John M. MacCallum, wounded, from the Canadians, and Rae Macdonald, home after being blown up, were in seeing me on Friday. A son of Colin Macleod’s from the Canadians we were speaking to to-day. He has been badly wounded and will get his discharge after going back to Canada. Mr. Matthew Morrison, Miss Gina’s brother, is home on leave. He is looking well…Stornoway, 18th November. 1917

Extract from letter from Mr Gibson to Jean Gibson 18th November 1917

Mr Gibson writes to Jean this week regarding the welfare of three young men who have been away at war. He is also very excited to hear about Jean’s latest studies on the ‘wattle bagworm’, so much so that he recites a couple of verses from a poem, we believe he possibly wrote himself, about the wee beastie! 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,

In the study, Sunday afternoon, dusk just coming on.  Mamma is reading Col. Hutchinson’s Memoirs (time of the Civil War).  Barrie is downstairs in the kitchen asleep.  Outside is dull weather with rain and an end-of-the-year air about things.

We see from your letter, duly recd. yesterday morning, that you are in the midst of things and very busy.  Glad you called on the Souters, as they have been so very nice to you.  We were charmed at the high literary motive that had induced Miss Lena and you to enrol yourselves in the Classical.  Tell me how Prof. Harrower impresses you, when the time comes for you to make his acquaintance. Remember I am an old student of his of the Glasgow days.  He taught us Vergil and Antiquities & did it very thoroughly.

We wish you well in the Nat. Phil. exam. when Friday comes.  The main drawback to the University life is provided by exam.s  – is it not so?

We were interested to hear that Prof. Thomson had set you on in turns to writing a precis of natural history monographs.  That is excellent training, though possibly a bit trying while in process.

The subject of your one fairly fascinated us – the Wattle Bagworm of Natal!  Mamma says it is exactly like something out of Alice in Wonderland.  As for me, I dropped into verse as follows:-

­The Wattle Bagworm of Natal.

Beasties queer from many lands we have met upon our rambles

The platypus that layeth eggs, the Bradypus that only scrambles,

But of all the queer old things that range

From the Weddell Sea to far Bhopal

There is nothing half so queer or strange

As the Wattle Bagworm of Natal.

See him with his bag and wattle

Strut along with noisy brattle,

Other beasts with envy burst,

As a toff the Bagworm’s first.

Now, that should comfort you some in your efforts at summarising his weak and strong points.  Be sure to tell us more about him and his fate.

I am glad you are keeping us posted in the work of the English class.  I suppose the essay has gone in.  We wish it good luck. Are glad to know that Jean M. is able to be back again to her classes.  I hope she will not overwork.

I got this week the usual copy of the Abd. Univ. Calendar, and we had the pleasure of reading your name in the Merit Lists.  It looked very nice and familiar.  By-the-way, did I ask you to send us a copy of the Students’ Handbook?  If not, I do so now.  We like to have it for the meetings of the Assocns. and the names of the girls you meet. Don’t forget.  So you got your accounts made up, with a balance at the right side.  Good, but it will be much easier on you if you do it weekly.

We had a letter this morning from Miss Angus, who wrote in good spirits, liking her work very much and extending it.  She had met Bessie one day, thought she was looking dull and invited her to meet her one day during the week in the city and lunch with her.

Things working along in school. Mrs. Menzies and Miss Dean went south as I explained, but we hear now that Mr. M. is delayed for an indefinite period at Salonika.  So the churches are to continue their joint meetings in the meantime.

The first of our Library lectures is to be on Wednesday evening first, by Sheriff Dunbar on “George Borrow.”  I expect it will be good.  It is likely I’ll have to be in the chair.  Dr. Murray has now given us his subject – “The Federation of the World.”

John M. MacCallum, wounded, from the Canadians, and Rae Macdonald, home after being blown up, were in seeing me on Friday.  A son of Colin Macleod’s from the Canadians we were speaking to to-day.  He has been badly wounded and will get his discharge after going back to Canada.  Mr. Matthew Morrison, Miss Gina’s brother, is home on leave.  He is looking well.

Started our Literary & Debating Soc.y in school on Wednesday with some music and a short Address from me on “Style”.  Have got a skeleton of what looks like a very nice programme together.

Mamma was down one afternoon calling on Mrs. Tait, and took a pot of jam for the baby.  But she’ll tell you about the visit herself when she writes.

I think that is about all the news since Thursday.

Our best love

Papa.

Ref: 1992.50.64ii/L12

Transcribed by Vivienne Parish, Museum Visitor Assistant

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