Edward Hunt's Forest of Dean Miscellany

Fact, Fiction and Fantasy


Catherine Drew


Here is a short introduction to Catherine taken from 'Coming Down the Wye by W.H. Potts.

This is followed by some examples of her poignant poetry.



One name only seems to have come out of the past bearing any gifts for posterity, that of Catherine Drew, who acquired a local reputation as a poetess (n.b. Potts was writing in 1949 – EH). She was born in 1784 and lived a life of unremitting toil and domestic responsibility. She describes her origin thus in one of her poems:

“In a little thatched cottage, as free as a King,
Near a green shady grove, where the birds used to sing
I was born and was bred, in the Forest of Dean,
I knew nothing of town or what it did mean.”


In the absence of any kind of school for children of working parents, her father taught her to read during Sundays and week-day nights. When, at the age of twelve, she was sent in charity to school, she received only nine days education when fresh family difficulties demanded her care, and that was the only schooling Catherine Drew was ever to receive. Nor did later life bring much relaxation in her undertakings, for she married and had eight children.

Amongst her writings, Catherine Drew says that her pen was her best friend, so we may suppose there were no other women in the Forest with her imagination and temperament, a circumstance which must have brought upon her a great spiritual loneliness, though from first to last she never lacked bodily company at least.

The above text is from Roaming Down the Wye by W.H. Potts
(Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton, 1949)


*

One of her poems consists of a tirade against the supposed temptations and sins of London, which, in those days of coaches must have seemed as distant as China, especially to anyone living in the middle of a great forest. It is not difficult to imagine the garbled and glittering tales that would come to the ears of a hard-working Forest woman from that far off city of roofs and spires. Catherine Drew seems never to have visited it, but did not hesitate to describe it as a place from which all nice girls should keep away. Having worked this out of her mind, she turned to something nearer to home and her own experience, and, like many another author who does best when merely looking out of his own windows, she penned a long and interesting “documentary” poem about the Forest of Dean and its inhabitants.

In her day, the population was evidently scanty, for she describes the Forest thus:

“In days of old ’twas here and there a cot,
Of architecture, they’d little knowledge got,
None but a few Free Miners then lived here,
Who thought no harm to catch a good fat deer,
Or steal an oak – it was their chief delight.”




The above text is from Roaming Down the Wye by W.H. Potts
(Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton, 1949)


*

But I am told that many ages back,
For courage good, the miners did not lack;
A foreign army did our land invade,
And blood and carnage, then was all the trade,
They pitched their tents, and then without delay,
They waited anxious for the bloody fray;
But our bold miners underneath did get,
And many a ton of powder did set.
So up they blew the unsuspecting foe —
Their shattered limbs came rattling down below;
Our land thus clear’d, our liberty thus sav’d.
Our noble miners dug the Catrif’s grave.
The king with honour did them so regard,
Made them free miners as a just reward;
The Forest charter to them granted was,
And firm and sure were made the Forest laws.




The above poem is taken from Warren James and the Dean Forest Riots
by Ralph Anstis
(Publisher: Alan Sutton Publishing, 1986)













Edward Hunt