Subject: Song challenge: Sister Dora|
Date: 21 Mar 02 - 03:57 AM
I was brought up in Walsall, a town in the English Midlands. In the centre of the town is the statue of a woman (the first ever to a non-royal woman): Dorothy Pattison, better known locally as Sister Dora. Dora came from Hauxwell in Yorkshire. She joined a nursing order of nuns, and wanted to join Florence Nightingale in the Crimea; instead they sent her to Walsall. She soon became a household name in the town …
I won't go on too much here, as there's plenty of stuff on the Web for anyone who wants to learn more. Suffice it to say she left the order a few years later, but stayed on in Walsall until her death from breast cancer when she was only in her forties. Even today, she's spoken of with great fondness.
I've always thought it a great shame there aren't any songs commemorating her, and eventually I set off to Walsall's Local History Centre to find out all I could with the intention of writing one myself. Trouble is, I'm utterly hopeless at writing songs! I've put all the stuff I got from the books and contemporary newspapers below, so you can see what you can do with the material. I had in mind something in a traditional style, but then I'm not averse to a modern style either.
From Walsall Local History Centre:
"Sister Dora" p27
Sister Dora's devotion, her readiness to assist any case, had made her universally admired and loved. Her presence itself seems to have been an alleviation of suffering. At the Pelsall Hall Colliery Disaster in 1872, she was unable to provide any help to the twenty-two men trapped by the flood below. But her appearance at the pithead distributing blankets and food was so well remembered that it was later depicted on the base of her statue.
"Sister Dora", Jo Manton p271
… flood water poured into a pit at Pelsall, cutting off twenty-two men for five days; they died of exposure and starvation, one boy having chewed his own boot laces. During the week that the women waited at the pit-head, Sister Dora lived among them, organizing an endless supply of food, hot drinks, blankets and shelter for their small children. "Out of doors the scene is weird and awful," wrote a correspondent, "the intensity of the darkness is heightened by the artificial lights. Every object the most minute stands out in bold relief against the inky darkness which surrounds the landscape. On the crest of the pit-bank, policemen like sentinels are walking their rounds; the wind is howling and whistling through the trees, and the rain is hissing down in sheets. A form glides through the hovels, in the pelting rain, over the rough bank and through miry clay, now ankle deep. Her face is radiant with kindness and affection. On she glides, with a kind word to all […] Who is this Good Samaritan? She is the Sister who for seven years has had the management of the nursing department at the Cottage Hospital in Walsall."
Walsall Observer, 16/11/1872
AWFUL COLLIERY DISASTER AT PELSALL
Twenty-two lives despaired of
On Thursday one of the most alarming disasters in the South Staffordshire coal fields … at Pelsall Hall Colliery … employing upwards of one hundred men and boys … owned by Messrs Morgan and Starkey … [the men] went down at six o'clock … having breakfast between eight and nine – some went back up to bank … alarm below … cage drawn up with Starkey and Stanley … rescue party found men and boys swimming .. pulled them out by the hair of their heads … nineteen men and three boys missing … water in old workings … most married with families. Mr Fellows' traction engine sent [to assist with pumping out water].
Thirteen widows and forty-five orphans … on Sunday upwards of 30,000 visitors to scene …Lord Bishop of the diocese led service …psalm 88 …Old Hundredth hymn sung, but few joined in the singing … £10/8/7 collected, + £50, and £80 in coppers. Sunday 4-5 a.m. "choke damp" found …air pipes put in & quicklime used to remove it …Mr Ness [of rescue team] dropped a tool, and ending to pick it up, was overcome …saved by Starkey. 8 p.m. Monday all hope abandoned.
Heroes –Brookes, Goring, Forester, Lees in rough dirty flannel.
[The victims found:] Thomas Starkey jr – body damaged by pumping machinery, two fingers missing, chest open to the heart … two uncles & two brothers on bank, father taken to pumping house and so spared the sight.
Michael Cash, 48; Thomas Coleman, 17
Isaac Cash, son of deceased: "I could not always keep my head out. I was swilled along. I never hard my father complain."
Henry (Harry) Asbury: "I had never seen a rush so strong coming through maiden coal before. I got to the main road and was swilled into the bottom of the shaft."
Thomas Lees, George Goring & Enoch Jaundrill discovered bodies … One boy missing …huddled together, died of choke damp. "Cash's headway" [a section of the workings]: ten huddled bodies …in a tub, four more …top of cross-cut, old man Starkey, father of junior partner …water never reached cross-cut
From a card sold to raise money for the widows and orphans:
In memory of the calamity at Pelsall Hall Colliery, Pelsall, South Staffordshire on Thursday, November the 14th, 1872.
The following are the names of those entombed
Thomas Starkey, Married.
Thomas Starkey, grandson of the above.
John Starkey, married; one child.
Michael Cash, married.
Charles Cash, unmarried; son of the above.
Thomas Hollis, married; three children.
Joseph Hollis, married; two children.
John Hayward, married; seven children.
Edward Williams, married; with family.
Richard Hyde, married; four children.
Charles Astbury, married; two children.
George Ball, married; one child.
George Cassell, married; one child.
William Richards, married.
John Quarters, married.
John Hubbard, unmarried.
Frank Dukes, unmarried.
Stephen Lawton, a boy.
John Roberts, a boy.
Thomas Coleman, a boy.
Psalm 88. Domine, Deus.
1. O LORD God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee: * O let my prayer enter into thy presence, incline thine ear unto my calling;
2. For my soul is full of trouble, * and my life draweth nigh unto the grave.
3. I am counted as one of them that go down into the pit, * and I am even as a man that hath no strength;
4. Cast off among the dead, like unto them that are slain, and lie in the grave, * who are out of remembrance, and are cut away from thy hand.
5. Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, * in a place of darkness, and in the deep.
6. Thine indignation lieth hard upon me, * and thou hast vexed me with all thy storms.
7. Thou hast put away mine acquaintance far from me, * and made me to be abhorred of them.
8. I am so fast in prison * that I cannot get forth.
9. My sight faileth for very trouble; * LORD, I have called daily upon thee, I have stretched forth my hands unto thee.
10. Dost thou show wonders among the dead? * or shall the dead rise up again, and praise thee?
11. Shall thy loving-kindness be showed in the grave? * or thy faithfulness in destruction?
12. Shall thy wondrous works be known in the dark? * and thy righteousness in the land where all things are forgotten?
13. Unto thee have I cried, O LORD; * and early shall my prayer come before thee.
14. LORD, why abhorrest thou my soul, * and hidest thou thy face from me?
15. I am in misery, and like unto him that is at the point to die; * even from my youth up, thy terrors have I suffered with a troubled mind.
16. Thy wrathful displeasure goeth over me, * and the fear of thee hath undone me.
17. They came round about me daily like water, * and compassed me together on every side.
18. My lovers and friends hast thou put away from me, * and hid mine acquaintance out of my sight.