"'Tis but a thing of straw"

Corn Dolly poem in a frame by Neil Thwaites
Copyright 1984 Corn Dolly Newsletter

DID YOU KNOW THAT....................

This lovely poem CORN DOLLY("'Tis but a thing of straw") printed above, was the work of Minnie Lambeth of Fulbourn, Cambs?

HOW DO I KNOW?....................

Because Minnie told me so herself some years ago when we were chatting at the cottage. Reg, her husband, had recently passed away.

She explained that one of his early interests had been the forming of a museum in The Old White Horse Inn, a place where the working lives of local people could be recorded and portrayed. Out one day on their bicycles, a small piece of plaited straw blew across their paths - 'a thing of straw', a countryman's favour, probably lost from someone's jacket the day before. Minnie's task now was to help Reg by learning more about country crafts, straw plait and the people who worked with straw. All their findings were recorded in a notebook and one story generally led to another. At that time, 1957/8. the Editor of the Home Pages of the Farmers Weekly magazine asked for articles on the traditions of harvest emblems for their pages and it was then that Minnie wrote her poem.

In her own words, Minnie explained -

This was the time when I wrote the rhyme 'Corn Dolly' but being afraid it might be rejected if I put my name at the end of the poem, I simply put Anon. Many times over the succeeding years I have had to explain to various people (including other straw plaiters) that I did write it and it is not something I found during my researches into past history of corn dollies.

Fortunately for me Minnie had signed my copy of the poem in her book A Golden Dolly on a previous visit and Reg had signed the page listing the illustrations.

Now, 50 years later, credit for the poem goes to Minnie at last.

Janet Twigger - March 2009



  The poem Com Dolly is shown here with a border drawn by the late Neil Thwaites. It is printed with the permission of the Corn Dolly Newsletter team.

Details of the Minnie Lambeth Gathering held every year in her honour.