Holland (Vincenza) Archive

Scope and Content

Contains Vincenza Holland's personal archive including material relating to her writings of both poetry and short stories, correspondence, notebooks and diaries as well as material relating to her travels and time spent in Lesotho, South Africa and Corfu.

Administrative / Biographical History

Vincenza Holland began writing poetry in her 60s. All her life she read copiously, she wrote stories, and she kept notebooks full of observations on daily life. Her poetry frequently draws on her perspective as an outsider: as a child of Catholic immigrants; as a mother, and later a wife in a time of repressive social norms; and (in the 60s and 70s) as a British woman living in Africa and Greece.

Vincenza was born in Scotland to migrant parents escaping a post WW1 depression and a harsh peasant life in the mountains of Southern Italy. Neither were taught to read and write. They first eked a living making and selling ice-cream from a bicycle cart, and later (with help from a win on the pools) bought a fish and chip shop in Berwick. During WW2 her father was interned as an enemy alien.

After the war Vincenza escaped the chip shop for a while by setting off with a girlfriend to hitch-hike to Italy and see a little of the world. In 1950 she left home for teacher training college in Birmingham. There she first met Roy Holland - and became pregnant before discovering he was already married. She put on a wedding ring and moved with him when he won a scholarship for working-class students, to study English at Cambridge University. They had three children together before eventually marrying when the youngest was three. The fertile literary scene in Cambridge at that time excited her, (contemporaneous with Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, both of whom she knew socially) and her time there lit a smouldering fuse of poetic creativity, which only ignited when she eventually left her marriage and started taking her own writing seriously.

Between 1966-73 the family lived abroad. First in newly independent Lesotho - where Roy taught at a university (UBLS) for black students in a country surrounded by apartheid South Africa - but also for 18 months on Corfu, in a ruinous villa with no electricity or mains water, but surrounded by beautiful orchards and olive groves. Vincenza was politically and socially engaged in what was happening around her, and her archive contains many collected documents, cuttings and ephemera relating to her travels.
In her later years she returned to live in Berwick, participating in and leading many local writing groups. She was published in various magazines and journals, and her collection, 'Mrs Turnbull's Tree' was published in 1990.

Access Information

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