Martha Ellen's Poem

I have for a long time been writing poetry, just really as a bit of a hobby, and only when I have come across something that inspires me to put pen to paper.

Some time ago while doing some research at the local Reference Library, I came across an old dusty box file which had been deposited there by the family of a lady called Martha Ellen Bancroft, after her death. The box was full of lots of little things which this lady had obviously treasured throughout her life not just photographs and letters, but some personal items such as glasses and nail scissors. I began to build up a picture in my mind, while going through the contents, of what this lady must have been like, and how she led her life. I felt a little sad that this lady’s whole life now seemed to be represented by just a box full of old papers left to gather dust on a shelf in the Library, and was moved to write a poem about this experience.

Anyway, on with the story….I recently sent this poem to a local magazine, which has a family history section, and was lucky enough to have it published, and that was the end of the story as far as I was concerned…..but then out of the blue I was contacted by a lady from Cowling near Skipton, who recognised the person who the poem was written about and sent me more information about this lady and her family.

Martha Ellen Bancroft was a single lady who lived all her life in Cowling, and who with her other maiden sisters had worshipped at at Ickornshaw Methodist Chapel, and when it closed in 1985, the remaining members transfered to St Andrews Methodist Church Cowling.
In memory of the sisters, the Church later named their meeting room as “The Bancroft Room”.

The Local History Group meet monthly in The Bancroft Room at St Andrew's, and at their last meeting they read out my poem to the audience, some of whom had known Martha Ellen….. I wish I could have been there to read it out in person !!



The photograph at the top shows Martha Ellen, second from the right, as a child circa 1909. The children are thought to have been on a Whit Walk in Cowling.
Here’s the poem.

Memories of Martha Ellen
It was just a box of old papers
Left for all to see
What was hidden there waiting
Had it been left for me

So many pictures to look at
Scraps of paper, nothing else
Momentoes of some happy times
Memories now, nothing left

Her life, just a bundle of papers
Laid bare to be viewed by all
Was it a life full of interest
Or just a sorry tale

So many items to look at
So many thoughts left unsaid
Was she this quite gentle soul
Or lively and outgoing instead

All these items…..treasured memories
Made happy times, I’ll bet
Did this lady live her life
With such a gregarious set

Pictures of that bonny babe
Holding her mother’s hand
And later in life….a maiden lady
Abroad in a foreign land

How strange it feels, just looking
Invading her private life
These photos of her twilight years
Why was she never a wife

So what was her life made up of
Would she have changed if she could
Or was she content with the way it was spent
Did she live life to the full

And who will remember her passing
This maiden lady, so kind
Is she just a box of old papers
Not a second thought in one’s mind
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