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23 Jan 2024
updated 23 Jan 2024

Sonia Elizabeth Kaulback
(b 19 Mar 1941)

Brought up at Ardnagashel House.

Educated by governess (Kay McGowan) and then at The French School, Bray (The French School Bray Remembered: A History of the French School, Bray 1864-1966, Jennifer Flegg, 1998)

Sonia and Susie are sitting together in the front row
Sonia's best friend Belinda is third from the left in the second row
(Belinda was Head Girl, and Sonia was Head Prefect).


Sonia and Buster

Sonia at about 4½

Sonia and Miss Mouse

Sonia (plus Keitel), Susie and their governess Kay McGowan

The other resident member of staff was Cecelia Kelly, universally known as Nanny, a force of nature from Liskeard, Cornish through and through.

Sonia (plus Keitel), Susie and Anne Kelleher, who married Ian Connor, the Rector of Snave

The ceremony, at St Brendan’s, was attended by her much-loved uncle Mortimer Kelleher 1,   2.

Susie and Sonia with the twins, Bryan and Peter

Going for the draw ...

Sonia, Susie and Ron just back from snorkelling (ca 1955)
while young Bryan admires Ron's spear-gun

(please click here for additional joint pictures)

Mid teens ...

Later teens ...

Mid twenties (teaching yoga at RAF / USAF Mildenhall Air Base)

UEA campus ca 1968 ...

... with the devoted Dandy

Friends in High Places

Every now and again our lives intersect with, or for a while run parallel to, somebody unusual, or remarkable, or maybe both. And these key qualities may reflect birth, intellect, character or achievements, or whatever.

As the heading suggests, the individuals itemised below were fortunate in the niches of society into which they were born, but from there onwards they made their way to the forefront of public awareness by their character and tenacity. And Sonia was particularly associated with each of them in one way or another.

Verse and Worse

A reference to P G Wodehouse is guaranteed to quicken the discerning reader's pulse at the outset, though in this instance he's gone subfusc as Pelham Grenville, possibly for contractual reasons. He was writing for the American public, but his observations covered both English-speaking shores of the Atlantic. (For full poetic effect, the dialogue should be spoken aloud.)

Possibly in response to large prizes offered by popular newspapers, there was a huge enthusiasm for amateur versifying, akin to the crossword craze that followed not long afterwards in the 1920's. In part, I think that many people had begun to feel left behind by the march of technology in daily life, and (so long as one was reasonably literate), versification and cruciverbalism were an assertion that man (or more often woman) was still supreme.

And mass literacy had opened the doors to the vast treasury, overflowing cornucopia, of 19th century romantic poetry by the likes of (say) Keats, Wordsworth, Tennyson, Browning (or Robert as Sonia affectionately refers to him, I'm just slightly envious as to what he had that I haven't) et al, et al. So people high and low had a pretty good idea of what to aim for.

And aim they have – Pam Ayres, for example, the unofficial Poetess Laureate, and E J Thribb of course, who for countless fortnights has been publishing his poignant adieux to deceased public figures, despite his tender age of just 17½. Messrs Snipcock & Tweed will surely anthologise his collected works in the years to come.

Even I, with my tin ear for poetry, have not stood aside. My mother in her later years unexpectedly revealed that I had produced the following at the age of about 3,

The corporation dustman,
he couldn't get no dust
so he went home weeping.

Better documented, as it was published in a School Magazine (it was a lean year for third-form versifying) that I recently rediscovered when we were moving house, is the following pastiche of the old rhyme If all the World were Paper / And all the Sea were Ink / ...

If all the crooks read holy books
And sat at home on Sundays
The magistrates could keep their dates
With friends for lunch on Mondays.

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So, a very meagre Euterpean legacy on my side of the family, even including the melancholy maunderings of Charles Farquharson Findlay. The Waddells in particular, though not devoid of the finer feelings, have been a pretty prosaic and practical lot.

This underwent a sea-change with the advent of Sonia. She seems always to have been extraordinarily well-blessed with genuine and spontaneous poetic insight and expression, and even more fortunately has kept her oeuvre by, though very reticently. Best of all, it is much, much more arresting than her modest nature would admit, and I have now persuaded her to let me put some of it into the public domain. Hopefully, one day, she will consent to more of it being revealed.

The selection now appearing is conveniently divided into "Earlier", prior to marriage, and "Later", after marriage and parenthood swung the compass of inspiration. She might even, one day, provide some supplementary notes as to the precise mindset and circumstances in which they were written. One I particularly miss, not included in the second index, was written after the assassination of Robert Kennedy.

Earlier poems

1Autumnal rhythm>
3Listening within>
5On a grey day>
7The Rock>
8The Storm>
9The Wave>
10This was the way>
11Victoria Station>
12Who am I>
13You are always asking me>
Later poems
1A Sea Dream>
2After Loss>
4The All-Present Waters>
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Our daughter Andrea inherited a full measure of Sonia's poetic inclinations, though with a philosophical rather than mystical flavour. Andrea was concerned with the existential conflicts and confusions in simply being, the hiersein problem. Sonia's poetry seems to search for the world behind the world, of which ours is but the shadow on the walls of the cave.

To see what I'm trying to say, please click here.