The town has been out of flour and butter this last week. Fortunately the bakers have evidently had a supply, as the bread issue has continued. The voluntary ration of Sir Yapp Mamma has pinned up beside the fireplace in the kitchen and we were counting up at teatime to see if we had kept within it. We found we had kept well within the limit in everything except perhaps sugar. It looks as if Rhondha (I can’t remember how he spells his name, but that doesn’t look right) would have to face compulsory rationing, much as he wished to avoid it… Stornoway, 24th November. 1917

Extract from letter from Mr Gibson to Jean Gibson 14th November 1917

This week’s letter from Mr Gibson includes some updates on local lads who are away at war and the poor state of the ration supplies in the town. There is news of a scarlet fever outbreak that the schools have had to close for, and Mr Gibson, or rather, Barrie, mentions how he thinks the islanders might have learned to cut peats! 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,

We got your letter yesterday morning & I had the pleasure of having it read to me in bed.  You will by this time have got the Nat. Phil. exam off your mind.  I hope it wasn’t very bad.  We noted your “spotter” in the Zoo and its result.  What kind of things did they give you to identify?  We are looking forward with interest to hear how the essay got on.  If you get any home exercises in your English that deal with the features of Shakespeare’s Age you will find a mine of information in “Shakespeare’s England” a book publd. in connection with his centenary & sure to be in the University Library.  The enclosed cutting gives the contents of its chapters.

It must have been quite exciting getting so many of your inmates dressed and off to the Chemi. Party.  We’ll look forward to hearing about the English Class “At Home.”  By-the-way, have you seen Mr. Taylor this session yet?  We want to hear how he is.

In school we’ve been busy this week getting our exam. results gathered and marks made up; reports go out next week.  On Weds. Evening we had Sheriff Dunbar’s lecture on “George Borrow”.  It was in the Free English Church hall and there was a good turnout – at least as these things go in Stornoway – of about a hundred.  Everybody who was anybody was there as far as I could see.  I think I mentioned I was in the chair.  We made a fair sum but about a fourth of it has to go to the Government in the form of duty, a literary lecture (charming idea!) being regarded by the authorities as an “entertainment”.

About an hour before we started out for the lecture B’lann’s brother (whose sister you were all seeing off for “munitions”, came in to see us.  He is home on leave after having been gassed and slightly wounded.   He is almost better though his eyes are still affected.  Mr. Conning has this week got word of the death of wounds of one of his boys who was in the Canadians – John, I think.  A number of casualties were intimated in Story. this last week.  We had been remarking that Lewis had had few for some time back.

Mrs. Tait was up seeing us on Friday evening & had supper.  It was a wild stormy night, & I saw her home.  Mr. Tait is getting the work under weigh [sic] again, and discovering how little Latin they know after their long rest.   Next week we’ll be having the Thanksgiving holiday.  The weather unfortunately remains very wet and broken.  There is still quite a lot of scarlet fever in the island and a number of schools are closed.

We had a letter this morning from Wm. P. Macleod, from Mesopotamia.  He wrote in a wonderfully cheery strain in spite of the climate.  Poor lad, he had not yet learned of Dawtie’s death.

I have just been telling Mamma the things I have been writing about and it turns out she had already told you about some of them.  We were at the Parish Church this morning and Mr. Jenkins intimated that Mr. Menzies had reached London yesterday.  They were afraid that he might be delayed in Salonika for some considerable time, but things turned out better than expected.  It is good that Mrs. Menzies won’t have to wait longer for him.  Mrs. M. had seen Bessie in Glasgow and had seen over the hostel.  Mr. Clark and Ellis were in after church and gave us their news.   Mr. Wm. J Clarke has been ill in bed all last week but is getting on favourably.   I was in seeing him on Saturday afternoon.  Bessie got back home last night and I hear is looking well.  I was glad to hear from him that Marion is liking the hostel well.  Miss Souter seems to be very nice to her.

We have been spending the Sunday evening in the usual way – reading at the study fire.  Barrie is reposing very peacefully on the hearth rug and blessing that old Norse viking who first taught the Lewismen how to use peats; “s’nice man!” he says.

The town has been out of flour and butter this last week.  Fortunately the bakers have evidently had a supply, as the bread issue has continued.  The voluntary ration of Sir Yapp Mamma has pinned up beside the fireplace in the kitchen and we were counting up at teatime to see if we had kept within it.  We found we had kept well within the limit in everything except perhaps sugar.  It looks as if Rhondha (I can’t remember how he spells his name, but that doesn’t look right) would have to face compulsory rationing, much as he wished to avoid it.

Now I think I have given you all the news.

With love from both, Papa

Ref: 1992.50.64ii/L14

Transcribed by Vivienne Parish, Museum Visitor Assistant

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