The poet and publisher, Edward Reid Power, have a wonderful reading and talk at the Central Library, Lady Lane, about the late Hester Cooke, who lived for a time in Lady Lane and Cathedral Close. She died in 1986 and her gentle poetic work has been partially forgotten except for the sterling work of Edward Reid Power.
She was the daughter of a Church of Ireland rector and published three slim collections of verse; Fallen Leaves (1955), Hazel Leaves (1959) and The Mountain Road (1948). She was the first poet I ever saw as I grew up in Spring Garden Alley and my Grandmother O’Gorman, who worked for Theresa Deevy’s family on the Passage Road, and my mother would point Hester out to me in reverential tones as she passed by, a tall thin angular lady often holding a small posy of flowers. My mother would show me poems by Hester Cooke in the News And Star.
Years later, reading some of her poems, I was impressed by the gentle and gentile lace curtain sentiments expressed with lines beginning with Sweet Child or Dear Boy. Power read a 1929 poem To Peter (aged 9) full of fairy queens, knights, dragons and other wicked things out on life’s troubled sea. In a sad postscript that very same Peter, was lost in a submarine off Malta in 1942. Her own brother, Hewitt, was also a war victim and is buried in Malta.
Out of her limited circle of experience and a very circumscribed life as a rector’s daughter moving from Fethard, Carrick-on-Suir, Kilmeaden and Waterford, she enjoyed and wrote about simple things, reflecting the Vistorian values she read about. As her lifetime spanned two World Wars, her feelings are often filtered by a romantic fatality and her family circle knew military and church service.
Thanks to the efforts of Michael Coady and Edward Reid Power, a little bit more of this poetic soul has been remembered and perhaps Waterford City Council might consider a plaque of remembrance in Lady Lane or Cathedral Square.