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The Lady Tram-Conductor

The very first Leeds tram on its trial run to test the track on 2 July 1911. This picture, by Eric Farr, is based on a photograph of the tram in Morley Bottoms. (From the David Atkinson Archive, via Leodis.net)

Here’s a little insight into First World War-era Leeds for you today, in the form of a poem written by Burley resident Edward Carless, and dated 12 February 1916:

The Lady Tram-Conductor: A Working Man’s Tribute

Strange things happen in time of war;
A lady now conducts the car!
In uniform, so smart and trim,
She’s stepp’d into the place of him
Who answered to his country’s call,
And left his home, his work, and all.
In this way she’s released a man,
Doing her “bit” as best she can;
And if the truth of her we tell,
We must confess she does it well.
She’ll punch your ticket, and will smile,
And this will do in easy style;
And as she goes around the car,
Will sweetly call out where you are;
You’re right with her, daylight or dark,
From Lawnswood unto Roundhay Park.
From Pudsey unto City Square;
Just board the car, and pay your fare,
Telling her where you want to be,
And she’ll remember, this you’ll see,
And be you working-man or toff,
At the right place will put you off.
Let us think of what she’s doing,
When we on the car are going;
To our work, or out for pleasure;
Let us give to her full measure;
For the useful part she’s playing;
And may no one hear us saying
Aught that would grieve, or would offend,
But rather be to her a friend.
Let each one bear him as a man,
Help these conductors all he can.
Our admiration they all earn;
And if a strange job we’ve to do,
Keep a good heart, and buckle to,
Remember those across the foam,
Fighting for country, and for home,
These lads face all; naught to they shirk;
Let’s put that spirit in our work;
It’s a big job we have to do,
Let’s pull together; we’ll pull through.

The poem was self-published as a simple leaflet, made available by its author at the price of one penny from his home address of 8 Thornville Street, where he’s listed in Kelly’s Directory of Leeds from 1917:

It seems to be the only example of verse published using this method in our collections, which makes it an interesting item, as well as a different way of looking at ‘war poetry’. For another alternative take on life during wartime, read our previous post, A Leeds Schoolgirl Reflects on WW1 – and let us know, by commenting below, if you’ve ever come across any other examples of historical poetry published by post.

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