1st November 1944 - Knaresborough - Harrogate

Longed for a wash.  Felt rather ill.  Went all over York between 8 and 9 but could not get a wash anywhere.  At last found a “Wash and brush up” in the lavs in the old market place – with a large notice to say “No shaving allowed” – Why?

Minster bells were ringing and 5 or 6 nuns from the Roman Catholic church near the West door hurried across the Close, their white headdresses and black robes fluttering in the cold breeze.

Went to library as soon as it was open, to see morning papers.  Divers over twice yesterday, once in daylight, about 8 o’clock in the morning.  A hotel was hit, and totally destroyed.  Apparently few survivors.  No sign where, but apparently in “E. Anglia”. 

Set off at 10 towards Harrogate, intending to spend the night there.  A pleasant road, and the weather getting better all the time, clouds clearing, and the sun coming through.  Everywhere tractors and horses plough, Women's Land Army working in the potatoes.  Passed about 2 miles north of Marston Moor.  Many large farms along here, with extensive brick built buildings, all in good condition.

Got to Green Hammerton soon after 11, went on by Allerton Park along the Park wall, up the Gt North Rd for half a mile, and then turned towards Knaresborough.  At Goldsborough there is an enormous factory of some sort, quite new, built against the station, some sort of Ministry of Supply place.  I have ancestors from these parts.  The spike of Knaresborough Church stands up well.

Wonderful farming country.  Cattle everywhere.  Along by River Nidd, and up the steep hill into Knaresborough.  Market day, but the little town looked sleepy and decaying.  Several very good houses, 18th century, in both brick and stone, along the High Street, and York Place, the best a wonderful shop front, with two bow windows and a two-leaf door, with the name “Berry” above it, apparently contemporary with the original.  Now occupied by an ironmonger.  Quite the best shop front of this kind I have seen, as good as Fribourg’s in London.

The market stalls were set out in the cobbled market square – selling old clothes, junk of all sorts, vegetables, books, old pieces of furniture.

Somehow the scene, though animated, seemed curiously dim and rather less than natural size.  Round the corner found the remains of the Castle, large scattered remnants of walls and towers.  Leland said there were “11 or 12 Towres numbered in the Ward of the Castelle.”  The remains of the Keep had a notice attached to say that is was a museum containing “William Conqueror’s Record Chest, Queen Philippa’s ditto, the oldest fire-engine known and other rare curiosities.  Admission 6d.”  Unfortunately the place was shut, thus depriving me of the pleasure of seeing these extraordinarily interesting things.  Place is run by the Council.

Got a decent lunch for 2s in a little “olde worlde” café nearby.  On one wall was an incredibly crude diagrammatic map of Knaresborough with inset drawings of Old Mother Shipton, Queen Philippa etc. the whole very badly done. 

At the bottom of the hill, a signpost indicates “To the Castle and Public Lavatories”.

Suddenly thought of the Rudsdales in this district, and particularly Henry Rudsdale on the mug [an antique Rudsdale family mug], so decided to enquire at the church.  Went down steep hill to the station, across the level-crossing, down in the churchyard.  Found the verger, who said “Rudsdale?  No, never heard the name.  You’d better ask the Vicar.  He is responsible for the Registers, though I’m sure I dont know why this should be so.”

Went to the vicarage right against the churchyard, a huge barrack of a house, with apparently only a back door and no front.  The Vicar was in, a smallish pleasant faced man with a rather hooked nose and bald head.  He took me into a typical vicarage study, lined with books, religious cheap coloured prints on the wall.  Received me courteously, but said he had never heard of Rudsdale.  However, he put on his hat and coat and we went down to the church, and in at the “priest’s door” across the chancel to the vestry.  In some way the Isle of Man was mentioned in conversation, and he remarked “I was born and bred there”.  I spoke about the Manx language, and he said vaguely “Ah yes, it’s a hybrid between Celtic and a – other things” and said the probably not more than 20 or 30 people spoke it at the present day.

In the vestry he produced the Registers for 1825-1835 and we looked through them, - no Rudsdales, but several Ridsdales, of all ages.  Suddenly he seemed to become tired of the search, and said “Oh, well, it was in all probability a mistake – the name was probably Ridsdale after all”, so, seeing there was not much more to be got out of him I left.

And then across the Nidd, up the steep slope on the other side.  The view across the valley with the Railway viaduct and the Castle perched behind reminded me of one of Mrs Mary Benham’s watercolours of this place.  (Suddenly remembered I had not seen the Petrifying Well, or Eugene Aran’s Cave).

It is now “built up” practically all the way from Knaresborough through Starbeck to Harrogate.  Found a call-box just past Harrogate Hospital, and asked the exchange for Daven Soar.  Got him within a few minutes.  He was naturally surprised to recognise my voice, and said his wife and daughter were up in Harrogate now.  However he suggested I should meet him at 5, and we would go to his place to tea.

I then went on into the town, which seemed to be a disappointing place, (perhaps more so because it was early closing day) full of airforce people.  It is very hilly and there seemed to be a large number of imposing buildings, mostly pump-rooms and concert halls, with glass covered verandas here and there, rather like a high class seaside resort.  The place seems well cared for, with gardeners working among the flower beds.  Had an hour to visit, and soon found that although the place abounds with enormous hotels, concert halls, baths, high class dress shops, confections, beauty parlours, the library in Victoria Avenue is not very large or modern, and the art gallery consists of 2 rooms above it, now showing a nice but small collection of textiles, completely unlabelled.  There are a lot of good topographical prints and photos hanging on the stairs, showing the remarkable development of Harrogate during the past century, but few of these are labelled and those which are are not done very well.  There is no other museum in the town which seems quite absurd for a place of this size and character.

Went along West Park Terrace and met Daven.  He was glad to see me, but was worrying and anxious as to where I should sleep.  True I had made no plans, but I had half thought that I might sleep on a couch in his rooms (not knowing of course that Mrs. Soar was there) but his absurd worrying made the whole expedition seem unpleasant, and I wished I had never come.  However, we had tea, and little Jennifer who is really the sweetest girl I have ever met made much of me.  I bought in biscuits, but somehow the party was not going well.

After tea I got 3 or 4 hotel names from Daven and went down to the phone box at the corner to ring them.  As it happened I got a room easily at the first I tried – West Park Hotel.  Just by the phone was a large church with all its windows brightly lighted, the organ peeling forth inside.  Such a strange site to see in these days.

Then Daven and I went off to get a drink, he walking at a tremendous pace, leaving me panting behind.  First we went to a very new pub, somewhere in Otley Rd where he insisted I had 2 pints, which is considerably more than my bladder will conveniently hold.  At 9 we had to rush away, got a bus, and go down to the main part of the town to another pub, in Ripon Road I think, an enormous filthy place, swimming in beer, pools all over the floor, broken glasses everywhere.  Here I had another pint, and I think he had 2.  By this time I was getting very hazy and I can't remember whether we went to one or two more pubs after that.  I only remember great crowds, heat, singing, and pools of beer everywhere.  Dozens of Americans, all much drunker than I.  I have a vague idea that we walked back to his lodgings and that I wanted to sit on the wall and talk.  Then his wife came out, scolding like an angry hen.  Old Daven went indoors like a little boy, just as he used when bullied by his mother years ago.

I found the hotel with much trouble, but I was feeling really bad by this time.  The next thing I remember is waking to find myself lying dressed on the bed, freezing cold.  Next came a hazy recollection of seeing a grandfather clock at 10 to 4am but hope I dreamed this, otherwise I must have wandered downstairs at that hour.  Crawled miserably under the sheets, feeling sick, ill and headache.

31st October 1944 - Edinburgh - York

Up for breakfast.  Dark morning, not really light enough to read until after 9.  It is now 37 days since I left Colchester and I must leave here today. Stayed in all morning, restlessly wandering about the flat.  Could not settle to reading, writing or even listening to radio. 

Kept on tossing up with myself as to whether I would go back to Colchester or go to Harrogate and see Daven Soar or to Manchester and see Daphne Young [who had worked with Rudsdale at the War Agricultural Committee office but was now a teacher in Manchester].
Everybody rushing about, window cleaner in etc.  Both ladies rushing out to business and shopping.  Ethel goes to office work every afternoon, at the Rubber Works, and Ethel is at the Bank of Scotland.  She changed another cheque for me today - £3.  This will enable me to pay my fare to wherever I may go.  So far this expedition has cost me £25 or so - £5 per week, fares included.  Would have been a lot less had I been better able to cycle further.  Hostels idea a failure, too filthy for even my requirements.

Went to library, and discovered my fears for the Seymours were groundless.  The unfortunate people were the family of a “well-known diamond merchant” and I obtained this information from – The Irish Times.

At 7pm definitely decided to call at York.  Nerves in a frightful state.  Can't sit still, read, do anything.  

All Hallows Eve

Time moved on – tea, a little reading, Ethel went to Canteen – said goodbye, will not see her again – supper.  Dora most kind.  9 o’clock news.  5 mins – 10 mins, luggage down the stairs, cycle down – goodbye in the stone passage – moved away in the foggy dark feeling as miserable and depressed as at any time since I left England.  The moon was faintly visible through the clouds and fog, a lovely Walpurgis Night.  All over Scotland people are having parties tonight. 

Still debating in my confused mind what to do, but finally bought a ticket to York.  Train left sharp on time, and I saw the lights of the city slip away, and the huge mass of Arthur’s Seat, the tall houses, lights glowing at their windows.

Had a full seat, stretched out and tried to sleep.  Ate chocolate which Dora kindly gave me (they gave me enough food for a week, biscuits, tea, sandwiches).

Heard the train rumble over the Tweed Bridge into England – when shall I see dear Scotland again?  Thinking of darling Ann, now more than 200 miles behind me.  Looked out on the Northumbrian fields, sharp and clear under the brilliant full moon, not a cloud in the sky now.  On the other side the sea was black and grey, with a fringe of white foam where the waves were breaking.

Dozed at odd times, saw Newcastle, like some nightmare town made up for some dreadful film show – black shadows, white moonlight, pale yellow street lamps – no traffic about, half past one in the morning.

At last York, at 3.30.  Tried Station Hotel – no bed, so went to the waiting room.  Found it full of Commandos and RAF, threw my kit on the floor, lay down on it and went to sleep for 3 hours, to dream most vividly of Australian aborigines.  Got up at 6.30 and had breakfast of sandwiches from Edinburgh and hot tea.

30th October 1944 - Edinburgh

Brilliant sunny day, but cold.  Was not wakened until 9.30, and had another breakfast in bed.  Saw in Scotsman today that there were bombs early on Sunday morning.

“A flying bomb which struck a house in a residential district in southern England early yesterday killed a woman, Mrs Seymour, injured her husband and daughter and started a fire.
A short alert was sounded in the London area.
Watchers reported that one flying bomb was brought down into the sea and others inland.”

At once my thought is – was the “Residential Area” in Colchester?  Was the house in Wellesley Road?  Was it perhaps that Ann Seymour was home for the weekend?  What is one to make out from such an evasive, tantalising report?

Who are these ubiquitous “watchers on the coast”?  Do they mean Royal Observer Corps men?  If so, why not say so?  “One” bomb shot into the sea does not sound like very successful defence.  Curious that defences are supposed to have had such wonderful successes in Kent yet the results are so poor in Essex and Suffolk.

Lay in bed all morning, with rather painful belly ache, reading papers and ‘Our Mutual Friend’.  War news very saddening.  All allied offensives are slowed down now or stopped, and there is obviously not the slightest chance of a break into Germany this year, and of course the next 6 months will allow Germany to build up a new army and air force, to say nothing of divers etc.  Yet in Britain all precautions are being dropped, Home Guard stood down, ARP and NFS partly disbanded.  In Scotland ARP is almost entirely done away with.  What on earth will be the effect on the general public when new and terrifying attacks are made?

I honestly believe that the Germans have a very good chance of winning yet, and they may well fight like insane devils when they see how in countries occupied by allies starvation is the first effect, followed by all sorts of “judicial” murders as are now going on in France.

What is to be the end of it all?  I believe there is no power in the world which can stop the war.

This afternoon suddenly decided to get the cycle out and go into Holyrood Park, which I did, cycling right round the Queen’s Drive, high above Duddingston Lock the whole landscape shrouded in golden haze, and the sun shining through in glory.  A boat was slowly crossing the Lock, with 2 pairs of oars like a very large water beetle, the sun glinting on the wet oars.  The city was a grey hazy cloud with the spires and domes, pinnacles and towers standing up.  Below me I could see Prestonfield House, its huge circular stables, green lawns and bare leafless trees.

Depressing to see how houses have been built right up to the park wall on the east, half way up the hill.  Such a pity not to have acquired the slope down to Duddingston as an open space, but of course the Scots are as mean, paltry and narrow minded as the English where our amenities are concerned.

It is only thanks to their passion for golf that any open spaces have been preserved at all.  Dunsapie Loch, a tiny seemingly remote pool among the crags, as it might be in Sutherland, water fowl swimming on it, and an old man sitting on a wooden seat watching them.  It was here that Dora and Ethel Biggam’s brother-in-law drowned himself.

On some of the rocks were a few very sutty sheep and several girls on ponies came riding down a grass track.  Swept down the long hill to St Margaret’s Lock.  A crane has been erected, over-hanging the water.  Don't know what is going on, but nearby some fellows were working with rods and a level.

On the crags above the Loch the ruins of St Anthony’s Chapel stood out absolutely against the setting sun.  Past the gurgling well, and through the Park gates by the Palace into what used to be known as ‘Back Canongate’, but is now called Holyrood Road, lined with breweries, great Clydesdales crashing along over the cobbles.

Went to the Library and searched all the papers for references to divers, but found nothing more.

Back to Glengyle Terrace for tea, by George Square, magnificent houses, and along the Meadows.  Am told that some of the holders have fen-charters dating back before the draining of the Burgh South Lock, and have specified therein that they have a right to have a boat on the lock, although there has been no water since c.1691!

29th October 1944 - Edinburgh

Breakfast in bed again. Lay in bed until after 11.  Heard the band of the Home Guards as they marched to inspection on the Meadows.

Spent most of the day writing, and completed two episodes of a proposed “play” on the Observer Post, although the thing could not possibly be presented on a stage.  It does however lend itself particularly well to being written in the form of dialogue and descriptive matter in between.

Had supper alone with Dora Biggam tonight, while Ethel went off to her old dragon of a sister at the Braids.  Could not bring myself to any serious talk, so we listened to the radio instead, although reception was poor.

28th October 1944 - Edinburgh

Glorious morning.  Felt very much better, head clear, legs firmer.  Had breakfast in bed and read “Our Mutual Friend” – never read it before.  Who can now compare even faintly with Dickens?

Fine, brilliant moon tonight.  What time will the divers come in over Essex?

27th October 1944 - Edinburgh

Woke about 8 and was given delicious breakfast in bed.  Brilliant sunny day.  No mention today in press or radio about divers, but our glorious premier has spoken again and given us a thoroughly gloomy view of the war, which may now become “unbearably protracted”.  Wonder how much more the British public will really stand?  Much talk about solidarity of allies which clearly shows that there have been very serious troubles.  Assurances that there are now no differences between Britain and Russia presumably means that the differences are great.  If Germany can hold out 6 months, may yet win the war.  By next February the automatic devices to bombard the British Isles will be so numerous and efficient that all normal life must cease.  It does not seem to occur to anybody that the diver business will increase during this winter, not decrease.  Can't understand why they have not already begun to send them against other cities besides London.

Felt better today, but not well.  Stayed in bed until 4, then up, washed, had tea and went to Dr’s.  Unfortunately, Lamont was out, but saw the other man, and felt an awful fool.  Stammered badly and generally behaved like a lunatic.  Told me to come back tomorrow and see Lamont, who will give me a letter for Rowland.  Felt a little better when I left.  Perhaps after all these years I must really begin to take medical advice seriously.  But how I hate going to see doctors at all.

Walked back down the Links as the huge moon rose up behind Arthur’s Seat.  Tonight reading – Robert Louis Stevenson – short stories.  Found a book in the house called “The Happy Traveller” by a Revd Tatchell of Midhurst, pub in 1923, a sort of naïve guide to the whole world.  It contains this gem under Jamaica, (considering that it is written by a parson) – “Being by nature superstitious and in great dread of Duppres or ghosts, they have taken kindly to religion; and if you listen to a street preacher or go to a meeting house on a Sunday, you will be amused at their pomposity and capacity for silly chatter.”  What a delightful servant of Christ.

Under Russia he says: “No one will want to go to Russia until the spectre of Bolshevism is laid and the great country returns to its senses and settles down.”

26th October 1944 - Edinburgh

Foggy and damp.  Amused myself watching the golfers on the links, a railway parcel van drive up and the horse cross the road to eat grass, then later a pantechnicon came to the ground floor flat in the next block and a lot of furniture went away.  In the afternoon I saw a funeral coming down a road on the opposite side of the links, a motor hearse and a white surpliced choir following behind.

Just before supper an abominable feeling of encroaching darkness came over me.  All life seemed to drain out of my body, and sharp pains set up in my thighs.  For a moment the room seemed dark, but soon became lighter again.  As soon as I was alone, I tried everything, shaking head, putting head down, etc to get rid of the weakness but no good.  Had bowl of broth, but still no better.  Made an excuse to go outside to see if it was raining, but even the cool damp night air brought no relief.

Crawled back up to the flat and confessed I could eat no more and would have to lie down.  They took it splendidly – put one to bed and made no bones about it.  Was thankful to be in the soft warm bed again, but felt strongly the awful embarrassment – to feel really ill in someone else’s house.

Determined to see Dr. Lamont tomorrow.  Heard Miss P. come in to talk about my discovery in the Links business and then fell asleep, listening to the howling of the wind and the beat of rain.