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Saturday, December 19, 2015

#28 - Sarah Mystery Solved!

This postcard was sent "To A Scot Abroad From A Scot At Home."  It was sent October 6, 1911 and arrived at the Fraser Avenue Post Office in Vancouver October 18.

I am slightly disturbed by the breath blowing out of this man's mouth (not sure why), and the seeds that remind me of the dreaded dandelion, but other than that, it's a nice sentiment.  This postcard, possibly due to it's texture or light colour, is particularly dirty compared to most of the others in the collection.

The rampant lion is a common motif in heraldry and is a primary part of the Royal Coat of Arms of Scotland.  Can someone tell me if this particular form of lion with thistle leaves and berries is seen elsewhere?

Four postcards previously (#10 - Madeira#13 - Seaforth Highlanders#18 - the MacLean Memorial, and #24 - the Burning of the Clavie) , I've talked about the author of this postcard.  Her name is Sarah and she was from Burghead, on the coast just to the northwest of Elgin.  Up until now, I wasn't entirely sure who Sarah was, but in this postcard is the last piece that puts this puzzle together:  "D.J. Thanks very much for nice P.C. Glad to hear you are getting on well.  I had quite given up hopes of hearing from you again but when I did it was with a vengeance.  We are all quite well just now.  Maggie is at home for a few weeks just now.  Poor Anna had to come home owing to bad health.  She is pitiful right now Jack.  you would hardly know her.  I don't think she will ever get better.  Yes there is great word of the "Kilties" just now.  They are to camp in the Brock next year.  We will miss you seeing the C.B. Tartans are to be there.  Kindest regards.  Sarah."

The 1901 census shows us that Sarah Sandeson, the daughter of William and Isabella Sandeson, had a sister named Maggie, and one named Annie.  So our mystery is solved.  We have a name and a family, but I'm still not sure what relationship the families had with each other - likely friends, possibly relatives.  I'll have to look a little further into that.

She mentions the "Kilties," which the "Free Dictionary" (quoting Random House) defines as "a person who wears a kilt, esp. a member of a regiment in which the kilt is worn as part of the dress uniform."  From the context it sounds like military men were congregating there for camp. This is the second time she mentions the C.B. Tartans.  Jack was a member of the 4th Cameron Highlanders, and I suspect that this is what she is referring to.

The "Brock" is noted in "Notes on Burghead" (p.45):  "In a summer evening, with a smooth sea and a gentle breeze playing on the waters, no more pleasant seat can be had than on the top of the 'Brock Bailies' (by which name the high ground above the harbour is designated), and the outlook on the clear blue sea, with the mountains of Boss, Sutherland, and Caithness in the distance, and the magnificent entrance to the bay of Cromarty, lighted up with the rays of the setting sun."  If there is anyone out there familiar with Burghead, perhaps you could confirm where that area is/was.

More personally, she is expressing her fear that she was not going to hear from Jack anymore.  And the indication is that he is busy and losing touch with his Scottish friends.  Something that was liable to happen, and all too common with people who moved so far away, I'm sure.

#27 - Seaforth Cottage, Garmouth

So the other day I posted a "Photograph" of Jack McCurrach's sister (Nellie), her husband (John Moir Smith), and their 3 children.

They are photographed in front of "Seaforth Cottage," Garmouth, Moray, Scotland:

Well, it turns out this was actually a "Real Photo" postcard (I just needed to turn it over ... darn it!).  Real photo postcards were ones that were taken of people and printed onto postcard paper - they were introduced in 1902 by Kodak, and people could take their own postcard pictures:

Unfortunately, it was never written on or post-marked, so it provides us with no clues about the family, but these types of postcards were certainly interesting in themselves.  It tells some about communication at the time - the fact that photographs were available to people for such purposes - and that this family had enough money to use the service.  They (or a friend) may have had their own Kodak camera for this purpose, or they may have paid for the service of a professional.  I would assume that this is one of many they sent to friends and families.

Today I was looking through Google Streetview at Garmouth to see if I could find the house.  I tried a couple of days ago to no avail, but today I found reference to the house possibly being on High Street, so I took a really close look.  And, by golly, I found it - and it was confirmed by someone on the Garmouth and Kingston Village Hall Facebook site.  Thank you so much to that person who is now trying to hook me up with someone who can give me some more information about the house (sorry, I don't know your name!).

(again, thank you Google Maps and Streetview!)

It has been added to on one side and the front (and maybe the back, can't tell with this picture), but it IS the same building.

Also interesting, after only knowing that this man was "Regimental Sergeant Major Smith" (my Great Uncle Jim, who was in England in WWII, and met the little girl in the picture who was then about 20 - and he may have met his aunt and uncle, although I don't know that for sure), I now know that his name was John Moir Smith.  He was indeed a Regimental Sergeant Major with the Seaforth Highlanders, which he joined in 1888 (when he was 20).  From "The Morayshire Roll of Honour" (1922), we find out that he: "served in France and Germany; awarded Distinguished Conduct Medal, Queen Victoria's Sudan Medal, North West Frontier Medal, Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, and Khedive's Medal for Atbara, Chevalier de l'Ordre de Leopole II, Croix de Guerre, and Meritorious Service Medal."  From this list, I have learned that he served in the Sudan, India, and the Congo.  And since the book is about the men and women who took part in the Great War, he also served in WWI - that's what "served in France and Germany" means, I'm thinking.  

So by the time he got married to Helen Jane McCurrach in 1911 (14 years his junior), he had lived an adventuresome life as a soldier on other continents, and then served again after they were married.  No wonder my Great Uncle Jim (Jack's son) was so impressed by R.S.M. Smith and remembered him by his rank rather than his first name.  

Nellie was the third child of Jack's parents John and Susannah, and was given to an aunt and uncle to raise.  She certainly ended up in "better circumstances" than her parents had been in.  

When my uncle Jim met his 20-year-old cousin, she apparently said:  "I dinna kin when ya from, but I know you're a McCurrach."