John MacFarlane, May’s brother, has been killed in the war; also Gina Sutherland’s brother Rose. The list of lost lives is always mounting up. Stornoway 16th Nov. 1916

Sad news from the Front*, a ‘Lewis’ night at the School Literary Society and the election of a new Provost are just some of Mr Gibson’s news items. 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 going to treat you to another of the big sheets of paper. That was a nice long letter you sent with a lot of nice news. We were delighted to hear of the ‘bust’ of Maud and Shean and especially, of course, of its very economical character – 1/2 was real thrifty! We sympathised with you in that vain hunt after that penny in your accounts. I used to have little worries of that kind.

I am leaving the part of your letter dealing with the new “clo” for Mamma to answer in her next. Such mysteries are too high for me to meddle with. We liked your account of the girls. You seem to be very fortunate in the kind of folk you are among.

I think B+ for the prose was quite good. We have not heard yet about your Roman history test; we wanted to hear your mark in it.

If your time allows it, I think you should join the Scientific. Even if you can attend only occasionally you might hear the best of the papers.

So the S.R.C. were officiating. What about the Principal? Has he got home again yet? The University will not be on full pressure these days, when most of the men are away.

Who do you think was in today seeing me? Roderick Macmillan (alias “Lil’l Lissy”) of your old class. He has been invalided owing to malaria, and curiously enough, was for a month in hospital in Aberdeen (Central School) and never had a visitor from among his old classmates. I was saying if they had only known there were plenty of them there to have cheered him with a visit or two. He did not know that Malcolm MacLeod was in Aberdeen. I have given him his address, if by any chance he should go back by way of Aberdeen. He is not looking well yet. This is his first leave home since the mobilisation in 1914.

About school news. Dr Robertson is here just now, and has been in several times since last Friday. The controversy between the teachers and the S. Bd. [Stornoway School Board] you will find in the ‘H. N.’ [Highland News] which Mamma enclosed in the parcel she sent off today.

John MacFarlane, May’s brother, has been killed in the war; also Gina Sutherland’s brother Rose. The list of lost lives is always mounting up. Did I tell you I had a letter from Mr Dodd? The Medical Officer in charge of the ward of the Hospital Ship in which Mr D. is an orderly is Ian Mackenzie, the Provost’s son. By-the-way, the new Provost is Mr Murdo Maclean up the street, and one of the new Baillies is Mr Roderick Smith, the druggist.

Mr. Tait is to go out for his Medical Examn. at Fort George this week-end. I don’t know which class they’ll place him in – there are eight groups!

Our meeting of the School Literary this week was a “Lewis” night. Papers were read on the different parts of the Island by six or seven different pupils, and the girls of IIIA and B sang Gaelic songs. There was a noble turnout again of eighty or more. The papers were quite good. I enclose one of the Membership Cards. You will find on the back of it an abbreviated form of the Syllabus.

We had our usual drill tonight. Mr Macrae and I had a march-out with them as far as the cross-roads. To-day has been dry, with a wind, and at length the sodden roads of the past week have dried up. There was also some sun – for the first time I think since last Thursday.

There is no one now to brush “pore Lil’l Lissy” [the cat], but his mother licks him with spit as occasion offers. We shall see that your love is duly conveyed to them.

You must have enjoyed the Lewis Carroll paper. What a chance to get a subject like that taken up sympathetically. You must have felt as if you had met unexpectedly a dear old friend.

Mamma asks if you took your boots with you when you went, for if not she’ll look them out for you and send them. She thinks they wd. be good for your hockey.

Give our love to Maud. We were glad to be remembered. It was nice that you and she saw so much of each other last week. Miss Mair was asking for you to-day. Various friends enquire about you; you are not at all forgotten. We are glad that you are not being homesick since the first week; it is a horrid feeling.

“Good night”, with our love. Papa

Transcribed by Seonaid McDonald, Archivist

*Thank you to Malcolm MacDonald of Stornoway Historical Society who has pointed out that Gina Sutherland’s brother’s name was Rose and not Ross as initially published. This was an error of transcription; Mr Gibson’s letter reads ‘Rose’.

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