Going to the pictures

Nowadays, we can stream a film directly to our mobile devices or TVs to watch at our own convenience. Gone are the days when hundreds of children would spend a morning or afternoon queuing up noisily to see the latest adventures of Hopalong Cassidy, Abbot and Costello, The Lone Ranger and Laurel and Hardy, to name a few. These were times when films were shown continuously, which meant you could spend hours at the cinema, if you managed to keep out of sight of an usherette!

The first purpose built cinema to open in Edinburgh was The Haymarket Cinema opening in 1912. In 1914, The Cameo (then called The Kings Cinema) opened, and is one of the oldest cinemas still open in Scotland. It was estimated that by 1917 there were 24 cinemas in Edinburgh. When the Edinburgh Playhouse Theatre opened in 1929, it was the city’s first super cinema, able to seat up to 3000 people.

Cameo Cinema, Tollcross, Edinburgh

The Cameo Cinema, opened in 1914

Talkies arrived in the late 1920s, but before then cinema operators would enhance the viewing experience by using music and orchestras or adding their own home-made sounds for effects such as horses’ hooves, pistol shots and explosives.

Children’s Saturday film clubs with songs, quizzes and safety-first films were extremely popular, the first one started in the New Tivoli in 1934. There was even a song for the ABC Cinema club, which would be sung enthusiastically at the beginning of the proceedings.

We are the boys and girls well known as

Minors of the ABC,

And every Saturday all line up

To see the films we like and shout with glee

We like to laugh and have our sing-song

Just a happy crowd are we-e

We’re all pals together

We’re Minors of the ABC

Tivoli Cinema, Gorgie Road, Edinburgh

The Tivoli, Gorgie.

Alas, most of the cinemas built in the 20s and 30s no longer exist. These were built in the heyday of Art Deco and were magnificent to look at, both inside and out. Many were turned into Bingo Halls or demolished.

George (formerly County) Cinema, Portobello

The George (formerly County) cinema, Portobello

Edinburgh has one of Britain’s last remaining independently-run cinemas. The Dominion Cinema in Morningside opened in 1938 and is still owned and run by the Cameron family. Erected in only 3 months, The Dominion was one of the last and most characteristic Art Deco buildings in Edinburgh.

Dominion Cinema, Newbattle Terrace

The Doninion Cinema, Morningside

Edinburgh is also host to the longest continually running film festival in the world, The Edinburgh International Film Festival. Established in 1947, it originally viewed documentary films and as its reputation grew expanded to incorporate international films. EIFF’s success has continued and notable films premiered include Brave, the Hurt Locker, Billy Elliot, Little Miss Sunshine, and this year, a remake of the 1949 film Whisky Galore!

DSC00576

The Filmhouse, Edinburgh, host of the EIFF

Edinburgh has also featured in many films. One of the earliest, The Body Snatcher (1945) featuring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, was based on the short story of the same name by Robert Louis Stevenson. With many references to Burke, Hare and Dr Knox, it was marketed as “The screen’s last word in shock sensation”!

Another film adaption from a book by Edinburgh author Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was released in 1969 and featured Edinburgh heavily.  Donaldson’s School (now Edinburgh Academy) on Henderson Row stood in for Marcia Blaine School for Girls, and when Jean leads her charges on a tour of the city, the Grassmarket, the Vennel, Edinburgh Castle and Greyfriars Churchyard all feature.

The Vennel

The Vennel

Probably the most well known film featuring Edinburgh is Trainspotting, and yes by yet another Edinburgh author, Irvine Welsh. Although the book is based in Edinburgh, Leith in particular, very little of it was actually filmed here. One very famous scene was though, Renton and Spud being chased by security staff along Princes Street.

Princes Street, looking west, Edinburgh

Princes Street

To see more photos of Edinburgh Cinemas, some now long gone, visit Capital Collections.

 

All that jazz and blues!

With the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival running 15-24 July 2016 the Music Library is enjoying all things jazz.

Display of Library material
Whether your tastes are 1920s traditional jazz or the cutting edge of contemporary musicians, the Music Library can satisfy your interests with CDs, DVDs, sheets music, biographies of your favourite musicians, and books on the history of jazz and blues. View just some of our material to get your interests going.  We’re showcasing some of our stock on offer in a special display alongside archive material from the Edinburgh Jazz Archive located in the Music Library.

Andrew Lauder playing trumpet

Andrew Lauder on trumpet

This year’s festival is committed to showcasing new talent and will be introducing audiences to some of the rising stars alongside established names. Listen to many of these names – new and old – on the go, at home, or in the Music Library with Naxos Music Library Jazz music streaming service – all you need is a library card.

Every picture tells a story – Bill Hall’s Family Album

Many of us have photo albums at home; possibly passed on from other members of the family all packed with photographs of loved ones at various stages in their lives.

While researching the Union Canal for an Our Town Story, we contacted Bill Hall who had a fantastic photograph of a relative that we wanted to use. During our conversation, he happened to mentioned that he had many others spreading right across his family, also a photo album packed full of photographs, would we be interested in seeing them?

The images in the album, date from the early 1900s through to the 1970s covering various events along the way.

There are studio portraits, very popular in the days before most families had their own cameras, everyone posing in their ‘Sunday best’.  Informal photographs of days at the seaside and outings on steamboats down the Clyde.

Margaret and Willie McCubben

Margaret and Willie McCubben, relatives on Bill’s mother’s side

Several of the photos show one member of the family, Archie Tait, a former ploughman at Wilkie’s Basin near Ratho. Archie had joined Edinburgh City Police in 1914 before enlisting with the army in 1915. He and his two cousins became Lovat Scouts which in 1916 became the British Army’s first sniper unit, then known as sharpshooters.  All three survived the war and Archie returned to the police force as a mounted policeman.

Archie Tait with Peter and Andrew Clark his cousins

Archie Tait (Bill’s great-great-uncle) with his cousins, Peter and Andrew Clark

An historical moment was captured and put in the album – the Airship R101’s endurance trial voyage which flew over Edinburgh on 17th November 1929.  The R101 was one of a pair of British Airships that were built as part of a British government programme to develop civil airships capable of service on long-distance routes within the British Empire. The trial flight flew over the North of England to Edinburgh and Glasgow and then over the Irish Sea to Dublin.

R 101 Airship over Edinburgh rooftops

R 101 Airship over Edinburgh rooftops

Like many family albums, there are photographs of people that no one recognises. Most get thrown away for that reason, but more often than not, they are kept in the hope that someone will eventually say…”oh, that’s Aunty so and so”. Bill can’t help us with this one below, but it is a great example of the type of prop that many studio photographers used for family portraits in Edwardian times. Backdrops and objects were used to create illusions, days at the sea side, or in this case a family on a drive in the countryside.

Unidentified family

Unidentified family

In Bill’s album a few pages have the photos removed, maybe lost over the years or perhaps given to other members of the family; all that’s left are the photo corners showing where they once were.

Browse all the wonderful pictures from Bill Hall’s family album on Capital Collections.

Japanese handscroll returns from conservation

Last week, we unveiled a rare and beautiful early 18th century Japanese handscroll, which has returned to Edinburgh Central Library after a two year restoration process in the Netherlands.

We found the 300-year-old painted scroll, created by Japanese artist Furuyama Moromasa, in our special collections in 2012 – it had lain unnoticed for many years.

We worked with National Museums Scotland to secure funding from the Sumitomo Foundation to restore the scroll to its former glory. Restorient Studios, specialist restorers based in Leiden, the Netherlands, did the work. They relined the scroll, consolidated the pigments to reduce the impact of aging, and they provided a custom-made silk casing.

Councillor Richard Lewis, Edinburgh’s Culture and Sport Convener, said, “It is fantastic to see this striking painting so beautifully restored, thanks to generous funding from The Sumitomo Foundation.

“It is also down to the enthusiasm of libraries staff, alongside National Museums Scotland’s curators, that this artwork has been rediscovered and given the attention it deserves.”

Dr Rosina Buckland, Senior Curator, National Museum of Scotland, said: “Edinburgh Central Library holds a rare and beautiful Japanese painting, created three hundred years ago, presenting the theatre district of historic Tokyo (then known as Edo).

“To ensure their preservation, East Asian paintings must undergo a complex process of remounting periodically. We are extremely grateful to the Sumitomo Foundation for generously funding this delicate and specialized conservation work, which will allow the painting to be put on display for the public’s enjoyment.”

DSC_3450 copyscroll image

The scroll is called ‘Theatres of the East’, and it shows a street scene in the theatre district of Edo, Tokyo. The daughter of Henry Dyer, a Scottish engineer who played a major role in revolutionising the Japanese education system, donated it to the Central Library in 1945.

Now that the scroll has been restored, it will go on public display in the National Museum of Scotland’s new East Asia Gallery from 2018.

Images of the scroll before its restoration are currently available to view on the Capital Collections website.

Scottish Women’s Hospitals

Part five in our There’s a Long Long Trail A-Winding Series

When war broke out in August 1914, the people of Britain clamoured to do what they could to support the war effort. Men volunteered for the army and others set about establishing relief units to help the army or provide assistance to civilians and refugees. The Scottish Women’s Hospitals were one of those – yet they were also very different, because, right from the beginning, they were set up with two very specific aims: firstly, to help the war effort by providing medical assistance and secondly, and equally importantly, to promote the cause of women’s rights and by their involvement in the war, help win those rights.

The SWH’s original idea was set up a hospital in Edinburgh to help treat the war wounded.  However this was soon abandoned in favour of setting up hospitals in the field, close to the fighting. Fundraising commenced and by the end of August 1914 more than five thousand pounds had been raised.

Scottish Women's Hospitals Fund flag day badge

Scottish Women’s Hospitals fund flag day badge

The SWH founder Dr Elsie Inglis approached the War Office with the idea of medical units being allowed to serve on the Western Front. The offer was turned down and she was told by an official “My good lady, go home and sit still”. Undeterred, the hospital was offered to Britain’s allies and the Scottish Women’s Hospitals operated in France, Macedonia, Greece, Corsica, Romania and Russia, but the majority of their work was to help Serbia, all staffed by volunteer doctors, nurses, orderlies and ambulance drivers.

Conditions in Serbia were dire; the army had less than 300 doctors to serve more than half a million men. By the winter of 1915 Serbia could hold out no more, and were forced to retreat into Albania. The SWH had a choice to make, stay and go into captivity or go with the retreating army into Albania. Some stayed and several including Elsie Inglis were taken prisoner and later repatriated to Britain. The army retreated over the mountains with no food, shelter or help, suffering many casualties.

Following her repatriation to Britain in February 1916, Elsie Inglis set about equipping and staffing a hospital to serve in Russia. It served in southern Russia and in Romania, providing medical help to the Serbian Division of the Russian Army. This division was made up from Serbs and Yugoslavs who had been taken prisoner by the Russians but had volunteered to fight for the allies. The SWH once again had to retreat. The hospital was withdrawn and they sailed back from Archangel to the UK. The day after they returned back, Elsie Inglis who had been ill for some time, died.

Towards the end of the war the SWH in Serbia provided medical care to soldiers, civilians and prisoners of war. A new fixed hospital was established in Vranje and by early 1919 this was handed over to the Serbian authorities bringing to an end the SWH. Most SWH members returned home and resumed their pre-war lives, others stayed behind to continue to provide medical care in Serbia.

Over 1,000 women from many different backgrounds and many different countries served with the SWH. Only medical professionals such as doctors and nurses received a salary, all others were expected to pay their own way. Some women joined because it was one of the few opportunities open to women to actively help the war effort, for others it was the rare chance for adventure.

Scottish Women's Hospitals nurses at Wilton Hotel, London. Image kindly reproduced with permission from Glasgow City Archives

Scottish Women’s Hospitals nurses at Wilton Hotel, London. Image kindly reproduced with permission from Glasgow City Archives

The women involved are known and revered in Serbia. There are statues, monuments and streets named after them, yet in their home countries they have been virtually overlooked.

In December 2015 the British Embassy teamed up with Serbian Post to celebrate the efforts of the SWH. The stamps are part of a wider campaign by the British Embassy in Belgrade aimed at highlighting more than 600 British women who contributed to the war effort in Serbia. Five Scots women who worked as doctors, nurses and drivers feature on the new stamps. A sixth English woman, Captain Flora Sandes, who was the only British female to bear arms during WW1, is also remembered.

The five Scots are:

  • Evelina Haverfield – British suffragette and humanitarian worker. She was the chief administrator of Scottish Women Hospitals in Serbia and set up one of the first local orphanages.
  • Dr Elsie Inglis – campaigner for women’s suffrage and the founder of the Scottish Women Hospitals in Serbia. Dr Inglis was one of the first female graduates at the University of Edinburgh.
  • Dr Elizabeth Ross – one of the first women to obtain a medical degree at the University of Glasgow. She travelled to Serbia as a volunteer and tragically passed away during the typhoid epidemic in 1915.
  • Dr Katherine MacPhail OBE – involved in humanitarian work in Serbia throughout WW1. She is remembered for opening the first paediatric ward in Belgrade in 1921.
  • Dr Isabel Emslie Galloway Hutton – joined the Scottish Women Hospitals as a volunteer in 1915 after she was turned away by the War Office in London. She served in France, Greece and Serbia until 1920.
Serbian stamps commemorating heroines from the Scottish Women's Hospitals

Serbian stamps commemorating heroines from the Scottish Women’s Hospitals

Read the previous installments in this series about Ethel Moir and the Scottish Women’s Hospital:

There’s a Long Long Trail A-Winding (part 1)

There’s a Long Long Trail A-Winding (part 2)

There’s a Long Long Trail A-Winding (part 3)

Our search for Ethel (part 4)

 

Our search for Ethel

Part four in our ‘There’s a Long Long Trail A-Winding’ series

Janette, Library Services Officer with the Libraries’ Digital Team tells how some genealogy research enabled us to find Ethel’s family:

Back in 2012 when we were making preparations to mark the centenary of the start of World War One, and with the help of volunteers from Glasgow Women’s Library, we started transcribing diaries in our collections which had belonged to Ethel Moir, a member of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals (SWH). The two diaries together with a photo album had been gifted to us in 1968 by a ‘Miss Moir’, presumed to be, Ethel herself. The diaries, covered in purple cloth with the initials E.M. hand sewn on the cover, contained the handwritten account of her time with a SWH Unit including drawings, photos and newspaper clippings.

Title page from Ethel Moir Diary, volume 1

Title page from Ethel Moir Diary, volume 1

Moving forward to 2014, I was tasked to work on the material to add information to the records so that the diaries could be made available online.

As I started reading the diaries, I found myself getting more and more involved in what the pages held. Whilst doing some family history research of my own at the ScotlandsPeople Centre, I typed in Ethel’s name and found that she had died here in Edinburgh aged 89, in the district of Morningside where I was brought up. A swift calculation told me that she was born in 1885, I now had two solid pieces of information, and I was hooked!  I love digging away and doing a bit of detective work, and I wanted to find out more about this 32 year old middle class doctor’s daughter from Inverness, who had given up a presumably very comfortable life and joined the SWH in war-torn Serbia. Much to the amusement of my colleagues, I was becoming a bit obsessive about ‘Our Ethel’ and thought there must be a story to discover. What had started as an information inputting task had suddenly grown much bigger!

As many who have decided at some point to research their family tree, I started with what I could find online. My initial search started in the Library and with our free access to Ancestry, I found several vital pieces of information. One of the earliest entries, was a New York Passenger List from 17 April 1884, where a 3 month old Ethel was leaving her birthplace Belize, British Honduras, on board the S.S. Loch Tay, headed for Scotland via New York! The list gave me a wee bit more information about her family. I now knew that she had travelled with her mother and father (a doctor) and sister “Nellie”.

Dr John Moir, father of Ethel

Dr John Moir, father of Ethel. Reproduced by kind permission of the Calder Family.

Another passenger list, this time from 1888 has the 4 year old Ethel, travelling with her mother Jessie and siblings Helen (Nellie), twin sisters Ida and Olive and a brother John en route on the S.S. Aguan from Port Antonio, Jamaica heading for Boston, Massachusetts. They were certainly getting around!

Jessie Moir, mother of Ethel.

Jessie Moir, mother of Ethel. Reproduced by kind permission of the Calder Family.

Census returns provide us with lots of information; they are carried out on one specific day every 10 years, the first one in Scotland was 1841.Through Census returns I was able to gather more bits and pieces. In the 1891 Census I found the family, minus father John, staying with Ethel’s grandfather, a farmer in Dairsie, Fife. I now discovered that Jessie (Ethel’s mother) had been born in Forfarshire. The 1901 Census has the family staying at Ardross Terrace in Inverness. This census gives information for Douglas, a new brother for Ethel, who had been born 6 years earlier. One interesting detail in this 1891 Census, is that for some reason all the children whose previously recorded place of birth was British Honduras, now have their birth place as Dundonald, Ayrshire! (A mystery I have still to solve).

The last available Census in 1911 finds the family still at Ardross Terrace, and contains yet more information than previous years. The Census for that year asked additional questions, the number of persons in the house (8) and “particulars as to the marriage”. Included in this was the questions how many children born alive (7) and how many still living (6), we therefore know that Ethel had another sibling who died in infancy.

Douglas Moir younger brother of Ethel, killed in World War 1

Douglas Moir younger brother of Ethel, killed in World War 1. Reproduced by kind permission of the Calder Family.

At this point and with all the other information I was beginning to gather, we decided to take it a step further and see if we could find a living relative of Ethel’s. We knew the names and approximate birth dates of everyone so now the real detective work began. We knew that Ethel, her elder sister Helen and younger sister Ida had never married. Her younger brother Douglas had died in World War One aged 23, and we’d found no evidence of him marrying. That only left younger brother John Ernest and sister Olive. Now was the time to make a visit to the National Records of Scotland. In order to view any of their records you first have to join, so with a decidedly dodgy photograph, clutched in my hand I made my way up to the Historical Search Room. Membership completed and without a second glance at the aforementioned photo, I set about ordering some documents. One of them proved most helpful: Ethel’s will. Here I found confirmation that Olive was now a Mrs Calder and in handwriting that was very familiar to me, a list of bequests to a niece and nephew. This is when I roped in John one of our volunteers and while I concentrated on the Ethel trail, John was tasked with tracking down a living relative!

John takes up the story here:

Ethel’s father’s will had revealed that Olive Moir had married William Calder and their address at the time (1926) was Oxenrig, Coldstream. Ethel’s will told us that Olive and William had two children, Helen Bell and William Allan. Further searching found that William Allan had married Isobel Margaret Sturrock.

Ethel's younger twin sisters Ida and Olive Moir

Ethel’s younger twin sisters Ida and Olive Moir. Reproduced by kind permission of the Calder Family.

Ethel’s will also revealed a small legacy to an Allan and one to a Jill, but who were they?  We assumed that Allan was in fact William Allan Calder and found evidence to back this up. We’d found a death record for Isobel Margaret Calder, (Allan’s wife), but Jill, remained a mystery. That was until, a lucky online search for Jill Calder returned an obituary for someone (nee Sturrock) from Coldstream who had died in 2011. Finally we’d worked it out – Jill Calder was the name Isobel Margaret went by!

Another piece of information found in the death record for Isobel was to turn out to be the lead we were looking for. The informant of the death was a Maureen Calder, with an Edinburgh address. We decided to send her a letter…

Janette resumes the story:

By this time, I had been reading quite a lot of articles and books about the SWH, and had found a fascinating website www.scottishwomenshospitals.co.uk, that had been created by a gentleman called Alan Cumming. I decided to contact Alan to see if he could fill me in with answers to my growing list of questions. After speaking to him at some length, it seemed that my next port of call should be The Mitchell Library in Glasgow. Alan told me that they retained all the archives for the SWH and that is where he had done most of his research. He also warned me that the SWH had kept ‘everything’. I contacted the Mitchell Archives and asked if I could get some kind of idea what they held, a few days later one of their archivists, very helpfully provided me with a list… all 96 A3 pages of it. Alan hadn’t been exaggerating!

Having ordered in advance some of the documents I was interested in, I set out on the train to Glasgow. The Mitchell Library is perfectly situated, just across the road from the train station. I headed up to the Archives on the 5th floor. A quick chat with the staff at the desk and the items that I had ordered were ready for me to look at. My starting point was an item listed as “correspondence – M – Z”. Expecting the box to contain a few dozen letters, I was faced with a box containing hundreds. I ploughed through them hoping to find something with a reference to Ethel, but to no avail. I then had another look at the archive list and came across personnel records. I ordered them and this time I was in luck. I started looking through a folder containing various letters from Ethel herself, and also one from her father. He had contacting the offices of the SWH saying that he had heard from Ethel in Petrograd, and was enquiring whether she had received the £10 that he had sent. A form dated 20th July 1916, showed that Ethel had filled in an expense form claiming back 5s for an inoculation and 5s for a vaccination, both required for her first trip to Salonica (Thessaloniki, Greece?). Another two page form dated 1917, gave a detailed expenses listing for the 7 weeks she had been detained in Petrograd. She had spent 8 roubles a day on board, 20 r on cabs and 30 r on tips making a total of 487 roubles which amounted to just over £30.

It was also while I was at the Mitchell Library that we had another breakthrough. The same morning I was delving into the SWH archive at The Mitchell, my colleagues received a phone call from Maureen Calder saying that not only had she been surprised to receive such an official looking letter, but even more surprised to find out about her little known great-aunt Ethel.

Maureen, we had discovered was related to Ethel through her father William Calder, son of Ethel’s younger sister Olive. Maureen told us that she could vaguely recall her great-aunt Ethel, and was really excited to discover that her diaries had ended up here in Central Library. A meeting was arranged, and at the beginning of January this year, we were able to finally meet up. Maureen brought her niece, and cousin Dave, and we spent a couple of hours showing them the diaries and exchanging information about Ethel and the Moir family. None of them had any idea that their great-aunt had been a member of the SWH or of her work with the Elsie Inglis Unit during WW1. They were fascinated to see her handwritten pages and newspaper cuttings, together with photographs she had taken during her time with the Units.

About a week later, we got an unexpected visit from Maureen. She had something she wanted to show us. She’d told us when we met, that she thought most of the Moir Family photographs had been lost over the years. However, she’d been having another look at home and made a discovery of her own. She handed over an envelope containing photographs of the complete Moir family: mother Jessie, father John, sisters Helen, Ida and Olive and brothers Douglas and John Ernest. But there were two that interested me most – one of Ethel aged about five taken in a photo studio in Aberdeen, dressed in a sailor’s tunic and one taken many years later in South Africa, of Ethel sitting in a chair, smiling for the camera with a dog on her lap and one at her feet. After all the months spent researching the family it was really nice to finally be able to put faces to names.

Ethel Mary Moir, aged about 5

Ethel Mary Moir, aged about 5. Reproduced by kind permission of the Calder Family.

I haven’t been able to find out much more of what Ethel did after her time in the SWH, although I can’t believe that someone that had gone through all that she had, came home and simply did nothing. When Helen died in 1942, I found a notification that Ethel was the executor of her will, and the address given was Gogarburn Hospital. I knew that during World War Two, Gogarburn had been used by the Army and Air Force. Could she have been a volunteer?  I emailed the Lothian Health Services Archives requesting any information they might hold. Unfortunately, they were unable to find anything in their archives. The last known address I have for Ethel is the Skye Nursing Home, in Polwarth Terrace, Edinburgh.

Ethel Moir travelling in South Africa, 1930s

Ethel Moir travelling in South Africa, 1930s. Reproduced by kind permission of the Calder Family.

Ethel died in 1973 aged 89 in Edinburgh and is buried together with her elder sister Helen in the churchyard of their mother’s birthplace, Dairsie in Fife.

With still a few loose ends to tie up, I aim to continue researching Ethel and her family; after all, you never know what else I’ll find!

 

You can view the pictures of Ethel and her family in a special mini-exhibition on Capital Collections.

Read the other posts in this series about Ethel Moir and the Scottish Women’s Hospital:

There’s a Long Long Trail A-Winding (part 1)

There’s a Long Long Trail A-Winding (part 2)

There’s a Long Long Trail A-Winding (part 3)

Scottish Women’s Hospitals (part 5)

 

Thanks to the following for all their help in our search:

Alan Cumming of Scottish Women’s Hospital website

Lothian Health Service Archives 

The Mitchell Library 

The National Library of Scotland

The Scottish Genealogy Society

ScotlandsPeople

There’s a Long Long Trail A-Winding (part 3)

Ethel Moir served as a nursing orderly with the The Scottish Women’s Hospital (SWH) during World War One. At the start of the third volume of Ethel’s diary, it is February 1918, and she was once again preparing to leave Scotland and serve a second tour for the SWH.

The beginning of the diary, titled “Jottings”, follows the death of Dr. Inglis the previous year, and the now named “Elsie Inglis Unit” are staying in London and are “Back once more to the “rush & hurry” of existence, as a member of the S.W.H! And back to the dear old grey uniform & tartan facings & kit bags & ground sheets & all!”

On the 17th February she writes –

“we had “our pictures” taken & there followed a full-dress rehearsal, for the inspection at The Palace tomorrow. It was enormous fun meeting old friends again & we had great talks over the old Russian days… But very few of the “old originals” are going out again this time…… However, this crowd, look as jolly as the Past & I think we will be a v. “happy family”.

The following day the Unit “marched as a body“ to Buckingham Palace where they were inspected by King George V and Queen Mary. Ethel tells us that –

Her Majesty seemed greatly concerned at our lack of clothing! However, on being told that, we had overcoats, but that they were not “official dress” when being presented to Royalty, she seemed happier.”

 

The "Elsie Inglis" Corps at the Palace

The “Elsie Inglis” Corps at the Palace

“The Royal Inspection”. A red-letter day in the history of the S.W.H. – & especially in the history of “The Elsie Inglis Unit”. How proud we were of our dear old Chief, oh, to have her with us now! We carry her name forever with us & may we carry it nobly & may we work as she would have us work & do, may “The Elsie Inglis Unit”, prove itself worthy of the noble name it bears.

On 20th February the unit made their way to Victoria Station on route to Boulogne and had a rousing send off:

“friends & relations” being present to see us away. What bricks some people are, to turn up at 6.30am on a dark, cold winter morning, to see a crowd of hooligans off on “active service”!!

Travelling by train on from France, through Italy, anyone reading the diary could be mistaken in thinking that it is being written by a young lady travelling across Europe on holiday. Although at times you are made aware of the real reason she is there where –

at every little way-side station were always soldiers, – soldiers of every nationality & in every kind of dress, i.e. British in khaki Scotch, English, Australians & Canadians, all were there”. Onwards through Turin she eventually reaches Rome “the enchanting & wonderful place! It is absolutely heavenly & quite beyond description – words fail me, so no use attempting to describe it.”

From Rome on to Naples and a short detour to visit Pompeii where –

We wandered about the fine old ruins, along the narrow streets, in & out, & as we wandered, I seemed to see the little “Blind Girl” in her loneliness & sadness feeling her way along with her stick & feel “The Last Days of Pompeii” to be a “living thing”!

Rome - The Vatican

Rome – The Vatican

A few days are spent at a Rest Camp in Taranto “where all the troops are shoved, going & coming from the war zone in the Near East. It’s a bright spot! However, cheerio!”

Finally on March 8th nearly 3 weeks after leaving London the Unit arrived at their destination, S.W.H Salonique. Here days waiting for equipment to arrive were spent visiting churches, and surrounding areas. There were invitations to visit the homes of villagers and taste the local sweet Turkish coffee and freshly made maize cake…..

“our host & hostess were both most charming & it was quite astonishing how we all succeeded (& quite successfully, too!) in carrying on a conversation by means of signs & gesticulations & a mixture of English, French & Serbian words thrown in!” 

Setting up camp at Verbliani

Setting up camp at Verbliani

After a delay due to a snow blizzard the Unit arrived at S.W.H. “Elsie Inglis” Camp in Verbliani. Here a hospital which was on the “direct route” from the trenches was to be built comprising of a whole camp of tents. One day Ethel went  “up the line”  as an attendant on one of the ambulances and describing on arrival –

the dozens & dozens of poor suffering creatures we found waiting for us”. They ferried the wounded to a dressing station for over twelve  hours and “got the last of the wounded in at 9 p.m. & then got off for “home”. In spite of this”, it was a v. interesting day nevertheless & if we’re not too busy, I hope for another day in a ambulance before long.”

 At the beginning of July, Ethel notes of being a bit “off colour” and the diary skips a few months, resuming in September. She states:

that it’s like starting another diary; it’s so long since my last entry! Exactly 2 months I think! Two months since I was “knocked out” – well, all I can say is, I’m very disgusted with myself! I see my last date was July 12th – the day before I took ill”.

The reason for the break was that she had contacted paratyphoid and had been cared for at the hospital, though she mentions no details of her illness. She was obviously still not fit for returning back to duty and was transferred to a Convalescent Camp in Horliack.

C. Douglas and Ethel Moir in Verbliani

On October 14th 1918, Ethel was transported by ambulance to the Hospital ship “Goorkha” … “here I am homeward bound! Is it possible? But, alas, it’s “finish Johnnie” with Macedonia for me!”

Accompanying her on the boat were … 7 “sick sisters”, 126 officers & 380 “tommies”. The boat was headed for Malta where Ethel was to spend the rest of the war in the Imtarfa Hospital. It was here that the diary proclaims on 11th November    –   “Armistice Day” –  “God Save the King”!

“The news was received with ringing cheers, & wild scenes of enthusiasm followed, the Tommies gong mad with excitement. I could see it all from my verandah – where my bed is”.

Back on the “Goorkha” she left Imtarfa on 4th January 1919 on her way to France and still obviously convalescing, remarks….

“By the way, German prisoners carried my stretcher!!”

Ethel and the other sisters finally arrived back in London on 15th January. The last entry in the diary reads…. “Blighty, good old Blighty at last!!”

“We arrived here at a very late hour last night. We came up in a beautiful hospital train from Southampton to Waterloo, then on here by ambulance. I am told I may be some weeks here before they let me home – but as it’s Blighty no more diary!!”

       “Long live Blighty” & “God Save The King!”

You can read full transcripts of the pages from the third volume of the diaries and see all the pictures and clippings from it, on Capital Collections.

Read the other posts in this series about Ethel Moir and the Scottish Women’s Hospital:

There’s a Long Long Trail A-Winding (part 1)

There’s a Long Long Trail A-Winding (part 2)

Our search for Ethel (part 4)

Scottish Women’s Hospitals (part 5)