William Allingham, Irish poet, lived in Lymington from 1863 to 1870. He lodged at Prospect House in Ashley Lane and worked as a customs officer in an office on the south side of Lymington Quay.

Born in 1824, at Ballyshannon, County Donegal, Ireland. He was the eldest of five children, son of a shipping merchant. His mother died when he was nine. He began working in a bank in 1838 at the age of fourteen and in 1846 he joined the Customs Office. In the late 1840s his poetry career began while on a visit to London, he met poets Leigh Hunt and two years later Coventry Patmore (who in his later years also lived in Lymington).

Amazingly Allingham was acquainted with almost every literary and artistic figure of his day, including Browning, Ruskin, Thackeray, George Eliot, Darwin, Hans Christian Andersen and William Morris amongst others. Foremost of his many friends, however, was Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Thomas Carlyle, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Edward Burne Jones.

It was in 1850 when his first book of his poetry was published entitled, Poems, which was dedicated to his literary friend Leigh Hunt. In 1854 he published a second book, Day and Night Songs, followed in 1855 by, The Music Master. It was when he moved to Lymington in 1863 that his most important poem of nearly 5,000 lines, Laurence Bloomfield in Ireland, was published.

Oddly enough the poet is now mostly know for a quirky little rhyme he composed as a young man called The Fairies (see on the right).

He was also a gifted diarist:
Sunday, June, 28 1863. — In the evening walked sadly along the shore of the Solent eastwards by Pylewell — returning, brought home a glow-worm and put it in a white lily, through which it shone.
January 9, 1866. — Ride to Brockenhurst — sudden snow-storm, careering between the trees and across the road like a charge of wild cavalry; wraps us in winter, clears off.

While living in Lymington he often crossed the Solent to visit his friend, the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson and pioneering Victorian photographer Julia Cameron in Freshwater, Isle of Wight. He was well read and utterly without pomposity, he was a person that was always happiest in the company of others.

In 1864 he was awarded a Civil List pension of £60 by the Government for his services to literature, this was increased to £100 when he retired from the Civil Service in 1870.

In 1870 William Allingham left Lymington and the Customs Service to work in London on Fraser’s Magazine. He became the editor from 1874 to 1879.

In 1874 William married Helen Paterson, a water-colour painter. They took up residence in Trafalgar Square to be near William's friend, the writer and philosopher Thomas Carlyle.

After Carlyle’s death in 1881 they found no further reason to remain in London and moved to Sandhills, a small hamlet near Witley in Surrey and only 4 miles from the Tennyson's summer house. It is here that Helen developed her fame for painting country cottages and rural scenes.

The couple had 3 children, the first born in 1875 was named Gerald Carlyle in honour of William’s friend. Eva Margaret, known as ‘Evey’ followed in 1877 and Henry William was born in 1882.

Helen and William Allingham had a very supportive relationship and in 1888 when William's health had started to deteriorate the couple decided to move back to London to be near their many friends. They took up residence in Hampstead.

William Allingham died in Hampstead on the 18th of November 1889. At his own request he was cremated at Woking. Mr. F.G. Stephens, one of his oldest friends read aloud Allingham’s own Poet’s Epitaph.

Body to purifying flame,
Soul to the Great Deep whence it came,
Leaving a song on earth below,
An urn of ashes white as snow.

His ashes were returned to his home town of Ballyshannon where they rest in St. Anne’s Church in his native Ballyshannon.

Diary was published by Helen Allingham and Dollie Radford in 1907.

Prospect House - where William Allingham lived in Lymington.
Helen’s career as an artist blossomed in 1874 when two of her paintings, 'The Milkmaid' and 'Wait for Me', were accepted for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. She achieved the rare honour for a woman of becoming an Associate of the Royal Watercolour Society.
Helen Allingham Society
The Fairies
UP the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren't go a-hunting
For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
And a white owl's feather!

Down along the rocky shore
Some make their home,
They live on crispy pancakes
Of yellow tide-foam;
Some in the reeds
Of the black mountain lake,
With frogs for their watch-dogs,
All night awake.

High on the hill-top
The old King sits;
He is now so old and gray
He's nigh lost his wits.
With a bridge of white mist
Columbkill he crosses,
On his stately journeys
From Slieveleague to Rosses;
Or going up with music
On cold starry nights,
To sup with the Queen
Of the gay Northern Lights.

They stole little Bridget
For seven years long;
When she came down again
Her friends were all gone.
They took her lightly back,
Between the night and morrow,
They thought that she was fast asleep,
But she was dead with sorrow.
They have kept her ever since
Deep within the lake,
On a bed of flag-leaves,
Watching till she wake.

By the craggy hill-side,
Through the mosses bare,
They have planted thorn-trees
For pleasure here and there.
Is any man so daring
As dig them up in spite,
He shall find their sharpest thorns
In his bed at night.

Up the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren't go a-hunting
For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
And a white owl's feather!

William Allingham's birthplace in Ballyshannon is close to Ireland's west coast. It has a wild and windy landscape with scattered boulders and hidden glens. The picture above (by Helen Allingham) shows what are locally known as the 'The Fairy Bridges' on the nearby coast, where a series of arches have been carved in the rock by the Atlantic breakers. It is this environment that inspired William to write 'The Fairies'.