The Thinking 

“She Did Her Bit, She Played Her Part”

February 26, 2011

Factory Girls, Frederic Shields

Factory Girls, Frederic Shields



Annie Rose Smith of Bethnal Green
Couldn’t care less what Life should mean;

Didn’t use her Mental Powers
Mulling over the passing hours;

Didn’t believe it was her Station
Spending her time in Cogitation.

Worked in the City with Needle and Thread,
Sewing fine seams for her Daily Bread.

Sewing fine seams for not much pay;
That’s how it was, in her Day.

Stitch for the Rich, make silken dresses;
Saturday Night she’d comb her Tresses,

Put on Glad Rags, Ribbons and all;
She was going to Wilton Hall.

Wilton Hall with Marie Lloyd,
Johnny the Clown, and Murgatroyd.

When an Act was finished, in between
She’d parade with a friend, to see and be seen,

Displaying all her pretty curls
For Right-Looking Boys with eyes for the Girls.

Nineteen Eighteen, World War One,
Soldiers on Leave, out for fun.

An Aussie Boy was he whom Fate
Had singled out to be her Mate.

A handsome Lad; straightway she knew
He was the one would be kind and true.

Her Friends were aghast; it was they who said:
“Rose, you’re a fool. You’ll soon be dead,

The Bush on fire, or a blackfellow spear,
You’re a Cockney Girl, not a Musketeer.”

She married her man; got on a ship,
Shed a few tears at the start of the trip.

The voyage was long; the seas were rough;
Six weeks’ passage was more than enough.

But when she arrived ’twas not so bad;
Blow flies buzzing could drive you mad,

But the food was good; great meat pies
And piled up fruit to gladden your eyes.

She lived in the Bush, way out on the Plains,
Her Man maintaining long-distance trains;

Tightening bolts to hold down Rails
For the mighty Express that carried the Mails.

In her own Domain, Rose was content,
Doing those tasks for which she was meant.

Pots and Pans and Pillow Cases,
Soap and Water for bright little Faces.

Five young kids was her Reply
To those who said she was going to die.

Childhood, Girlhood, Mother and Wife,
Every Stage of a Woman’s Life.

In time she came to serene Old Age;
Then finally the very last Page.

Death came and spoke: “Rose, my dear,
You know how it is. Your Mind is clear.

“I’ve done what I could, to patch and mend,
But Bodies fray; there comes an end.”

Death closed her eyes, and stilled her heart.
She did her bit, she played her part.

She passed away, age hundred and one;
None used better her Time in the Sun.

Annie Rose Smith of Bethnal Green
Showed by doing what Life could mean.

                                                     — Keith Jacka





(a) Identity

Annie Rose Smith was my mother. Bethnal Green is an Inner City district of London’s East End. The ‘City’ refers to the old financial district of London. The details of the poem (ballad) are accurate.

(b) Name
Annie Rose Smith was her actual maiden name.

(c) Metre
Four stresses per line.

Share:Email this to someoneShare on Facebook0Tweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest0Share on Google+0