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St. Paul’s Cathedral amidst the Whirlwind…

Posted By on December 29, 2017

The famed image of St. Paul's Cathedral taken photographer Herbert Mason was taken 77 years ago, 29 December 1940. (Wiki image via the Imperial War Museum and the Daily Mail)

The famed image of St. Paul’s Cathedral taken photographer Herbert Mason was taken 77 years ago, 29 December 1940. (Wiki image via the Imperial War Museum and the Daily Mail)

…Amidst the Peace

For a few days in December 1940 the skies above London were without enemies.

Christmastide, beginning at sunset on Christmas eve through St. Stephen’s Day (Boxing Day) was without the falling rain of incendiaries, high explosives, mines, fuzes, time delays and other harm from Dorniers, Heinkels and Junkers. The rain, the lightning war, began again 27 December 1940.

Two days later Herbert Mason clicked the shutter of his Van Neck camera capturing St. Paul’s Cathedral amidst the second great fire of London. The smokey image captures the spirit of defiance as Christopher Wren’s jewel in his crown stands brazenly amidst the whirlwind.

St. Paul’s Cathedral remains with us today and can be seen standing tall from various vantage points. Its dome – upon the skyline – strikes a landmark feature during the day and at night, a beacon of survival, a jewel amidst the peace.

I’m Dreaming of Home

Posted By on December 23, 2017

Thistle and laurel wreath with red berries and ribbon. The latter marked, "Festubert, Loos, Ypres, Armentieres, Somme, Vimy, Arras".

A Scottish Christmas card. Thistle and laurel wreath with red berries and ribbon, “Festubert, Loos, Ypres, Armentieres, Somme, Vimy, Arras”.

Greetings Christmas and New Year

I can only imagine a group of soldiers at Christmas with their thoughts of home. Glasgow, Aberdeen, Kirkcaldy, Dundee, Kilmarnock, Falkirk, Peebles and others. Though at home they may rise in the morning to different landscapes they are brothers in this trench, this town, this Scotland. To soldiers near and far, old regiments and new, Christmas away and Christmas at home we think of you often at this time. Nollaig chridheil agus Bliadhma mhath ur!

From the film Joyeux Noël performed by Griogair Lawrie, David Bruce, Ivan MacDonald and Calum Anthony Beaton (Bagpipe Ensemble).

I’m Dreaming of Home

“I hear the mountain birds
The sound of rivers singing
A song I’ve often heard
It flows through me now
So clear and so loud
I stand where I am
And forever I’m dreaming of home
I feel so alone, I’m dreaming of home

It’s carried in the air
The breeze of early morning
I see the land so fair
My heart opens wide
There’s sadness inside
I stand where I am
And forever I’m dreaming of home
I feel so alone, I’m dreaming of home

This is no foreign sky
I see no foreign light
But far away am I
From some peaceful land
I’m longing to stand
A hand in my hand
…forever I’m dreaming of home
I feel so alone, I’m dreaming of home”


MacKendricks and The Thistle

Posted By on December 14, 2017

The Highlander's Christmas - 1916.

A Scottish soldier on sentry duty, “One Flag, one King”. The Highlander’s Christmas – 1916.

The Christmas Card and the Table

Imagine please, if you will, MacKendricks. Chuntering as he did in the sanctity of his space MacKendricks had outlived – all family, all friends. Each day a similar caned path to The Thistle where with pewter near to hand he sat at an edge-worn, darkened wise table carved deep with letters, words, dates, expressions and the familiar – more than a few of his own hand. Though he seldom spoke, he was not impolite but nodded to patrons should he wish to acknowledge them. MacKendricks’ lined and duned face, thick to the touch had felt the close glow of the sun, the rasp of the sand and history. Save for one day of the year, each day the same for this man of the line.

On Christmas Day The Thistle, hearty with patrons, knew no less kindness than to serve goodwill for all. MacKendricks would appear in better clothes that once fit a larger frame, a better glass near to hand with better spirits to cling to his person. From his pocket he removed the one gift he provided to himself each year a simple card that on this day of days he allowed himself to read once again. “Hearty good wishes for a happy time at this glad season. One Flag, one King. Yule-tide Greetings. Be prepared for joy and gladness, Christmas morn is dawning clear, Cast away all thoughts of sadness – Joy be thine throughout the year! Joy and Peace – God’s greatest blessings, May they ever hover near! James Christmas 1916”.

And then, MacKendricks stood, charged glass in hand – “Friends make winter warm!” and drank as the card returned to its pocket. Towards the door he would go – his chuntering returning to form. All eyes upon him as he opened the door and drew in the good air, the cool, the pure. Before he stepped to the ground MacKendricks rested his eyes, reopened and walked knowing with each step he was closer to next year’s visit with James. The edge-worn, wise darkened table knew too well the spirits of old souls who reside carved deep amongst the letters, words, dates, expressions and the familiar.

Wherever Ye May Be

Posted By on December 10, 2017

A Great War highland Dancer at Christmas.

A Great War highland laddie and lassie at Christmas.

Dance to Remember

I have known an army Christmas, with family together at home wherever home might be and an army Christmas where the Sergeant, posted to distant parts, is with us in spirit near to hearth and self. It is at Christmas that thoughts also drift to those unable to be with us.

The Great War witnessed the Christmas season in 1914 with a truce envisioned by many as carols, songs, food and football among enemies. Yet turmoil still reined…the devil (or devils) amidst the spirit (or spirits) of goodwill. Though we prefer reminders of joyous times there are many who would know a difficult time during this time of festival. Christmas Day and the Great War, including a few years beyond the armistice, saw from 1914 through 1920 the loss of 1,205 British and Commonwealth troops. Even Christmas 1914 despite the refrains of Stille Nacht / Silent Night across the trenches, knew without calm, without brightness the loss of 148 soldiers.

Our image today is about a bonnie, bonnie Christmas though the silent message is the apart of the season, our absent friends, laddies and lassies who may just dance to remember.

And It’s a Lucky Man

Posted By on December 2, 2017

The unique, the meaningful, the personal

I wander about the stores and vendors attempting to find a little something to add to the Christmas season – something for someone special. It seems that the drizzle of the rain dampens the season as I struggle through endless offerings in search of the unique, the meaningful. More and more, for myself, I begin to realize that Christmas has become about cumulative experiences and how unconnected past events can be drawn together, like today’s pattering at the keyboard. And so it is Christmas. Several days in search of words until I sit down sifting through images…finding what I think is the right one, the unique, the meaningful but now, having had the “Aha” moment, it now includes the personal.

Often I take my ear to sound recordings, it’s Christmas this should work. However, a steady plod of virtual auditions has left me helpless until I stumble upon or perhaps reconnect experience, each offering an image, a tune, the sharing of experiences, unique, meaningful and personal. This is the introduction to a pipes of war Christmas about family and experience, soldiers and home. It is about events near to and during Christmas, the milestones and the ones we remember. It is about being a lucky man to love and be loved, a lucky man that gets to kiss your face.

To all who gather here our next few weeks will celebrate the season – remember them well and remember our milestones – they come but once in a lifetime but remain with us for all time. Happy and Merry Christmas to all.

A Great War Christmas postcard..."a lucky man that gets to kiss your face."

A Great War Christmas postcard…”a lucky man that gets to kiss your face.”