The Field family poem

The children of Henry William Field and Sarah Eliza (née Savage)

Florence Maud Atkinson was born in Stanningfield, Suffolk, in 1894, the eldest of George and Anastasia’s ten children. When she was a child, her family moved to Lower Marsh Farm in Brightlingsea, Essex. There, she met Charles Field, and they were married in 1926.

She wrote this poem about her husband-to-be’s family, between 1919 and 1926. In the photo above, left to right, is Charlie with his siblings: Lily, Harry, Emily, Bill, Amy, Ernest, Maggie, and Charlie.

Down Sydney Street in Brightlingsea
There lives a bonny wee Lad1)Charles Field, 1902-90
And since his brother at Barking works2)Ernest Baden Powell Field, 1900-53. He married Kathleen Robertson in 1931 in Southwark, Surrey. They divorced, and in 1950 he married Dorothy Dunn.
He lives alone with his Dad.3)Henry William Field, 1861-1941. Henry’s wife Sarah had died in 1919.

He thinks he has some pigeons
They look like sparrows to me
But as I don’t know much about birds
I may be wrong you see.

He has a sister Amy4)Amy Edith, 1889-1978. She married William Kemble, and moved to Wivenhoe, where her husband worked on the shipyard, and later in the building trade.
In Wivenhoe she dwells.
I wouldn’t live there for anything
Because of the awful smells.5)Wivenhoe was a fishing port. When Florence wrote her poem, the Kembles were living on West Street, near the North Sea Canning Company. This might explain the terrible smell.

Of course her house is very nice,
And clean you understand
But every time you shut a door
You come away with the knob in your hand.6)The houses in West Street are in a very old part of Wivenhoe.

Now Amy does father’s washing
And the dear Wee Lad’s I know
And when she takes the washing home
She’s very pleased with the dough.

It’s very little that she gets
They don’t pay her very well
And how they manage that sometimes
Half their home they have to sell.

Now Harry and Rose,7)Harry George Field, 1892-1970 was a professional yachtsman, who lost an eye on Royal Yacht Britannia during a storm. He married Rosie Bowdell in 1919 – Rosie was blind, and Harry used to joke that they “had one eye between them”. some more relations
They too are very poor
Often and often they scrap and scrape
To keep the wolf from the door.

They live in Tower Street, with Mrs Bowdall8)This is possibly Rosie’s mother, Eliza, 1859-1938
The old girl has a big stick too
And they get it across the seat of their pants
If they’re not careful what they do.

Now I must shut up about these folk
Or there will be a row
So bye bye Mrs Bowdall
I don’t want your stick just now.

Now this Bonny Wee Lad, has another brother
In Nottingham, he lives with his wife
And during the war, he fought with the British,
And nearly lost his life.9)See Naming an Unknown Soldier.

For the dirty Germans,10)One would imagine that all sides were rather dirty in the muddy old trenches. came along
And a sniper just went biff
And put a bullet right through his chest
And nearly laid him stiff.11)His mother’s letter, written on Armistice Day, refers to Bill’s injury. He needed to have another operation on his arm to remove a piece of bone. Whether being shot in the chest was Florence’s poetic licence, or perhaps the operation in his arm was related to that wound, I don’t know. Bill was in the Essex Regiment, and was injured in November 1916, which Peter Layzell suggested means he may have been injured at Ancre on the Somme.

But Will and Gert12)William James Field, 1894-1982, married Gertrude Dilks, 1899-1995, in Nottinghamshire in 1919. are awful swells
Their house up there is very nice
The only fault about it is,
It’s over-run with mice.

Now one Tuesday in October
I thought I’d call on Dad
I wouldn’t go too early
As a snooze I thought he had.

I knew he was in for I smelt his feet
They smell like onions galore
And when he opened the door to greet me
I nearly fell flop on the floor.

He rushed for brandy and water as well
And said darling, drink this up quick
I said oh Dad, do send for my lad
Your feet, they are making me sick.

He then came closer, his arms held me tight
I felt like an empty log
I’d made a mistake, it wasn’t his feet I’d smelt
It was a bone Charlie saved for the dog.

A dog they were having during the week
A dear little dog named Pete
I wonder if he knew if it were a bone
Or Charlie’s Papa’s feet.
Yes dear little Peter found the bone
And no meat met his eye
So he took it to the bottom of the garden
And laid himself down to die.

He said I must go to Heaven
And with me I’ll take this bone
I’ll go and find my pal little Jock13)I really hope Jock was a West Highland Terrier!
Then he won’t be quite alone.

Now all dear people I must away
I’m getting fed up quite
So with love and luck to all of you
I bid you all Good-night.

Many thanks to Stella, Florence’s granddaughter, for letting me share this poem.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Charles Field, 1902-90
2. Ernest Baden Powell Field, 1900-53. He married Kathleen Robertson in 1931 in Southwark, Surrey. They divorced, and in 1950 he married Dorothy Dunn.
3. Henry William Field, 1861-1941. Henry’s wife Sarah had died in 1919.
4. Amy Edith, 1889-1978. She married William Kemble, and moved to Wivenhoe, where her husband worked on the shipyard, and later in the building trade.
5. Wivenhoe was a fishing port. When Florence wrote her poem, the Kembles were living on West Street, near the North Sea Canning Company. This might explain the terrible smell.
6. The houses in West Street are in a very old part of Wivenhoe.
7. Harry George Field, 1892-1970 was a professional yachtsman, who lost an eye on Royal Yacht Britannia during a storm. He married Rosie Bowdell in 1919 – Rosie was blind, and Harry used to joke that they “had one eye between them”.
8. This is possibly Rosie’s mother, Eliza, 1859-1938
9. See Naming an Unknown Soldier.
10. One would imagine that all sides were rather dirty in the muddy old trenches.
11. His mother’s letter, written on Armistice Day, refers to Bill’s injury. He needed to have another operation on his arm to remove a piece of bone. Whether being shot in the chest was Florence’s poetic licence, or perhaps the operation in his arm was related to that wound, I don’t know. Bill was in the Essex Regiment, and was injured in November 1916, which Peter Layzell suggested means he may have been injured at Ancre on the Somme.
12. William James Field, 1894-1982, married Gertrude Dilks, 1899-1995, in Nottinghamshire in 1919.
13. I really hope Jock was a West Highland Terrier!