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May Crommelin (1849-1930)

Maria Henrietta de la Cherois Crommelin, known more commonly as May, was born 30th August 1849, at Carrowdore Castle, County Down, Ireland. She was a well-known author and traveller, publishing a total of 51 books in her lifetime.

From her early years May showed an interest in writing, and at the age of 16 she began to contribute her work to a local paper which gave beginner novelists a platform. May ‘s earliest work was inspired by her surroundings, growing up in Irish County Society in Ulster, her first novel “Queenie”, written in 1874, being an example of this.

Although she was from gentrified beginnings, May displayed an interesting understanding of the working-class Protestant family and its values, which we see in her novel “Orange Lily”, written in 1879. The protagonist being dubbed 'Orange Lily' partly because of her reddish hair, but also because of her father's position as Master of the 'Ballyboly' Orange Lodge. Much of the novel is written in the dialect of Ulster Scots, with many chapters also beginning with an extract from the famous poet Robert Burns.

There is little surprise in May’s connection to the Orange community in Ulster as the Crommelin’s were of Huguenot descent. Her ancestor, Louis Crommelin played a vital role in the linen trade which became one of the greatest sources of Ulster’s prosperity, after receiving the patronage of King William III himself.

As a talented linguist she fulfils her wishes to travel, visiting places such as North and South America, the West Indies, Syria, Palestine, and Japan. May was one of the earliest female members of the Royal Geographic Society. One of her most famous travel novels is called ‘Over the Andes to Chili and Peru,’ (1896). She was one of eleven making the journey over the famous mountain range, and the only female of the group. 

In later years May offered her help in 3 of the hospitals in London during the First World War and assisted Belgian refugees.

May Crommelin was a member of WLOL No.12.

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