I’m not sure I’ve ever met my father’s cousin Ann, although maybe she’ll say she was at my christening, or remembers me having a tantrum aged about 2, or something. But my brother visits her now and again, at her home in Glasgow. He was there recently, and chatted to her about my books, and she told him I was not the only writer in the family…
She then sent me these newspaper cuttings. The paper is very fragile – they are probably well over 100 years old. My great-grandfather, it seems, was a poet.
His name was John Coward, and I remember my grandmother talking about him. I knew him as an artist – I have two watercolours by him, and I know of several more of his paintings dotted around the family.
The poetry is perhaps a little flowery and Victorian for current tastes, but it is wonderful to read them and have this little glimpse into my ancestor’s heart.
Though stern old Fate our paths doth sever,
Still thou art dearer now than ever;
And thy bright glance,
In all its sweet angelic glory,
I see, as now I pen my story
With young Romance;
And Cupid’s bow, the golden token,
I fold within, for thought unspoken.
— John Coward
Of course, I’m wondering if there’s a novel idea in there somewhere. Woman is sent clippings of poems written by an ancestor, and discovers something encoded within the verse, that sets her off on a journey to discover the truth about some long-lost family secret… What do you reckon? Shall I write it?