Patriotic verse: ‘Wings’ by Eva Manning

Patriotic verse: ‘Wings’ by Eva Manning

Overlay of book cover and poem page to show both in one image.
Eva Marion Manning, Wings (reprinted with additions), Robertson & Provan Ltd, Toowoomba, c1918. Originally published 1917. The first poem is dedicated to her brother, Edye Rolleston Manning CBE, DSO, MC. Rouse Hill House & Farm collection, Sydney Living Museums
In the collection at Rouse Hill House there are four copies of Wings, a little booklet of patriotic verse written by a schoolteacher named Eva Marion Manning.

The Mannings were old family friends of the Rouses. Eva was the eldest child of solicitor William Alexander Manning (1846–1908) and his wife Marion, nee Ross (d. 1931). Born on 8 January 1887, Eva was educated at the Ascham School, Sydney, and also at Howell’s School in Wales, where she had won a scholarship in 1903. Returning to Australia in 1907, she taught at the New England Girls’ School, Armidale. The following year she became one of the founding teachers of the Glennie School in Toowoomba. In 1913 Eva became engaged to a man with the surname Westwood whom she had met on a voyage to England, but he is believed to have been killed during the war.

With the outbreak of war, the Glennie School turned its attention to patriotic activities and fundraising, coordinated by Eva as president of the school’s branch of the Australian Comforts Fund. In late 1917 Eva produced Wings, a collection of her own verse, in aid of the Toowoomba Soldiers’ Sock and Comfort Fund. At least two editions were published, the second augmented by additional poems, including one commemorating the unfurling of the Honour Flag in Toowoomba’s St James’ Church in September 1918. Its cover was emblazoned with the badge of the Royal Flying Corps and its motto, ‘Per ardua ad astra’ – translated as ‘Through adversity to the stars’.

Experiencing difficulty with her eyesight, Eva resigned at the end of 1918 and moved to England. In 1921 she returned to the Glennie School for a short stint as acting principal. While back in Toowoomba she published a second booklet of verse, Credo: poems of faith. From 1925 to 1942 Eva was a housemistress at the Godolphin School, Salisbury, and during World War II she was responsible for billeting coastal evacuees in inland towns. After her retirement, Eva remained a devoted and active parishioner of her local church, St Martin’s, Salisbury.

The first poem in Wings is dedicated to Eva’s brother, Edye Rolleston Manning CBE, DSO, MC (1889–1957). Edye was studying medicine at Edinburgh University when he enlisted in August 1914. Serving with the 15th Hussars, he was wounded at Ypres in 1915. He gained his pilot’s licence in 1916 and transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, receiving the Military Cross in 1917. Edye served with the Royal Air Force (RAF) until 1935. A Sydney stockbroker in civilian life, he was recalled to the RAF in 1939, serving until 1945. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1924, and in 1943 was made a Commander of the British Empire.