9th June 1906 Lily Cove

lily-cove“Swing me just a little bit higher!”

Lily Cove swings just a little bit higher, her voice a tremolo. She sings ‘their’ song to quell the nerves flitting in the pit of her womb:

“O-ba-di-ah do!”

His name isn’t Obadiah.  He’s the Captain. Captain of nothing but the balloon above her…and, perhaps, her heart. The balloon rises steadily in the slight breeze of a perfect Edwardian June. She tucks her hanky in her pocket and her legs neatly under  the trapeze. Yesterday,  ready to sit beneath the silk canopy as it was pumped full of gas but failed to bloom, she felt disappointment, frustration, relief. In those first practice jumps, strapped together, in tandem, duetting, she’d felt so safe. Soaring and swooping; singing sometimes too. “What larks! What larks we are, Lil!”

She had trusted him. Now she wasn’t sure if she was abandoned or liberated. He was determined to go ahead with this second attempt. A clever ruse to get more money for ‘charity’, he said. Their unborn child deserved charity.

“Swing me over the garden wall!”

She looks down at Haworth Gala field and waves her white hanky at the myriad faces turned toward her. Up here, with just the sound of the gas jet, she saw the world as no woman except a lady aerialist could. Her gaze moves across to the unfamiliar patchwork of fields and the stone-stitched hills beyond.

Above Scar Top, beyond it all, as though the landscape has been flattened by a smoothing iron- squashing the nestled villages, unexplored churches, satanic mills and unsettling streams- she pictures, in the filthy confusion of London, just past the scrubland of Mile End Waste, her father sewing leather soles in the brown chiaroscuro gloom of their parlour in the Bow Road.

Beside Scar Top, a dark abyss of brackish water expands, seeping into the soft landing sites of Stanbury.

“‘Swing me so that I never fall!”

Lily Cove is falling. Not in love but head over heels none the less.

Too far from the crowd for them to witness it, she somersaults mid-air.

Was she singing now? Or screaming? A lark feigns a broken wing to protect its chick. She won’t have to.

A few bones broken, maybe. Tibia, fibia. No chick yet. Just an egg.

It would be dislodged in the fall, he’d promised her.

Marsh grasses. Cushiony clumps.


Deb Scott-Lovric

Deb found out about Lily Cove after reading her friend’s blog about the less unfortunate Dolly Shepherd and set to speculating why a ‘happy-go-lucky’ young adventurer would release herself from her parachute. At the inquest into Lily’s death no real reason was given and the  jury found a verdict of “Death by Misadventure”. As a consequence of the jury’s recommendation to the Home Secretary that such exhibitions should be made illegal, Parliament passed a Dangerous Performance Bill.



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