Saturday, 21 September 2013


I had a wonderful email today from a lady in Leeds who was writing on behalf of her next door neighbour who'd seen me in the Yorkshire Post. The next door neighbour (whom I've still not managed to talk to her in person) wanted me to know that she had relatives who'd been in the Leeds Pals, and that she had a bugle which had been played by one of them in France which she wanted me to have. She thinks her own relatives would be likely to throw it away if she bequeathed it to them. The thought of seeing and touching a musical instrument with that sort of extraordinary heritage is obviously beyond exciting for me, and if I am able to look after it on her behalf, I shall be utterly honoured to do so.

I decided to wake up when I woke up this morning, and was both horrified and astonished to find myself getting out of bed just before noon. Noon! How slutty is that? I think the last time I got up at noon was when I was a student! I must have been tired.

Sadly I've done nothing but work ever since. I managed to consolidate another 30 pages of notes before my eyes went completely gaga. At least I now feel there's light at the end of this particularly long and dark tunnel.

In the process of consolidation, I came across a letter which I found in the Yorkshire Evening Press archives from 1916. I wrote about it a few weeks ago in this blog, but it touched me so completely, that I thought it might be nice to publish it in full:
To kindly disposed friends - I am taking what may seem a liberty in writing this letter to you, I am afraid, but the need justifies the deed, so here goes. I and a few bosom pals are greatly in need of a few musical instruments to make the hours that we are not on duty pass more pleasantly. No one knows except perhaps those who have experienced long, lonely spells how much music in these cases is appreciated. Out here in the firing line, away from all civilians, it is impossible to buy even the most crude instrument, and up to the present, the only music that has greeted our ears has been the whine of a shell or the crash of one of our guns. It is the ambition of my friends and myself to form a small string band, and instruments suitable for the same would be greatly appreciated by us, for we have at least six violinists with us now who are anxious to put their talents to use to make the “hour of waiting” pass more pleasantly. Dear friend, in reading this appeal, if you have anything to offer in the shape of fiddles, banjos, mandolins or any other stringed instruments, will you please remember the boys of one of your batteries. Trusting that some good result will come of this letter, and a few instruments will be the practical answer. Yours sincerely Yorkite.
I would love to know what happened to this group of musicians, whether they were sent any instruments, and moreover, if any of them survived the war. I don't suppose I'll ever know.

Another curious article appeared on Monday 27th December 1915:

During the past few months an Ashford (Kent) ferret dealer has sent no fewer than 500 ferrets to the troops in Flanders to assist the men in hunting the hordes of rats in the trenches. Rat-catching has become quite a sport with the troops, and in consequence for the great demand for ferrets, the price of them has gone up in the Ashford district from 1s to 5s each.

How bizarre is that?

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