Capt. Arthur David LINKLATER

Captain Arthur David LINKLATER 1879 - 1955

His Life Afloat and Ashore: Christmas

All times I have enjoyed greatly, suffered greatly, both with those that loved me, and alone.

Christmas always got a special mention in Dum's record keeping. Whether at sea as an apprentice on the other side of the world or in grim lodgings in Liverpool during WWII he generally made a note of who he was with and what cheer. Here are his accounts of Christmas from his Journal when an apprentice and after The Willows as noted in the 8vo Annual.

Dum's first Christmas of which I have a record was that of 1895. Having left home at 9.15 a.m. and Edinburgh at 10 on 10 Dec 1895 he and others made their way to Antwerp. The 19th December was their last night in Antwerp. So spent the night at “Mother Dooly’s” and then went to a place and had a great feast. Had fine evening. Very cold. They loaded dynamite on 21st December and next day Left Flushing about 11 a. m. The “John Bull” and river pilot left us at 10 p.m. We had then all sail set with a fine breeze. We are making about 8 knots. The watches start tonight. Weather fine. On Christmas Eve he recorded; Have cleared the channel. Rough. 1 am a complete waster today, not fit for anything but the scuppers. Ship is now rolling heavily. Off our course a little, but have done exceptionally well. Not looking good for Christmas.

1895 (Christmas) I have spent a “joyful” Christmas as sick as a dog in my bunk, Christmas dinner didn't trouble me. It consisted of Dry hash. Hard tack, and Plum Duff with cayenne pepper in it instead of spice. Stormy and now very rough, I thought of you all at home and wished I was at the Priory for the day.

On Boxing Day he wrote; I am not so bad today but far from right and hope it is soon over. The sea seems very high to me, and I suppose it is with not being accustomed to it. We are five points off our course. On the 27th I feel a little better today. I am getting more accustomed to the motion of the ship and also to the waves. We signalled a homeward bounder today but she took no notice so no word will reach Scotland yet. and thereafter there's no mention of sea sickness. But Christmasses didn't get much better.

1896 What a miserable Christmas this has been. This morning we furled the mainsail, and it has been raining off and on. Ship rolling a lot. Could not lie out on deck. Our holliday was a proper “stand by” day. The whole day and night we were continually shifting the yards about. Christmas dinner consisted of Plum duff, and hash. The plum duff only consisted of flour and some currants, which look like as if they had been droped from the royal yard. Our tea consisted of Hard tuck and a mug of tea without sugar. The sugar never can last longer than Wednesday. Day was spent reading, and lying in bunk. Tonight it is pitch dark. Can see almost as well with your eyes closed as you can with them open. Furled Royals and F Topgallant sail. Took in all Jibs and staysails. Early this morning a large 3 masted ship bore down on us, and passed astern within 50 yards. She was going towards Frisco. I could not help often comparing my lot with all you ones at home. I wished you all a very happy Christmas.

1897 Christmas. 12 oclock today we were about 30 miles off Flores (Azores) Distance from Falmouth 1,282 miles. She was not very often on her course. We are rushing along under square yards pretty well. We each got a cigar from the mate, so we are quite the toffs again. I wish you all a good dinner and a very merry and Jolly Xmas. Tonight a huge steamer past quite close to us.

1898 Christmas day! First of all this morning I was at the wheel from 12 - 2 a.m. Grand breeze has come up, and we are off again. I wrote home and said I expected to be on the equator on the 25th, but instead we are 42 degrees south of it, through head winds, and calms. We are just 2,420 miles away from the place I expected to be in. In other words, we are almost as near to the South pole as to the equator. All day it has been a kind of a “Scotch mist” so in that respect it is “Seasonable weather”. Every Christmas has been wet some way, either the water coming thunderding down on top of you from the bulwarks, or rain. This is the nicest Christmas day I have had on board. Curious the first and third Christmas days were spent near each other and the second and fourth close to each other. The first was between the Bay of Biscay and the North Atlantic, the second in the Pacific, the third in the North Atlantic, the fourth in the South Pacific. I hope the fifth is in Scotland. We have never been lucky enough to be in port for Christmas or New Year's day. Just to be a little like home, we are all wishing each other “A Merry Xmas” and in every case the answer is “I wish it was” and “I hope it will be the last at sea”. The Xmas dinner was (if possible,) worse than usual. The “Bill-of-Fare” was Tinned mutton, Potatoes, and Duff. Beautiful list isn't it? After dinner all hands had a small glass of run each. I hope you are all having a very merry and happy Xmas. Can't help feeling very melancholy today some how. Almost like a fish out of water. I am getting accustomed to these miserable Xmases now.

Christmas seemed to come a day early in 1899.

24 Dec 1899 Oiled poop. Great rows between Bosun and mates. I am living like a king now, as well as the Old Man at any rate. Mince pies for dinner, dough nuts for tea, and Bill (the nigger cook) and I scuttled the whole tart that was intended for the cabin table. I was in the galley when it was finished, and Bill said he thought it looked too good for aft. So we immediately polished off the lot. They of course could say nothing. The tart hadn't turned out right, that was all.

Come the day itself he does not even mention Christmas.

25 Dec 189970 days out and not yet across the line. This is a disgracefully long passage. The ship looks quite flash now, everything is nicely painted from the truck to the main deck. Our house also looks at its best. As yet, of course, it isn't fitted up.

13 March 1900. Droped anchor opposite dear old Leith at 7.30 a.m. Thank God this voyage of voyages is finished. Too excited to write more. Links. And that was the final Journal entry. The next mention I have of Christmas is 37 years later by which time Dum has left the sea, married Elsie May Soundy, my grandmother who he refers to generally as W.P., though why I have no idea. He has also left India and has a son Nelson, my father.

1937 Very wild, dull, clear. Nelson W.P. & self at Crown Hotel

1938 Nelson W.P. & self at “26” Very cold. Everything frozen up & covered with snow.

1939 At 26 Chepstow Villas. Fog. Freezing and damp. Blackout 3.45 P.M. Nelson on duty at Chatham. Just W.P. and self together during day & evening. Financial position worse than ever. Letting rooms at 26 at 15/-

1940 At 5 Donnington Grove, Southampton. Afternoon of 24th Eric, Doris Doris was Elsie's daughter from her first and eric was Doris' first husband and father of: and the three boys [Ian, David and Andrew] arrived by car from Portsmouth. Stayed the night and left for London Christmas morning. Nelson arrived from Chatham afternoon of Christmas eve and left for London after breakfast Dec 26th. Once again W.P., Nelson and self together. War conditions very apparent and little Christmas spirit in evidence. No one feeling like Christmas. Difficulty in getting things from shops owing to destruction of town, difficulty of transport etc. and everything very expensive. Fortunately both Christmas eve and Christmas were free from air raids. Financial position still very bad and trouble in trying to get clear of 26 Chepstow. Weather cold and dry.

1941 The 3rd Christmas of the War. All manner of restrictions on buying gear, food, rail tickets etc. This is the first Christmas W.P. and I have not spent together. W.P. working with Mrs Crabtree at Tadworth. Nelson on duty at Chatham. I at 43 Plattsville Rd. Liverpool. Had a quiet day on my own and at mid-day went to the ‘Halfway House’ and had some beer. It is next to impossible to get a bottle of whisky, or any kind of bottled beer. This year we have no home, and our furniture is in storage at London. We still have “26” on our hands and are unable to locate Mrs B., the purchaser. The financial position very bad. All capital gone, as well as most of the furniture etc. But at least now living within our slender means. Weather mild and damp.

1942 4th Christmas of the War. Everything naturally much tighter this year. The things in the shops mostly “cheap” rubbish at absurdly high prices. Next to no toys for sale. [For whom I can't imagine!} No extra rations with the result that as the present meat allowance is 1/2 per head per week, and nothing extra, everyone is very short of meat. However no one complains, as all feel so many are so much worse off. The worst of it is there is no whisky or beer to be obtained except small quantities in the pubs. This year at 3 Gainsborough Road Wallasey in two furnished rooms. W.P. here also. Furniture in storage at London. Still got 36 Chepstow villas, empty and on our hands. Nelson in Iceland. No word of Bruce for over a year since the fall of Singapore. No knowledge of the whereabouts of Dudley. Weather cold, foggy & damp. Financial position right down to bed rock with now no cash reserve what-so-ever. W.P. working at Owen Owens one of the large Liverpool stores. Spent a quiet day by ourselves and very pleased to be together.

1943 5th Christmas of the War. 64½ At 20 Burton Avenue, Wallasey. W.P. and I by ourselves and had a quiet restful day. and as a matter of fact spent the day in our dressing gowns! Rationing very strict. No extras what-so-ever but we were lucky in being able to get a bottle of whisky, gin & sherry. So we were able to have some good cheer. W.P. has been working very hard at Owen Owens and now has four days holiday. I am waiting to return to hospital for second operation. Expected to be sent for before Christmas but no word from them about returning so far. Weather fine, dull & mild. A week ago weather very cold with hard frost but now turned mild. Nelson now got commission as Sub. Lieut. R.N.V.R. and stationed at Falmouth. Eric [his son-in-law - Doris' first husband] now major and with his regiment in North Africa. No further news of Bruce. [Having noted on 23 March: “Telegram from Air Ministry reporting Bruce prisoner of War in Japanese hands. This is first news we have 13½ months.” On 1st January 1944 “Got news today that Yvonne [Bruce's wife] had received a post card from Bruce who is well and prisoner of war in JAVA.” Dudley with McAlpines. Now have got finished with 26 Chepstow Villas. Furniture still in storage in London. Financial position right down to bed rock. Saved £50 which is the total of my cash resources. But have got rid of my various obligations. One wonders at my age how all this ‘awful’ position will pan out. W.P. who [stands the most and real burden] [section unclear] of the trouble still maintains her usual great spirit and good nature which is such a great help in times like the present. She is not as well and strong as she was, and neither am I. Still, her great good nature seems to be able to get over all my troubles.

1944 6th Christmas of the War. At 19 Webster Avenue, Wallasey. Our own things with us. W.P. and self alone together. Spent quiet comfortable day. The most pleasant for several years. To be clear of these miserable lodgings is great. Rationing as strict as before but meat ration for Christmas week increased from 1/2 to 1/10 [I think this is money i.e. from 1 shilling and 2 pence to 1 shilling and 10 pence.] We were lucky in having a fowl from Doris. Could not obtain whisky or gin. This being almost impossible to procure now, but W.P. managed to buy 3 pegs from a friend, and we had some Guinness. So we felt well done by. Weather cold and foggy with sun for a few minutes in the afternoon. High glass 30.75. Freezing at night. W.P. has 4 days holiday and it is grand having her at home. She has been working far too hard and leaves in the dark in the morning and gets home after dark. Most uncomfortable journey in [bus, boat & car] [unsure] to and from work along with the rudest people. Have now lost my job being unable to work, and it seems clear my complaint is incurable for although much better in many ways, still a long way from being right. Now on old age pension 10/- [50p!] a week, and this is my only income after the end of the year. My people having kept me on full pay for 17 months. My funds now £150 Nelson and Peggy at Falmouth. Eric in Italy. Ian [Doris and Eric's eldest son] joined R.N. and at Skegness. No further word of Bruce.


1945 At 19 Webster Avenue, Wallasey. W.P. and self alone together. Spent a very restful quiet time and greatly enjoyed it. Did ourselves very well as Dicko sent a bottle of brandy and sherry. Also we had two chickens one from May. The other from Dorothy. The general food situation is worse than it ever has been and only a lot of rubbish in the shops. Cold and damp with fog. Nelson on Myngs on route from Portsmouth to Londonderry. Bruce at London. Eric in Italy, Ian at Singapore.

There were no more Christmases after 1945, or at least none Dum felt inclined to record.

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