E.J. Rudsdale Talk

I will be giving a talk as part of the Chelmsford Ideas Festival on E.J. Rudsdale's Journals, entitled 'Creating History: A Civilian's Experience of the Second World War in Essex' on Thursday 30th October from 7.30-9.00pm at Anglia Ruskin University. Tickets are free. Book your ticket here. Many thanks, Catherine Pearson

25th October 1944 - Edinburgh

Wednesday
Up 8.30, splendid peaceful night without a dream.  Sudden realisation that I have been here another week and have been away from Colchester for 31 days.  Must undoubtedly give up job.  

Thick damp foggy morning, but papers say more divers over last night. They are now sending them all over Belgium as well, and the Americans I suppose will want to send them out from this country sooner or later.

Went to Library, read the London Times, Irish Times, Scotsman, Yorkshire and Newcastle papers, trying to pick up scraps about divers, but the reports are identical in every paper.

This afternoon went down to the Register Office for Miss Biggam about the Bruntsfield Links business.  Discovered that under Edinburgh Improvement Act, 1827 and another of 1831 neither the Links nor the Meadows can ever be built upon.  But when I reported this interesting discovery the only comment was that if the Corporation wished to build they would most certainly do so, Act or no Act!  What a delicious comment on the glorious democratic Government.

The officer at the Register Office, when I was talking to him, said that of course either of these Acts could be repealed – “in fact, any act can be repealed, even the Act of Union!”

Back to Library after that, and then to Theatre to see Iolanthe, gallery seat again.  When I heard the opening chorus I shut my eyes and was back in the School Hall again, 14 years old, hearing Gilbert & Sullivan for the first time.

Where are now all the boys who played in that show?  How many are dead?  The only name I can think of is Jumbo Joscelyn, who made a great stir as “Private Willis” and he’s at Writtle.

The show was enjoyable, but a lot of the music seemed to be played too slow, but the costumes were a delight and the Lord Chancellor a dream.  In the second act, there was great applause as soon as the curtain rose to reveal Private Willis in his sentry box, and at each mock-heroic reference in the songs there were little outbursts of clapping from various parts of the house.

Came out into damp, misty streets, no sign of the moon.  To bed, full of misery and anxiety.  Shall have to cycle a good way home, as have not sufficient money for full fare.

Two unfortunate errors today – a man stopped me outside the Library, a dirty little old man, carrying a parcel, and I understood him to say “Do ye ken the City o’ Glasgo?”  I stared at him and he seemed to repeat his remark, so I said very slowly “No, but perhaps they could tell you in the Library,” indicating the place, “I daresay they have a map in there.”  He gaped at me a moment, muttered something of which I caught only the words “bluidy fule” and walked away.  A man standing near me grinned, so I said “Well, he doesn’t seem to be very pleased with himself”  The man laughed and said “Nay, he’s wild because you make sich a game of him”  I replied “I certainly don’t mean to do any such thing.  How can I be expected to know all about Glasgow?”
"Glasgow? Och, you never heard what he said.  It was the City Glass Company he was asking for."

A few minutes later I went into a shop and bought some writing paper, and the girls seemed to say “Do you wash on Saturday?”  It was only after several repetitions that I made out the question as “Do you wish envelopes as well?”

Had tea in a cinema cafĂ© in the Lothian Road, the grey afternoon fading outside and the long processions of horses going home to the Railways yards at the Caledonian Station.  Their great hooves ringing on the cobbles.

Pretty girls coming in to tea with soldiers and airmen, and pipe music from the radio.

Got hold of 2 very good things today – book of short stories by Cunninghame Graham, which are superb.  Never read any before, but must now get a lot.  The other is the last volume of Hodson’s War Diary, 1942-3, called ‘Home Front’.  Excellent reporting.  Must get the other 4 vols.


The purchase of these has left me with £3.12.6, and the fare home is nearly £5.

24th October 1944 - Edinburgh

Tuesday
Fine, cold autumn morning with blue mist full of seagulls rising, falling.  The flat is so high that you get a grand view right across the grass, marked off into odd shapes by narrow ashphalt paths, with figures of golfers or of passers by hurrying under umbrellas, dogs running and playing, right over to the Braid Hills and the blue distant hills far beyond that.

Above there is the sound of music and fiddle, from the apartment of the music teacher.  Often the dull boom of a door slamming and the sound of hurrying footsteps on the stone stairs and then down the dark stone passage below.  There are 6 flats in this block, all occupied by amusing characters. 

To the Library for an hour this afternoon, reading papers.  The war news seems gloomy, and still divers coming in every night.  Not a word from Colchester so suppose all is fairly well.


Tonight had a haggis for supper, first I have ever tasted.  Delicious.  Drink far too much tea here.

23rd October 1944 - Edinburgh

Monday
Lovely morning, sunny but cool.  Pale blue mists across the Links, Braid Hills a darker blue in the distance.  Saw in 'The Scotsman' that a plane crashed last night at Haddington, 10 miles away, probably the one I heard.  House destroyed and some relatives of Earl Haig killed.

Wrote to Father again.  Suppose he must be alright as I have not heard a word from him.  Went to Library for an hour, and to Grant’s.  Bought Bloomfield’s Poems in 2 vols. Beautiful copy, for 1/.  

This afternoon, reading and writing.  Had tea in the flat, looking out over the links.  Lights appearing in the great school up the hill, and boys and girls going home in the misty dusk.  Sound of horses hooves on the stone sets.

Decided to go to the Mikado by the D’Oyly Carte Co. No seats left, so had to wait in queue.  Darkness falling, lights coming on, trams going by packed with work people, and old “busker” singing “Drink to me only” in a hoarse dirgelike voice.  Got a good seat in 2nd row of gallery.  Place seemed to be very largely filled by young girls, mostly very pretty, chattering in soft, Scottish voices.  At last the orchestra came in and tuned up.  Then they swung into the first bars of the music, and all the little girls with their pretty hair and shining eager little eyes leaned forward entranced, never thinking I suppose that their grandmothers were just as entranced 60 years ago.

About 1890 this opera was taken off in London on the occasion of the Mikado’s visit, as it was regarded as an insult to Japan.  In 1941 it was again more or less banned as showing Japan in a pleasant or facetious manner.  Now apparently it is to be regarded merely as a piece of play acting and music.  I enjoyed it immensely, all the old tunes, the old songs.  The dresses and settings were changed a few years ago, and are certainly very gorgeous.  Some of the acting did not seem to me to be as good as I should have expected from the D’Oyly Carte Co. themselves but of course it is difficult to make so old a play go with a swing, with its feeble late Victorian jokes (although everyone laughed at them most dutifully).  “The Flowers that Bloom in the Spring” was encored enthusiastically, and I think “Tit Willow” could easily have been as well.  What delightful tunes these are.  Made me think of the old days at school, when we did this show at Easter.  The “Mikado” was Darrell Fancourt, very good, and Grahame Clifford did Ko-Ko in such a clowning manner that I should expect the people who regard G&S as a religion rather than an entertainment to be disgusted.  The orchestra played some numbers a little slowly, and were just inclined to be a bit “brassy” but it was all a delight to me. 

Came out into the cold starlit night.  Nice supper, friendly chatter.  Money is now becoming short, in fact I have not got enough to pay my fare home.  Thinking about cycling as far as Hadrian’s Wall.


About 11 o’clock heard 2 fire engines rushing by towards Marchmont.  While in the cafe, five ATS came up, with an ATS Officer.  She seemed to be on very good terms with the girls.  They all spoke with Yorkshire or Lancashire accents, and the officer with the usual English “cultured” accent.  They were talking about service abroad, and the officer said “Well, the only reason I’m not keen to go is that as soon as I go out my husband will be coming home.”  A pleasant piece of optimism.  Shortly after a Major came up, and greeted the officer in a very affable manner.  He attached himself to the party, and finally paid for them all.

22nd October 1944 - Edinburgh

Sunday
Fog and then sun.  Quiet day reading.  Did not feel very well.  Dora Biggam here alone tonight and longed to start a conversation, but could not.


Fog came on again tonight, and as I was sitting reading by myself before going to bed, sometime before midnight I heard the unmistakeable sound of an aircraft in trouble, somewhere to the south.  The engine was running very badly, and died away in a sort of low rumble.  Listened anxiously, as if I was on the Post.

21st October 1944 - Edinburgh

Saturday
Fog, but fine later.  To the library, then to Leith Goods depot to see horse-show.

20th October 1944 - Edinburgh

Friday
Wet and foggy.  Mother’s birthday.  No present this year.  Went to Library again, and spent a good deal of the day writing.

This evening went to see Diana’s sister (Diana Davis, Stage Manager, Colchester Repertory Company), who lives up at Merchiston, and spent some time wandering in the dark through a maze of Merchiston Avenues, Roads, Crescents and gardens.  She is extraordinarily like Diana – very pretty, and not more than about 20.  Been married 3 months.  Talked about Scottish prejudices etc.  Stayed an hour, then back to Bruntisfield to supper, very late.


Much talk about the Edinburgh Corporation’s Schemes for building houses in the Parks and on the Links.  This it seems is really true – amazing and scandalous.  Mrs Paterson says Mrs -, Councillor says it is intended to destroy all Canongate.

19th October 1944 - Edinburgh

Thursday
Lovely day, faint golden mist across the Links, as the sun came up.  Horrible dream early this morning – I was mad, and everybody I was at school with was there, trying to tie me up with ropes, while I struck at them with a large beam.  Knew I was insane, a vile dream.

Now endless nagging worry about going back.  Mind seems quite weak, cannot force myself to go.  


Saw Richardson re work at Museum.  Wrote to Father and Captain Folkard.