 2016

October 2010. We went to a beer-making party hosted by my cousin Billy Quinn who now lives in the home in which I was born Cordarragh Headford Co Galway. Billy inherited the thatched cottage from uncle Billy who decided that his namesake, who is an archaeologist, was the right person to pass on the the property to. We lived with uncle Billy for ten years from 1940 before we moved to Galway city. Uncle Billy was a great horseman and was one of the riders in the film The Quiet Man.

Billy has done a wonderful renovation on the homestead and it such a delight to see the place opened up again as uncle Billy had blocked off the upstairs after we had left, having lived there from 1940-1950 before moving to Galway city.

This is a drone photo of the house.Cordar by drone

Me-the baby in front of the cottage at Cordara Headford.

Billy’s research into beer making the ancient way in Ireland has resulted in his sideline of making the stuff. It really does taste good. He was using a famine relief soup pot on the day we went to the mini beer festival held on a beautiful sunny autumn day. Cordarragh looked wonderful. Uncle Billy would have been amused at the shenanigans and seeing his field used as a festival car park! here is their video.

Billy and Dec’s Bronze-Age Beer – YouTube

Billy and his mate beer making

Here is an item from The BELFAST TELEGRAPH. A team of archaeologists has recreated the heather ale drunk by marauding Vikings to boost their ferocity in battle.

Galway archaeologists Billy Quinn and Nigel Malcolm and businessman Declan Moore have been involved in their “great experiment” for the past three years, sampling Bronze Age brews and unearthing Ireland’s ancient recipes and beer-making traditions.

The intrepid trio have just brewed their first heather ale using a recipe believed to date back to the 8th century AD.

‘Bheoir Lochlannachis’ is made from heather and barley; and instead of hops, which only became common in brewing in the 9th century, the herb bog myrtle is used to add flavour and preserve the potion.

Some sources believe the word ‘ale’ comes directly from the Viking word ‘aul’, and, according to legend, Norse invaders downed substantial quantities of the heather brew to whip up their battle frenzy.

The trio brewed the Scandinavian ale with barley from the Oslo Hotel Microbrewery in Salthill. The heather was gathered at Maumeen Lake in Connemara.

“We’re using a recipe that was recorded in the ‘Ulster Journal of Archaeology’ in 1859,” explained Mr Moore, MD of the Moore Group, an environmental consultancy firm. “It dates back, we would estimate, to the early Christian and Viking period.”

Unlike the Moore Group’s previous beer experiment, which involved using a prehistoric cooking pit heated by stones, the Viking beer was heated in a large pot and is now fermenting.

This is not the trio’s first foray into bygone brewing techniques. In 2007, the team produced a Bronze Age brew using a prehistoric cooking pit, which overturned the belief that brewing was only practised here from the 6th century onwards.

Immediately we set out on a journey of discovery. This quest took us to Barcelona to the Congres Cerveza Prehistorica, and later one evening in Las Ramblas in the company of, among others, an international beer author, an award winning short story writer, a world renowned beer academic and a Canadian Classical scholar – all of whom shared our passion for the early history of beer. In pursuit of the early Northern European brewing evidence we travelled to the Orkneys to meet Merryn and Graham Dineley, an archaeologist and home brewer who taught about ancient brewing techniques. Hot rock brewing technology brought us to Rauchenfels brewery in Marktoberdorf, Germany and finally to Canada.

Children enjoying the beer fest in the rain with wellies and fest children

Posted in Humanist Wedding Celebrant in Galway by sheelanagigcomedienne on January 4, 2016



Battersea Rise three literary connections – John Walsh – The Falling Angels

Battersea Rise/Lavender Sweep

Battersea Rise Literary connectionsThis is the third of the Battersea Rise Literary Connections – EM Forster, Pamela Hansford Johnson and John Walsh journalist and author who lived on Battersea Rise. Dr Walsh’s house is at the apex of Battersea Rise and Lavender Sweep. The photo below of Lavender Sweep and Battersea Rise was taken in the seventies by my brother-in-law John, who is a pilot.

John Walsh

In his memoirs, The Falling Angels, he gives a somewhat jaundiced view of Battersea and Battersea Rise. This autobiographical and very funny book is about growing up between two cultures and dominated by his Conflicting relationship with his Irish-Catholic heritage which echos James Joyce’s statement that his first mistake was leaving Ireland and his second was going back. John’s book is also an affectionate homage to his parents. What is so resonant for me is the Galway connections as well as the Battersea ones. His parents did retire to Galway to Oranmore which is five miles from the city and where we now return to stay with my eldest sister Ida who lives there. John referred to his mother as The Widow of Oranmore and she who had been the Pope’s representative in Battersea. This book is one of the best for understanding the Irish experience in Britain both the immigrant and that of the second and even the third generations living here. We all enjoyed the book very much.


Battersea Rise/Lavender Sweep

Lionel Shriver reviewed it and liked it. › Arts › Books › Biography

The tension between an English upbringing and an Irish heritage is gentle, more entertainment than torment, as John Walsh, former literary editor of the Sunday Times and now at the Independent, would doubtless agree. Hence the aims of his warm, seamlessly well-written memoir The Falling Angels are modest: to tease out the strands of Union Jack and Tricolour woven into his personal history, and to determine which flag flies over his own life……..The prose in The Falling Angels is fluent, its craftsmanship meticulous. The dialogue is dead-on

Critical Praise

‘A book to be relished’   WILLIAM TREVOR

‘The reader should be warned that this is a book that makes you laugh out loud in public. A magnificent entertainment’  Bernard O’Donoghue, Independent

‘The Falling Angels is a work of autobiography dominated by a single theme – the author’s love-hate relationship with his Irish-Catholic heritage. John Walsh’s father was a doctor from Galway and his mother was a nurse from Sligo. They came to England to find employment, met on a pilgrimage to Rome, married, and settled in the scruffy Battersea end of Clapham, where Walsh and his sister Madelyn were brought up… Anyone with even the slightest interest in or connection with Ireland will have a grand time with this book’      DAVID LODGE, SUNDAY TIMES

‘A beautifully written book, a family memoir which is moving, honest and funny by turns… the description of the terrible evening in which Walsh insists that his father, mother and a visiting priest and nun watch a film about Ireland – only to find that it contains an explicit and embarrassing sex scene – made me cry with laughter… Anyone who has visited Ireland, or grew up there will feel serial tremors of recognition at the details he describes’  JENNY MCCARTNEY, SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

‘In an age of unreliable fake-Irish memoirs, John Walsh’s The Falling Angels convincingly and hilariously anatomises the uncertain identities of the émigré Irish middle class…’

He does reference EM Forster who is the first of these three literary connections to Battersea Rise. Forster wrote about his great aunt Marianne Thornton whose family home was the grand mansion called Battersea Rise which was sited nearby on the Westside of Clapham.

Battersea Rise

John wrote: “ EM Forster once rhapsodised about his cousins’ fashionable home with the words: “Battersea Rise! What a thrill the name gives me. Did I ever go to the house in the early Eighties, led by some cousin in my peacock-blue velvet suit?” (Apparently, he did go there once aged 8 before his great aunt had to leave as her brother Henry Wilkes Thornton inherited it for his family). Forster chose to write about his cousin rather than about her father Henry Thornton who was one of the Clapham sect and who was an anti-slavery campaigner along with his charismatic cousin William Wilberforce with whom he shared the house before each of them got married. Forster called his book a domestic biography which is much about the about the house which he related to in a vicarious way as it is about his aunt but using family correspondences. When the house was demolished he wrote scathingly about what came afterwards.

He wrote: Clapham once infested by highway men , turned first into a pleasant suburb and then into an unpleasant suburb” . I wonder what he would say to the residents of the desirable Edwardian house on the West side of the common who need to be well paid professionals or city traders to buy them now and evidenced in the swarms of estate agents who ply their trade  in the area. There were only two of them in the vicinity when we bought our home in 1968 and one of them was Edwin Evans who had bought the Thornton’s house and grounds.


John Walsh when reviewing a restaurant SOIF opposite his former home wrote: The Rise itself never had many pretensions, however. It’s a strip of London’s South Circular up which, in the 1960s, enormous car-transporter lorries used to run through the night and make the houses shake.


How do I know? Because, dear reader, Battersea Rise was where I grew up between the ages of 10 and 18. I know every inch of it. I remember when, across the road from our house at No 8, you’d find Midwinters the grocers, Kalsi the chemist, Edwardes the furniture store, plus a butcher and a baker.

The painting is by Benjamin Hope.    

Battersea Rise Ben Hope

I met Ben when he was painting this at the end of our road Lavender Sweep and I mentioned to him that it was Dr Walsh’s house who used to be our GP and that his son John had written about it and described it as like the prow of a ship. Ben held his first solo exhibition in the JP Gallery which is a few doors down from this house on Battersea Rise. John attended the preview of the exhibition and wrote a lovely article on it in The Independent magazine.Bens exhibition

Courtenay, a local estate agent, produced a calendar which included this photo of Ben painting Al fresco.


“It was a big house but hardly a Big House. It stood at the crest of a hill and resembled the prow of a ship. Where Battersea Rise and Lavender Sweep met at a sharply acute angle, our back garden formed a thin V-shape, with a black wrought-iron lamp at its apex, the figurehead of the SS Walsh……  When we first moved there  in 1963 I was ecstatic to find an air-raid shelter at the end of the garden ……..From the garden you could see the edge of Clapham Common…….It was a very English sort of place. It had been a haven of middle-class luxury in the nineteenth century”

John claimed that by the time his family came; The Battersea end of Clapham Common  was a dump, a service area for Clapham Junction; the busiest, noisiest  and dirtiest railway junction in the country. It was a stridently working class and immigrant neighbourhood then: a tough coarse-grained part of inner suburbia. 

He was right about the area being working class and immigrant. That was what made it vibrant. Later all those bed sits were taken over and turned flats and houses and what is called  ‘regeneration’ was really social cleansing as it changed the demographics of Battersea and it became a Tory constituency and subsumed into the borough of Wandsworth.

The merchant

He goes on to claim that the skinhead phenomenon started around the junction and depicts an exaggerated image  “where gangs of forty or fifty bald adolescents  with braces and Doc Marten  boots would congregate , before marauding across the Common in search of homosexuals, hippies,  and (later on) Asian youths to bash up”

I never saw any marauding hordes heading to the Common. He continues The pedestrian walkway that led to the station featured in the movie Up the Junction, giving my backyard a sudden dodgy gleam of trendy squalor ……But it put Clapham Junction on the map as the essence of ‘Sarf Lunnen’ – a place of gormless listless violent, Philistine , charmless non-endeavour – occasionally enlivened by shrieks of laughter from big girls with ragged stockings and white lipstick, who all looked like Adrienne Posta“.

We didn’t wear ragged stockings but pink lippy was much in evidence.

UPJ girls singing

Oh dear, he does seem to have been so alienated from the life of those around where he lived but it isn’t how I remember it but I was older and more integrated into life here. He was too young to have been going to local pubs. We used to occasionally meet his Dad in The Alexandra – an Irish pub – by Clapham Common tube Station.

The alex pub

This sounds to me just as snobbish as EM Forster and Pamela Hansford Johnson had been about Battersea as it changed and became more populated.

The thing about John Walsh was that he went to a private Catholic school in Wimbledon and came home to a very  Irish household in Battersea. This is unlike the experience of my children with just one Irish parent who eschewed the Catholic Irish community and they attended local state schools. He acknowledges that his perspective of Battersea was of a tripartite ghetto shared among the blacks, the Irish and the Poles. He seemed to have overlooked the English. Of  course, I have always thought that segregated sectarian schooling is unhealthy  and divisive and therefore not good preparation for life adult life, especially if one comes from an immigrant background but in general I think it is wrong to segregate children according to the parents religious beliefs.

Breakfast club queue

He depicts the environs of Battersea Rise ‘as a boring dusty Junction serving  corridor…. an artery, a migratory conduit …..had become subsumed under a a later name:the South Circular Road. Yet his domestic life was entirly Irish sustained by a freemasonry of London Irish. Amongst them were their accountant, all manner of tradesmen and he mentions their cleaning lady Mrs Geoghan whose daughter I happened to meet at a funeral I took

The  exiled Irish that came drifting by our Battersea retreat included the priests from the local catholic Church St Vincent De Paul, his mother’s nursing friends and the women from the church. One very funny chapter is entitled ‘Singing the Greens’  and is devoted to the sing songs  and the party pieces that are  apart of it that took place at the gathering in his parents house amongs the fug of smoke, the whiskey and bottles of Guinness consumed. The chapter on the the Irish language and idiom is also marvellously entertaining.

Batt Rise Leonora

The three literary perspectives connected to Battersea Rise are from different eras. I have decided on the quaint and colourful image painted by Leonora Green from the thirties of the lower end of Battersea Rise at the junction with Northcote Road and the eponymous pub to represent this neighbourhood that I have lived in for my adult life. I still cannot imagine living anywhere else. I love that Battersea has had such a rich socialist and radical political history and I hope to continue to celebrate the place and appreciate its icons like the Battersea Power Station, The Battersea Arts Centre, The Cats and Dogs Home, Battersea Park and the riverfront, the bridges and the pubs even some churches – St Mary’s and St Lukes and the writers who have have written about the place.

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 the ground floor of which is now a pleasant cafe with a little garden called Tim’s Kitchen. She was author of 27 novels, a critic and a Proustian scholar

Wendy Pollard is her biographer. 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 could have been Kenny’s or Charlie Byrne’s -well known Galway bookshops.

Pamela 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 awful Clapham Junction railway disaster in December 1988 when 35 people were killed and 500 people injured when three trains collided.



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. Again I would quibble with the Survey of London comment ‘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’ .  I wonder how Pamela referred to where she came from.


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.
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.
Pamela and Dylan Thomas

Pamela and Dylan Thomas

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.

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”


PHJ left Battersea when she was 22 in 1934 and so I finish this second literary connection to Battersea Rise. However, there is a conversation planned as part of the Battersea Society events for next year on Pamela Hansford Johnson.















Battersea Rise literary connections

Posted in Battersea Rise literary connections EM Forster by sheelanagigcomedienne on November 25, 2015

Battersea Rise runs from the corner of Clapham Common Northside up to  the Roundhouse pub and forms part of the south circular road. The literary connections are associated with the section from the junction at the bottom of the Hill which is slightly more salubrious. This is alluded to by Pamela Hansford Johnson one of our three authors who lived here as did John Walsh -journalist and author – whereas EM Forster once visited the house called Battersea Rise in which his paternal great grandparents had lived and which he commemorated in the book Marianne Thornton who was his patron and great aunt. image

In the Survey of London Battersea,which has become somewhat of a bible for those researching the area, dubiously states: 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. 

Battersea Rise Crossroads from my window by leonora Green

Leonora Green Crossroad from my window

I think that remark about Battersea residents, even the more recent ones,  about their address is wrong and subjective. It has been businesses that have often used Clapham in their title. Google is to blame! I know that the naming of Clapham Junction in Battersea has caused confusion. This was noted at the time of the disturbances in 2011 when reporters referred to riots in in Clapham High Street opposite Clapham Junction station. The is a campaign about getting the name right.Battersea Junction – the ‘SW11tch’ campaign continues …

Battersea Rise


Battersea Rise House was bought in 1792 by Henry Thornton who was a banker and one of the celebrated Clapham Sect.  Much of this information has come from the Survey of London. Battersea – The Bartlett


Battersea Rise/Lavender Sweep

Henry Thornton (1760-1815) was a philanthropist and economist. In 1780 he entered his father’s counting-house, and two or three years later became a partner, then he joined the bank of Downe, Free & Thornton, of which he was an active member until his death. In 1782 Thornton was elected MP for Southwark, and he held the seat until the end of his life. He was an influential member of the ‘Clapham Sect’, and a friend, supporter and cousin of William Wilberforce. In 1792 he bought a house at Battersea Rise on Clapham Common and lived there initially with Wilberforce.   In 1796 Thornton married Marianne Sykes.  Wilberforce went to live at Broomfield (later Broomwood) House on his marriage in 1797.

Henry and Marianne had nine children including Marianne, who didn’t marry and was great aunt to EM Forster. Her sister Laura married  the Rev. Charles Forster. The marriage of Charles and Laura Forster produced Edward Morgan Llewellyn Forster, an architect, who married Lily and their only son was Edward Morgan Forster (1879-1970), novelist and man of letters. There was a mix up with the names at EMs christening who came to be known as Morgan. His  great aunt Marianne, known as Monie left him £8,000, which enabled him to go to Cambridge and be financially independent enough to exist as a writer. He repaid his debt by writing her biography in 1956.

Marianne Thornton

Two of Thornton’s brothers, Samuel and Robert, owned villas on Clapham Common Southside and Thornton’s aim in buying Battersea Rise House and the land surrounding it was to create a community of like-minded and high-minded friends. Two substantial houses, Glenelg and Broomfield later renamed Broowoood were built in the grounds, with Wilberforce moving into Broomfield House when he married in 1797.

Battersea Rise House became the centre of, and meeting place, for the Clapham Sect dedicated to, in Wilberforce’s words “the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners”. Thornton was the prime organiser and financier of the campaign and Wilberforce provided its heart and charismatic leadership. God and Mammon easily went hand in hand.

Battersea Rise House became hallowed as the shrine of the ‘Clapham saints’. They used to attend The Holy Trinity Church on Clapham Common which is close to Trinity Hospice.

The Thornton house’s pièce de résistance was the library in the south-west position. Part of the 1790s additions ,it was higher and longer than the front rooms. It was latterly called the Pitt Room because of the Thornton family tradition that William Pitt designed it. The story is plausible, as Pitt was close to Wilberforce when the room was created, and interested in architecture.
As Battersea Rise evolved, it became an amalgam of cherished rooms,

possessions and Thornton family memories. The house has often been described as‘Queen Anne’.


The Library Battersea Rise House

The one unifying factor was the garden. In his essay of 1844,‘The Clapham Sect’, Sir James Stephen recalled it as the meeting point for the community of Clapham adherents and their children in debate or play, and depicted the key members issuing forth into it from their surrounding houses.
Battersea Rise House garden with flowers by bursill

Battersea Rise House by FN Bursill Wandsworth Museum

The fullest description of the Battersea Rise grounds comes from Dorothy Pym (1934), another descendant who visited often in the 1890s. She names many flowers and shrubs, and underlines the high standards of horticulture and maintenance: ‘the paths at Battersea Rise were as speckless and spotless as the carpets themselves’
The eldest son, Henry Sykes Thornton, became titular head of the clan, and continued the family’s evangelical connections, participating invarious religious initiatives in Battersea. But the guardianship of the family’s intellectual and moral traditions passed to his older sister, Marianne Thornton. In 1852 a rift occurred when Henry Sykes Thornton elected to marry his deceased wife’s sister, Emily Dealtry—technically still an illegality. It was this which led Marianne Thornton to leave Battersea Rise for Clapham village. He died in 1881, and his will allowed for his widow to retain a life-interest in the House, which was to be sold after her death, which happened in 1907.
When we bought our house in 1968 there were two local estate agents -Reginald Harris and Edwin Evans. Edwin Evans only closed down in 2014.  A consortium headed by Edwin Evans who was both developer and estate agent bought the twenty-two acres that were auctioned and plans were approved for the building of houses, a church and a school. It seems that it was only at this point that the importance of Battersea Rise House was realised as the focus of the anti-slavery movement and a campaign was got up to save the house as a memorial.
Evans offered to sell at ‘cost price’ the house and two acres of land to Battersea Council, but because he was a prominent Conservative and the Council was in ‘Progressive’ hands, the offer was rejected and the demolition went ahead. Oh dear!
NPG 4698; E. M. Forster by Dora Carrington

by Dora Carrington

This is the background to the Battersea Rise House that EM wrote about. He understood the significance of home and house which is reflected in Howards End and in his attachment to his own home Rooksnest.

His book is based ‘almost entirely upon family papers’. Parts of Forster’s narrative call into question the family values. His decision to focus upon her rather than one of his more publicly famous ancestors enabled him to emphasise the private implications of public life and give pride of place to the inner life. She had lived there most of her life with her brother and his family till the rift occurred.

Christopher Tolley has written an account of this book. Marianne Thornton: E. M. Forster and Clapham Domestic Biography: The Legacy of Evangelicalism in Four ..

EM did not share his predecessor’s particular religious views and this is why he identified more with Marianne and her more down-to-earth attitudes. He also questioned inherited wealth, the wealth that he felt produced the imaginative poverty of Henry Thornton and his spiritual materialism. EM was an avowed Humanist which is, of course, one reason why he would appeal to me. E M Forster – British Humanist Association

Forster wrote about his Humanism in a famous essay entitled What I Believe. He was President of the National Council for Civil Liberties, now Liberty. Forster called himself a humanist, and was President of the Cambridge Humanists from 1959 to his death. He was a Vice-President of the Ethical Union in the 1950s, and a member of the Advisory Council of the British Humanist Association from its foundation in 1963.
His work and viewpoint were summed up in a series on British Authors (Cambridge University Press) as:“the voice of the humanist – one seriously committed to human values while refusing to take himself too seriously. Its tone is inquiring, not dogmatic. It reflects a mind aware of the complexities confronting those who wish to live spiritually satisfying, morally responsible lives in a world that increasingly militates against individual’s needs. Sensitively and often profoundly, Forster’s fiction explores the problems such people encounter.” He shared many ideas with, and was friendly with, members of the Bloomsbury Group.
John Walsh, journalist and author of The Falling Angels – a memoir of growing up second generation Irish on Battersea Rise refers to EM Forster when talking of Battersea Rise and contrasting it with his own view of it growing up there in the sixties. Sin sceal eile – it is another story in this trilogy of literary connection and Battersea Rise.