He told us of a mule who had a spite against a man and waited patiently for an opportunity to pay him out [get revenge]. One day the man was grooming the third mule from his enemy. The watchful one saw his chance and laid the man out with a kick delivered below the bellies of the two intervening mules. What do you think of that? E. says they never forget anybody who has beaten them…Stornoway, 9th Feb. 1917

Extract from letter from Mr Gibson to Jean Gibson 9 Feb 1917

This week, a visit from a local man who is home on leave provides Mr Gibson with an insight into what it’s like to be officer in charge of horses and mules on the front. Mr Gibson also gives Jean a review on the scenes performed at the Literary meeting. 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 did not get your letter written last night as some folks were in for the evening – Ebenezer Mackenzie (home for leave) and Isabel, Mr. Jenkins, and Mr. C.J. Maciver.  Had a nice tea (sausage rolls of Mamma’s making – 3/4 lb. of meat for six persons!) and an enjoyable ceilidh.

We learned something from Ebenezer about horses and mules.  He had 70 horses under his charge and about 100 men – the men being more trouble than the horses.  He told us of a mule who had a spite against a man and waited patiently for an opportunity to pay him out [get revenge].  One day the man was grooming the third mule from his enemy.  The watchful one saw his chance and laid the man out with a kick delivered below the bellies of the two intervening mules.  What do you think of that?  E. says they never forget anybody who has beaten them.

Mr. Jenkins is going next week to preach in a vacant church in Forfarshire.  We all wish him well, if it is a nice place.

You forgot to answer my question about the School Magazine Com’ee of last year.  Who were the others, besides yourself and Angus, who gave out the Mags.?

At the Literary this week we had ‘Shakespeare’ and ‘Molière’ with a scene from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and one from “Les Femmes Savants” [sic] – the one where the maid-servant is to dismissed because of her error in grammar.

Max, Catherine Matheson, Margt. Mackenzie, & Catherine Murray were the actors, and did it very well indeed.  You w’d. quite have enjoyed seeing them.  Max, with the help of a moustache, an imperial [cigar?], and a light vest and trousers, made up into a wonderful Frenchman.

The Crauford night for which Miss Angus has been training a troupe comes next week.  I’ll get Mamma to go?  Our harbour was closed for two days this week – no ships, not even the poor ‘Sheila’ being allowed out or in.

Hope you enjoyed your Maths. “social.”

With best love from both.

Papa

Ref: 1992.50.64i/L29

Trancribed by Barry Shelby, Museum Visitor Assistant

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on He told us of a mule who had a spite against a man and waited patiently for an opportunity to pay him out [get revenge]. One day the man was grooming the third mule from his enemy. The watchful one saw his chance and laid the man out with a kick delivered below the bellies of the two intervening mules. What do you think of that? E. says they never forget anybody who has beaten them…Stornoway, 9th Feb. 1917

Dr. Robertson is here just now and thinks more of the teachers will be called up soon. However we need not anticipate trouble and of course if necessary there can be nothing said. The successful prosecution of the war takes precedence of all else… Stornoway, 4th Feb. 1917

Extract from letter from Mrs Gibson to Jean Gibson 4 Feb 1917

In her letter to Jean this week, Mrs Gibson has news of a local boy who has returned home from the Struma front on sick leave having had malaria, and the possibility of more teachers being called up hangs heavy over the school. 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

Dear Jean,

Your letter came at the right time this week and we found it interesting as we always do.  What are you going to sing I wonder. I hope the Maths.  ‘At Home’ will be as nice as the Latin one was.  We note all your remarks about your exams. marks and studies generally but I leave that for Papa to reply to as I really am not in a position to know much about it.  Do your best and be sure it will be all right.  We were interested to hear that “Chrissy Kirkcaldy” had written you.  We have always felt disappointed that she did not get to the University.

Papa’s cold is nearly away now.  It has been bad in his head all week and a great deal of nose blowing and sneezing going on but he got over the body symptoms the two days he was in bed. The weather has been very cold and yesterday and today we have snow, the dry powdery kind blowing like smoke before the wind.

Yesterday Papa and I had a walk before dinner out to Sandwick through the cemetery and home by the beach and Newton.  Met Miss Mary Pope near the gas-house.  She had been at a chrystoleum [sic] painting class held by Mrs. Matthew Morrison.  I wonder now if they wouldn’t be better doing something more useful in these days. In the evening Mr. Ewen came in to pay us a visit and while he was here a Battery boy came in home on sick leave from the Struma front, Murdo Maciver, a brother of the girl who is somewhat lame.  He had had malaria and dysentery and had been in hospital at Malta and then in England but is now quite better and ready to go out again.

I wasn’t at the sewing meeting on Wednesday as I was expecting the plumber.  I need hardly add he hasn’t come yet.  On Thursday I went to the B.W.T.A.  The kept me so long in the post office where I had gone with your parcel that I didn’t get in till 4.30 and at 20 to 5 we were out.  There were only six present including me which is too bad treatment of the new Secy.

Dr. Robertson is here just now and thinks more of the teachers will be called up soon.  However we need not anticipate trouble and of course if necessary there can be nothing said. The successful prosecution of the war takes precedence of all else.  I haven’t seen Mrs. Morison yet, I suppose she is just as busy as I am.

Met Mr. Clark on our way home from church.  He says they had a wire from Bessie yesterday asking if she might go to live with the Walkers at Carluke as they wanted her.  They agreed meantime.  He says Bessie won’t be home at Easter but I hope she will.  Papa is deep in “Their Silver Wedding Journey” and smiled a far-away smile when I asked him for news.  Doubtless he’s keeping it for his own letter. 

Love from us both to our little She-ann.

Your loving

Mother.

Ref: 1992.50.64i/L28

Transcribed by Barry Shelby, Museum Visitor Assistant

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Dr. Robertson is here just now and thinks more of the teachers will be called up soon. However we need not anticipate trouble and of course if necessary there can be nothing said. The successful prosecution of the war takes precedence of all else… Stornoway, 4th Feb. 1917

The kipper girls are on strike this week for better wages. On Tuesday afternoon they marched in procession round the town with a union jack and singing. They passed down Francis St. while the wedding was on, and I was amused to see that even in strike time a wedding was too great a temptation to be resisted and their procession joined the crowd at the church door until the wedding party came out… Stornoway, 1st Feb. 1917

Extract from letter from Mr Gibson to Jean Gibson 1 Feb 1917

In Mr Gibson’s letter to Jean this week, he gives her the latest news from the local boys in the War and provides a report on a wedding at the Episcopal Church in Stornoway. The kipper girls are also on strike this week, stopping only to admire the wedding, much to the delight of 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,

We got your letter in due course, and were glad to note that Maud had got over her cold, though sorry to hear of her tooth troubles.

We read with amusement the joint letter of yourself and the other young lady who corresponds with her home. It reminds me a little of the testimonial I once wrote for you when you were a baby; I think we once told you about it.

Alick Thomson was in to see us one evening, and we had him in to the kitchen to share our tea and had a nice long talk about the war. He stayed for about three hours and told us such a lot of things. He really has the gift of making us see things. We both felt we knew in quite a new and vivid way the kind of life it is in the trenches.

I had a letter from Murdo Murray this week. He says John Munro is away to France again. He was trying to get him kept for a bit as a Phy. Trg. [Physical Training] Instructor, but owing to some mistake in the orderly room it did not get arranged. I congratulated Murdo on his marriage.

Isobel Ross was married on Tuesday in the Episcopal Church. Our afternoon interval came just as the service was being finished and the children of the Francis St. Building were just in time to swell the crowd which saw Isobel and her husband off in the motor. Dorothy Macleod was, I think, chief bridesmaid, and Cathie Alexander the understudy.

The kipper girls are on strike this week for better wages. On Tuesday afternoon they marched in procession round the town with a union jack and singing. They passed down Francis St. while the wedding was on, and I was amused to see that even in strike time a wedding was too great a temptation to be resisted and their procession joined the crowd at the church door until the wedding party came out.

Mamma was at the B.W.T.A. this afternoon; the meeting was a short one, and there were few present.

Last night’s meeting of the School Literary Society I was not at, as I had still a bit of a cold in my head, and am being careful o’ nights. I believe they had quite a good meeting. It was an election à la Gulliver – one candidate urging that eggs shd. be opened at the big end and the other at the little end. I was told the heckling and the replies were quite good. Mamma insisted on my staying in bed on Saturday and Sunday. I felt all right on Monday, but have had a head-cold since Monday evening – nothing bad.

Mamma asks me to say that she posted your blouse to-day.

By the way, who were the four of you who acted as the School Magazine Committee last autumn & passed round the Mags. – Angus MacPhail and you – and who were the other two?

The pussocks are at my feet and Mamma is skimming the newspaper, and supper-time is near.

Best love from both,

Papa

Ref: 1992.50.64i/L27

Transcribed by Seonaid McDonald, Archivist

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on The kipper girls are on strike this week for better wages. On Tuesday afternoon they marched in procession round the town with a union jack and singing. They passed down Francis St. while the wedding was on, and I was amused to see that even in strike time a wedding was too great a temptation to be resisted and their procession joined the crowd at the church door until the wedding party came out… Stornoway, 1st Feb. 1917

Speaking of study circles reminds me of Miss Angus… She is leaving she tells me at the end of this school year. She told her com’tee that she cannot continue at £80 per. an. + £5 bonus as it is not enough to be efficient on. They evidently cannot raise any more. She thinks of taking up work as welfare superintendent at a Munitions factory or something of that sort… Stornoway, 28th Jan. 1917

Extract from letter from Mrs Gibson to Jean Gibson 28 Jan 1917

This week, Mrs Gibson tells Jean about a Nicolson teacher who is to leave at the end of the school year owing to, what she considers to be, her low salary. The big fishing week in Stornoway continues to be a hot topic of discussion, and there is much talk of new clothes and shoes all round. 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

Dear Sheann,

Your letter did not come on Saturday morning and this morning there was no one to go as Papa has been in bed these two days with a feverish cold.  However when lil’ Lizzie had brought the milk I bespoke her good offices and she smilingly agreed.  She came back with quite a number of letters, most of them requests from T.C. [?] girls for testimonials and also yours among the others.  What I didn’t bargain for was her appearing embracing a big parcel from Daniel Neals containing two pairs boots, a pair slippers and a pair rubbers all for Papa.   It looked very un Sabbatarian indeed and it is to be hoped her mother doesn’t object.

We were much interested in your account of your Latin class party.  It sounded “a little bit of all right.”  Papa was tickled at you willy-nilly having to ask Willy Lillie to see you home. The supper discussion when you reached home also struck us as very good.  Glad your dress is nice.  The price was all right.  It is a good thing that you have got into touch with a good dressmaker.  Your study-circle and your moss-picking are interesting new activities. 

Speaking of study circles reminds me of Miss Angus.  She called one afternoon last week and stayed talking for a long time.  She is leaving she tells me at the end of this school year.  She told her com’tee that she cannot continue at £80 per. an. + £5 bonus as it is not enough to be efficient on.  They evidently cannot raise any more.  She thinks of taking up work as welfare superintendent at a Munitions factory or something of that sort.  I think she is right to give up church work; she has not the enthusiasm of the right sort of church worker.  I am not mentioning the matter meantime to any one leaving it to herself to let it be known.  She invited Papa and me to a tea party they were having on Saturday night in Mr. Hunter’s old church.  I went and stayed for an hour and explained Papa’s absence.  When I returned I found a parcel leaning up against the front door containing my new Harris coat from Dannie Maciver’s.  I had to take a grey one after all.

This is a very voluminous garment with Raglan sleeves and a belt.  I wore it to church today and found it such a nice “hap”[?] after going so long with a thin coat and skirt.  It is to cost £2.17.6.

Mrs. Cameron of the manse came in to see me on Friday night and paid me quite a nice long visit.  She was telling me how disgusted she was that the old sewing meeting had come to such an unbusiness-like end and wishing that she had abandoned it long before.  I think she wanted to be friends with all parties.  I was at the meeting last Wednesday but did not stay as I had to go to get my coat fitted.  I handed in your muffler and a pair of socks, and got more wool for another muffler.  Maud’s mother never comes now.  Are they not friendly with the new provost’s people I wonder.  I met Mr. Morison on my way home. He and Mrs. M. had been for a walk and Mrs. M. had just left him to visit Mr. Forbes.  Mr. M. says she is quite well again.  He himself tell Maud was looking active and well and not at all as he did this time last year.

There is big fishing in Sy. at present.  The front is all built up with hills of barrels as you remember it.

Chrissie Garrynahine is not back at school yet.  Did you ever write to her I wonder.  Jessie Smith has not come back either.  I don’t know what is wrong with her.

I was sitting with Ella Mackenzie at Miss Angus’s party last night. Ebenezer is home on leave.  He is going for his officer’s training before going back. 

How is Muriel Mackenzie?  Her mother was telling someone that she had been very ill and that the doctor had forbidden her to study.  I had not known she had been so ill as that.

Hope you got your boots and blouse all right.  I am sorry I have not managed to get your new blouse made yet but live in hope.

I congratulate you on the galoshes but I alas ! have not got the little girl yet.  But be re-assured I am getting on all right and am taking care not to do too much.  You see too you’ll soon be coming home to help, a little girl of a really serviceable age. See?

I have not seen Miss Fraser since she left school.  Dr. Ross from Borve was in one day and advised her to keep to her bed for a month’s rest.  Dina Macleod was telling me that Mr. Radcliffe has made them an offer for their house from April till October.  Mrs. Firth Maciver is staying in Capt. Nicolson’s house.  I hear her poor husband continues very ill.

Isobel Ross is to be married in the Episcopal church on the 30th.   Simon Mackenzie is temporarily in her place at Back.  He has got his discharge from the Naval forces as not physically fit.  He might have gone back to the University but they think a while in Lewis will do him good after his illness.

Papa is feeling better and thinks he will be able for school tomorrow.  I wish this east wind would cease.  It makes the new school so cold: every one is complaining of it.  Last week was exam. week so they found it especially trying.  I think that was what gave Papa his chill.   I gave him his big woolly gloves to put on when reading in bed as he had no fire.  We have had some fun over them.  Now I must brave the east wind to get this posted but in my new coat he has fewer tremors.  You should see me – “just like a house-side” as my mother used to say.

Love from us both to the little Sheann.

Your loving Mother.

Ref: 1992.50.64i/L26

Transcribed by Barry Shelby, Museum Visitor Assistant

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Speaking of study circles reminds me of Miss Angus… She is leaving she tells me at the end of this school year. She told her com’tee that she cannot continue at £80 per. an. + £5 bonus as it is not enough to be efficient on. They evidently cannot raise any more. She thinks of taking up work as welfare superintendent at a Munitions factory or something of that sort… Stornoway, 28th Jan. 1917

I don’t know whether Mamma told you of Matthew Russell’s visit… He was in one evening to see us, and has developed physically into quite a fine strapping lad. He has quite come out of his shell too. He has made an interesting generalisation from his experience when grooming and feeding horses – that the same horse will not try to bite and also to kick, that is, it will not be aggressive at both ends… Stornoway 24th Jan. 1917

Extract from letter from Mr Gibson to Jean Gibson 24 Jan 1917

In this week’s letter, Mr Gibson has news regarding some of the local boys serving in the War, there is mention of a big fishing week, and we find out what Jean thought about her recent theatre trip to see ‘The Arcadians’. 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,

Barrie is on Mamma’s knee and is having the advice with which you closed your letter quoted to him – “Be good.”

A big fishing this week, of which to-day we got a share, viz., two herrings.  Very good they were, too, and B. [Barrie] & L.L. [Li’l Lissie] got the trimmings.

We were sorry to see from your letter that poor Maud has a cold.  Tell her we hope it will soon be better.  We have had dry, rather frosty, weather this week.  Some of the days have been very good indeed, but to-day there has been a cold east wind.

Second Term’s exams this week in school, in the old way you know so well.  We have missed Miss Fraser, but commandeered Miss Harper sometimes to sit with the Sixth.

The Literary on Wednesday was taken up with three little papers on Bacon, Lamb, and Macaulay as essay-writers; Cathaday was in the chair.  Miss Angus, by request, read two of Lamb’s essays.  I told them the story of Lamb wanting to lead home the lively piece of cheese.

I don’t know whether Mamma told you of Matthew Russell’s visit.  He was home on leave for a day or two, and Gerrie developed measles on the day when he was to go off; so his leave was extended compulsorily.  G. is almost better again, and Matthew is now away.  He was in one evening to see us, and has developed physically into quite a fine strapping lad.  He has quite come out of his shell too.  He has made an interesting generalisation from his experience when grooming and feeding horses – that the same horse will not try to bite and also to kick, that is, it will not be aggressive at both ends.

Mr. Tait had a letter to-day from Angus Maclean; he is in France, where Wm. B. also has been for some time.

Alick Thomson is home on leave pending his entering on officer’s training.  I am sure he’ll be glad to get out of the trenches and the mud for a little.

We were glad to see that Maud and you had enjoyed the “Arcadians”.  The student concert you describe was evidently like one or two of those I remember only evidently more so!  I seem to recollect that we made the most of the intervals between pieces but listened to the pieces, which on the whole seems to have been a better way.  Undergraduate views of enjoyment have always however, been a little erratic.

How is the Maths progressing?  I suppose Mr. G. is not becoming any clearer in his exposition.  Your only way will be to work up the essentials from your text-books, using him as an index of the parts you are to read.

Mamma asks me to mention that she sent off your blouse yesterday and your boots to-day.

When you are in a hurry for money remember that you are able to get out a pound at a time from the P.O. Savings Bank without waiting for any intimation from London – just by presenting your book at the counter.

Our best love

Papa

Ref: 1992.50.64i/L25

Transcribed by Dawn Macdonald, Archive collections assistant

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on I don’t know whether Mamma told you of Matthew Russell’s visit… He was in one evening to see us, and has developed physically into quite a fine strapping lad. He has quite come out of his shell too. He has made an interesting generalisation from his experience when grooming and feeding horses – that the same horse will not try to bite and also to kick, that is, it will not be aggressive at both ends… Stornoway 24th Jan. 1917

We have just had a visit from Duncan Macaskill, Tarbert. He is the son of the lady from whom we bought your tweed. He is home on leave from Salonika and leaves again on Monday… He was giving us all the news of the boys at the front line. He told us that Donald Mackay had got the gold medal of St. George from the King of Serbia… Stornoway, 21st Jan. 1917

Extract from letter from Mrs Gibson to Jean Gibson, 21 Jan 1917

In this week’s letter to Jean, Mrs Gibson has news of two local engagements, and informs her of the presentation of a St George gold medal by the King of Serbia to a Lewis man involved in the War. 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

Dear She-ann,

Papa went down to the post-office this morning but your letter was not among those he got.  I was very much disappointed thinking we would not get one til Tuesday.  But as we were sitting down to breakfast Johnnie Fraser came to the back-door with it and said Jacko had not noticed it til Papa was gone.  We were very glad as you may imagine.  The collar and “Flappy Thing” are lovely.  Thank you so much.  I hope your frock will be nice.  Be sure you give me a particular account of it when you get it.  I hope too the Latin class party will be good.  We were very sorry to hear that Maud had not been well.  Tell her from me that she must be specially careful when coming out into the cold after being heated at work.  Glad she is now feeling better.

Miss Fraser’s successor is not to be here till March.  She is a Miss Gammack from Shettleston.  The latest school news is that Miss Annie Miller is engaged to Mr. Harriman.  They say she is 10 years older than he is which seems a pity, too much of a difference.  Miss Eva Macleod is also engaged to the man who is in charge of Sick Bay at the Battery. I don’t know his name or anything about him.

Papa and I were at Mr. Ewen’s to tea on Friday night.  They were very kind and we had quite a nice evening.

We have just had a visit from Duncan Macaskill, Tarbert.  He is the son of the lady from whom we bought your tweed.  He is home on leave from Salonika and leaves again on Monday to go straight back.  He was giving us all the news of the boys at the front line.  He told us that Donald Mackay had got the gold medal of St. George from the King of Serbia.  We are expecting Alec. Macaulay, Breasclete in tonight on his way back from leave.

You spoke just in time about your boots.  Seeing you had not replied when I offered to send them I naturally concluded you did not want them and meant to give them to Lil Lizzie, the milk maid.  However, I have them still.  I washed and ironed your blouse yesterday so it is all ready to be sent off.

I have not seen Mrs. Morison this year yet.  I always mean to go up but do not find the time.  I was at the sewing meeting on Wednesday but she never comes there now.  Barrie & ‘Lil’ Lissie are rolled up in two tight rolls at my feet on the study rug and Papa is sleeping in his big chair so no more at present.

From your loving Mother Did you get your down quilt?  Did you get your bank book?  Why She-anly(?) do not you say?

Ref: 1992.50.64i/L23

Transcribed by Dawn Macdonald, Archive collections assistant

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on We have just had a visit from Duncan Macaskill, Tarbert. He is the son of the lady from whom we bought your tweed. He is home on leave from Salonika and leaves again on Monday… He was giving us all the news of the boys at the front line. He told us that Donald Mackay had got the gold medal of St. George from the King of Serbia… Stornoway, 21st Jan. 1917

The Literary had a good debate on Wednesday on Women Suffrage – the affirmation won: 39 votes to 23… Stornoway, 19th Jan 1917

Extract from start of Mr Gibson’s letter to Jean Gibson 19th Jan. 1917

Last week’s letter prompted an interesting enquiry in regard to NI teacher Mr AJ Tait who became the headteacher of Portree School in 1924. We are discovering so many interesting connections as a result of this project so please do let us know if you have comments.

This week’s letter mentions Jean’s planned Aberdeen theatre trip to ‘The Arcadians’ – a long running Edwardian muscial comedy generally regarded by theatre historians as one of the best of its kind. Mr Gibson also gives news of the Literary Society’s debate on Women’s Suffrage which had resulted in a vote in favour. 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

Dear Little She-an,

I am very sorry you do not get your letter at the right time this week.  I did not remember last night that it was the letter evening until I came to wind up the clock at bedtime, though why I remembered then I do not know.  The New Year holidays had evidently put me off.  I’ll try to do better next week.

We were interested to hear about Prof.  Baillie’s lecture and Prof. Soddy’s chairmanship and the Residence’s discussion over the supper table.  Lucky folks, to be within reach of mental pabulum so entertaining.

Your Maths exam. marks, as the man said, show much progress – that is, from the first to the second.  Better luck next time as far as absolute standard goes!  Glad to hear of your visit to the Souters, and that Mr. T. turned up.  We wish we could come with you and Maud to “The Arcadians”.  We think Maud will enjoy Peter Doody.

Miss Fraser’s last day in school was Tuesday.  We miss her.  Miss Gammack, who is to succeed her, belongs to Insch, and is now teaching in Shettleston, near Glasgow.  She cannot come until 1st March.  Miss F. got presents from a lot of the classes – a toilette travelling case, a writing case, a suède hand-bag, a chain ditto, and the 6th gave her a gold curb bangle.

Our 2nd Term’s exams are due next week.  The Literary had a good debate on Wednesday on Women Suffrage – the affirmation won:  39 votes to 23.

I asked Barrie just now if I would send his love to you, and he looked amiable, which I suppose means “Yes”.

Best love from us both. Papa

Ref: 1992.50.64i/L22

Transcribed by Dawn Macdonald, Archive collections assistant

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Literary had a good debate on Wednesday on Women Suffrage – the affirmation won: 39 votes to 23… Stornoway, 19th Jan 1917

The chief event of interest here this week has been Miss Fraser’s farewell tea… It was a book tea which meant that each one had to go representing a book… Stornoway 14th January 1917

This week, Stornoway is still experiencing snow showers and Mrs Gibson’s letter explains what was meant by a ‘book tea’.  She uses the word ‘dull’ a couple of times in the letter where we would probably use the word ‘depressed’ today.  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.

Dear She-ann,

We were glad to know you were safely in Aberdeen again.  With such sunny cold weather one never knows what to expect.  Wasn’t it nice of Maud to send us a card which we got a day sooner than your letter.  She is a dear.  I am sorry I have not found time to see her mother yet but must try to do so and give Maud news of her soon.

The chief event of interest here this week has been Miss Fraser’s farewell tea on Friday after school.  It was a book tea which meant that each one had to go representing a book.  I forgot an old stocking and a darning needle for “It’s never to late to mend”.  However I got Mrs. Anderson, Mrs. Ewen and Mrs. Tait to sit with me and said we represented a book.  They guessed “Little Women” also “Good Wives” but we said “No”.  When every one failed we said we are “The Odd Women”.  Some of them wore a photo of Miss Fraser – “Our Mutual Friend” and so on.  Miss Fraser got a nice gold wristlet watch and Mr. Macrae replied for her.  Doubtless you will see it all in next week’s Gazette.   Today Papa and I were round the wharf after church between the snow-showers.  Nannie Morrison and her father and mother were coming off the Sheila.  Nannie goes tonight but does not know of any one else going tonight.  I hope some one nice may turn up.  Miss Angus did not return till Thursday night.  I saw her at Miss Fraser’s tea.  She said Bessie was in Edinburgh for a day.  She seemed to her rather dull.  I said that probably she had been working too hard.  She said Yes.  Bessie found it a hard grind and that the Science she got at school didn’t help her a bit it was all new.  She also said she had asked Katie Smith about this and she said “Oh yes all the good in the world because it taught us the way to go about learning.”  I do hope poor Bessie is discriminating.  I mean to write her soon.  You should write to Miss Angus Jean.  She was enquiring very kindly for you.

In regard to your Maths marks Jean, aren’t you glad you are the daughter of your father?  (Doesn’t that sound like a French exercise?)  However better luck next time, Goodwillie [Aberdeen University maths tutor] permitting.

Papa and I are not feeling so dull this time as we did in October but we miss you about the house and will be looking forward to the next time which won’t be so very long.  Love from us both.

Your loving Mother

Ref: 1992.50.64i/L21

Transcribed by Dawn Macdonald, Archive collections assistant

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on The chief event of interest here this week has been Miss Fraser’s farewell tea… It was a book tea which meant that each one had to go representing a book… Stornoway 14th January 1917

The snow has lain (the hens have not!) thick… with frequent renewals. Mamma has been down the town only once during the week to hunt for meat, and, as I told you, she got none. Butter is all done, margarine unobtainable, and for two days we have had no milk. If ‘lil Lizzie’ had not obtained half a dozen herring for 10d. on Saturday there is no knowing what state of lowness we wd. now be reduced to… Stornoway, 14 Jan. 1917

Mr Gibson’s letter to Jean gives an insight into the difficulties of obtaining food supplies during the War. A combination of the German submarine blockade and an unusually heavy and prolonged snowfall was making life very difficult for Stornoway residents in January 1917. 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,

No letter was written yesterday. I was in bed nursing my cold, and outside the snow blizzard continued. The hens have been out of their house only once since your departure. The snow has lain (the hens have not!) thick since, with frequent renewals. Mamma has been down the town only once during the week to hunt for meat, and, as I told you, she got none. Butter is all done, margarine unobtainable, and for two days we have had no milk. If ‘lil Lizzie’ [the Gibsons’ maid] had not obtained half a dozen herring for 10d. on Saturday there is no knowing what state of lowness we wd. now be reduced to.

I was out at school again today. In some of the Springfield Building classrooms the thermometers were at 32° F. We made a double session of it and dimissed at 1.30 to let them get thawed out. They were needing it.

Miss MacColl arrived on Friday morning after 2 o’clock. Their steamer from Tobermory earlier in the week had been turned back by a patrol boat on account of a submarine being in the vicinity. Fortunately I had Mrs Weiss’s help during her absence.  Miss Lillias Morison has resigned, and Miss Tolmie is to do so in a few days. She wants to get a change away from Stornoway for a bit. We are still advtg. in vain for lady assistants.

Mamma is busy knitting your belt, and Barrie makes frequent efforts to outflank her and get on her knee.

My paper on ‘Rural Education’ is published in full in this week’s’Educational News’. I left some of the little illustrative stories out, that I told them.

The Nat. Phil. result of 64% was quite good, and you’ll probably do better if your next one is a paper on Physics. Tell me about what you are going on to now. Were the Profs. satisfied with your reason for absence on the opening day? You seem to have been having quite a sociable first week judging from your visiting list. We were sorry to hear of Mrs Milne’s illness, and hope she will soon be better. Our love to Maud. Remember us to Miss Muriel and Miss Templeton and to Jean when next you are visiting and give them our New Year wishes.

This letter is not going to be posted tonight, as Mamma won’t let me go out in the deep snow to take it down to the office. I do not remember a long continued snow like this in Lewis before; though I was told there had been such a fall 38 years ago.

Our best love.

Papa

Ref: 1992.50.64i/L20

Transcribed by Seonaid McDonald, Archivist

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on The snow has lain (the hens have not!) thick… with frequent renewals. Mamma has been down the town only once during the week to hunt for meat, and, as I told you, she got none. Butter is all done, margarine unobtainable, and for two days we have had no milk. If ‘lil Lizzie’ had not obtained half a dozen herring for 10d. on Saturday there is no knowing what state of lowness we wd. now be reduced to… Stornoway, 14 Jan. 1917

‘Every year on the first Tuesday of July, the town of Stornoway presents a very busy appearance, the bright coloured dresses of the girls and the more sober colours of the boys ‘bests’ help to give a gay festive air to the scene.’ Market Day, c.1905

This week’s gem from the Gibson Collection is a beautifully evocative essay by Doldina MacLeod of Secondary Class III. The collection contains not just family correspondence, but also examples of Nicolson Institute pupils’ work. The account is so well written you could almost imagine you were there.

The Market

Every year on the first Tuesday of July, the town of Stornoway presents a very busy appearance, the bright coloured dresses of the girls and the more sober colours of the boys ‘bests’ help to give a gay festive air to the scene.

It is the ‘Market day’, the great event of the year to young Stornowegians and it has long been the custom of the Stornoway people to make high holiday on that day.

The ‘market’ had been instituted for the purpose of buying and selling cattle and, as so many people gathered together, advantage was taken of this concourse, by people who provided various amusements ‘to add entertainment to business.’

The fair is held in an open piece of land about a mile from Stornoway.  But we did not require to walk that great distance on ‘the market day’ oh no!  There were carriages provided for us.  We took our places in a large waggonette at the Post Office, and soon the vehicle was quite full of all sorts of people.  There were hard headed farmers and drovers arguing and haggling over prices and a few little boys and girls from the country who had just been round the town seeing the wonders of the ‘Baile Mor’ for the first time.  Whenever they are seated they begin munching something that looks very like gingerbread, it is the ‘Aran cridhe’ which is so much sought after at this season.  We start and soon we have passed Bayhead and are nearing the market.  On the way we pass crowds of people, a great many of whom are children from the country, and who stop in the middle of the road to gaze after us.  Some women that we pass seem to have great trouble in leading their cattle, which seem to have strong inclinations to go any road but the right one.  At the side of the road we see a blind man asking charity, his plate is not very full, containing about sixpence in coppers.  At last we come to the gate.  What a crush! men and women boys and girls cattle and horses all crowded together.  We manage to crush our way through and as we enter the market we are greeted by most harmonious cries of men and women advertising their specialities.  “French Nougat French Nougat’  “Three balls a penny yer sure to ‘it.”  “Try your luck no blanks.” “Ice cream”. Dis vay dis vay for bargains in vatches. Each trying to out-cry the rest.  We walk along and stop first at the much yelled ‘French nougat’  It is patronised by a mob of small boys, all looking very sticky.  We go next and look at the ice cream stall, it also is well patronised by the younger fry.  Close to the ice cream is a gambling table where older lads seem very busy losing money, at least the majority of them.  Away from the other stalls is a queer little tent made of brown sail cloth.  Inside this, a cup of tea can be got for a penny.  We noticed another queer looking construction made up of a great many things among which were one or two towels, a sheet and a table cloth.  Inside this also, tea was being dispensed.

The greatest feature of all is the caravan.  It is situated at a short distance from the gate.  Large bills are stuck all around announcing to the public that “a great match will take place between Snowball and Spider the champion wrestlers also a wrestling match between Snowball and the famous wrestling bear.  The fire eater also will give an exhibition of his powers” etc. etc. all this can be seen for the sum of threepence: and to give some idea of the wonders that are to be seen inside, a man stands on a platform outside, turning his handkerchief into a mouse, eating wool and taking money out of his ears and nose.  We left him swallowing a sword.

This is a description of ‘The Market’ two years ago.  Its old glory is gone and it seems in process of becoming extinct.  Advanced civilization and improvement have given us more refined and better amusements and we find them more entertaining than those rough and ready ones of older days.

Ref: 1992.50.44/E46

Transcribed by Barry Shelby, Museum Visitor Assistant

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ‘Every year on the first Tuesday of July, the town of Stornoway presents a very busy appearance, the bright coloured dresses of the girls and the more sober colours of the boys ‘bests’ help to give a gay festive air to the scene.’ Market Day, c.1905