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Sligo Champion 26 December 1914

SHE minds the childher all the day,
   A baby tucked inside her shawl;
Faulting the young ones when they stray
   Along the street beyond her call.

Her mother has not time to spare
   For sittin' under chick or child,
So Katey has the lot to care,
   The lads to keep from running wild.

The sense comes soon to thim that's poor—
   Herself could scarcely walk when she
Made room for younger ones galore,
   And rocked the baby on her knee.

Barefooted, with her share of dirt,
   But steadfast for her years is Kate;
The likes of her don't come to hurt,
   Though sure she's only rising eight.

You'll meet her streeling through the rain,
   The baby sleeping on her breast,
Or by some big shop-window pane
   Lookin' how quality is dressed.

Happy as little kings they stand,
   Staring at cakes or sweets or toys;
She has a sister by the hand,
   Her skirts are clutched by two small boys,

Their faces pressed against the glass,
   They do be lettin' on to choose
The best of everything they pass—
   Toy soldiers, dolls, or scarlet shoes.

Then through the chapel door they streel,
   When Katey bids to say a prayer ;
Hand clasped in hand the young, ones kneel
   To beg God have them in His care.

There's other girls in this same street
   As careless as the breeze of June;
They do be dancing on their feet
   The time the organ plays a tune.

A skipping rope is their delight,
   The lamp-post serves them for a swing.
You'll say that Katey has a right
   To jump with them and dance and sing.

You think her life is hard maybe ?
   You'd have her playing bat and ball?
But sure the best of games, says she,
   Is playing mother to them all.


"W.M. Letts in the Spectator"

Published in The Spectator 17 May 1913.


Winifred Mary Letts (1882–1972) was an English-born writer who spent most of her life in Ireland. She wrote novels, plays and poetry. She was born in Salford, now Greater Manchester, to an English father and Irish mother.

She spent many childhood holidays in Knockmaroon, Phoenix Park, Dublin, which was her mother's home and after her father's death, she and her mother returned to Ireland and lived in Blackrock, County Dublin.

Her first poetry collection, "Songs from Leinster", was published in 1913 and this poem, "Angels Unawares" is taken from that volume.

During the First World War Winifred joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment as a nurse at the Manchester Base Hospital and worked at army camps in Manchester and Alnwick, Northumberland.

In 1916 she published "Hallowe’en and Other Poems of the War" which was reprinted in 1917 renamed "The Spires of Oxford and Other Poems".

Winifred M Letts in warpoets.org

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