Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Don't Mention the War, Circa 1915

Edith and Flora Nicholson 1913 at their sister Marion's wedding. On the lawn of Tighsolas, Richmond Quebec.

January 4, 1915

281 Old Orchard, Montreal

Dear Mother,

Have arrived her safely. Hugh was at the train to meet us, so we got on fine.  We were very comfortable on the train. Frank Sutherland and Jennie Wilson came and made us quite a visit.
I have my suitcase all unpacked and everything put away. You see, I have to be neat in my room or I can’t move around.

The baby slept all the way in. Had to waken her to dress her. So she is at perfect liberty to wail all night if she wishes after such good behavior.

I hope you won’t be sick after all the commotion and serving.  Edith will have a good chance to rest up before going to work.

I feel quite cheered up as Billie Snowden rang this evening and is coming up sometime this week. Me for the rich old men.

With love to Father and Edith, I bid you all good night.


This is a letter from 100 years ago. Flora Nicholson, Montreal teacher living with her married sister in  Notre Dame de Grace, Montreal, writes her parents back home in Richmond. She has just returned with her sister and sister's baby  from Richmond after celebrating Christmas.

The Nicholson wartime letters are all in my ebook NOT BONNE OVER HERE on Kindle..1914-1919

A century doesn't have any real meaning. It's about the Sun and Earth and our fingers. But we humans (here in the West) ascribe much meaning to that particular semi-arbitrary period of time.

That's so we can sort of understand it.

There are people alive who were around in 1915, although not many.

I've starting listening to the BBC Radio Four's Home Front, a week to week chronicle of a town in England in WWI. (Is it really going to go on for four years?)

It is very very good. I am still only in September 1914. 

Just as the letters in Not Bonne Over Here reveal, people in England did not expect WWI to last that long.

The characters in Home Front certainly do not.

The first hints of war in the Nicholson Letters (Not Bonne Over Here) come in 1915 - with only the men mentioning it in a very matter of fact way. These Scottish Canadians do not think it is a good thing. "The world is  in for a period of much bloodshed,' writes Dr. Moffat, from Vancouver, to his relation, Norman Nicholson, in Richmond, Quebec.

Then, later, come more mentions of war, but still mostly by the men. 

And then eventually the lady folk have to acknowledge that a terrible war is being waged and their emotions pour out in a tsunami of foreboding and grief.

Highlanders being inspected in New York. Somewhere in front is one Art White, friend of the Nicholsons. His brother, Ross, is Edith's war time beau and they corresponded. Ross, also a highlander,  was taken off duty to help with a Victory Bond campaign.

 The 'colourful' Highlanders were often used for recruitment purposes.