Sale for the Hospital Bed – November 1915

(More on the Hospital bed)

I am writing the afternoon of the day after the sale. There are several letters from readers lying which I may not be able to reply to for days but I hope early next week to get everything cleared up. Some articles arrived yesterday morning. Some were not opened until they reached the Market Hall (place of the sale) so that I hardly know where they came from and the letters which were enclosed in the parcels are as yet unread.

The previous day snow threatened. However it was a beautiful day, with a sloppy thaw under foot and hundreds of people flocked in such crowds that everything was sold out before seven o’clock and there was nothing for the working-folks to buy when they filled the hall after six.

It was not a bazaar; it was only three weeks since there was a sale of work in the town, and two months since there was a large bazaar; so this was only a miscellaneous sale, chiefly of provisions: meats, moulds, pies, cakes, jams, pickles, poultry etc. There were three stalls belonging to three different religious bodies — the Anglican, Wesleyan and Roman Catholic.

Everything was sold except a very few articles which were auctioned at the last, and when we counted up our cash there was £95 17s. As I had already £40 banked — £20 in donations and £20 from my drawings of shawls and things — that makes a total of £135. I got another donation of £1 this morning and promise of another and an order for a Shetland shawl and a humpty, so that shortly the fund will reach £140.

This morning I was twice stopped in the street by miners to tell me a “secret” that they were going to have a hound trail on Tuesday for the Hospital Fund and hand it over to me. Then I stopped the Picture Palace man and asked him if he wouldn’t be proud to give an evening’s entertainment for my fund? He said he would see what he could do, and I was telling my banker that he had promised me a night when, slightly turning my head, there was the Cinema man shaking his head slightly just behind me.

“Of course,” I said, “When a man says he’ll think it over when he is asked for a donation one knows that is a polite form of refusal but as I am not begging but merely drawing your attention to the greatness of the need, I know you are going to do it.” And, of course, he will.

I must tell you that while I was pleading the cause of Serbia from the platform, a clergyman (one of our invited guests) arrived late with a lady, who turned out to be Dr. M.E. Phillips, home on leave from Kragujevatz.  She told me afterwards she had no idea what the sale was in aid of, except in a general way, for a war fund, and she could hardly believe her ears when the first words, she heard were from a woman trying to paint the desperate plight of Serbia.

She came forward and gave us some intimate details from first hand. From that moment I knew that our Serbian Bed was safe. Egremont was flattered at having on the platform, a woman doctor from the Balkan battlefields. She had been with Dr. Alice Hutchinson’s unit at Malta and had met either there or somewhere in the Aegean some miners from our district on their way out to dig wells in Gallipoli.

I was not able to have more than five minutes’ talk with her, but heard afterwards of her talking to relatives of the miners and friends of my own — asking if I was Suffragiste organiser. “No,” replied my friend, “she lives a private life, but takes an interest in public things.” — Which was quite nicely put.

On the platform I was seated beside a captain who won the DSO in France and is home on leave for three months. Another curious coincidence: We had never met and he didn’t know anything about my family but I knew an astonishing deal about his forefathers, who came from Dalry, where my mother went as a bride.

And many tales has she told me of families in Dalry: I seem to know where they lived (I was never there), the style of their houses, the characters of the men and women, even their physical appearance. I see them quite as distinctly as if I had lived those five years which transpired long before I was born.

Some of the tragedies of these families are graven on my mind. And a cholera episode — it was the time of that last outbreak of the terrible disease — in the family of the DSO captain who sat beside me. He might never hear of it, but I can see that boy relative of his dying after a few hours’ agony, and my young mother waiting beside him. Had she been alive to hear of this, she would have talked again of Dalry for days.

The poor Scottish Farmer Hospital Bed! I have left no space to write of it. Nor have I time to look up my additional list of subscriptions — because, owing to the other affair, I put all the letters and P.O. orders after I had opened them into a drawer until I could give them proper attention. Since last week, I have received two or three pounds, and the fund now stands at over £70.

I have also a letter from the lady who thought of a Scottish Farmer Motor Ambulance, and I must regret that it is impossible for me to notice it until next week.

Permit me to quote from a letter received to–day (containing a donation of 5s): “The first thing I turn to is The Household, and glance through the headings to see if there is anything about the weans.” Oh, the charm of the “weans!”

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