Poetry book tells story of life of former Second World War plane spotter

The collection of poetry had sat largely untouched in a box kept by her family…

The collection of poetry had sat largely untouched in a box kept by her family since Betty Irene Drayton (nee West) died in 2003.

That was until last year, when they came into Helen’s possession.

“My dad died of Covid last September and when he died the poems came to me,” Helen says.

Helen Pearson has put together a book of poems written by Better Irene Drayton, pictured here during the Second World War.

“I knew that she liked to have them published and I thought rather than them sit in a box in my loft and me wonder what to do with them, I think I’ll put a few together in a little pamphlet to give to family and friends.

“That idea grew and grew and became a book.”

The Library Called Life features a collection of Betty’s poems compiled by Helen.

Together with photographs and short narratives, Helen uses them to create a biography of her mother’s life.

The Library Called Life is a biography of Betty Irene Drayton, pictured here in the 1950s, told through her poems.

Born in Lincolnshire in1925, Betty was 13-years-old when she had her first poem published locally.

She had written Heaven at school in only 30 minutes.

“Heaven is about how she marvelled at life,” Helen says. “Heaven to her, at that age, was about nature – flowers and birds, as well as sunsets and stars.

“Somehow this poem turned up printed in The New Zealand Methodist Times of February 1955.”

During her life she was a laypreacher, shorthand typist teacher, nurse and midwife.

She moved to Sheffield, where a number of her family lived, to train as a nurse, and then onto Leeds where she qualified in midwifery.

The various chapters in Betty’s life were the inspiration for many of her poems.

She put pen to paper to express her feelings about her childhood sweetheart, from whom she was parted during the war, for example.

Other writings reflect her faith – she had a strong Christian upbringing – or draw on her home and on nature.

“She loved the signs of spring and snowdrops especially but hated winter,” says Helen, who lives in Louth. “Only very occasionally did she write to, or about, an individual in her life.”

“Included in the book are some poems that relate to part of her philosophy of life,” Helen continues, “such as Compromise, Courage and Honesty.

“She was also a great advocate of living for today, as her poems demonstrate.”

The Library Called Life is out now, available to purchase via Amazon.