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

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