Mystery of the Preston poet and her secret book

Part of the Boots poem signed by Constance of Bank House, Fulwood
Part of the Boots poem signed by Constance of Bank House, Fulwood

A mystery with rhyme - but no reason - has set celebrated Irish writer Fred Johnston on the trail of a Preston poet.

A verse, written possibly a century ago, dropped into his life on the West Coast of Ireland when a locksmith managed to prise open a battered old notebook.

Writer and poet Fred Johnston who found the book of verse

Writer and poet Fred Johnston who found the book of verse

Now Fred has launched an appeal to trace the descendants of the woman who penned it in Fulwood all those years ago. Dedicated to Boots Chemists, the poem extols the virtues of the store and why all wives should shop there to get the finest items for their home - and also their husband.

Fred (above) doesn’t know how he came upon the notebook, never having visited Lancashire. And he wonders if that means the creator, Constance Davis, had some connection with Ireland.

“It’s a mystery,” he told the Post. “I’ve never been to your part of the world or even nearby. My partner handed it to me when she had done some book clearing in the house. I expect it came into my hands in some pile or other years ago.”

The book contained more pages of hand-written notes, one tapped out on an old typewriter, and various other writings, poems and drawings which Fred thinks place the book in the early Edwardian period.

The Edwardian book had to be opened by a locksmith

The Edwardian book had to be opened by a locksmith

The poem about “Boots Cash Chemist” is signed by Constance with an address of Bank House, Fulwood (which still stands on Victoria Road). Census records for 1901 and 1911 show a Constance May Davis living with her husband Montague at a private boys school in West Cliff where he was the principal.

The couple had one child, a daughter Gertrude. Mr Davis died in 1916 in Preston and both Gertrude and Constance passed away in Blackpool in 1940 aged 49 and 82. There is no record if Constance ever lived in Fulwood before or after he husband’s death.

Fred, a poet, novelist, literary critic and musician living in Galway, said: “So who was Constance? I would be very grateful for any information.

“It would be very nice to find that relations of some degree still reside in Preston.”

More material from the book

More material from the book

Typed poem praising Boots

Typed poem praising Boots

More literature from Constance's secret book

More literature from Constance's secret book