Did I tell you last week that Neil Macdonald (Fifth of 1914) the lad from Balallan who got the Mil. Cross about a year ago, was rumoured as having been killed. I am sorry to say it is officially confirmed. This morning also news came that Ian Macdonald, the younger of the C. E.’s sons, has been killed. People whose sons are out are having a time of great anxiety… Stornoway, 12th May. 1918

Extract from letter from Mr Gibson to Jean Gibson 12th May 1918

Spring is well under way in Stornoway this week, and Mr Gibson has much in the way of local news for Jean, particularly regarding his vegetable growing successes. Sadly, he also has some bad news concerning more local lads who have lost their lives during the war effort recently. 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,

I have been looking out of the study window between showers and watching the sparrows having baths in the little playground pools, and fighting between while con amore.  Why are sparrows such pugnacious little villains, I wonder. But oh, they are so spry and full of life just now and of the movement of the spring. They are rascals, but one can’t help liking them.

The rain has been a great refreshment. The ground was dry and the seeds were needing moisture. Things are now growing at a great rate. Our rhubarb is of an unbelievable height and thickness. We are bestowing parcels on all who want to use it. It seems a pity that its phomenal [sic] growth should coincide with a sugar famine.

Most of Thursday evening I spent at school. The choir were practising their songs for the concert, the dramatic troupe were rehearsing their sketches, and the boys, the janitor and I were seeing to the platform and other chores.

Murdo Nicolson, Lemreway, (Fifth of 1914) came in, and we got the girls to sing over again for the Mountain Battery their Gaelic chorus. Murdo is to take back word thereof to Macedonia.

The week has been a very busy one. I was taking the Medal exams., there was a good deal of arrangement in connection with the Concert, and next week is our Class Exam week.   The Fifth & Sixth girls sold the tickets, which went off like hot cakes. Out of 300 tickets only a dozen remained to be sold at the door.  Many people who had depended on getting in by paying at the door could not be admitted and were greatly disappointed.  The evening was wet but there was a full turnout and I think as an entertainment it was quite successful, while as a money raising device it was entirely satisfactory.    Saturday forenoon had to be spent in seeing things back into their places. I enclose a copy of the programme.  An item that fairly fascinated folk was Mr Ewen’s sword swinging display; it was quite wonderful.

Saturday was showery, but the sun came out in the afternoon and Mr. Ewen and I went down to the Manse for some of our seed potatoes that were left over, also to see how the seeds we had planted were coming on. We found our carrots were well under weigh (sic) , but the potatoes were not yet showing. Later we came home with the potatoes slung in a sack and carried on the walking-stick between us – quite picturesque I assure you!

In the evening I went to the reading-room but Mamma remained at home sewing. I met Margaret Maciver, who has recently been south for a month’s holiday. She was telling me Kenneth is to be home for a short leave, and was to arrive last night. Duncan also is to be home in a week or so.    Did I tell you last week that Neil Macdonald (Fifth of 1914) the lad from Balallan who got the Mil. Cross about a year ago, was rumoured as having been killed. I am sorry to say it is officially confirmed. This morning also news came that Ian Macdonald, the younger of the C. E.’s sons, has been killed. People whose sons are out are having a time of great anxiety.

We were sorry to hear about the little Anderson lad being so ill. I see from your letter that he is somewhat better. I hope he’ll have enough strength for the improvement to continue now the temperature has begun to go down. Poor little fellow!

I see from your letter that you are continuing to appreciate the Aberdeen spring-time. The trees do strike one when one comes from Lewis. I am glad to hear you are taking the chance of the Gifford lectures. You are having “fine confused feeding” just now, like the man with the sheep’s head.

When does the “Mid. N’s Dr.m “ [Midsummer’s Night’s Dream] come off? No use getting “down” about it. You must roar like a lion – not like a sucking dove, and there you are. If there is one thing clear about Bottom, it is his entire self-possession.

About the Summer Meeting at Glasshaugh, Mamma and I have  talked it over, and are quite willing if you wd.like it. We see from the Calendar that the Science Term finishes on June 28 and Graduation is expected to be about July 10. I suppose it wd. be between these two dates sometime that the gathering wd. be. You’ll give us more particulars when you know them.

I hope the Macpherson is coming on all right. I don’t think you need read much for it, & the Macpherson controversy can be left severely alone. What you know about the Celtic atmosphere and land, with a study of a few pages of the “Songs of Selma” or “Fingal” should supply all you need. I enclose you own version of the piece from “Selma” if you want to work it in as a tailpiece.   Mamma and Barrie have now come upstairs to join me. I have just asked the latter if he sends his love to you, but he continued to snooze with his nose on his hind arm. Mamma has had a good deal of rheumatism this last week, but is getting rather better now.

Best love from both.

Papa.

Ref: 1992.50.64ii/L53

Transcribed by M. Smith, Museum Visitor Assistant

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