KEITH & STRATHISLA DURING WWI
Fri 1 – The New Year started clear and bright with a full moon over Keith. The Institute bell rang for five minutes to herald in 1915. The crowds, gathered in Mid Street, eventually dispersed and the rest of the day would be regarded as a general holiday. The usual New Year’s Day Show by the Keith Poultry Association had already been cancelled. Deteriorating weather did not deter the townsfolk from visiting the Museum in the Institute (1d entrance fee) or the Palace Cinema in the Longmore Hall. In the evening there was a performance of the comic operetta ‘Bulbul’ in St Thomas’ Hall. Isaac Sharpe, Fife-Keith, had several successes at the Aberdeen Kennel Association Show. Meanwhile, at the Front, Pte George J. Lobban, a Keith Territorial, wrote home that on the five days from 30th December not a shot was fired in anger. “About 10 o’clock on Hogmanay the Germans started singing choruses and shouted over to us to sing. Our Pipe Major gave them a few selections on the bagpipes and they gave him a good cheer. At midnight there were a few volleys fired on both sides and the Germans had one or two bonfires going. It was a great bringing in of the New Year.”
Sat 2 – As yesterday had been a holiday and the Post Offices shut, Old Age Pensioners were now able to collect their pensions: 5/- per week (or 7/6 for married couples) for those aged 70 and over. Roller skating resumed in St Thomas’ Hall.
Sun 3 – There was a break-in at Marnoch Lodge and the miscreant was apprehended. The Great North of Scotland Railway’s ambulance classes resumed after a three-year break. The classes were now mixed gender and would include staff from Keith Junction, Keith Town, Cairnie, Grange and Auchindachy stations.
Mon 4 – At Banff Sheriff Court, the Marnoch Lodge burglar was fined 5/- or 5 days in prison. Rev. Hunter hosted a social evening at the Hall in Maggieknockater.
Tue 5 – Turfhillock, Botriphnie, was offering 10 acres of yellow turnips for sale. Aultnapaddock, Glen of Bellyhack, was advertised to let by Blairmore Estate.
Wed 6 – Parish minister Rev. G.A. Johnston died at Manse of Grange after a short illness. Grand Concert in Drill Hall including a two-act farce by local solicitor S.W. Mayer titled “Votes for Women”. Football match in aid of the cigarette fund for the troops – Keith Wednesday 0 Gordons/National Reserve Company 5.
A Parliamentary recruiting scheme involved all householders making a return of eligible males in their household who would volunteer for military service.
Thur 7 – Keith School Board appoints Mrs Helen Martin from Braes School, Gartly, to be the new headmistress at Auchanacie School.
Fri 8 – Rothiemay despatched comforts to the Royal Scots Fusiliers.
Sat 9 –Rothiemay Agricultural Society met to discuss the shortage of artificial manure. The Banffshire Upper District Committee meeting in Dufftown discusses an offer by the GNSR to sell a strip of ground at the Drummuir Stationmaster’s house to widen the road down to the Station. The £10 asking price was rejected and, one hundred years later, the road remains the same width. Isa Forrest’s poem of hope, “While New Year Bells Are Ringing”, appears in the Banffshire Herald.
Sun 10 – Gordon Evangelistic Mission Services start at the Glen of Newmill School for three weeks.
Pte John W. Smith, 2/6th Gordon Highlanders established in Keith in October 1914, died at Bedford Military Hospital.
Aged only 15 years 3 months, he was born at Knabbygates, Knock and later lived at Glenbarry.
Mon 11 – Keith Town Council meeting. The Local Government Board approved a 30-year loan from the Public Works Loan Board for the proposed Cuthil reservoir. C. C. Doig of Elgin was the Council’s engineer for the project. Clairvoyant and Palmist “Madame Margaurite” starts a season of private consultations in Moss Street.
Tue 12 –Boharm School Board advertises for a teacher – “cookery qualification necessary, singing a recommendation” – with a salary of £65 per annum.
Wed 13 –The Rothiemay Mutual Improvement Society heard a paper on “For And Against Conscription”. An early-morning earthquake in Italy claims about 30,000 lives. Shortly afterwards a landslip at Buchromb derails the Keith to Elgin train. Death of Aberdeen-born missionary Mary Slessor in Nigeria.
Fri 15 – A concert organised by pupils at Crossroads School raised £4 15s.
Sat 16 – The County Committee of the Banffshire Light Horse Breeding Scheme met in the Commercial Hotel, Keith. They had engaged the Marquis of Tullibardine’s hunter “St Colme” to travel the County for a third season. There would be only forty free services, on a first come, first served basis.
Mon 18 – The Empire of Japan issues its “Twenty-one Demands” on the Republic of China, a foretaste of events to come in future decades.
Tue 19 – The North of Scotland College of Agriculture’s weekly series of horticultural lectures at Keith Grammar School would include this month “Manuring of Garden Crops” and “Vegetable Growing”. Botriphnie School Board advertises for a teacher. The annual meeting of Turner Memorial Hospital heard that new X-ray equipment had been installed and that a new phthisis pavilion was to be erected to treat advanced and surgical cases of tuberculosis. A donation of £100 to the Hospital Building Fund had been made by Lord Mount Stephen. The first Zeppelin air raid on England bombed Yarmouth and King’s Lynn.
Wed 20 –Joseph Moggach, Towiebeg, Botriphnie, was one of the Management Committee inspecting the Banffshire Upper District Isolation Hospital at Dufftown.
Thur 21 – Keith School Board appoints Miss Middleton as teacher at Glen of Newmill School. Robert Kissack, stillman at Knockdhu since it opened in 1894, was presented with a purse of sovereigns. He was moving to a similar position at Longmorn Distillery. Mr Alexander Geddes of Garrowood, carting coal from the Station to Grange School, was involved in a spectacular collision with the Cragganmore Distillery lorry. Fortunately, neither horse nor driver was injured.
Fri 22 – Rothiemay Needlework Guild despatches comforts to Queen Alexandra’s Field Force.
Sat 23 – Football match – Isla Bank Rangers 1 Gordons 3. The Banffshire Herald, commenting on rising prices, reported that the purchasing power of the pound had fallen 17.5% in the five months since the start of the War. It also revealed that 39 soldiers had died at Bedford Barracks, 27 of them from measles. Four soldiers from Dufftown had also died there recently. Poor feeding and shocking treatment of sick troops contributed to the death toll. Two brothers from Bogmuchals, stationed at Bedford Barracks, contracted scarlet fever. One died and the other was sent home to recuperate, infecting the rest of his family, several of whom then died. Fife Estate farms of Crossburn and Little Cantly were let to John Innes of Cullieshangan and James Forbes of Nether Allaloth.
Sun 24 –Keith District Volunteer Training Corps established – 60 men enrolled. Battle of Dogger Bank – a British naval victory over the Germans in the North Sea.
Mon 25 – A disastrous fire devastated the premises of Alexander Grant, miller at Nethermills, Grange. Mrs Watt, Milton of Tarrycroys, reported the hatching of a fine, healthy brood of chicks, the first in the district. Jimmie Miller, folk-singer, songwriter and activist, was born in Salford in Lancashire. Changing his name in 1945 to Ewan MacColl, he later went on to write such songs as “Dirty Old Town”, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” and “The Shoals of Herring”.
Tue 26 – Pte Alexander Gray, 6th Gordon Highlanders, died of pneumonia while convalescing at home at 116 Land Street. Prior to the War he had been a cleaner with the Railway.
Wed 27 – Newmill Literary Society enjoyed a songs and recitations evening to celebrate the 156th anniversary of Robert Burns’ birth.
Pte David Burns died of his wounds in a P.O.W. camp. A native of Keith, he had enlisted in the Scots Guards in Edinburgh.
Thur 28 – In the Middle East, Turkey invaded Persia and briefly occupied the city of Tabriz. Russian reinforcements obliged them to retreat.
Fri 29 – Boulder blasting at Millegan in Grange caused panic in the local population who thought that the Germans had invaded. The Keith branch of the Scottish Farm Servants’ Union held their annual dance in the Longmore Hall. The funeral of Pte Alexander Gray, with full military honours, took place from Land Street to the Old Cemetery. The Field Club was resurrected as the Field and Photographic Club. John Robertson, Fife-Keith Bank Agent, was appointed President.
Sat 30 – TheChief Constable of Banffshire issues an Order restricting the size and brightness of car headlights, especially in coastal areas. Keith School Board appoints John Rushton from Ardrossan as their new Science and Maths teacher at Keith Grammar School at a salary of £190 per annum. He comes with “the highest testimonials”. The American sailing ship, the ‘William P. Frye’, en route to England with a cargo of wheat was sunk by a German warship. This was the first in a series of incidents that would eventually bring America into the War in 1917. The Board of Agriculture had given grants to the Balnamoon and Crannoch Agricultural Society for the Aberdeen-Angus (“Archie”) and Shorthorn (“Charmer”) bulls of Mr Raffan of Balnamoon and Mr Ingram of Goukstone. Mr Robert Allan of The Bush presented a pig at the Auction Mart to be sold for funds for Earlsmount Hospital. It made £3 16s. Earlsmount had also received a hamper from the King, containing ten pheasants and six hares. It was reported by the Red Cross Co-ordinating Depot at Drummuir that the Bogmuchals and Brodiesord Highland Gathering had donated, amongst other comforts for D Company of the 6th Gordons, a supply of mealy puddings. The pupils of Tarrycroys School had raised £1 to be spent on matches and condensed milk for the local troops in France.
Sun 31 – It was reported that the Germans had used poison gas against the Russian Army in Poland.