Thursday, 20 February 2014

How COULD she do that?

 A quiet corner of Laugharne, a village that ET knew well.

Last week my Edward Thomas Fellowship newsletter arrived, but I was feeling somewhat hornswaggled at the time with this fresh virus, so only settled down to read it earlier on this week.

I have always been a champion of the underdog, I respect honesty in others (and am stupidly honest myself) and I guess the term "what you see is what you get" was written with me in mind.  I am also a Big Softee (the capitals are essential) and my kids used to call me Softee Mummie.  Because of this, I was absolutely horrified to read Richard Emeny's article about the Thomas's friendship with the Ransomes (as in Arthur Ransome of Swallows and Amazons  - et al - fame).  Apparently he and his wife Ivy married secretly for some reason or another in 1909.  ET and Helen were their witnesses.

Anyway, Mr Emeny goes on to write about a time during the First World War (just after ET had joined the Army) when ET's daughter Myfanwy went to stay with Ivy Ransome and her daughter Tabitha, her husband being busy in Russia, as a War correspondent.  Myfanwy wrote letters home to Helen, often asking Ivy how words should be spelt as she wasn't very good at spelling.  But instead of spelling the words that Myfanwy wanted to use, Ivy spelt out  "the most cruel and spiteful criticisms of Mother's looks and behaviour" which, being read by Helen, already distraught and with nerves as taut as piano wires over Edward going to be a soldier, absolutely broke her heart.  Then she gradually realized that a child would never write such awful things and the truth dawned on her. 

I just cannot believe how spiteful and downright nasty that woman was, and to feel SO sorry for poor Helen, who was - at best - ill-equipped to cope with such venom, especially without the support - ANY support, just having ET under the same roof would have helped her - of Edward at this dreadful time.  You may imagine, subsequent parcels of goodies from Ivy (guilty conscience?) were returned unopened, and it will be no great surprise to hear that the Ransomes divorced in 1924, and his daughter Tabitha refused to see him after that (doubtless poisoned by her mother's lies).  Ivy apparently saw herself as a lady, and perhaps had lowered herself to marry Ransome in the first place, hence the secrecy.  Ransome's biographer, Hugh Brogan, wrote that "it was impossible to be a good husband to Ivy". 

Meanwhile, I am sitting here writing this 100 years on, and wishing SO MUCH that I could scoop Helen up and give her a big hug, and tell her not to pay any attention to such a jealous miserable b*tch.  I won't tell you what I'd have liked to say to Ivy!  Ain't life strange?


  1. Goodness BB. What a horror!
    Helen Thomas had a difficult and tortured time even before ET was so tragically killed at Arras. What a cruel thing to do to a woman already on the edge with worry and about to experience the grief of losing her husband.

    I will join you in sending her a hug across the intervening years. She was the sort of person who would have made a good village neighbour and a genuine friend.

  2. That is so sad - what a nasty spiteful woman Ivy must have been. I'll join you both in sending her a hug through the years.

  3. Sorry that should read sending Helen a hug - not very with it today have a nasty virus :(

  4. R. Robin - I just cannot imagine the pent up vitriole inside Ivy - the jealousy she harboured against Helen, who dared to be different - she was quite Bohemian and came from a Liberal family (in all senses of the word). How she could have lived with herself after "writing" in such a sly way to Helen . . .

    DW - I agree, she would have been a lovely neighbour. These days she would have made all her own clothes, preserves, had a huge and productive garden (or allotment), been a Leading Light in all sorts of local support groups and charities, and Chairwoman of the local Home Education, Home Birth groups et al,.

    Let's hope that somehow our positive thoughts and hugs can reach her the other side of the veil.