The Trial of Lotta Rae is the tale of a woman who believes in justice. Who becomes notorious as she seeks that justice at an Old Bailey trial. It is set against the tumultuous Suffragette movement and the impending world war. I have always found that time – that precipice – before the first world war and what would come from that horror, so poignant. The era preceding the war was marked by such great optimism. The Liberal British Government, then governing Ireland too, was enacting previously unheard of social measures: welfare for the old, children, and unemployed. There were significant scientific advances. Women were finding their voice, the Suffragette movement in full force; the world seemed full of hope. And then came the war. The great blackness of it. I see its coming like the fate of the Titanic. A ship so confident, so full of faith in the future, and then struck – sinking into the deep, dark depths. Happening two years before the war, it served as an omen. But from the savagery of that war, sprung change. For, innocence having died on those battlefields of France, people were no longer so willing to bow to King & Country. And from that mental rebellion came social revolution. A revolution that laid the map for our world today. Due to my fascination with this time I often imagined the lives of those who had lived then. And Lotta Rae took on a life of her own.
The East End and City streets she walks as a child with her father, I walked with my own, on Sunday mornings, ghostly and deserted. The now long gone Whitbread brewery, where she is destined to meet her nemesis, I passed on my way to school in Whitecross Street where Lotta lunches with her beau. And often I would pass the magnificent Old Bailey. And, a child, I would stop and stare up at the sky. At the Golden Lady, standing so high, so proud. So high, she bid all the children of London, come. For, she would deliver them justice. And I believed her promise.
Just as Lotta did.
Siobhan MacGowan is a journalist and musician who lived and worked
in London for much of her life before returning to Ireland several years
ago. She is from a family of great storytellers, the most prominent of which is
her brother, Shane MacGowan of The Pogues.