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 

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