We were very glad to get your wire and to know you had had a good journey. It came just before we started out for Ben-na-drove to see if Mr. Matheson would undertake our peats for us this year… Bessie went into town to look for Marion and on our way home we met her with Marion and Katie Maciver going out. Papa was very vexed at the Lewis girls all going late to the J.C… Stornoway, 22nd April. 1917

In her letter to Jean this week, Mrs Gibson gives us further insight into daily life in Stornoway in 1917, including organising their peat cutting and monitoring their bee population. Mrs Gibson also mentions ‘the J.C.’ – if anyone could enlighten us on the meaning of ‘the J.C.’, we would very much appreciate it. The next in our series of letters from the W.J. Gibson collection held by Museum nan Eilean. Please get in touch if you have any comments: archives@cne-siar.gov.uk

Dear She-ann,

We were very glad to get your wire and to know you had had a good journey.  It came just before we started out for Ben-na-drove to see if Mr. Matheson would undertake our peats for us this year.  We saw only Mrs. Matheson. Then we crossed over to Laxdale and stayed the rest of the evening.  Bessie went into town to look for Marion and on our way home we met her with Marion and Katie Maciver going out.  Papa was very vexed at the Lewis girls all going late to the J.C.

I have not washed this week as the weather has been wet and I have been busy.  Was at sewing meeting on Wednesday and on Thursday all the Clark children were here to tea, and I had to make some preparations.  I think they enjoyed themselves. Last night Mrs Clark was in with Bessie to say “Good bye”.  Bessie is getting a calm night and fortunately it is not so cold as it was, for her deck journey.  Poor lass!  I hope she will get on well this session.

We had a letter yesterday from Mr. Taylor and he said you were not to wait for an invitation to Cults and you couldn’t “come wrong”.  Take Maud this time.  Glad to hear she is looking well and had a good holiday.

Where is the new girl from?  Does she study with you?  How is Gladys?  How is the menu?  If you have such an early breakfast you will need something between that and dinner.  See that you get it.  I suppose you can easily but don’t forget about the tonic and the emulsion, one in the morning and the other at night.  Be a good girl now and don’t argue about it.

Papa has no teachers coming and is six short every day.  He saw Mr. Macintyre yesterday and proposed that they should ask Mrs. Menzies and Miss Ella Mackenzie to take a half day each.  So there is to be a meeting on Tuesday.

Papa and I felt the house very empty without you at first but the session is not long and soon we’ll be thinking of you coming home again.  I forget to tell you that Mr. T. said he had had three girls from the J.C. digging his garden, (one of them Toe-ta (?) has) and they did well.  Wasn’t that good for Chrissie.  I wonder how her legs were after?  Eh!  What!

If you see Mr. Anderson tell him the bees were booming among the willow catkins till 7.30 last evening.  The flowering currant has failed them this year.

Now Ducky write us all your news; nothing is too small to interest us.  Love from us both to our little She-ann.

Your loving Ma

Ref: 1992.50.64i/L41

Transcribed by Dawn Macdonald, Archive collections assistant

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Mamma, impressed with something she had read about the need to save flour, devoted part of the afternoon to baking oatcakes. They were quite a success; we both ate of them and no evil effects followed… Stornoway, 16th April. 1917

In this week’s short letter, Mr Gibson is expecting the arrival of Jean for Easter; he is hoping that the heavy snowfall around Aberdeen has not hindered her journey. He remains concerned as yet another teacher from the Nicolson has been called up to serve in the War, and there is no one to replace him. The next in our series of letters from the W.J. Gibson collection held by Museum nan Eilean. Please get in touch if you have any comments: archives@cne-siar.gov.uk

Extract from letter from Mr Gibson to Jean Gibson 16 April 1917

Jean dear,

It is now between nine and ten o’clock on Monday evening, and we are reckoning that if you have been fortunate you will now be nearing Aberdeen. With the snow that fell last night we are afraid that you will have had cold travelling. It has been very cold here all day. Mamma, impressed with something she had read about the need to save flour, devoted part of the afternoon to baking oatcakes. They were quite a success; we both ate of them and no evil effects followed.      Mr Ewen came in after tea and sat talking for a while. He had met Mr. Clark, but fortunately had refrained from asking how Bessie had got on.   

I have only gone out as far as the school and was glad to get in again. Barrie + Lil’l Lissy have had a very small share of bread-and-milk and have now unwillingly left the fireside for their cellar.

Mr. Roderick. Macrae has been called up and will have to go off on Wednesday evening. Meanwhile no substitutes emerge. I found a more recent Aberdeen University Calendar and I see in the time-table of it Prof. Soddy’s compulsory demonstration hour on Mondays at 12. So there is no need to ask Mr. Thom. I’m afraid we must just accept it as an unfortunate necessity.

Give me word of your first impressions of Prof. Thomson’s class. By the time this reaches you, you will have made a beginning. I would like well to be attending the class with you; I think from what they all say that I wd. enjoy his lectures.

We hope all the students of the Residence have enjoyed their rest and are fit. How is Miss Bruce after her vacation? Mamma says she will write Mrs. Douglas in a day or two as arranged. We hope you will have a nice time during the new term; it will not be long till it is finished.

Our best love.

Papa.

Ref: 1992.50.64i/L40

Transcribed by Ceitidh Chalmers, Museum Visitor Assistant

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Willie has been liking the sea very well. His ship carries 86 of a crew and does patrolling and escorting work. They rescued quite a lot of the California’s passengers when she was torpedoed… They got them all pulled through except one man… He has quite got over the seasickness of his first days… Stornoway, 15th March. 1917

Extract from letter from Mr Gibson to Jean Gibson 15 March 1917

Mr Gibson brings news this week of how local lad Willie Payne and his ship, came to the rescue of the passengers aboard a steamer, the ‘California’, when it was torpedoed by the Germans at sea. The question of whether the school can remain open with so few teachers continues to be of great concern to Mr Gibson. The next in our series of letters from the W.J. Gibson collection held by Museum nan Eilean. Please get in touch if you have any comments: archives@cne-siar.gov.uk

Jean dear,

If you will note the date you will see that it is the evening for the posting of our 2nd Term’s reports, but I suppose to you it is the date of the Mathematics examination. We hope it proved tolerable, and that the papers were not too awful. We saw from the Calendar that there were to be two papers of two hours with a fifteen-minute interval between. That makes a pretty stiff stretch, but I suppose you all preferred to have it over in one forenoon. We were thinking of you yesterday afternoon as you were busy with your Latin paper. I suppose it wd. be the one on the prepared texts. I hope you found it reasonable. To-morrow (Friday) you will have the two remaining Latin papers. Hope they will turn out well. I’m afraid you’ll feel a sadly worn out household by the end of the week. Well there is a good long rest beyond and that will help to set you all up again.

We were glad you had had an evening with the Rennies. It would be good for you to meet the people, and, even better, to forget the grind for a bit.

Remember us to Maud; we hope she is well. It is a pity she is not coming to Lewis, although it certainly is not a good time to be travelling. We hope you will find the Minch smooth. Don’t forget a supply of Mothersill for journey and return, as we may not be able to get it here.

I began this letter after getting back from school. The ladies as usual were up helping with the reports, including Miss Gammack. She seems to be getting on all right with the pupils and with the other teachers.

I don’t know whether we mentioned that Mr. J. Macrae went away on Monday morning by a patrol boat; Mr & Mrs. Anderson and the baby went on Wednesday morning by the mail steamer. Mamma and I were out on Monday evening at the Glen House. It seemed such a nice happy and comfortable little home to be breaking and such a jolly baby. It did seem such a pity. Mr. A. was going to see Mrs. A. south to Perth and then wd. come back to Dingwall to join up.

Tuesday evening I don’t think there was anything on. On Wednesday evening Willie Payne and Frank Maciver were in to tea. I had not known that Frank was home on leave until I saw him in the afternoon at the funeral of Mrs. Grant’s father. So I asked him to come in and see us. He is in England still, and is now acting as an instructor in signalling. He has crossed flags on one sleeve and his marksman’s badge, crossed rifles, on the other. Matthew Russell, he says, has been all ready to go off with a draft for the last three week. Frank is looking quite well and has grown I think. Willie has been liking the sea very well. His ship carries 86 of a crew and does patrolling and escorting work. They rescued quite a lot of the California’s passengers when she was torpedoed. That has been Willie’s biggest bit of…[words blocked by tape] since he joined. They pick…[words blocked by tape] and with the exposure and… [words blocked by tape] them were pretty far through. They got them all pulled through except one man, and Willie thinks he was dead before he was brought aboard. He has quite got over the seasickness of his first days.

After that, Mr. MacIntyre, Mr. Clarke, and I were down at the Tribunal as representing the School Board in their appeal to have Mr. Maciver and Mr. Ewen retained. We had a long discussion. They have in the meantime exempted them until the end of April to let the Board try to get substitutes. I think myself there is no likelihood of our being able to obtain these. We are now five teachers short and are finding it very difficult to keep things going.

Now “wold Sheann”, good fortune with your Latin papers to-morrow and with your class exam in Maths on Saturday. Mamma says: “Not Goodwillie but Badwillie should be his name!”

With our best  love,

Papa

P.S. Your poor Uncle Jamie, I am sorry to say, has been in bed ill for over a week with those rheumatics, and had quite a bad time. The Doctor has now let him downstairs again.

Ref: 1992.50.64i/L39

Transcribed by Ceitidh Chalmers, Museum Visitor Assistant

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Willie has been liking the sea very well. His ship carries 86 of a crew and does patrolling and escorting work. They rescued quite a lot of the California’s passengers when she was torpedoed… They got them all pulled through except one man… He has quite got over the seasickness of his first days… Stornoway, 15th March. 1917

Lizzie of the milk pail went down to the P.O. this morning but there was no delivery till 12.30. The “Sheila” was not allowed to cross yesterday as the port was again closed. However, a patrol brought the mail this forenoon. All Sy. seemed to be there for its letters after church… Stornoway, 11th March. 1917

Extract from letter from Mrs Gibson to Jean Gibson 11 March 1917

This week, the “Sheila” was not allowed to cross, so the post was delayed and brought by the patrol boat instead. Mrs Gibson brings Jean up-to-date on the latest heavy snowfall and the emerging Spring flowers in the garden, and mentions two local boys who are currently home on leave. The next in our series of letters from the W.J. Gibson collection held by Museum nan Eilean. Please get in touch if you have any comments: archives@cne-siar.gov.uk

Dear She-ann,

Lizzie of the milk pail went down to the P.O. this morning but there was no delivery till 12.30. The “Sheila” was not allowed to cross yesterday as the port was again closed. However, a patrol brought the mail this forenoon. All Sy. seemed to be there for its letters after church. Papa got yours among several from girls in Glasgow thanking him for testimonials and each one explaining how it was that she was seeking an appointment in Lewis. Their homing instinct is very strong. One girl said £70 was not enough to live in Glasgow so she must come home.

And so you are somewhat scared about your exams. Well, there isn’t the slightest reason why you should be. As you know neither Papa nor I set too much store on passing exams. Just do your best and leave it at that, and keep cheerful as I see you are trying to do. Papa and I “ourselves calm” and quite hopeful.

Saw Mr. Clark this morning after church. He is wavering again about letting Bessie home. I spoke strongly in favour of it. So we shall see.

There is one snowdrop out in your bed, also one yellow crocus. There will be more by the time you come and the hens are laying fine. We will send you a little money during the week lest you find yourself short, also the bag. By the bye if there is anything you would like made when you are at home bring material with you, summer blouses or skirts or underwear of any kind. You will know best.

We have had quite a fall of snow since we wrote last but it is nearly all gone and today is spring like again.

Mr. Macrae goes tonight. He has just been in saying goodbye.

Last night Papa and I called on Miss Fraser. She is not better yet and has been in bed for a long time. They have let their house to the Radcliffes and are going to Borve towards the end of this month. We do hope that may help her. At present she is far from well.

Willie Payne came today. Mr. Peter Miller is home for a commission.

Papa had a letter from Dr. McKim yesterday inviting him for the Easter holidays. He says “it will be interesting to see Jean as the college girl”. He has had a dreadfully busy winter. Do you know I haven’t seen Mrs. Clark since New Year’s Day so I must be in the same case. I suppose you feel like that too.

Love from Papa and me to our poor little examinee. We both know exactly how it feels.

Your loving Ma.

Ref: 1992.50.64i/L37

Transcribed by Ceitidh Chalmers, Museum Visitor Assistant

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Lizzie of the milk pail went down to the P.O. this morning but there was no delivery till 12.30. The “Sheila” was not allowed to cross yesterday as the port was again closed. However, a patrol brought the mail this forenoon. All Sy. seemed to be there for its letters after church… Stornoway, 11th March. 1917

Mr. and Mrs. Rook and Mr. Harper left on Thursday night. They go straight through to Plymouth and stay there with Elsie for a short time to do shopping for their new home and then on to Penzance…Mr. Murray is still all right – has been three weeks at a signalling course in France and has now re-joined his battalion… Stornoway, 4th March. 1917

Extract from letter from Mrs Gibson to Jean Gibson 4 March 1917

In Mrs Gibson’s letter this week, she sends words of encouragement to Jean concerning her upcoming exams, she confirms that some of the teachers from the Nicolson have been called up to serve, and she also reports on a local family’s big move from Stornoway to Penzance in Cornwall. Additionally, poor Mrs Gibson is yet again waiting for the plumber. The next in our series of letters from the W.J. Gibson collection held by Museum nan Eilean. Please get in touch if you have any comments: archives@cne-siar.gov.uk

Dear She-ann,

We got your letter yesterday and quite understood why you had to make it a short one. It is a dreadfully busy time as you say but all the same don’t be overdoing it. Whatever you do don’t sit up at night. Take nothing off your sleeping time, else you will leave yourself in such poor condition that you will not be able to make the most of yourself and that would be a pity. You will soon get it over now and you will enjoy your holiday after all the more.

Things here just as usual. The teachers have been called up again and some of them will have to go serve(?) this time. Papa hopes to retain at least Mr. Maciver and Mr. Ewen. Mr. Maciver came in with us after church today and had a smoke by the kitchen fire.

Yesterday there was a E.I.S. [Educational Institute of Scotland] meeting. Mr. Clark came in and took dinner with us before going to golf. He has decided to allow Bessie home at Easter so that will be nice. He thinks he will have her back to lodgings in Glasgow after then as the travelling takes so much time. Mr. and Mrs. Rook and Mr. Harper left on Thursday night. They go straight through to Plymouth and stay there with Elsie for a short time to do shopping for their new home and then on to Penzance. Elsie will join them as soon as they are settled into a house. Mr. Murray is still all right – has been three weeks at a signalling course in France and has now re-joined his battalion.

I was again not at the sewing meeting this week. I stayed in for the plumber who as usual did not come.

Mr. Jenkins did not get the church he was preaching for. The man who did is 6ft 4in. If it was a case of body versus spirit the body had it. It shows what poor judges the people were.

Mrs. Carnegie of the Imperial wrote the Millses to see if they would let her the manse. They agreed to let certain rooms for £7 a month but before the Carnegies went in the session intervened and the bargain was off. I suppose they had something of the feeling that the Wee Frees had about their manse or at least they felt it wouldn’t do to have the trade in it. I rather agree although it seems a waste to have it shut up in these times.

Before you come home please buy me 2 prs. felt slippers (dark colour) size 5. Shall I send you Papa’s bag for your things? It is only this week that I have realized that the holidays are so near and it is very nice to have you coming so soon. Don’t worry about your exams but just do your best. Now haven’t I given you lots of good advice. Love from Papa and me to our poor lil’ over-worked Sheann.

Your loving Ma.

Ref: 1992.50.64i/L36

Trancribed by Ceitidh Chalmers, Museum Visitor Assistant

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Mr. and Mrs. Rook and Mr. Harper left on Thursday night. They go straight through to Plymouth and stay there with Elsie for a short time to do shopping for their new home and then on to Penzance…Mr. Murray is still all right – has been three weeks at a signalling course in France and has now re-joined his battalion… Stornoway, 4th March. 1917

I am just in from the meeting of the school Literary Society. They had a Gaelic debate: “Has emigration been beneficial to the Highlands?” They went into it with great vim and seemed to enjoy it greatly. Several times it resolved itself into little duels in which there seemed to be excellent bits which brought down the house, and retort would follow retort to everybody’s delight… The affirmative won by 35 votes to 14; some did not vote… Stornoway, 28th Feb. 1917

Extract from letter from Mrs Gibson to Jean Gibson, 28 Feb 1917

This week, Mr Gibson reports on the hotly debated topic at the Literary Society: “Has emigration been beneficial to the Highlands?”. He also notes his concern for the school at the possibility of losing more teachers to the war effort, and, ever practical, Mr Gibson offers advice on Jean’s financial matters. The next in our series of letters from the W.J. Gibson collection held by Museum nan Eilean. Please get in touch if you have any comments: archives@cne-siar.gov.uk

Jean Dear,

I am trying the writing on Wednesday this week to see how it works.  I am just in from the meeting of the school Literary Society.  They had a Gaelic debate:  “Has emigration been beneficial to the Highlands?”  They went into it with great vim and seemed to enjoy it greatly.  Several times it resolved itself into little duels in which there seemed to be excellent bits which brought down the house, and retort would follow retort to everybody’s delight.  In these encounters I noticed that in most cases the young lady had the last word.  Whether the boy in such a case was convinced or only silenced I had no means of knowing.  The affirmative won by 35 votes to 14; some did not vote.

Miss Gammack started work this morning.  She had a good crossing of the Minch, at least she had not been sick.  I took her round some of the buildings and a portion of the staff, and then left her to the tender mercies of IIIA.  I think my first impression was fairly favourable.

We are expecting to lose some more of our Masters owing to a new regulation by the War Office.  I hope we’ll be left with enough to keep going on.  I had a letter this morning from Salonika from John Macritchie (“Pickwick”).  He is well, and seems cheerful.

The Literary Society next week holds an open meeting – musical and dramatic – so Miss Angus is busy.  We are looking forward to it, for as you can guess, things in Stornoway are at their quietest.

We were interested to hear of your visit with Maud to Miss Taylor.  I was delighted to learn that good old Dummy had kept his luck with the cards.  It all comes of his being unable to speak, and so the preservation of the luck by obeying the mandate “Favete linguis” is obviously easy.

I note the details as to the state of the Degree grind.

Be sure, that in the general cheerlessness of the Mathematics difficulty, you do not put it too much aside in favour of the Latin.  But you are probably alive to that danger.  It must have taken you some by surprise to find that your modest percentages in Maths gave you the 12th and 13th places.  I suppose you were quoting to yourself:  “Among the blind…….!”  It should cheer you some, though.  How is Clara getting on with it?

Mamma and I are feeling that with the big rise in prices the amount you pay to the ladies for your board is not sufficient.  What do you think about it?  Mamma mentioned it in a former letter, but I think you forgot about it.

We were amused at your experience of the “early door” in your theatre-going.  It is good you had a chance of seeing a first-rate company, but a pity that it was not in a better play.  If the Compton Company ever visits Aberdeen you must try to see one of their presentations of old English comedy.  Your criticism of Miss Neilson is just the fault that as a rule I have felt like finding in one or more of the personae when I have seen them on the boards – they are too stagey; they don’t do it with enough simplicity and naturalness.

How are the funds running?  You are remembering that you will have Degree fees to pay.  Take out enough in time, as you have to enter your name by a fixed date……  I have just been looking up your Handbook and find the last date is March 3rd for entering the names.  I see your first paper in Latin comes a fortnight from to-morrow, and your Maths is the next day to that.  But keep cheerful.  I should have mentioned that as your Mathems is to count both for the M.A. and B.Sc. course you will need I suppose to enter for both, and, I expect, will have an extra guinea to pay, but they’ll be able to tell you about this at the office.  I hope they do not have a higher standard of pass for B.Sc. than for Arts in the subject.

Now, I’ll have to stop, paper and the patrol-boat are both calling for me to be done.

With our best love.

Papa

Ref: 1990.50.64i/L35

Transcribed by Dawn Macdonald, Archive collections assistant

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on I am just in from the meeting of the school Literary Society. They had a Gaelic debate: “Has emigration been beneficial to the Highlands?” They went into it with great vim and seemed to enjoy it greatly. Several times it resolved itself into little duels in which there seemed to be excellent bits which brought down the house, and retort would follow retort to everybody’s delight… The affirmative won by 35 votes to 14; some did not vote… Stornoway, 28th Feb. 1917

There have been some fine catches of herring this last week, one day 5000 crans. The Minch has been getting “swept” and the mail-boat is running regularly. Oatmeal scarce; we have had to fall back temporarily on Quaker oats… Stornoway 22nd Feb 1917

In this week’s letter Mr Gibson remarks on the unusually calm spell of weather they have had with hardly any wind or rain in January and February. He also mentions some fine catches of herring, but a shortage of oatmeal. The War is never far away: the Minch has been ‘swept’ for mines, and a soldier on leave provides first hand accounts from the Macedonian front.  The next in our series of letters from the W.J. Gibson collection held by Museum nan Eilean. Please get in touch if you have any comments: archives@cne-siar.gov.uk

Jean Dear,

To-night the winds are beginning to rise, and we have had such a long spell without them that they sound quite strange to us.  We have had a remarkable winter – quite unusual in fact.  Since you left to return to Aberdeen there has hardly been a day of rain, and such a record for Lewis in Jan. and Feb. is worth remarking on.  There have been some fine catches of herring this last week, one day 5000 crans.  The Minch has been getting “swept” and the mail-boat is running regularly.  Oatmeal scarce; we have had to fall back temporarily on Quaker oats.

School more or less as usual, no more teachers off yet, but we have not yet got a substitute for Miss Maciver.  Miss Fraser, the last I heard of her, was still in bed.  Miss Gammack expects to be here in a week from now.  And she’ll be needed!  You can guess the effect of a six weeks’ interregnum in front of the L.C. examinations.  We were having our council of war to-day on the presentees for the Int.[ermediate?] Certif.[icate], and were recognising how poor some of them are.

At the Literary last night a symposium on “Some recent Poetry”.  Masefield, Newbolt and Kipling were the ones on whom papers were written but we also had pieces from Rupert Brooke and G. K. Chesterton read.  Quite a profitable evening it proved.  Miss Angus is busy for the next Open Evening.  It is to be musical and dramatic.

The School Annual, after long delay, will soon I hope be ready. I got your note of the members of the Committee.  I have utilised some of the old exercises of the Sixth of 1916 and scraped a fair amount of matter together.

Kenneth B. Macleod was in and had tea with us on Monday evening.  He had a lot of interesting things to tell us about the boys in Macedonia.  We had for example a “fascinating” picture of John Macritchie (“Pickwick”) making his bed beneath the pulpit of a mosque.  As the entering of the native churches was forbidden John and the Sergt. have a grave discussion and come to the conclusion that it does not look like a church, and must be the town-hall.  Peaceful sleep of Coinneach Bard and of the shrewd John!  “Zadok” and the other boys reported well – Kenneth himself looking very fit.  He is about to go into training for a commission.  I had a p.c. [postcard] from Mr. Menzies to say he had met some of the boys at Salonika.

We got the two Almas [‘Alma Maters’], with thanks.  I put it to Mamma as to whether the buttercup poem or “Ultima Thule” was yours.  She rejected the first, said you could do the latter, but thought you hadn’t.  After further thought it gained on her, and she concluded it was yours.  Send a copy with the poem marked with your name, to Dr. R.S. McKim, 19 Abbotsford Ave., Rutherglen.  He will enjoy it after his Lewis wanderings, and his sleeping on the heather.  Also another copy to your “pore Uncle”, in Greenock, who always remembers “such a ile of peace and rest.”  I am sorry to say he is not well – rheumatic pains.  You had better, if you have time, write him a nice comforting letter at the same time as you send “Alma”.

We were sorry to hear of your sore throat.  Poor old Jean!  That was where the headache and general wretchedness of your Roman History exam. came from.  Well, we hope you are quite clear of it by now.  Maud was a good lass to go out to see you and comfort you.  She wrote a nice letter to Mamma, who also had a letter from Bessie, not giving much news, however.

Mamma has been down this evening at the post-office with your box.  There was quite a mob, she says, at the parcel counter.  She hopes you will get it all right on Saturday.

How is your Maths. getting along?  You must be finding it dreary work without the help that a good teacher could have given.  Well, cheer up; I’m sure you’ll do your best.  We were glad to hear about the sphagnum pickings and the interesting talks attached thereto.  I see the Friday evenings keep as entertaining as ever.  I hope Muriel is better.  How are Jean and Miss Templeton?

I have taken to the quarts paper again; I note that you did not like the small sheets.

With our best love.

Papa

P.S.  We liked the poem.  I think it was very nicely done.  Try another soon again on some local theme, when you have time.  It is a good kind of exercise.

Ref: 1992.50.64i/L33

Transcribed by Dawn Macdonald, Archive collections assistant 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on There have been some fine catches of herring this last week, one day 5000 crans. The Minch has been getting “swept” and the mail-boat is running regularly. Oatmeal scarce; we have had to fall back temporarily on Quaker oats… Stornoway 22nd Feb 1917

This week’s letter highlights a difficult truth which is very pertinent, given that it is Black History Month. In the course of transcribing the letters we occasionally encounter racist language which is extremely offensive and considered abhorrent today. The fact that a highly educated woman like Mrs Gibson would use this particularly horrible word in such a context reflects the racist ideas prevalent in Britain at this time. We thought carefully about whether to publish this letter on the blog, but we feel it is important not to cover up the past and that we should bring it out into the open, as the attitudes of people in the past are an important part of the historical record. In another sentence of the letter there is a reference to insanity in a particular family. We have not revealed the family’s identity in case this causes distress to any descendants.

Extract from letter from Mrs Gibson to Jean Gibson, 18 Feb 1917

Nicolson Institute, Stornoway, Feb 18th 1917

Dear Sheann,

Your letter was up to time this week and Papa read it to me at breakfast yesterday.  Sorry the Roman History was so horrid but we cannot always be in good exam. form.  The Romans seem to have had a very difficult history don’t you think?  My impressions of it are of the vaguest and consist mostly of legions and laws.

Thanks for ‘Alma Mater’. Was the “Ultima Thule” poem yours? That’s the only thing that seemed likely.  It is a good number.  Don’t forget to tell us if our guess is right.

I was at “Crauford” with Papa on Thursday night.  It was really very good and Miss Angus deserves much credit for her cleverness as well as her work.  You would have enjoyed it I am sure.  The dressing was quite wonderful considering.  Miss Angus got all the “properties” which we had been giving house room and made wonderfully good use of them.

Thursday and Friday were holidays for the Fast.  Mr. Jenkins went off after Mr. W. J. Mackenzie’s funeral to preach for a vacancy and we had Mr. Mackay of Kinloch today whom I don’t think I ever saw before.  There were very few people in church for a communion Sabbath.  We met Mrs. Menzies and Miss Dean as were going out of the gate this morning.

Mrs. Menzies said that they were out working in the garden on the Fast Day.  She said they went in and found Mr. Gellan, Mr. Macallum, Lochs, and Mr. Mackenzie, Uig, sitting over the fire and told them they ought to be ashamed of themselves to be so lazy.  The two former actually joined them and worked like n_____s.  Fancy that on the Fast day!  Today Mr. Clark says Mr _______ had a telegram saying that his poor brother had become violently insane and had to be tied down and must be returned to an asylum at once.  Isn’t he a sorely tried man?  both his sister and brother insane.  Mrs. M. and Miss Dean will both be very nice to him I am sure.  I met Maud’s mother on Wednesday on my way to the sewing meeting.  She was lame and said she had phlebitis and had not been out for a week but had been on the sofa.  I did not stand more than a minute as I did not want to keep her standing.  Don’t mention it to Maud unless she knows.  Her mother seemed quite bright and said she could not lie up.

We have had wonderful weather, sunshine and frost day after day.  The two holidays were ideal.  Today and yesterday however are somewhat overcast.

Miss Smith and Miss Macfar[lane?] were in seeing me one day and I was down one evening addressing the Band of Hope for them.  Have not heard from Greenock or Belfast for two weeks.  They were all well then.

Love from us both. Your loving Mother

Ref: 1992.50.64i/L32

Transcribed by Dawn Macdonald, Archive collections assistant

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on This week’s letter highlights a difficult truth which is very pertinent, given that it is Black History Month. In the course of transcribing the letters we occasionally encounter racist language which is extremely offensive and considered abhorrent today. The fact that a highly educated woman like Mrs Gibson would use this particularly horrible word in such a context reflects the racist ideas prevalent in Britain at this time. We thought carefully about whether to publish this letter on the blog, but we feel it is important not to cover up the past and that we should bring it out into the open, as the attitudes of people in the past are an important part of the historical record. In another sentence of the letter there is a reference to insanity in a particular family. We have not revealed the family’s identity in case this causes distress to any descendants.

I had letters this week from Wm. B. Macdonald, who is with a battery in France and has had one or two narrow escapes, from J. W. Matheson, in Salonika, and from Alick Thomson, in the training camp at Gailes. He is enjoying the change from the trench-mud. Did I mention that Simon Mackenzie, who has been on a minesweeper off the west coast of Ireland, is now home, discharged on account of his health?… Stornoway, 15th Feb. 1917

Extract from letter from Mr Gibson to Jean Gibson 15 Feb 1917

In his letter this week, Mr Gibson is full of praise for the Dramatic Evening at the Literary meeting, he reports on a large, local funeral, and gives Jean the latest news from two local boys serving in France and Salonika, and a third local boy training at a camp in Gailes. The next in our series of letters from the W.J. Gibson collection held by Museum nan Eilean. Please get in touch if you have any comments: archives@cne-siar.gov.uk

Jean Dear,

This is the Fast Day.  The weather has been particularly fine all day – hard frost where the sun did not shine, but lovely sunny weather with a touch of the Spring in it.

Mamma and I, after the morning’s chores and an early and light lunch (cocoa), went off for a two hours’ walk, down by Sandwick beach and Stoneyfield and home through Sandwick.  It was fine.  School is closed again to-morrow, so we hope there may be another fine day.  Mamma went to church in the evening.  I stayed at home and read.

I don’t think there has been much to note in the school – just a flurry (too common now) to keep things going.  Miss Matheson has been down with influenza and we are so short-handed already that it is difficult to manage.

Mr. Wm. John Mackenzie’s funeral was on Wednesday afternoon, and there were a great many people there, at least 250 I wd say.  He was very well known in the Island and had been a generous giver.

Our meeting of the Literary this week was a Dramatic Evening, and Mr. Pryde presided.  We met in the Art Room and members had been allowed to ask adult friends.  There was a turn-out of about 180 altogether, as many as we had room for.  Among others, present I noticed Mrs. J. P. Anderson, Mrs. Kitson, Mrs. Ewen, Mrs. Macleod (Abd.), Mr. Burns (Fidigary), and Mr. W. J. Clarke.  The curtain-raiser was a Gaelic sketch, in which a crofter expects a visitor to negotiate for the purchase of his mare, and another comes to ask for his daughter.  He mixes them up to the amusement of the audience.

Then followed scenes from “Crauford”, very well done, and the girls made up beautifully.  It was done by the girls of the Sixth with Roddie Fraser and Max Murray.  The only defect was that some of them did not speak out sufficiently for the size of the room but they acted their parts well.  Miss Angus had made a good job of them.  It was quite enjoyable and Mamma liked it well.  Mr. Pryde made quite a good Chairman, and Callum “Zadok” looked after the curtain.

I had letters this week from Wm. B. Macdonald, who is with a battery in France and has had one or two narrow escapes, from J. W. Matheson, in Salonika, and from Alick Thomson, in the training camp at Gailes.  He is enjoying the change from the trench-mud.  Did I mention that Simon Mackenzie, who has been on a minesweeper off the west coast of Ireland, is now home, discharged on account of his health?

We noted your marks – the Unseen was fine, and the Rom. Hist. will doubtless pave the way for a rise next time.  Much “potting” and the grinding thereof, is the only way.  We are noticing that in another month the Degree exams will be upon you.  How the time runs in. Best love from both.  Remember us to Maud.  Papa  How is Livy getting on?

[Italics written in margin]

Ref: 1992.50.64i_L31

Transcribed by Dawn Macdonald, Archive collections assistant

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on I had letters this week from Wm. B. Macdonald, who is with a battery in France and has had one or two narrow escapes, from J. W. Matheson, in Salonika, and from Alick Thomson, in the training camp at Gailes. He is enjoying the change from the trench-mud. Did I mention that Simon Mackenzie, who has been on a minesweeper off the west coast of Ireland, is now home, discharged on account of his health?… Stornoway, 15th Feb. 1917

He told us of a mule who had a spite against a man and waited patiently for an opportunity to pay him out [get revenge]. One day the man was grooming the third mule from his enemy. The watchful one saw his chance and laid the man out with a kick delivered below the bellies of the two intervening mules. What do you think of that? E. says they never forget anybody who has beaten them…Stornoway, 9th Feb. 1917

Extract from letter from Mr Gibson to Jean Gibson 9 Feb 1917

This week, a visit from a local man who is home on leave provides Mr Gibson with an insight into what it’s like to be officer in charge of horses and mules on the front. Mr Gibson also gives Jean a review on the scenes performed at the Literary meeting. The next in our series of letters from the W.J. Gibson collection held by Museum nan Eilean. Please get in touch if you have any comments: archives@cne-siar.gov.uk

Jean dear,

I did not get your letter written last night as some folks were in for the evening – Ebenezer Mackenzie (home for leave) and Isabel, Mr. Jenkins, and Mr. C.J. Maciver.  Had a nice tea (sausage rolls of Mamma’s making – 3/4 lb. of meat for six persons!) and an enjoyable ceilidh.

We learned something from Ebenezer about horses and mules.  He had 70 horses under his charge and about 100 men – the men being more trouble than the horses.  He told us of a mule who had a spite against a man and waited patiently for an opportunity to pay him out [get revenge].  One day the man was grooming the third mule from his enemy.  The watchful one saw his chance and laid the man out with a kick delivered below the bellies of the two intervening mules.  What do you think of that?  E. says they never forget anybody who has beaten them.

Mr. Jenkins is going next week to preach in a vacant church in Forfarshire.  We all wish him well, if it is a nice place.

You forgot to answer my question about the School Magazine Com’ee of last year.  Who were the others, besides yourself and Angus, who gave out the Mags.?

At the Literary this week we had ‘Shakespeare’ and ‘Molière’ with a scene from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and one from “Les Femmes Savants” [sic] – the one where the maid-servant is to dismissed because of her error in grammar.

Max, Catherine Matheson, Margt. Mackenzie, & Catherine Murray were the actors, and did it very well indeed.  You w’d. quite have enjoyed seeing them.  Max, with the help of a moustache, an imperial [cigar?], and a light vest and trousers, made up into a wonderful Frenchman.

The Crauford night for which Miss Angus has been training a troupe comes next week.  I’ll get Mamma to go?  Our harbour was closed for two days this week – no ships, not even the poor ‘Sheila’ being allowed out or in.

Hope you enjoyed your Maths. “social.”

With best love from both.

Papa

Ref: 1992.50.64i/L29

Trancribed by Barry Shelby, Museum Visitor Assistant

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on He told us of a mule who had a spite against a man and waited patiently for an opportunity to pay him out [get revenge]. One day the man was grooming the third mule from his enemy. The watchful one saw his chance and laid the man out with a kick delivered below the bellies of the two intervening mules. What do you think of that? E. says they never forget anybody who has beaten them…Stornoway, 9th Feb. 1917