Winifred Mary Letts

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Winifred Mary Letts (1882–1972) was an English-born writer who spent most of her life in Ireland. She was known for her novels, plays and poetry.


She was born on 10 February 1882 in Broughton, Salford, in what was then the County of Lancaster, (now Greater Manchester), to an English father (the Revd Ernest Letts) and Irish mother (Isabel Mary Ferrier).[1] She spent many childhood holidays in Knockmaroon, Phoenix Park, Dublin, which was her mother's home.[2] After her father's death, she and her mother returned to Ireland and lived in a house called Dal Riada in Blackrock, County Dublin.[3] She was educated first in Bromley in Kent and later at Alexandra College in Dublin. She trained as a masseuse and during World War I worked at army camps in Manchester.[4]

In 1926 she married widower William Henry Foster Verschoyle, of Kilberry, County Kildare; they lived in Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin, and in County Kildare. After his death in 1943 she lived for a time with her sisters in Faversham, Kent. She returned to Ireland in 1950 and bought Beech Cottage in Killiney, County Dublin, where she lived until finally moving to Tivoli Nursing Home, Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin in the late 1960s. She died in 1972 and is buried in Rathcoole, County Dublin.[5]

Writing career[edit]

She began her career as a playwright, writing two one-act plays for the Abbey Theatre: The Eyes of the Blind (1906) and The Challenge (1909). She then started writing novels and children's books.[6] Letts' story "The Company of Saints and of Angels" was published by The Irish Review under the editorship of Thomas MacDonagh in January 1912. Her first poetry collection, Songs from Leinster, was published in 1913. Before that six of her poems had been set to music by C. V. Stanford in A Sheaf of Songs from Leinster (publ. 1914) of which the most famous is "A Soft Day". In 1916, by which time she was working as a nurse, she published Hallowe'en and Other Poems of the War. The collection was re-issued the following year as The Spires of Oxford, and other Poems. A 'Publisher's Note' in this 1917 volume explained that "The verdict of the public, as shown by continual requests to republish, is that "The Spires of Oxford" is the most important poem in the volume—and therefore in issuing a new edition with several new poems, we bow to this verdict and give The Spires of Oxford its place in the forefront of the volume".[7] Her poem "The Deserter" (written in 1916), describing the feelings and fate of a man terrified by the war, is often used in collections of World War I poetry.

She continued to write novels and children's fiction. In 1933 Knockmaroon, a reminiscence of her childhood in Dublin in her grandparents' house, and considered her finest book, was published.


  • The Story-Spinner (1907)
  • Waste Castle (1907)
  • The Quest of the Blue Rose (1910)
  • Bridget of all Work (1909)
  • Diana Dethroned (1909)
  • The Rough Way (1912)
  • Naughty Sophia (1912)
  • The Mighty Army (1912)
  • Songs of Leinster (1913)
  • Helmet & Cowl: Stories of Monastic and Military Orders (1913) with M. F. S. Letts
  • Christina's Son (1916)
  • Hallow-e'en and Poems of the War (1916)
  • The Deserter (1916)
  • The Spires of Oxford, And Other Poems (1917)
  • Corporal's Corner (1919)
  • What happened Then? (1921)
  • More Songs of Leinster (1926)
  • St Patrick the Travelling Man: The Story of his Life and Wanderings (1932)
  • Knockmaroon (1933)
  • Pomona & Co. (1934)
  • Pomona's Island (1935)
  • The Gentle Mountain (1938)


  1. ^ Cf. her birth certificate in The National Archives, London.
  2. ^ Knockmaroon (1933)
  3. ^ 1911 Census
  4. ^ Nosheen Khan, Women's Poetry of the First World War. 1988
  5. ^ Gibbon, Monk (17 June 1972). "Winifred M. Letts". The Irish Times. p. 5.
  6. ^ McGuire, James; Quinn, James (2009). Dictionary of Irish Biography. Volume V. Dublin: Royal Irish Academy-Cambridge University Press. p. 474. ISBN 978-0-521-63331-4. |volume= has extra text (help)
  7. ^ The Spires of Oxford and other poems, E. P. Dutton and Company, New York, 1917.


  • Brown, Stephen; Clarke, Desmond, eds. (1985). Ireland in Fiction: A Guide to Irish Novels, Tales, Romances and Folklore. Part II. Cork: Royal Carbery.
  • Lucy London, ed. (2013). Female Poets of the First World War - Volume 1. Volume 1. Blackpool: Posh Up North. p. 16.

External links[edit]