2nd October 1944 - Edinburgh

Monday
Up early after a very good night.  Grey haze over the Links, and after breakfast three elderly men were playing golf just below the windows of the flat.

Went down to the Physicians’ Library again, and spent a couple of very pleasant hours there.  The work on calotypes is excellent, and gives a lot of interesting details about early photography in Scotland.  The illustrations are superb, and are stated to be “selected from Andrew Eliot’s collection.”  Should much like to know where this is.

Sent a postcard to Father, and as I was walking into the Post Office it suddenly occurred to me to see if Mrs Dick-Cunyingham was still in Edinburgh, so looked in the telephone directory and found that she was – Prestonfields House, Edinburgh.  Went to the nearest call-box, and in a couple of minutes found myself speaking to her.  Knew her voice at once, although nine years since I saw her, yet she remembered me, too, or at least said she did.  She asked me to go to lunch, so I did.

Although realising that she would no doubt be living in a house of good class and distinction, I was considerably taken aback to find that Prestonfields is a fine late 17th century mansion of grey stone, with tall gables in the Scottish style, and a columned porch, lying in a park just below Salisbury Crags, towards Duddington.  Felt acutely conscious of my shabby clothes, and very badly in need of a hair cut.

There is now a mass of modern houses right up to the park gates, but the trees form an efficient screen to a large degree.  The first person I saw was Janet, dark and lovely as ever.  She is married, and her husband (whose name I did not learn) is an officer serving in Holland.  Yet the only sign of anxiety she showed was to remark casually: “No letter from my wretched husband today”, while she must be nearly mad with worry.

Mrs Dick-Cunyingham made me most welcome.  The house is magnificent, and I felt most embarrassed to find that it appeared to be full of guests, but Mrs. D-C, chuckling with delight, whispered that all these people were really “lodgers”, and it was only in this way that she could keep the house going.  Every room is full of lovely furniture, and the walls hung with Raeburns, a Richard Wilson, David Cox, etc.  We ate in the huge circular dining room, helping ourselves from a central table.  There were 14 or 15 present, sitting at separate tables in groups of 3 or 4.  I sat with Mrs D-C, Janet, a young Polish architect called Nicolas Ostoja-Yankowski, from Cracow, and two elderly ladies, being introduced as “an archaeologist from Colchester Museum”.  Yankowski is apparently doing work for the Scottish National Building Record, under Lord Bute.  He seems a very pleasant fellow, and most talkative, but though very fluent in English he has an unfortunate habit of putting the accents on the wrong syllables, so that it is most difficult to understand him.

The lunch was excellent, and the conversations pleasant.  Several people seemed to know Essex, and the elderly grey-haired lady next to me asked if I knew Layer Marney Hall, and said she was a friend of the Campbells.  We talked and I told her about the sad sate of the church.  She said she was sure that dear Dr Campbell would have no idea how bad the place was.  I made no comment, though strongly tempted.

There seemed to be unlimited quantities of butter and cream, and great bowls of sugar on every table.  Noticed a herd of cows in the Park when I came in, so suppose they make their own.  After lunch we had coffee in the front parlour, before I was shown over the house, and Janet told me that it was in this very room that Boswell and Johnson took coffee.  That would be, I suppose, in November 1773, almost exactly 171 years ago, when Dr Johnson dined at Sir Alexander Dick’s.  The room is very fine, with panelling, and is pleasantly furnished with both ancient and modern furniture, dogs lieing on the rugs or in baskets, etc.  Mrs D-C said that Benjamin Franklin also stayed in the house, and is reported to have said that it was the only place in Scotland where there were no bugs in the beds.

Next I was shown all over the home by Yankowski, who has done a very thorough survey of it and has produced some very beautiful plans and drawings.  The bulk of the place as it stands was built in 1687, to replace the former building burnt by the Edinburgh College boys, who considered that Lord Provost Dick had offended them by entertaining the Duke of York.  From what Yankowski showed me it is clear that a good deal of this first building still remains, incorporated in the later.  Unfortunately I understood little of what he said, and that with difficulty.

Almost every room has some special and interesting feature – one has a painted ceiling and tapestry hung walls, another has its walls covered with sheets of embossed red leather, while the little “Cupid” room at the top of the house has a wonderful moulded plaster ceiling, there being a cupid, the size of a two year old child, hanging from an iron rod in the centre.  According to Yankowski, this was originally the top of the stair-well in the early house.  The decoration certainly appears to be earlier than Charles II’s time.  It is now used as a bedroom, and must be a queer place to sleep in, with this Cupid hanging down over the bed.

In the Tapestry Room they have a small portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots, which is said to be contemporary.

Before I left they told me of the ghosts – the Lady Janet who is seen on the stone stairs, and the invisible foot that can be heard walking up a stair case long since taken away.

Went out to see the huge circular stables, now all empty and the courtyard grass-grown.  For some peculiar reason they have a sort of tea-blending warehouse in one of the harness rooms.  Janet seems to run it.

They were all very insistent that  should see Craig Millar Castle, not far from Duddingston, so I arranged to ‘phone Yankowski and arrange a time.

Janet brought me back to the city in her little ramshackle green car, full of game and rabbits, which she delivered to a flesher’s somewhere near Cowgate.  These were apparently killed by some of the people living at Prestonfields.  I left her near the Scott Monument, had a cup of tea at a milk bar, and then walked down towards Leith, down Pitt Street, to the “Water of Leith”, a clear little brook babbling along over rocks, and along Wariston Road to Broughton Road and Bonnington Road.  (The street names are a great delight – Logie Green Road, Comely Bank, and, best of all, Bonnyblink Road).  Saw one of Leith Corporation Yards, with a lot of horse-drawn refuse-carts going in.  Both horses and motors are used.  Curious to see what a lot of coal-carting is still done in tumbrels, no doubt on account of steep hills.

Then along Bonnington Road, past endless high grey tenements, under railways, past breweries, crossing other roads which seemed run into grey infinities on either side.  Crowds of screaming children, and roaring, clanging trams, and horse-lorries clattering homewards over cobbles.  So to Gt. Junction Street, full of shops, warehouses and churches, over a bridge spanning the “Water of Leith”, now a turbulent muddy stream, with a little boat-yard on its shore.  At the corner by the Commercial Road, opposite the Scandanavian Lutheran Kirk, is a great block of tenements in ruins, destroyed by bombs, but that is all the damage to be seen.  Walked along by the dock-gates, past the Custom House, and across the Harbour Bridge.  Caught a tram back to the city along Leith Walk, an enormously wide street, with an endless procession of railway drays going back to the stables, and crowds of men and girls hurrying home from work.


Picked up a 27 tram near the Library, and so back to a very pleasant supper at Glengyle Terrace.  Cloudy tonight, and the moon invisible.  Talked to Dora about seeing a doctor, and she advised their own man, Dr. L. on the other side of the Links.

1st October 1944 - Edinburgh

Sunday
Sunny morning, with a pale blue mist across the Meadows and Links.  A very strange and horrible nightmare last night – there was a woman, young and very blonde, with no hands.  The dream seemed to go on for a very long time.

Spent the morning reading and writing, and wondering what to do next.  Wrote to Father, to tell him where I am.

This afternoon Dora took me to see the Library of the College of Physicians in Queen Street.  The building is very stately, on classical lines, just 100 years old, and is furnished in a heavy, magnificent style, very dark and sombre.  The library is excellent, containing not only medical books but works on history and topography also.  The most interesting to me is a rare work on early calotypes, by D.O. Hill and R. Adamson, which was produced in a very limited edition of 38 copies only.  It is beautifully done, with superb illustrations, and I arranged to go again tomorrow to examine it more carefully.

Back to Glengyle Terrace on the tram.  Saw great crowds by the National Gallery around the orators, very much the same as in Hyde Park.  Prince’s Street very full, people strolling up and down in the sunshine.  Only about two cinemas are open on Sundays, and the YMCA and service clubs.  All the cafés are shut.

This evening we were talking about Edinburgh, and I was shocked to hear that there are proposals on foot to build temporary houses on Bruntisfield Links and the Meadows.  Yet all the time the Lord Provost, Sir William Darling, is shouting out loud his determination to preserve the beauty of the city.

The people in the Bruntisfield district are quite naturally furious at this catastrophic suggestion, the Biggams and a Mrs Paterson on the same stair are getting up a petition to the City Council.  We talked on this, and I advised getting further details before plunging in.

Ethel went to her sister’s at the Braids for supper, and I was alone with Dora for a couple of hours.  Tried to bring myself to talk about doctors but could not.  Felt very weak all day, and a walk of a quarter of an hour completely exhausts me.  Have slept eight or nine hours these last few nights, but much disturbed by dreams and nightmares.  The sound of the trams coming up from Lothian Road is very much like a distant siren.

How kind these people are.  A little over a year ago they had never heard of me.  Interesting speculations on fate, considering the train of events which led me here – if I had not gone to Stratford that August night, I should never have met Jacqui Conran and never have heard of the Biggams.  Why did I go to Stratford then?  I had not seen Ida Hughes-Stanton for months and had no particular desire to do so.  Had I not gone to Stratford, where should I be now at this moment?


Tonight the church bells are ringing out over the city, and it is almost dark at 7 o’clock.  Three hundred miles away, at Fox One, [the Royal Observer Corps Post] they are wondering whether the divers will be over before 9 o’clock or not.  Even here my heart contracts, stops, and races at the sudden sound of engine whistles or the trams at Tollcross.

30th September 1944 - Edinburgh

Saturday
Lovely day, sunny, with a pleasant cool wind.  Felt well and free, but on walking down to Prince’s Street suddenly began to feel very faint.  Went into the Gardens and sat down, but dreadful sensation of weakness increased, and sight faded for 2 or 3 minutes, while sounds remained perceptible.  Sat still for nearly an hour, then felt a little better and went to see the city.  Delightful to be here again.  Great crowds walking about, all nationalities – Norwegian and Canadian navy men from Leith, Americans, French, a few Dutch, American and Canadian nurses, Scottish girls, strikingly tall, with lovely hair and complexions, some wearing kilts or tartan skirts.

A good number of horses about, pulling flat trolleys, some in open bridles and the fantastic high-peaked Scottish collars and curiously shaped saddles.  Even saw an old landau going towards Waverley Station, just as in the photos which Father bought here 50 years ago.  Plenty of ponies in little two-wheel carts, some on pneumatics, a few in trolleys, but nothing so smart as the Inverness hackneys.  The St Cuthbert’s Co-op have a lot of horses, mostly good type vanners, some used in very modern ill-designed vehicles, built like motor van bodies by the Glasgow Co-operative Society Coachbuilders.

This afternoon went up Calton Hill.  Tremendous view from the top of the Hill – on one side looking across to Arthur’s Seat, the usual mist lying over Hollyrood House, of which only the tops of the turrets were visible.  The sound of distant pipes floated up from somewhere in the Lower Canongate.

On the other side was the Firth, with all Leith stretching out to the pale blue water, and the misty mountains, bathed in gentle sunlight far beyond.  Below Calton Hill, the smoke of ten thousand chimneys softened the hard edges of the buildings, spreading an enchantment over the most hideous modern cinemas or garages.  One cannot fail to realise the aptness of the classic descriptions of this place, however hackneyed they may be – “The Athens of the North”, “City of mist and rain and blown, grey spaces”, etc.

Looked then towards the south, towards England, over the spires and towers, chimneys, each with its steaming plume of blue smoke, to the vast black bulk of the Castle Rock, balanced by the mass of Arthur’s Seat.  Just below Calton Hill stands the High School, with its grand classical lines, and a new office building, a poor thing, on the opposite side of the road.  Nearby is the lovely Burns’ monument, like a little round temple, and the beautiful lines of Regent and Calton Terraces.

Walked round that architectural curiosity, the “National Monument”.  Two very noisy Americans were photographing two girls on the plinth, much screaming and shouting.  These great unfinished columns form a magnificent crown to the hill.  The Nelson Monument seems disappointing, but the observatory is fine.  There were two pretty English girls on the terrace behind it, holding their hats against the violent wind sweeping round the corner of the buildings.

Went down past the High School, past the Burns Monument, to the New Burial Ground, and saw tombs of doctors, merchants, advocates and writers, mostly designed in the old style of stone walled enclosures, with the family name over the entrance archway.

Then through some streets and under the railway bridge to Holyrood Palace, very grey and austere.  Was surprised to see that the main façade is of late 17th century date, the clock of the entrance inscribed “C.R.” and “1680”.  I believe Dorothy Wordsworth was disappointed at the sash-windows when she came here.  Big crowds going in and out of the cloisters, including some very rude English soldiers, swaggering, shouting and smoking, a group of West Indian R.A.F. men of varying shades of black.

Saw the Chapel Royal, a most impressive ruin.  In the S.E. corner is a curious chamber rather like a boiler-house, built by Queen Victoria to contain the remains of several Scottish Kings, which had been scattered from their original tombs.

Then went into the famous State Apartments – the Picture Gallery, (where is the curious series of Royal Portraits), the Queen’s Room, the Supping Room, the Privy Stair, etc.  Saw the spot where poor Rizzio died.  In Lord Darnley’s Room were two American WAAFs, reading the label over the door, and I heard one of them say to the other: “Who was this Lord Darnley?”  The other replied in a deep Southern accent:  “Ah dunno Ah’m sure, some one to do with Mary Queen O’Scots, Ah guess,” which seemed to me to be a masterpiece of under-statement.

I think that nobody, however dull to the wonders of history, can fail to feel the incredible drama of this place.  Here are the very windows through which the Queen looked out onto the Park, the very doorways through which she passed, the privy stair, up which the murderers crept so quietly.  And here is the spot where Rizzio bled to death.  One feels that at night the Queen’s screams must still echo round these rooms.

Leaving the Palace, walked out through the great gates into Abbey Strand, past the Horse Wynd, a man came hurrying up behind me from the Palace Yard, stopping me and asking me in tones of greatest affability how I had enjoyed my visit?  He was about 50, ruddy faced, wearing a soft hat and a dirty mackintosh, and spoke with a curious accent which seemed neither English or Scots.  I was rather astonished, but replied politely that I enjoyed it very much.  Then he said: “You’re English, aren’t you?  What part of England do you come from?” and leered in a most unpleasant way.  I disliked his manner intensely, so replied, vaguely: “Essex”.  Whereupon he grinned said: “Really?” and suddenly turned away to hurry back into the Palace, leaving me to wonder exactly who he was.

Walked up Canongate, saw Queensbury House, now a “house of Refuge”, with a great wall and high gates like a gaol.  Nearby is an old elementary school, called “Public School” in the American fashion.  Saw the Canongate Tolbooth, Acheston House, Huntly House, the latter a municipal museum, but unfortunately closed.  Both Acheson and Huntly Houses have been extensively restored, but many other fine buildings in this part of the city are rapidly falling into ruin.  What can be done with them?

Everywhere great crowds of very poor people, old, ugly women in tartan shawls and clogs, tall, big boned girls in filthy rags, dirty men of every age and complexion, all talking and shouting at one another in a completely incomprehensible dialect.  Nearly every other shop seemed to be an old clothes emporium or a second-hand furniture shop, with here and there bars and “Public Wash Houses.”  (Generally pubs in Scotland to not carry fanciful names as in England, but are labelled simply “MacDonald’s Bar; Good Spirits”, or something like that).  Many Jewish names all along Canongate, and I am gold that Jews own most of the tenement property here.  The sordid squalor is far worse than anything I have ever seen in London or the midlands.

Noticed a plaque on one house recording that it was built by a man names Paterson out of money which he won through playing golf with James VI.

The site of the Netherbow Port is marked by small copper slabs let into the surface of the street, and that of the Talbooth in the High Street in the same way.  Should like to see this done in various places in Colchester.  (It was through the Netherbow that the Highlanders gained access to the city in ’45).  Saw John Knox’s ancient hosue, jutting out over the footpath.

All the way up Canongate and High Street there were men, women, and girls, quite a hundred of them, standing at intervals of about 10 yards offering pamphlets for sale.  They held in their hands cards inscribed “New World Fighters” and “The Truth Shall Make You Free, - Price 3d,”, and carried cloth satchels very similar to those used by “Jehovah’s Witnesses” in Colchester.  Near St Giles’ a little red-haired Scot was arguing vehemently with one of the sellers.  Should be interested to know who these people really are.

Took tram back to Glengyle Terrace, had a delicious tea, and then took both Miss Biggams to the cinema, to see “Murder in Thornton Square”.  Very well done, but rather inferior to the original play “Gaslight”, from which it is derived.

Have not said anything to these dear women about how long I hope to stay here, nor have I yet made any effort to see a doctor.  Have not written to Captain Folkard either, but feel at the moment quite incapable of thinking about anything.

Glorious moon tonight, and low white mist over the Links, the high buildings on the far side standing out black, looking like some strange erections in fairyland.

The papers here are full of the extraordinary case at Aberdeen, where a city councillor called Dewar, who is manager of the crematorium there has been making a packet of money by removing lids from the coffins sent to him and selling them back to the undertakers.  All sorts of gruesome details have been brought to light, and he is now charged with stealing more than 1,000 lids, several whole coffins, and some shrouds.  The case reads like something of the time of Burke and Hare.

Thinking tonight of where I was only a week ago – on the Post, watching the divers coming in.  And now I hope never to see them again.  What am I going to do?  If I leave here by the night train tomorrow, I shall be in Colchester on Monday in time for the meeting.  Or shall I go to Inverness?  Or Perth?  I have no idea, and no feelings or care or worry.

29th September 1944: Whitby - Edinburgh

Friday
Terrible storm all night long, pouring rain, and howling, shrieking wind.  Still raining hard at 8 o’clock, but cleared up so that at 10 I could make a start.  Set off to go to Guisborough, with affectionate farewells.  Poor old Aunt Kit said: “Don’t be so long before you come again, or we shan't be here, you know.”  Sounded so sad.

Got up onto the moorland, and found the wind almost full against me, and great dark clouds and trailing streams of rain over the Cleveland Hills.  Saw a sign-post pointing to Sleights, where grandfather was born, and looked back to a tremendous view of the Abbey and the old church, bathed in sunshine, clouds rushing overhead, the town quite invisible in the deep valley.

A man came out of a farmyard leading a red-heifer on a long rope, while a tall blonde girl in blue dungarees drove the animal from behind.  At almost every farm gate along the road there were milk churns waiting to be collected.  Away to the right one could sometimes see glimpses of the blue sea, wrinkled with white wave-crests.  Lovely rolling country, the hill-tops covered with bracken, and the lower slopes planted with potatoes or sugar beet.  Quite a lot of corn standing traved.  Had it not been for the fearful gale it would have been a delightful day.

Near a side turning to Ughthorpe saw a very early railway carriage in a garden, used as a shed.  The place names on the sign posts seemed very Scandinavian – Ugthorpe, Newholm, Glaisdale, (where they say there are several Rusdales living) and Lealholm.  Here and there the mounds of tumuli rose up among the bracken.

As I battled on up to the top of the Moors, a Fordson tractor belonging to the North Riding War Agricultural Committee came along hauling a fuel-trailer.  The driver stopped as soon as he saw me, and offered me a lift to the top, so off we went, cycle on the front of the trailer, self perched on top, with a wonderful view of the rolling moors, little farms set far back from the road, with rough winding tracks leading to them.  In some of the fields potato spinners were at work, with gangs of Land Girls.  The driver kept on shouting back to me, pointing out the features of various farms that we were passing, but what with the wind, the noise of the tractor, and his Yorkshire accent I did not understand much of what he said, so we ate apples instead.

I had to leave near Danby Low Moor, as he was turning off to Lealholm, and now found the wind so violent that it was almost impossible to walk, much less cycle.  Began to feel very ill.  Struggled on past Scaling Dam, with nothing but a lonely inn here and there, and the lattice towers of a radio-location station over towards the left.  No traffic except an occasional car or lorry every five miles or so.  Came upon a steam-roller, with a trailer and a water-cart, by holding onto the back of which I managed to get a tow up to the top of Freeborough Hill, while a long convoy of Bren-gun carriers suddenly appeared and roared past.  Saw a War Agricultural Committee combine harvester, the crew of men and girls sitting under the lea eating their dinners.  Found a sheltered stack and ate my own sandwiches, but had nothing to drink.

At last, after swooping down a long, steep, winding hill, came in sight of Guisborough, with the great, grey arches of the abbey rearing among the trees just outside the town.  Passed several young miners, wearing pit helmets.  Saw very little of the town, except the one wide main street, as I found there was a train leaving at 2 o’clock, in less than half-an-hour.  Felt very ill.  Quite unable to make up my mind whether to go to Middlesborough and then to Durham, see the Wall and go back to Colchester on Sunday night, or whether to cut and run to Edinburgh.  After all, I could travel back on Sunday night, and still be in time for the meeting.

Guisborough Station is rather like a miniature edition of Paddington, with a high bow roof, but there is only one platform, forming a terminus.  Trains coming in from Whitby have to back in from a junction half a mile away.

The train was a little late, but we got away at 2.15 through the flat meadows to Middlesborough, dirty, dilapidated town.  Hour and a half to wait there.  Station roof was half off, and there were ruined buildings nearby.  This was done in a daylight raid, 2 years ago, when a Newcastle train was caught standing in the station and a lot of people killed.  Middlesborough claims to be the first town in England to be bombed, in July 1940.

Decided to write a card to Maidstone, warning him that I was “delayed” on the Yorkshire Moors and would very likely be unable to get to the meeting on Monday.  Bought a picture post-card at the bookstall, and went outside into the dirty, granite paved streets to post it.  At once felt a sense of relief.  Had a cup of tea, very strong, no sugar, cost 3d.

Train left about 4, and dragged its way slowly up the coast of Durham, through Hartlepool, where some remote great uncle of mine was Lord Mayor so many years ago.  Glimpses here and there of the grey North Sea, beating wildly on the cliffs, clouds of sea birds rising and falling.  Went through Seaham Harbour, a horrible looking little town.  Saw several bomb holes alongside the line, and wretched buildings here and there.  Next, Sunderland, miles of dirty houses and dockside cranes high above them.  Fog coming in from the sea.  The voices of the people on the stations becoming harsher and more foreign.  Impossible to understand what the porters are saying.

Then Gateshead, over the Tyne, and into Newcastle at 5 o’clock.  Changed here, and another hour to wait.  Went out to get some tea, across a wide granite paved street, full of trams, buses and railway horses.  Had a cup of tea and a small paste sandwich for 9d.

Considerable trouble finding from which platform the Edinburgh train would leave.  Walked up and down for a while, and saw the Stephenson Locomotive.  What a pity we have no national railway museum where all these things could be properly housed – the trains at Barrow-in-Furness, for example.  The Railway Museum at York, (which is at present shut), is really only for the old North Eastern Railway.  There is of course a lot of stuff in the Science Museum, but the subject deserves a better exhibition than that, considering that the British were the first inventors of passenger railways.

Edinburgh train at last came in half an hour late.  Plenty of room, and got a seat in a carriage with three women schoolteachers and an RAF man, all going home to Berwick.  The teachers were talking about the noise of firing late last night, which I heard at Whitby, and one of them said: “Well, I expected the sirens to go any minute, and so did my sister.  She said to me, ‘I’m going into the Anderson, to be ready,’ but I wouldn’t.  Of course, it’s worse for her, with the children.”  And so even here, where there have never been serious raids, and where there has been hardly an alarm for a year, fear is never absent.

The train went on further and further north, with the sun sinking behind some low tree capped hills.  Endless acres of potatoes.  Still a few fields of traved corn, and one or two not yet cut.

Although the black out restrictions have been so much eased, and signposts were replaced nine months ago, the railway stations here are still black as hell and quite nameless, so that it is impossible to tell where the train is, and equally impossible to understand the shouts of the porters.

It was quite dark by the time we crossed the Tweed and ran into Berwick yards.  The three school-teachers and the RAF man became quite excited, crying “Here we are in Scotland!  Home at last!”  Apparently as far as they were concerned, the town and country of Berwick upon Tweed ranks as being within the Kingdom of Scotland.

Our train now became to all intents a Scottish “local”, and stopped at every station, people getting in and out continually.  Could understand practically nothing of the conversations.  After some time, seeing a lot of lights nearby, I asked a fat man sitting near me, speaking (I thought) very distinctly: “Are we running into Edinburgh?”, but was rather disconcerted when he pulled his watch from his pocket and simply remarked: “It wants three minutes to half past 9,” apparently under the impression that I had asked him the time.

At last we did reach Edinburgh, at quarter to 10, running past great blocks of tenements, with their windows glowing, and rows of bright street lamps stretching away into the distance.  No one would imagine that the German airforce was only 500 miles away.  Waverley Station was a seething mass of every nationality, full of the noise of engines, the roar of thousands of voices, and the train announcer shouting her instructions above it all.  Noticed a very early railway carriage, about 1840, on one of the platforms, another exhibit for a National Railway Museum.

Cycled slowly down Prince’s Street, under the brilliant lights, the trams clanging past, taxis hooting, a few horse-drawn lorries going back to the railway stables.  And so up the Lothian Road, pavements full of drunks, hundreds of Americans on leave, pretty Scottish girls shrieking and laughing.  At last to Bruntisfield Links, and there was Glengyle Terrace.  Dragged myself up the steep stone stairs, almost on the point of collapse, and found a warm welcome from the dear Misses Biggams.  Hot supper, hot bath, and then bed, in complete luxury.  Not a sound of a ‘plane to be heard, nothing but the noise of the trams going up to the Braids.  To sleep, very happy to think that I am a good 300 miles from the nearest flying bomb.

28th September 1944 - Whitby

Thursday
Up at 8.30.  Calm, sunny morning.  The old ladies most kind, and gave me an enormous breakfast, more than I could eat.  Walked down to the top of Bagdale, through the lane coming down from Sneaton Castle.  Saw the house belonging to Shaw Jeffreys, who was once Headmaster of the Colchester Royal Grammar School.  He left there in 1916, when Cape came.  At present he very wisely lives in S. Africa.

Saw the very pleasant museum, standing on the high hill above Bagdale, but it was not open for another hour, so went down by the lovely Georgian terraces to Baxtergate.  What a pity that those hideous yellow brick house were built on the W. side of Bagdale, right against Carr’s Yard.  My grandfather lived in the one on the corner of the yard in his latter years, and it must have been there that I stayed as a child of three in 1913.

Explored various funny little yards and alleys off Baxtergate – Loggerhead Yard, with a very mutilated wooden figure set into the house front on the street – Mackridge’s Yard, - Virond’s Lane. Massive tank blocks everywhere (one right against Carr’s Yard).

Good public-house names – “The Old Ship Inn”, “The Cutty Sark”, “The Swan” in Baxtergate, with its sign newly repainted.  There were women working in shawls and clogs, and fishermen in their thigh-boots and red canvas jerseys.

Walked up the almost vertical Golden Lion Bank, now obstructed by a tank block, into Flowergate.  A derelict site on the north side, where the Council Offices were destroyed by a direct hit two or three years ago.

Then back to the water side, and across the bride and up Church Street.  Many of the shops do not appear to have changed for generations, and probably have not altered since Father was a boy.

Saw the Talbooth, in the Fishmarket, a handsome square stone building on Doric columns, now apparently disused and deserted.  On the N. face is the following inscription:

BUILT BY NATHANIEL CHOLMLEY
MDCCLXXXVIII
JONTH. PICKERELL ARCHT.

Above the inscription is the Cholmley coat of arms.  This is a very fine piece of architecture, and deserves more care and attention.

The Market Place is at present full of brick air-raid shelters, and there is a vacant site on the E. side, where a number of old houses have been pulled down.  Whatever rebuilding is done there should be in complete sympathy with the Talbooth and the old brick buildings which still remain on the W. side.  The modern fish market is on the N. side, running right down to the edge of the harbour.

Went up Church Street, and saw at the bottom of  Church steps the shop of “J. Storr, Jet Manufacturer”, with the window full of jet ornaments, models of the Abbey, tiny tables and chairs, beads, necklaces, etc; everything priced very dear.  The smallest objects being about 30/-.  We have a good “set” of jet at home, showing the whole process of manufacture, which Father bought down from Whitby about 40 years ago, to illustrate object lessons at Barrack St. School.  I gather from conversations here that there are now only about three jet-makers left, of whom Storrs is one.  For many years past the jet has not been found on the beaches, but is dug out of small pits on the Moors, some 10 miles from the town.

Went slowly up the ancient worn steps to the Church, feeling more than ever like a ghost, having seen those steps all my life in a hundred different photographs.  The old donkey way still runs alongside, green with grass growing between the stones.

Found myself all alone in the churchyard, by Caedmon’s Cross, looking at the great building with its multitude of leaden roofs and squat tower.  My grandfather used to do repairs on the roofs, and once my Father as a little boy went up there with him, and marked his foot print in the soft lead.

The churchyard full of memorials of men lost at sea, of wrecks and disasters of long ago.  Now their bones lie there among the grey stones, the whispering grass, with the cry of the gulls and the beat of the waves, making their everlasting symphony.

Looked down across the town and harbour, the High Light and the Low Light, the two stone arms enclosing the little haven.  The houses on the opposite side looked as if they were built on top of one another, and above them all the gaunt terraces of West Cliff. 

Inside the church, more magnificent than I had believed.  Wonderful Norman chancel arch, and the East Window.  The arch is obscured by the great Cholmley pew built across it, but nobody would ever suggest the removal of such a magnificent anachronism.  All the old pews are still there, with numbers painted on the doors.  Some are marked “For Strangers Only”.  Sat in one for a few minutes to write some notes – yet am I a stranger here?

In the middle of the church there is a fine brass chandelier, early 18th century, I suppose, hanging from a miniature anchor, and in the chancel a chair made from timber of the “Royal Charter”, William Scoresby’s ship.  The pulpit is huge and high.

No electric light anywhere, nor should there ever be.

In the S. Aisle, there is a row of old wooden hat pegs on the edge of the low gallery, and some of the pews appear to me to be of 17th century date.  There is no organ.  Wonder if they still have an orchestra?

Just inside the porchway is a memorial to the lifeboat men who were drowned in the great storm in Feburary 1861, eleven years before my Father was born, but often have I heard him tell the story of that day.  Only one man was saved out of the crew of 13.  Now their names are cut in stone there forever, men of families still living in the town.

Near this monument is an iron-bound chest, and at the far end of the S. Aisle a stone coffin for a little baby.  Another curiosity is an inscription in the Chancel to General Peregrine Lascelles, who “fled at Prestonpans”.  An interesting precedent which ought to be remembered when the time comes to put up monuments to more modern generals.

Went out again into the churchyard, among the grey tumbled gravestones, and wondered how many of these people knew Father or were known by him.  Three elderly men came up the steps and walked through the churchyard, one reciting “each in his narrow cell forever laid”, in a strong Yorkshire accent, hitting at the gravestones with his stick.

Then to the Abbey, and saw the ancient cross-shaft behind the church, and a notice on the wall nearby stating that the Abbey was closed on account of military occupation, but having come so far I was not likely to be put off by that, so went along the drive to the ruins of the great Abbey House, where the Cholmleys lived, and found the whole place deserted, no signs of military occupation except a few notices hung on the walls.

Climbed over a low place into the enclosure round the Abbey Church, and as I walked across the grass felt as though I was stepping into the photo on the bedroom wall at home.  There were even cattle grazing round the towering columns, just as there were when that picture was taken half a century ago.

Walked up and down the great empty aisles, and saw among the grass the traces of the earlier church, where no doubt Caedmon’s songs were sung in his time.  The ruins are in beautiful condition.  What a tragedy that the central tower should have fallen on that summer day a hundred years ago.  The place where the German shell struck in 1914 is still visible.

Outside the N. door are some mediaeval gravestones, exposed in a sort of hollow, while nearby is an ancient well, covered with a modern iron grill and padlocked, but obviously still used, no doubt to water the cattle.

As I stood looking out over the sea, the air raid sirens wailed out for a test.

Back down into the town, saw the house in Grape Lane where Capt. Cook lived, and a fine house in Church Street, overhanging on the third floor in a most unusual way.  Noticed that Capt. Cook’s house, although built in the usual red brick, is dated 1688.  Perhaps some of these brick houses are earlier than one would suppose.

Next climbed back up to the Museum, just before 1 o’clock.  The place is well designed, and of pleasing appearance, square in shape, with an oblong art gallery on the S. side.  The art gallery is free, but a charge of 6d is made for the Museum, which is only supported by funds left by Alderman Pannett, and not by the rates.

Noticed in the art gallery a water-colour given by J.J. Holdsworth, who gave so much material to the Essex Archaeological Society. 

The most striking thing in the Museum is the magnificent series of the great Samians, mounted on the walls in the S.W. corner.  The huge skeletons are beautifully set, and well labelled, with cases nearby containing smaller bones and some nice models showing the appearance of these fantastic creatures.  One of the Ichthyosanni is 25 feet long, and was found at Hawsker more than a century ago, when digging in the cliff for alum.

There is an “Old Whitby” section, with an excellent model of the town, beautifully done, and a fine collection of topographical prints and drawings.  Delighted to see a watercolour showing Carr’s Yard, undated, but from the costumes and appearance of vehicles it would seem to be about 1760.  Must get a copy of this.  There is a coloured lithograph of “John the Bellman”, who died in 1878.  Have heard Father speak of him, how he used to “cry” for things lost or found.  The old town plans are excellent.  Only wish Colchester had such a useful series.  There is also a model of the old harbour bridge, made over a hundred years ago, with two basenles worked by counter-weights.

The ship-building, whaling, and fishing exhibits are fine.  Numbers of fine ship models.  The Capt. Cook collections are of great interest, and include quite a lot of original material brought home by him from various voyages.  Also photographs of the birthplace at Gt. Ayton.  What an outrageous thing that it should have been taken away, but I suppose that if the Australians had not had it the County Council would have destroyed it under some pretext or other.

Found the Hon. Curator in his office, and made myself known.  His name is Capt. Boyle, a retired Navy man, and as I walked in he was sitting at his desk reading the “Museums Journal”, in which was the report that Frank Elgee was dead.  Much regret that I never met him, a most able man.  We had a brief conversation, but Capt. Boyle did not seem very informative and soon left, but soon after he had gone Mr H.B. Browne, the Secretary of the Whitby Literary and Philosophical Society, came in. 

He was most affable, and took me into the Society’s Library, where some ladies were sitting and talking about the German “rockets” which are now falling on London.  (Cannot yet find whether these things are really “rockets” sent from Germany or shells fired from Calais).  Mr Browne showed me the whole of the collections in detail, and made himself most pleasant.  He told me that the Museum was much appreciated by visitors, but is ignored by the Town Council, who are apathetic and intolerant to any form of culture.  Practically the whole of the old town has been condemned, and will be destroyed as soon as convenient after the war.  Mr. B. says he sees no way by which the old buildings round the harbour may be saved.  One councillor said at a Council Meeting that no house of over 50 years old ought to be allowed to stand.  Mr. B. thinks there will undoubtedly be trouble about Carr’s Yard before long, although it has not been condemned yet.
 
Widespread destruction is also proposed at Robin Hood’s Bay, but there is some suggestion that the best of the houses there might be turned into artists’ studios or summer residences.  Would there be enough tenants for that sort of thing?  And how would the properties be maintained and by whom?

There must be still a great mass of interesting folklore on the Moors.  In the Museum is a “witch post”, of ash, formerly built into a cottage, warranted to keep witches away.  At York there is a “witch cross” and other things, and Miss Rodgers told me that there is a man on an Observer Post near Whitby who proudly claims that his grandmother was a witch.

Whitby Museum must be one of the oldest in the country, being founded by the Whitby Philosophical Society in 1823.  It was originally in a house near the harbour, and my Father remembers seeing the samians and fossils there when he was a boy.

Mr Browne also showed me the Society’s Library, which lacks several numbers of the Colchester Museum Reports.  Promised to send them on to him, though very doubtful whether I shall be able to do so.  Feel considerably embarrassed when people ask for our reports subsequent to 1937.

Left Mr. Browne most cordially, and went back to aunt’s house and prepared to make a start on the road, to get as far as possible before dark, but I was pressed to stay another night and to go over to see Uncle Bob Parratt, who lives not more than 200 yards away, which I did.  Recognised him at once, having seen him at Colchester about 8 years ago.  He lives quite alone now, his wife dead, and his son away in the RAF.

Before we had tea he took me back to the town over the old stone flagged paths across the meadows, through a little farm where the cows were just coming in for milking, a brown pony following behind them.  These stone paths are very ancient, and Father used to run along here as a little boy, going up to Smeaton Castle Farm for eggs or milk.

We went down into Flowergate, and then into a maze of courts and alleys between there and the harbour.  Uncle owns several properties around here.  Saw many houses of great interest, both 17th and 18th centuries, some standing five or six storeys high, with curious wooden stairs up the outsides.  It is most essential that a full and complete survey of this town should be made without loss of time.

Then back to tea, and afterwards looking at his books.  Shaw Jeffrey’s “Whitby” is very good.  I hear that the old man is still alive and well, but he has been in S. Africa for 5 years.  It is almost 30 years since he left Colchester.

Then he showed me some 18th century deeds concerning property in the town owned by himself and his brother (a jeweller).  One mentions houses and buildings owned by a John Wilkinson, who died in 1770 and appears to have owned a vast amount of property.  Wonder if this would be the iron-master, who issued copper tokens?

Next I was shown family photographs – Aunt Ciss, taken by my Father at Colchester, 40 years ago, a strikingly handsome young woman, with thick wavy hair and a finely modelled face.  Miss Cecily Rudsdale of Whitby.  For a time she and Uncle Bob lived in a new house in Audley Road, and he gave me two photos taken by himself, looking down towards Drury Farm, about 1906.  The he showed me a photograph of the family taken in front of the coach painting shop at Carr’s Yard, and there was Father sitting in front, a little boy of 13, looking so like me that it was quite uncanny and the ghostly feeling came on very strong.  Standing at the back, behind stern bearded grandfather, was my Aunt Betty, who died of rheumatic disease when only a girl.  She was very pretty.  For some years she and old grandfather were both bedridden in the same house, and during all that time never saw one another, then they both died.

We heard the 9 o’clock news, the Prime Minister trying to smarm over the fearful disaster of Arnhem.  75% of the men have been lost, most of them killed, and there is now no chance of the war ending during the next 12 months.

Left at eleven, and went back to “Broomlea”, the wind rising and great clouds rolling up, obscuring the moon.  Could hear the surf booming on the shore.  Sat talking to the old aunts until nearly midnight.  Aunt Kitty thinks that putting on the street lights now is “tempting providence”, and insists on seeing that her own windows are as darkly curtained as ever they were.  Talked about bombing, and said that when the Council offices were hit a young clerk was killed.  A week later there was another attack, and one bomb fell into the cemetery, on this young man’s grave.  They had several attacks in 1942, the station yard and a big hotel on Westcliff both being hit.

There are very few horses in the town, though a fair number are kept on farms.  Saw a smart little tub cart being driven down Bagdale yesterday.

Of the ancient whaling industry, nothing remains but the collection in the Museum and two pairs of jaw-bones, one in the park and one in Church Street.

Aunt has a photographic copy of the Bagdale drawing in the Museum, which gives the date “1794” in a modern hand.  Am not absolutely certain that it is identical with the Museum drawing, as the figures seem to be altered.

To bed at midnight, the wind howling and roaring, and the sound of guns far off at sea.

27th September 1944: York - Whitby

Wednesday
Beautiful day, brilliant and sunny.  Paid my bill at the Chestnuts which is rather dear as the accommodation is nothing very special, although clean and comfortable.  Dawdled about rather, went to the Library again, but at last got away on the Malton Road at about one o’clock, scudding along with the wind behind, blue sky, great rolling white clouds, and green fields full of fat roan short-horn bullocks.

Noticed two modern inns, both pleasantly designed, the “Hop Grove” and the “Four Alls”, particularly the latter which has a veranda with brick columns, and is white washed all over.  The other is built in good red brick, with two very high gables.  A little further on the “Hazelbush Café” was advertising “Ham and Egg Teas.  Open”, on a newly painted board, but did not enquire whether they really had any.  About a mile past there are endless streams of ammunition dumps on both sides of the road, running on mile after mile.

Got up the sharp hill above Kirkham Priory, and from the top looked back across the Plain of York, with the Minster and the big gasometer glistening in the sunlight nearly 12 miles away.  How cheering this sight must have been to travellers coming across the moors in olden times.

Thought about going down the steep bank to see Kirkham Priory, but began to feel tired and thought I had better push on to Malton, which I reached at a quarter to 4.  Found there was a train to Whitby in 10 minutes, so decided to get on it.

Began to feel sensations similar to those which I experience in Wales as we puffed slowly up the little line to Pickering.  Saw the little town with its ruinous castle on the hill above it, and thought of old Dr John Kirk and my great uncle living there all those years ago.  Then on up a glorious valley, high up into the dales, passed a lonely little cottage with a white pea-hen strutting in the garden.  Slowly the train toiled up to the summit of Goathland Moor – memories of Father and Mother walking there 40 years ago.  Saw fast, running streams, steep bracken covered hills, cattle grazing on the low water meadows, lonely little farmsteads.

Then over the summit, and an impetuous rushing down the other side, past names long familiar to me in my childhood – Grosmont, Sleights, Ruswarp.

It was half past 5 when we rattled along by the Esk, under the high level bridge, and into Whitby Station.  Walked out into the square in a sort of dream, felt very queer, just like a ghost returning.  There was Bagdale, up on the left, where I came running down, only to fall and cut my head nearly 30 years ago, and here on the right was the harbour where I used to stand as a child and see the boats come in, looking at the forest of masts and arms and the old salts, some of whom had sailed as boys in Nelson’s time, leaning on the harbour bar.

These memories were as clear as if I had really been there, yet my own memory of the visit 30 years ago was nothing but a faint shadowy picture of the railway station looked down upon from above, which seemed so vast and which I now see is so small.

The tide was out, with the fishing smacks lying at odd angles on the mud, a great cloud of sea-gulls wheeling and crying, fishermen in blue jerseys, the mass of red and grey houses climbing up the cliff across the water and above all the old church and the Abbey ruins, just like the photographs at home.

Walked into Baxtergate, the shops all shut and silent, and a pretty little girl with long black hair running towards the harbour.  On the quay side were stacks of lobster-pots, light netting ones, not like the big wicker baskets shown in the old photos, but the heavy wooden rail at the water’s edge was the same as 60 years ago, and the fishermen themselves, still leaning there in canvas jerkins and thigh boots, as if they had not moved for half a century.

The waves were breaking on the harbour-bar in a broken white line, and overhead the everlasting seagulls, rising and falling, some floating on the harbour, ever crying.  A few boats were moving slowly about, a faint haze of blue smoke hung over the town.

Went across the swing bridge, where Father has so often stood to watch the ships move into the inner harbour.  Into Bridge Street, and asked a policeman standing there if he could tell me where Miss Rudsdale lived.  It seemed very strange to say the name.

He looked at me carefully, and said in broad Yorkshire: “Would she be old Jim Rudsdale’s daughter?”
I said "Yes, I thought so", and that she was my aunt.
“Your aunt, eh?  Well, last I heard of her she’d moved out o’Bagdale up to the west end, somewhere.  You’d best go along to Carr’s Yard, and ask old Jim Rudsdale what’s her brother.”
I said: “Carr’s Yard?  Do you mean to say Jim Rudsdale’s alive?”
“Aye, he was last I heard of him.”

I thanked him, and felt a most extraordinary fool, for I had no idea that Father’s brother was still alive.  Father never says anything about him, and in some vague way I had gathered that they did not get on very well, for I heard Father once refer to him as “a wrong ‘un”.

So back along the Quay to Bagdale, with its delightful Georgian houses and terraces, and there, on the left hand side, was Carr’s Yard, where Father spent his boyhood.  And so here it was, the Carr’s Yard of which I have so often heard, a fine block facing the road, dating from about 1750, a three story tenement behind, climbing up the cliff behind, and to the right, on the cliff itself, stands the tall thin brick house, also three stories high, with pairs of windows set very close together and a heavy pantile roof – the house to which Grandfather came nearly 100 years ago, when he began his coach building business.  There is a steep track in front of this, leading up to the old coachbuilding yard itself, where my uncle worked until about 15 years ago.

I chained the cycle to the railings, and went down the narrow passage between the buildings and the side wall.  In the first doorway stood an old man with a kindly weatherbeaten face, holding a cat in his arms, the firelight flickering in a dark room behind him.  I asked him if he could tell me where Mr Rudsdale lived, pronouncing the name Yorkshire fashion. 

“Aye”, he replied, “I can that.  Gang up steps and round t’corner.  You’ll see his door on t’right.”

The steps were of narrow worn stones, going steeply up between two blocks into a little paved yard, where the tenements were over the top of those in the passage below.  In the corner was a tiny cottage door, on which I knocked and which was in a moment opened by a little old man looking extraordinarily like Father, but with a short scrubby beard.  The likeness was so striking there was no need for me to ask, but I said:

“Are you Mr Rudsdale.”
“Aye, my name’s Rudsdale.”
“So is mine.”
He stared at me intently, obviously puzzled.  I said: “I’m from Colchester.”
“Come in, lad.  Let’s have a look at thee.”

The room was small and low, with an unboarded ceiling, a long window with little panes looking down into the court below, a blackleaded stove, a table set for tea, a radio on a little table near the window, a horsehair sofa, an old, worn armchair on a rag rug in front of the blazing stove, photos on the walls, Whitby Harbour, the Abbey, relations, etc.

The old man stood staring at me, and at last said: “Well, well, lad, so you’re Jack’s boy.  You’ve been a long time coming, but now you’re here, sit you down, lad, sit you down.”

It was rather like a play, and I felt as if I could stand aside and watch myself talking to this strange little man, this caricature of my own Father.  But for things that occurred far away in the last century it might well have been that this cosy little cottage would now be my home, and that my Father might have been a retired coachbuilder instead of schoolmaster.

Uncle began asking me all the usual questions – how was Jack?  Was he keeping well?  Had he got a good housekeeper? and I made all the usual replies.  The old man said: “I’m far from well you know, far from well.  Asthma, asthma,” (thumping his chest) “I don't expect to leave the house again before the spring.”

He sat down and gazed into the fire, thinking I suppose of the days of long ago, when three brothers played in the old coach-building shops, or ran down Bagdale and through Baxtergate to the Harbour to see the boats come in, deep laden with fish.

At last he turned and said rather deferentially: “You’ll stop to tea, lad, won’t you?  Your cousin Cathy’ll be in in a minute.”

I thanked him profusely, but could not for the life of me think who “cousin Cathy” might be.  In a few minutes she arrived, a pleasant faced woman of 38 or 39, looking rather worn, and breathing very asthmatically.

“Some one to see you,” said the old man, chuckling and coughing.  “Bet you don't know who he is, eh?”
She looked at me very hard, and said: “Well, no I don't, but I know the face somehow.”
“So you ought, my dear, it’s Jack’s boy from Colchester, come to see us after all these years!”
“Well, my goodness!” she said.  “This is a surprise!  How kind of you to come.”

Then we had tea, and I talked to the old man about coach building.  He said they mostly did only carriage work, leaving trade carts and farm wagons to another man at the other end of the town, whose business is still open.  Now nothing is left of the Carr’s Yard business, and the old paint shop has been let to a cabinet-maker.  Cousin Cathy started talking about the rest of the family at great length, but the names “Bob’s eldest” or “Will’s boy” meant little to me as I am so out of touch with these people.  Was faintly horrified to hear that one of them, Cathy’s brother of about 39, is in the RAF and is dying of consumption in South Africa.  Felt a little chill of fear, thinking of the terrible coughs which I get every winter.

After tea it was suggested that I should leave the cycle at Carr’s Yard and should go up to Aunt Kit’s house with Cathy.  We went down to the Station Square to get a bus, and while we were waiting Cathy pointed out the name “Arthur Sawdon” on a shop front.  I said: “Let’s see, didn’t my Father marry a Sawdon first?”
She said: “That’s right, I was named after her,” and said no more on the subject.  Strange that Cathy Sawdon, dead 40 years ago, might have been my Mother.

Got in the bus and went up to West Cliff in the gathering dusk.

Street lights were just coming on, and windows glowed with subdued lights.  This is as a matter of fact the first week that any lights have been allowed here.

Great view from the cliff top across the sea to Sandsend, and the black mass of Kettleness beyond, the wind rising and the waves breaking white on the rocks.

Found that the Aunts live in a modern house, almost opposite Sneaton Castle.  Felt rather self-conscious, calling upon relatives whom I did not know, so late in the evening, when it was quite obvious that I should be expecting a bed.  However, the two old dears made me most welcome after their first surprise.

Aunt Hannah, the eldest, is about 80 I think, and rather feeble.  Aunt Kitty is not quite so old as Father, and was not feeling very well today but was most anxious to talk.  We did until half past eleven, after an excellent supper, and talked until I could no longer keep my eyes open.

They were both pathetically anxious to hear all about Father, and it saddened me to think that they will probably never see him again.  And so we sat talking hour after hour, of old people and the old times long ago, until I really felt that it was I and not my Father who lived in this town 70 years ago.  Was rather amused when we talked of old customs – the coloured Easter Eggs, the Plough Monday boys, and the Planting of the Penny Hedge.  Both old ladies had lived here their whole lives, yet they have never seen the hedge yet!  It was planted as usual this year.

At last I got to bed, and before I went to sleep opened the window and listened to the wind crying among the roofs and the ceaseless murmur of the waves.

And so ends my day.

On the 9 o’clock news tonight was the first admission of the terrible disaster which has happened at Arnhem in Holland – practically the whole of the British Paratroop force has been lost, and the few survivors have now been withdrawn across the river.  Yet in the evening papers at York last night, this was denied, although the facts had already been announced by the Germans.

26th September 1944 - York

Tuesday
Fine morning, sunny and warm.  From about 7 o’clock could hear horses going past, mostly army stuff, R.A.S.C. going into town.
Cycled down to the Public Library, next to the Abbey Gardens.  Found that they had nothing of Essex beyond the usual guide books.  Very pleasant woman in charge of the Reference Library, very knowledgeable on York antiquities.  Told me she had done a good deal of work translating early MSS and charters.

Went into the Minster – such a vast echoing cavern, columns and arches soaring away to such a height that the groining is lost in the dim gloom above.  The arcading is so immense that one wonders at what point the builders decided that one more cornice would either spoil the perfection or bring the whole place tottering down in ruin.  The effect of the columns and arches is that of a forest of stone trees, with their branches spreading and interlocking.

The building was full of a curious sort of rumbling echo, caused by the sound of subdued voices talking in the choir.

Suddenly, afar off, and in some unimaginable height, the great clock struck ten.

Just inside the main west door was a lady artist, busy repainting the statue of a saint, kneeling upon a high scaffold.  She told me that it was intended to repaint many of the statues, and to restore some of the glorious colour of the Middle Ages.

Walked up into the Choir, and saw that the N. Transept is completely filled with wooden scaffolding, where repairs are being done to the roof timbers, badly eaten by beetle.  The Five Sisters Window of course now has only plain glass.  This work on the roof timbers has been going on since 1934, and is estimated to cost £12,000.  The roof is early 15th century.

Then into the Choir, the walls lined with magnificent monuments – Henry Belassis and his wife, daughter to Sir Thomas Fairfax, two beautiful kneeling figures.  In the Chapel of All Saints is Archbishop Tobias Mathew, who died in 1628, and whose tomb and effigy have now been repainted, so that he lies there incredibly life like, as if he had died only yesterday.

In front of the high altar was a little child kneeling at a “prie-dieu”, hands clasped and eyes shut as if in prayer.

Nearby is Swinburne’s tomb, gloriously coloured, showing him kneeling before his desk, then Henry Medley, “Vice Admiral of the Blue”, and Thomas Lamplugh, Archbishop, standing with a staff in his hand, looking like an actor at the rise of the curtain.  One monument is extraordinarily bad and ugly – Mathew Hutton.  Near him is William Gee and his two wives, the first being Hutton’s daughter.  Master Gee is a dear old man, exactly like a friendly old Yorkshire farmer, and has a most amusing and lengthy inscription under his effigy.

There are numerous war memorials of distant battles long ago, and many regimental colours hang from the walls.  There is a chapel in the S. Transept set aside for prayers for the success of “the great invasion”.  Seems oddly blasphemous to pray in a cathedral for the success of an adventure which means the destruction of churches, cathedrals and abbeys all over Europe.

Suddenly noticed the tombstone of an early 18th century Registrar, and was reminded of my ancestor, Rudsdale, who was Registrar in ?  Somewhere under this uneven grey stone lie bones of my bones, dust of my dust.  Although it was pretty hopeless to expect that there would be anything recorded regarding – Rudsdale’s grave, I thought I would make a few enquiries at the Registry, and was from there referred to the Cathedral Library in the Dean’s Park.  Saw the Chancellor, the Revd. F. Harrison, who is also Librarian, who kindly let me into the vaulted lower chamber of the building, and then took me upstairs into a dimly lighted room packed with books from floor to ceiling.  Every chair and every table were stacked with books, MSS, and bundles of papers.  At one little table, quite covered with masses of loose papers, sat an aged bearded parson, reading intently from an immense leather bound volume.

Mr Harrison, a mild, benevolent looking gentleman, was most kind and helpful, although he had only a few minutes before going to catch a train.  He went over to a great press to get out a list of Registrars, and as he did so his hand lighted on a pile of MS on the ledge in front.  “Ah!” he said delightedly, “I’ve been looking for this for weeks.”  Unfortunately no trace of Mr Rudsdale could be found in that particular list or in any other.

Went out through the Dean’s Park, now full of underground shelters.  Wonder if anything was discovered when they were dug.

Walked through the town to Walmgate Bar, and was surprised to find it so far out, as I had always imagined it was somewhere in the middle of the city.  Examined the curious Barbican.  The little house built onto the rear of the gate is now being restored by Corporation men.  As I walked away, three girls came riding through the gate on good class hacks.

Walked on the walls near Walmgate, then went to the Castle Museum again.  Many visitors in the building, including a lot of American soldiers from a hospital near here.  A special room is set aside for school classes, and a teacher is permanently employed to instruct the children on the Museum’s collections.  Miss Rodgers told me that this sometimes leads to difficulties, as the teacher allows the children to touch and handle the exhibits, which sometimes causes damage.  The teacher in question is a London woman, who makes no secret of her loathing of the Yorkshire accent and dialect, and her determination to break the children of speaking in that manner if she can.  As Miss Rodgers has a very distinct accent and is very proud of her Yorkshire birth this does not, I imagine, do very much to improve relations between them.  When I was there a lesson was being given on old-time transport, the children being told several inaccurate facts while I listened for a few moments.

Had tea in Coney Street, in a café almost opposite the famous “Swan”.  This is now used as a YMCA hostel, and I understand is to be destroyed as soon as convenient after the war.  Some chain-store covets the site.

Went round to all the saddlers in the city, trying to get terrets for the set of harness in the Museum, but could not find one as they say all old harness furniture has been used up during the last few years.  All the men seemed very busy.

Bought a ticket for the Theatre – the Repertory Company were doing Ibsen’s “Doll’s House”.  Never seen it before.  Very well done, and a beautiful setting, but a dreary piece.  Cannot raise very much enthusiasm for these far-off Norwegian plays, perhaps because I know so little of Scandinavia.

Sometimes during the play, I felt particularly nervous, listening to ‘planes flying overhead, and wondering if they were loaded bombers, perhaps likely to crash on the city.

After the show had a snack at the station, the only place I could find open, and then walked along the city wall in the moonlight, to Micklegate Bar.  The wind began blowing strongly, and the street lights shining through the Bar began to swing violently, causing strange shadows to move and dance, while the Minster towers were pale in the light of the clear moon.

York is a very lovely city, and still has kept much of its gracious charm in spite of both Germans and English.  There is a very pleasant stucco terrace, opposite the Theatre, called St Leonard’s, and many good Georgian houses built in the curious yellow-red brick which seems peculiar to Yorkshire.  One very fine house just to the N.E. corner of the city walls, outside Bootham Bar, was destroyed in the big raid, with all its contents.

The houses in The Mount are very good too, of late 18th century and Regency dates.  The streets along there are bordered by trees and wide steps of cobble stones, and look very attractive.  This morning as I went over the Ouse Bridge the fire brigade were pumping water from the river and playing their hoses just below the ruins of the Guildhall, with the sun shining on the cascades of water.

Saw a delightful public-house named “The Yorkshire Hussar”, with a grand sign board of a hussar changing.

Arranged to leave for Whitby tomorrow.