K ... Keeping West along Devon's Way to Kelly

Looking over Kelly, in west Devon
Photo Julie Sampson
Women Writing on the Devon Land
A-Zof Devon Women Writers' Places 

K for Kelly

       Compared to my post for J and Jacobstowe, the K entry, in this A-Z of Devon Women Writers' Places, is going to be relatively easy. Admittedly, I was a bit split as to which Devon parish to choose for 'K.  Kentisbeare came close second because of E.M. Delafield, whose home was near the village, but the manuscript of Writing Women on the Devon Land includes extensive commentary about that author and she appears in several blog-posts in my other blog, Scrapblog of the SouthWest. (See especially Delafield's Devon DoubleScapes and Sad December at Kentisbeare; E. M. Delafield's Tragedies).

       So, here, I thought I'd travel westwards to Kelly, the small parish near Tavistock, which is straddling Devon's border with Cornwall. So you will find the village on Genuki for Devon and also on Cornwall's Launceston Then. Although I don't really know the area well, having only passed through a couple of times (that's when I took the photos), I am rather fond of the place. It shares its name with the suffix of Broadwoodkelly, another Devon village in the middle of the county, the parish where many of our family's ancestors originated. Various sources note that the word Kelly has Celtic associations with 'grove', hinting at sacred links with the past; both parishes seem 'special'.

       It was in this little village, tucked away in one the south-west's most remote corners, that Mary Kelly, C20 pageant writer/dramatist, lived as a child and spent some of her life. I've already written a short piece about Mary Kelly, at Mary Kelly Devon's Dramatist from Kelly and would like to have lots more time to look into her very interesting life. That's not going to happen just at present, and unfortunately Mary Elfrida Kelly does not put in an appearance in Writing Women on the Devon Land, but at the very least, I can mark her links with Kelly and Devon and post several bits and pieces collected from round the internet, whilst (though the photos will be the same) trying not to repeat what I've said in the other blog article. I hope other readers and researchers might find these useful.

       Well ... I was about to begin to do just that - and you will find various literary bric and brac apropos Mary Kelly below - and accordingly, began a customary google search, only to be temporarily stopped in my tracks. I found on Kelly House's website that rather than provide information about Mary the dramatist, the present Kelly family/owners are, instead, rolling out fascinating extracts from Mary's half-sister Margaret's WW1 Diary. It is always exciting for a researcher when something or someone new turns up unexpectedly, out of the blue. I'm sure that Margaret Kelly is just one of many as yet unknown other women diarists from Devon. With the dawning of the internet, new publishing opportunities and current interest in women writers there are going to be many such revelations.

       I have taken a little snippet from this important new diary just to whet your appetite, but to read more you must swiftly switch windows to the KellyWebsite where, in the Introduction you will find more about Margaret, the diarist and about how she is related to Mary, her dramatist half-sister.

Snippet from Margaret Kelly's World War I Diary
See Margaret Kelly's WWI Diary

The Kelly Family History Chart
see Kelly Biographies

So to return to Mary Elfrida Kelly, whose connections with Kelly prompted me to select that Parish for this A-Z. I found that in 1954 (?) a plaque was unveiled to the writer at Kelly church. I have not yet had a chance to visit the church and can not find this plaque mentioned in descriptions of it, so am not sure if it is still there.

        You will find a biographical outline of Mary Elfrida's life at Oxford Index. whilst several online sites provide information about this woman, whose main achievement as far as her home county is concerned was that following the end of World War One she founded The Village Dramatic society. The Redress of the Past tells us that Mary Kelly composed and organised the performance of pageants herself:
The Redress of the Past about Mary Kelly

       You'll find Kelly's book How to Make a Pageant is available to read online at universallibrary

I have not as yet had a chance to read or study this book or to find any of the scripts of the original pageants she authored. However, it seems from British Theatre Between the Wars (which I already linked to in Mary Kelly, Devon's Dramatist from Kelly),  that Kelly's approach was frequently to promote women's interests, as well as to set down a realistic reflection of the local Devon community as she herself witnessed or observed it. In other words, she evolved and set-into-future-stone a cameo of her village and other surrounding communities as they were at the time, which is such a valuable way of promoting social history. Anyone out there whose historical interest is linked with the locality around Kelly or west Devon would surely find it valuable to seek out Mary Kelly's works.

      A journal article Unlocking the Secret Soul; Mary Kelly, Pioneer of Village Theatre by Mick Wallisis available through the New Theatre Quarterly (vol 16, issue 4 2000). Although I've not had a chance to read this, the abstract suggests it presents a much more detailed and informative resume and analysis of Mary Elfrida's life and contribution to her county's (and nation's) literary heritage.

Looking toward Kelly 

         See also Women Writing on the Devon Land: From the Devon Ridge where a Book Began


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