One Sunday in 1890 Eva Mary Towns White, spinster of St Leonard’s Parish, brushes off her uniform and carefully places her “coal scuttle” bonnet on her curls. She is off to the Temperance meeting at the Citadel. She’s in the Army now: Soup, Soap and Salvation!

Mary Towns White smiles shyly at Cyrus Ripley, would-be bandsman with Van Gogh’s ear for music, as he carries the flag at the front of the parade from the Hoxton Citadel. “Come and join us, come and join us!” trills Eva to the crowd outside the Blue Last, as she offers the drinkers copies of the War Cry, and is rebuffed. But she is one of the Hallelujah lasses, not easily put off and persists in telling them they are sinners, but can be saved. A man hawks and spits at her feet. A flurry of rude gestures and a volley of off-colour quips follow her down the street.

After running the gauntlet of the crowd, back at the Citadel Eva and Cyrus chat over a biscuit and a cup of tea. He seems nice, she thinks.
“See you on Wednesday at Band of Hope?” she says, “I’m giving a recitation.” Cyrus stays behind to furl and put away the flag.

Walking home, she passes the pub once more. She hears hob nail boots behind her on the cobbles and before she can defend herself, she is down and kicked and her bonnet rolls into the filthy gutter, then someone pours beer over her. At least she hopes it is beer and nothing worse. Sometimes the Devil not only has the best tunes.


This Eva is the granddaughter of Eva Harkness and William Towns (see 1871 Matilda Towns.) She and Cyrus are Maureen’s grandparents, but she’s just moved them back a little in time and geography! Eva gave Maureen her first poetry books, and her Grandad Cyrus was the person for whom Maureen performed her earliest recitations.

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