Christmas Day 1918…a story

...and three bells sounded...

…and three bells sounded…

The bells had fallen…hum, prime, tierce and quint…

It was well past Remembrance Sunday. MacKendricks sat at the small round table and reattached each medal to the fabric backing. These were his medals, each ribbon with the small brass pins his wife had sewn on many years ago. How long ago was it he thought…her face passed by his eyes again and again… the same glow, the eyes he once knew and still recognized in his memories.

First, he raised a trophy of arms with the Queen – China he mumbled – centered at the top. He raised the bronze star to its place on the left, then the silver one in the middle and next the brass angel on the right…the one whose rainbowed ribbon still held the stitch remnants that once held an oakleaf long since slipped away. MacKendricks screwed up his nose as he often did, held it there briefly and released. Finally, he raised, both medals to the bottom of the frame, the purple and white ribboned one and a cross from Belgium…oh that one…oh yes, the other one too.

MacKendricks sat back, the frame resting on its support until he stood up, picked up the frame, hand to either side, and placed them on the wall’s nail. That nail, the one slightly bent that always fell the wrong way round when he took the medals down. MacKendricks stood back, chuntering away, and drew from the pottery mug a long taste of stout…it was good.

Somewhere in Flanders…Vlamerhoek…after the barrage…a town once shaken and still vibrating to its core the bells had fallen. And it is here where MacKendricks met the church bells…fine specimens they were that once called this town’s people together. There they laid…and MacKendricks watched over them removing the litter of war from their profiles and immensity. For the while he remained in the area, he visited the bells every day. MacKendricks was a bellfounder…and these works of sound, now dormant, called to him in their mute silence. And so, each day MacKendricks found a way, he rose them from the ground to wooden supports he fabricated. He raised them as he screwed up his nose, arms in the air supporting the beam into position and once placed released his facial pressure and snorted. MacKendricks visited each day for weeks and there they stood together again…three bells. Two soldiers of the regiment assisted him…one soldier for each bell…he was pleased…an extra rum ration for good work done.

A treasured card sent to Geof from Uncle Dick, December 1918.

A treasured card sent to Geof from Uncle Dick, December 1918.

With orders to move to Armentières, MacKendricks visited the bells one last time – Christmas Day 1918. The war over for some five weeks and as he struck the bells to hear their sound, town folk who had only just returned heard their voice…the distinct call of bells once wounded now on the rise. Once, twice, three and four times…then five and six until folk arrived with the striking of MacKendricks last great dense pound of the swinging wooden beam. He stood unknowingly to those who stood behind. And as the bell’s hum, prime, tierce and quint began to fade, he heard their voices, the town’s folk rise in chorus…in joy…these were their bells…this was their song – for him.

Now to the Thistle he thought…it was not Christmas 1918 it was Christmas some other time or other, after another great war…great war two he felt. Could they not have learned from the other? MacKendricks closed his eyes and saw his Emily, looked at his one Christmas card from 1916…together again one day we will be. MacKendricks screwed up his nose, the memories continued…what will I do with them he wondered…these medals…where are my friends who make winter warm? He padded the weeping eye dry and closed the door stepping into the dark towards The Thistle, where his chuntering was well known to others on this, the day of days and three bells sounded in Belgium.

…to be continued…Christmas 2022…


Merry Christmas to one and all.
MacKendricks and associated characters are from the imagination of the author.
See also…
MacKendricks and the Thistle
December 2017

About The Author

Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was captivated by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Over time Paul became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography, narration and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was inspired when he learned Weir visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. "Gallipoli", the film, led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii, Gallipoli, North Macedonia and Salonika. When Paul first watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests was a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, Paul believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.


Leave a Reply