May 12th, 1916
My Dear Mother, Father and Brother:
Have a little spare time tonight and must write and tell you all about our trip to Bonnie Scotland. Tobegin at the beginning we got word after noon Friday that we had the next four days on furlough. We got ready as quickly as we could, got our passes and free tickets, and just caught the 3:58 train for London as she was pulling out of the station. We changed at Appeldore and Ashford and got into London about 7 p.m.. From Charing Cross Station we went to Lipton's, one of the most up-to-date restaurants in London where we had tea. We still had some three hours to the good before our train left for Scotland which we spent around Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, and the Strand. At 11 we went to Kings Cross Station where we took to the 11:30 train for Edinburgh. The train was not crowded and we had plenty of room, and slept well until morning. After that we could not afford to sleep. We passed through Newcastle-on-Tyne about 5 in the morning and crossed the Scottish border at about 6, and for 2 1/2 hours ran across the beautiful Scottish Lowlands, arriving in Edinburgh at 8:30. Here we had breakfast at the Edinburgh Grand Café, and spent an hour on Princess Street, walking down past the Castle and the Scott Monument. Then we returned to the Waverley Station and took the train for Glasgow, arriving at the Queen Street Station at 11:15. From the station we went directly to the Central YMCA where we got rooms for the night. This YMCA is probably the largest branch in the world. The building is nine stories high and besides all regular YMCA work they give sleeping accommodation and meals at very reasonable prices. We left our haversacks and coats in our rooms and went out to explore the city. First we went to the dry docks. Glasgow you know is noted for shipbuilding and here you will find the
greatest dry docks in the world. They are certainly wonderful. Here we saw ships of all descriptions under construction. When the ships are ready for launching, the water is let in through the gates, until the gate between the dock and the water is afloat. Then this large gate is towed away by tugs, and the boat, be she a ferry boat or a super dreadnought is ready to launch.
While on one of the piers we saw a passenger boat pull out for Canada, and some of the passengers as they passed, noticing that we were Canadians, shouted good luck and waved to us. This seemed a mere trifle, and so it was, but to us at the time it seemed a very real connecting link between us and home.
From the docks we've returned to the YMCA at about 1:00 and had dinner and a wash up. At 2 we went out again and, first, to the Royal Theater to book seats for the play that night. Then we walked down past Central Station, the largest in Glasgow and possibly in Scotland, and spent an hour in the business section. Then we went to the Square where we saw in the center a splendid monument to Sir Walter Scott, and, among the others surrounding it, one to David Livingstone, who was born just outside of Glasgow. Facing down the Square are the splendid municipal buildings, and just behind them, the Bank of Scotland, the most beautiful building in all Glasgow. From here we went out past Glasgow University. Had a few minutes in the Art Galleries, and back by way of the Cathedral and Necropolis, which is one of the prettiest spots in Glasgow.
By this time it was nearly 6:00 and we went back for supper. After supper we spent half an hour walking around and at 7:30 went to the Royal. The play," The Law of Promise" was Canadian and one of the best successes now being staged. It was western, put on by a first-class company, and very true-tolife. The heroine, Nora, a beautiful girl from Tunbridge Wells, who had been a rich ladies' companion at home found on her employer's death that she was destitute, owing to the last will leaving her 500 pounds a year, being lost, - an earlier will leaving all to the lady's nephew being the only one
that could be found. Unable to secure a position she went to western Canada. But here work was equally scarce. Her brother had been unfortunate with his crops, and rather then stay and be a burden to him, she, in a fit of passion, married a man she hated. He was decidedly western, she with her gentle upbringing knew little of western customs. He also had been unfortunate with his crops, but the year they were married the crop was a splendid success. Meanwhile each had many lessons to learn, and slowly but surely they learned them, and as they learned, their criticisms and enmity died down and in its place sprang up a friendship akin to love. On the second summer the crop was more flourishing than ever, but he found that in it was a great deal of mustard. This meant ruin for the crop
which must be destroyed. The very day that the inspector came and condemned the crop, Nora's brother came bringing her some English mail and in the mail were two letters, one offering her a good position at home, and the other telling her that the will had been found leaving her 500 pounds a year. Her husband was ruined and advised her to return to England to her friends, but she, only then realizing her love for him, stayed and bought for him another quarter section free from all pests, and they made for themselves on the Manitoba prairie a home such as she had often dreamed of but never expected to see.
The next day Sunday was the best of our trip and the biggest day we have had yet. We were up at 8:00, had breakfast at 8.30, and started on the tramcar from the Central Station for Loch Lomond. Loch Lomond is 25 miles from Glasgow and we were two hours running out, arriving at the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond at 11:30. It was dull, and consequently not so beautiful as on a clear day. However it was as a near to perfect as one could wish for. The Loch is 27 miles long and as you know runs right up into the Highlands. We took a notion to run most of the way up the Loch. It was q trip of a lifetime. Talk about beauty! It is impossible to describe it; it is almost impossible to realize it. The lower part of the Loch is probably a mile wide, in a lower part of country and with no islands. But as you get up farther you get right in among the hills and islands. One minute you appear to be running right into the highlands, and next a sudden turn brings you round the end of an island and you see the Loch stretching out for a short distance before you, to be hidden again among the hills
The rugged strength of the hills, covered by their new carpet of green verdure, blends with the calm surface of the Loch and its numerous islands, scattered at intervals to form of picture which no poet could describe nor artist paint in half its beauty. Of the islands, Swan Highlands is probably the largest and most beautiful. Passing through the Less
Straits we sailed right up by it towards the hills. In the distance, directly ahead of us rose Ben Lomond, highest of all the surrounding group, its peaks still capped with snow and, in the slight Scotch mist that was falling at the time, presenting as pretty a picture as nature can show to mortal eye. Another pretty little spot that we passed quite near was the Inversnaid (?) Falls, - a little mountain stream emptying into the Loch.
Leaving the Loch, we went to Balioch House and had our dinner and supper in one, and started back towards Glasgow. On our way back we stopped off at Dunbarton and went through Dunbarton Castle, that splendid old structure which has played such an important part in a history of Scotland. The Castle is built on a high mound which rises almost perpendicularly out of the ground. To get to the top we went up 365 steps, one for every day of the year. From the top of the castle we got a splendid view of the surrounding country, and, built as it is on the Clyde, it holds a very commanding position. Our time here was somewhat short as it was growing late but we got a pretty good look at the Castle. The most interesting place we saw was the cell - or rather dungeon - for it was really a dungeon - where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned for some time. Inside the castle we saw the first steam boat engine built. It was set up on a plot just the slope and size of the boat on which it was used. It was built by Robert Napier in the 1824 for the "Leven", which plied between Dunbarton and Glasgow. We had intended to go to Kirk on the Sunday night, but it was late when we got in, so we went right to the YMCA, had of hot bath and went to bed. Monday was our last day and we wanted to make good use of it so we decided to have a good night's sleep.
Monday morning we were up early and went to Edinburgh on the 9:30 train getting in about 10:35. We spent an hour at seeing the sites in a bus then went Kenilworth Temperance Hotel - engaged rooms for the night and had our dinner. Immediately after dinner we went to Holyrood Palace, the home of the Scottish Kings It and especially
interesting for the part it played in the life of Mary Queen of Scots. First we were taken into the dining hall, a great room 150 feet long and 30 feet wide. It is in this hall that the present King George dines on his trips to Scotland. Around the walls are hung portraits of all of the Scottish Kings from Fergus, the first known Scottish leader about 300 B.C. to James II of England and VII of Scotland. The furniture in this hall is very interesting being among the oldest in the palace.
From the dining hall we went to Mary's bed chamber which could be reached either by the grand staircase or by Queen Mary's secret stair which ran from her bed chamber down to the dining hall and thence to the Chapel Royal. Queen Mary's bed, 6 x 6 with a great canopy over it stands just as it was when it was occupied, while around the room is the old furniture which was used by the Queen. Opening directly to the left of the bed is Queen Mary's dressing room, while to the rear of the bed is her supping room, a little room about 8 x 10. It was in this room that Rizzio was murdered while supping with the Queen. His body was then dragged through Mary's bed chamber into the adjoining room, where he was left lying by the door all night. The murderers escaped down Queen Mary's
secret stair into the Chapel Royal and thence to safety.
From Mary's room we went down to the Chapel Royal where a Mary married Bothwell. The roof of this chapel has fallen in twice and was not rebuilt after the last time.
Two things that interested us were: the Scotch Thistle with motto "Ye dare no Meddle wi' Me" below it, and the portraits of Queen Mary and John Knox facing each other across an arch. Our guide, who tried to be witty, told us about their enmity. But he added: "they are all right now - of course they are not in the same place". Outside the Palace we saw the Sundial used by Queen Mary which is a very accurate.
From Holyrood we went to John Knox' house where we spent a few minutes. Here was the old furniture and old portraits on the wall just as in the old days when Knox lived there by himself. We saw his dining room, his bed chamber and most interesting of all his study. Here we saw the first Bible printed in Scotland, and signed our names in a big book with the very pen that John Knox used, and consequently much the worse for the wear. We also saw in one of the rooms a helmet and the Bible John Knox used.
From here we went to that Nelson Monument which is 450 feet above sea level, 110 above the ground on which it stands, and about 200 above the street level. From the top obviously we got a splendid view of Edinburgh especially of the Castle and of Holyrood. Before going down again we carved our names along with hundreds of others in the top of the Monument. The next place we went to was the castle which stands on an imposing position right in the heart of the city. We did not have very long here but saw the most interesting part of it. On the top of the castle is a 20 inch gun forged at Mons in 1486 from which round balls of granite were fired. On the parade ground in front of the castle we saw a Highland battalion drilling, and it certainly was a pretty sight. Leaving the castle we went down Princess Street to the Scott Monument, a splendid piece of architecture 200 ft. 6 in. high, 180 feet to top of gallery, and with 287 steps, and surrounded by some of the most beautiful gardens imaginable. It is such scenery as this that tends to make Princess Street, which runs by the Monument, the most beautiful street in the world. Later we saw the Burns and Wellington monuments, but they cannot compare with those of Scott and Nelson.
From the Scott Monument we went to the Art Galleries which lie a little distance from Princess Street where we spent 15 minutes. Then we took a taxi and went out to the Firth of Forth Bridge. On our way out we passed some real Highland cattle. They are scraggy and resemble the buffalo very much. The Forth Bridge is the largest bridge in the world. It is a 8076 feet long to 28 feet high and the spans are about 200 feet long. It took 5000 men seven years working night and day, to build it at the cost of 2,000,000 pounds, five times of the cost of the Hillsboro Bridge [in Charlottetown]. Below the bridge is a naval base of the North Sea fleet. Here we saw a number of first class battle ships and a large flotilla of smaller craft. Among the battle ships we saw were the "Lion", Admiral Beattie's flagship, damaged in the fight with the "Bluchin (?)"; the "Princess Royal", his new flagship; and the largest "Princess Mary" and the fastest of all, the "Tiger". On our way back we passed the two principal universities of Edinburgh; Lord Roseberry's estate, and most interesting of all the "Suicide Bridge", which is a short bridge some 600 feet high. It is estimated that, until the railing was raised a few years ago, 12 persons on the average committed suicide over the bridge every year.
We got back to Edinburgh about 7, had supper and went to Edinburgh's best theatre, the Empire, where we saw a mixed entertainment, Push and Go, which was splendidly acted.
The next morning we left on the 7:45 train for London. It was a splendid trip down across the Lowlands of Scotland and through England. During the day we passed Dunbar and crossing the Tweed stopped at Berwick, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Durham, Darlington., York and Peterboro arriving in London at 5 p.m..
Our passes were off at 12 midnight, but we wanted to stay in London to see "The Birth of a Nation" at Drury Lane Theatre. Our train was due at 4:15 but was 50 minutes late. There was also a train due at 6:15. The last train out of London for Lydd was at 7:05. So to clear ourselves we sent a telegram at 7:10 saying: "train from Scotland an hour late. Did not make connections". And signed all our names which was all quite true, our train was an hour late and we did not make connections. We did not say we could not. Anyway we stayed and went to Drury Lane which is the most up-to-date theatre in London, and among those present were Queen Mary and the Queen Mother. "The Birth of a Nation" was on - a picture representation of Dixon's "Clansman" and it is supposed to be the most
high-class picture now being shown. It was certainly a wonderful reproduction, every incident and detail being brought out. We were by no means sorry we stayed over, especially when the Sergeant Major said at 10 the next morning "You boys sent a wire explaining your absence. You are all right".
The five of us, Lawson, Roy, Bart, Art Johnstone and I, arrived in Lydd at 9:55 as happy a bunch I venture to say as you would find in any camp in England. Warren had planned on coming with us but had a bad cold and thought he was not able to travel. It was quite a disappointment to him but he will get a next trip.
We had hoped to see Stirling also but did not have time. In fact I think we did well to see what we did which was as much, if not more than anyone else in the battery got around to seeing. We have been in England six months and in that time besides our regular work we have seen on our area trips to: the southern, eastern and midland parts of England and most interesting and important parts of Scotland and in the next six we hope to see France, perhaps Belgium and best of all Germany.
Monday evening: Have been having spells on this letter when I have time and imagine it is pretty well mixed up. However the postcards will give you a good idea of the places and they will be able to tell you about them much better then I can write. Now I have a little bit of good news. The results of our examination were published today and my name appeared second in the list. A fellow from the Headquarters Staff - and old signaller - was first. I made ? in all the signaling tests, 100 percent in the oral exam and 98 percent in the written.
Now I must try and answer your two last letters. You ask if I had a letter from Stirlings. Yes I had a nice long one from Mrs.S. Am going to write as soon as I get time. You speak about your parcel. It was splendid. The stuff was not spoiled at all. I got a pair of socks from Mrs. Green and a parcel containing socks and eats from Laura Gordon a few days ago. Don't know what I will do with all my socks. I have a lot more than I can take across with me. Our work is not very hard on socks and the people at home are too good along that line. I have given away a couple of pairs already though almost everybody is the same - they have more than they need.
You think I must have had a bad attack of measles because they kept me in bed 10 days. That was their time for everybody - sick or not. I was never a bit sick. It was just a good rest for me. Many thanks for sending "Witnesses". It will be very acceptable when we get across as reading matter will be scarce and we will have a lot of time on our hands.
We leave Lydd on Thursday for Newbury where we go under canvas for a couple of week's rest. It will be quite a treat to get under canvas again for after all it is the best life. We hope to get across by about the tenth of June. We have done well in Lydd and if we don't give a good account of ourselves when we get across I miss my guess. You will never have an opportunity of being ashamed of the 98th, especially while Major Prowse is in charge and we have the bunch of officers we have now. Practically every man has made good. The specialists especially have done splendid work. We had our last medical
examination today and men came out of it fine. The doctor said I was in splendid condition. I never felt fitter in my life.
You should see us now, - sunburned and muscled up. The 98th can put up a sturdy looking bunch of men. In sports we have been able to take the lead with anything we have come up against. Our tug-of-war team has never been beaten, and in baseball we have proven ourselves equal to any team we have played.
I mentioned my assigned pay in one of my letters. If you are not getting it next me know and if you are I want you to put it towards installing a telephone. Now don't say you are going to keep it for me. I want you to use it for that and will be disappointed if you don't so please do.
Am sending some postcards and am going to send a parcel with a few little trinkets in a few days. Let me know if they all show up. Now think I must close. Your eyes will be sore long before you have finished reading this mixed up scrawl. Will write again the last of the week. Am sending Clemmie a letter but have not time to describe the trip so fully so this will do for all but remember no letters of mine for publication. I don't believe in this "Another letter from the front" business. It has been carried too far.
Love to all from your soldier son, Harold