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

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