Letters from the Past

My mum gave me this bundle of papers the other day: a bundle full of newspaper cuttings, old momentos, funny poems and all sorts of interesting titbits from decades past.

Amongst it all are a couple of letters from my mum’s Auntie Catherine (Kate), whom I mentioned in this post. She left our island in 1924, on the SS Marloch, and died in British Columbian sanatorium just a few years later. One of these letters was written to a cousin of Auntie Catriona, and here are some snippets of that letter:

My dear cousin,
Had your lovely letter a while ago of which I was very pleased, and to learn by it that you are all enjoying the best of health which is a great blessing from the Lord.
Well my dear, I am very thankful indeed to be able to give you a good account of myself and the Barvas boy that’s here [mentioned in this post]. I see him every night. He comes to the window to speak to me. He is a dear boy and a good boy too [‘good boy’ here is a translation of ‘balach math’, meaning he was a believer]. Tomorrow is New Year’s Day and Xmas is over again. Oh how thankful we ought to be to the Lord that we have seen another year coming to an end, and it is Himself that knows who will see the next one coming to an end. Last winter, I never thought I would see this one. Everyone will go when his time comes, but the question is who is ready to go when the Bridegroom comes. We never know when He will come. “Dèanaibh faire air an adhbhar sin, do bhrìgh nach aithne dhuibh an latha no an uair air an tig Mac an Duine.” (‘Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. Matt 25:13)

Oh, Annie dear, how I would love to be among you. Tomorrow you will have the New Year’s Service and all the rest of the week [there would be a meeting each evening for the whole of the first week of each year]. Oh, Annie dear, make good use of the privileges you have there. I was in church last Tuesday myself and the Barvas boy listening to an English minister. The text he had was, ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill to all men’. This was for the Xmas service. Xmas day means a lot when you come to think on the wonder of that verse, ‘agus rugadh dhuibh an diugh Slànaighear ann am baile Dhaibhidh, neach is e Criosd an Tighearna'. ('For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord' Luke 2:11). Did you ever think about that old Christian in the second chapter of Luke called Simeon, and what he said when Christ was taken into the temple: ‘Oir chunnaic mo shùilean do shlàinte’ (For mine eyes have seen thy salvation’). But blessed are those who have not seen but believe. Oh Annie, my heart is full tonight!

How I would love to be with you. You made me laugh when I read your letter about when you were in Lowestoft trying to get a hold of Roddy’s hand. I wouldn’t be a bit scared of him now, the way I used to be. Wasn’t the verse he had lovely. It’s special. ‘Eil barrachd gràdh agad dhomhsa orra sin’ (Loves thou me more than these?) [I have no way of knowing what was said in Annie’s letter to her.) Do you know, Annie, that sometimes I feel so good in my soul that I would like to fly out of this body and be forever with the Lord Jesus. 'Who can separate us from the love of Christ'. Let us follow the Lamb, wherever He goes.

I got a nice letter from Malcom Morrison a while ago. I think the world of him anyway, and you were saying that he thinks a lot of me. Oh well, it’s a good thing someone does! May the Lord grant that I will meet him yet before I die. I was so pleased to hear that he sat at the Lord’s Table. Well, dear, you will remember me when you hear him singing. Oh my, ‘s e dùrachd mo chridhe agus m’ ùrnaigh ri Dia [the desire of my heart and my prayer is] to meet you all where there is no more parting, where the Lamb of God will be. My heart would break if I would think that I wasn’t going to be among God’s people in His Glory. Oh, never mind, dear, it wont be long until this night is over.

I am sure Angus is still home. I didn’t answer his letter yet.

Anyway, as I am writing to yourself, it’s just the same.
I was up for Xmas dinner last Saturday and Annie, dear, I felt thankful to be able to do so. I enjoyed it very much. There were 26 tables in the dining room and 6 at each table so you can imagine all the crowd that was there. The doctors and nurses were waiting on us all. They really tried to make everything as cheery as possible for the patients but I would enjoy a Gaelic service more. I got about 20 presents this Xmas and 20 cards from all over, and very useful presents indeed from people I never expected. I really was surprised to get so many, and the girl that’s with me got about 35. Well, my dear Annie, I am sure by the time my letter reaches home, you’ll have the sad news about Mac Mairi Phadraig from Port. I was told that he died in Trail lately with a tumour that was growing near his brain, the same trouble as my cousin Angus from Dell had. How sad to hear of our own dear home boys laid to rest in Trail so far away from their beloved ones, but it doesn’t matter where the body is laid to rest – it’s the soul – to know where that’s going.

Now my dear, I think I’ve said enough just now. It’s after nine and I am supposed to have my lights out soon, so remember me, dear, at the Throne of Grace . And remember me when Roddy is preaching and when Malcolm Morrison is singing. The dear soul. Love to Angus and to you all. Also the MacRitchies and not forgetting your uncle Callum. I never answered his letter. I don’t like to bother him – that’s why. Love to your crew, and to everyone. How are they in our own house?

Write again soon. I am so longing to hear from you.
Your loving cousin, Kate.
Happy New Year to you all.

Doesn't it make you cry... All on her own, in Canada. Dying of TB, and not a family member in sight. And yet, 'underneath were the everlasting arms'. She was safe in the arms of Jesus, so I shouldn't feel so sad. She passed away shortly after this letter was written, and it's easily seen from the letter that her soul was prepared for meeting her Saviour. What joy there was then for her! No more sadness, no more missing her homeland, or family or friends. No more parting. I'm glad I know this about her, otherwise I'd be really sad.

Here she is, photographed during the First World War, just a few years before she emigrated.


  1. Wow Anne! :) What a great piece of history! It's amazing that only from one letter, you can tell this woman had a sweet and beautiful relationship with her Lord. :) I absolutely love old family papers! :)

  2. What a precious letter! It's so sad to think of her dying so far from home, but it is so amazing to think of the hope and peace that she had because of Christ.

  3. Makes you want to get out paper and pen and stamps. Doesn't it encourage you to think of the people in your own family who've gone on and who lived faithfully here! You have a kind of fellowship with her because she spoke so clearly of the Lord in her letters. Thanks for taking the time to type it all out!!! Love and hugs!

  4. Gosh...so interesting. It's nice to know she was touched that so many people remembered her at Christmas. Wonderful you have these family letters; and amazing you have a photo of your great aunt. Do you know the history as to why she was in uniform?

  5. What a beautiful woman! What a blessing to have such noble family members to paint - by their lives - such a good picture of our Saviour! and the Peace He gives! Thanks for sharing this treaasure!

  6. what an amazing faith she had, you can tell how ready she was to meet her maker, what a treasure for your family to keep!

  7. Wonderful things to hang on to. These are the memories on paper; those we may not have personally lived but belong to us none-the-less.

  8. Wonderful post! And so wonderful to know that she was ready. To be alone at that time would have been unthinkable, but she wasn't and she knew it. I also loved the photo--her beautiful spirit shows through her beautiful face. Thanks so much for sharing her story.

  9. Beautiful post, and beautiful letter. And to think we will meet her when our day comes! It's a good thing we will be with the Lord for eternity, because it will take that long to meet everyone and get acquainted!

    Photos of those who have gone before us in the Lord are special. I want to write their image on my heart so I can say hello when I meet them.


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