These handwritten poetry drafts are found within one of five school exercise books that contain notes and poetry connected with Ted Hughes’s family, particularly his parents. The material dates from 1978 to October 1983, although some is undated.

The notes and poems displayed here specifically relate to Hughes’s father and the First World War, in which William Henry served with the Lancashire Fusiliers. William fought first in Gallipoli and later in France. Thousands of men from the Lancashire Fusiliers were killed; Gerald Hughes records that William was one of only 17 from his battalion to survive Gallipoli.[1] With such high losses, the war had a devastating impact on the communities throughout the Calder Valley. Born in 1930, Hughes’s childhood was therefore overshadowed by the war – as well as shaped by the outbreak of World War Two in 1939, in which his older brother, Gerald, would serve in the RAF. 

Included are drafts of ‘Your Corns’, ‘Dad’s Music’, ‘6th June 1944/The Crosses’ and a piece which begins, ‘We are the children of ghosts / And these are the towns of ghosts,’ that is later titled ‘Sixty Years On’. There are also notes which feed into the poetry, such as on f. 37r, in which Hughes reflects on how to respond to the war:

My 1st world war nightmare – a dream lived all the time, in my father’s memory. How can one confront or come to terms with it. Like those ghosts that Gallipoli donkey etc

Although these particular poems are unpublished, many of the poems within these exercise books were later developed into Remains of Elmet, a poetic sequence published in 1979 with accompanying photographs by Fay Godwin.

[1] Gerald Hughes, Ted and I: A Brother's Memoir (The Robson Press, 2012), Chapter One.