KEITH & STRATHISLA DURING WWI.
Tue 1 – A meeting of the Banff & Strathbogie U.F. Church Presbytery took place in Keith. The Rev. W.H. Macfarlane of the South Kirk, who had celebrated 40 years as Minister in Keith on October 15th, applied “for a colleague and successor”.
Wed 2 – At a meeting of the Botriphnie School Board (Messrs Sydney Smith, J. Clark, G. Duff and J. Strathdee) it was reported that eighteen people had enrolled in the winter session of continuation classes. Despite disagreeable weather, there was a good turnout at the displenish sale at Slackbuie, Boharm. Outgoing tenant, Mr John Sim, was leaving to go abroad. The weekly meeting of the Newmill Literary Society took place in the library of the Institute. Mr James A. Laing, merchant, read a paper on “History: It’s Uses and Objects”. Papers at their December meetings would include such diverse topics as The British Navy, The Power of Sun and Wind, and Trade Unionism.
Thur 3 – Keith School Board meeting.
Fri 4 – The annual Zenana Mission meeting was held in the Whitehill U.F. Church, Grange, with the proceeds going to the Mission in China to promote women’s issues there. A large crowd attended the Whist Drive in Grange School in aid of a Christmas box for the 6th Gordon Highlanders. Twelve pounds was raised and the extra homebaked scones and pancakes were delivered to Earlsmount Hospital in Keith. ‘Boobies of the evening’ were Mr Beattie and Mr Kean.
Sat 5 – Central Banffshire Farmers Club decide to abandon the 1915 Spring Show. The Keith and District Pig Breeding Society hold their annual meeting at the secretary’s office at 166 Mid Street. At the Central Banffshire Auction Mart a pig gifted by Mr C.S. Weir of Jamestown, Grange raised £7:10/- to buy 55 articles of warm underclothing to send to C Coy of the 6th Gordon Highlanders at the Front. Newmill Parish Church was the scene for the military wedding of Sgt C.E. Smith, 6th Gordon Highlanders (Reserve) Battalion to Miss Annie Knight from Essex. At the reception in the Commercial Hotel, Keith, fellow NCOs in full dress uniform were the Guard of Honour while the Battalion Pipe Band provided the music. Keith FC’s progress in the 1914-15 Aberdeenshire Cup would be decided at Seafield Park when they faced Portsoy. The takings from the match would go towards the cigarette fund for the Gordon Highlanders. In a letter home from the Front, a Keith Territorial wrote: “Will you please send on a pair of gloves as it is very cold”.
Mon 7 – Local winners of the Annual Show of the Smithfield Club in London included ‘Queen Bess’ shown by Mr R.S. McWilliam of Stoneytown, Mulben.
Tue 8 –To rousing cheers from the crowds, the 6th Gordon Highlanders (Reserve) Battalion marched to the Station and departed for the South. In the South Atlantic, in probably the most decisive naval battle of the First World War, the Royal Navy engaged and destroyed the German East Asia Squadron. This avenged their defeat off Chile the previous month, which had been Britain’s first naval defeat in a century. Admiral Graf von Spee, his two sons, four warships and almost 2,000 German sailors perished for the loss of only ten British sailors. Keith Parish Council agree to give 3 cwt of coal to each poor householder. At the meeting of the Landward Committee of the Council, Mr William Pirie, Mill of Newmill, was reappointed chairman and a discussion took place regarding the proposed Newmill path to Broomhill Cemetery.
Wed 9 – A meeting of Keith Heritors at the Parish Church discussed the alleged right of way from Strathmill Distillery to Keith and came to the opinion that no such right of way existed. Grand Concert in Drill Hall, Keith. In the North U.F. Church Hall the Rev. A. Duff Watson gave a limelight lecture on “The Growth of a Nation, or Belgium in Old Days and Today”.
Thur 10 – Mary Slaton was born in New Orleans. She later became famous as the actress Dorothy Lamour in the “Road to …” series of films with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. The French Government, which had relocated to Bordeaux when the capital was threatened in September 1914, was now able to return to Paris.
Fri 11 – The Keith Unionist Club Whist Drive, in aid of tobacco, cigarettes and tinder lighters for Keith’s C Coy with the British Expeditionary Force in France, was held in the club rooms in Mid Street. A very successful whist drive was held in Maggieknockater School in aid of the Boharm Women’s Work Party for comforts for the troops.
Sat 12 – It was reported in the Banffshire Herald that Thomas Gordon Duff, Laird of Drummuir, had sent a quantity of rabbits to the Station Master at Keith, his annual Christmas present to the staff and workers of the GNSR. A special Christmas sale of fat cattle suitable for the London dead meat market was held at Keith Auction Mart. The Lord Lieutenant issues a precautionary reminder of the possibility of a German invasion of coastal counties and the requirement of being prepared for such an eventuality.
Sun 13 – The Rev. John F. Philip of the North U.F. Church conducted an afternoon service in the Newmill Mission Hall.
Mon 14 – Melting snow and rain caused severe flooding of low-lying areas in Grange. There was a good crowd at the displenish sale at Garrelhill in the Glen of Newmill (the late William Mair). The December meeting of the Keith Town Council eventually reached a financial compromise with the Institute Company in their dispute regarding back payment for attending the Town Clock, a claim going back to 1898! The registration of recruits scheme inaugurated by the Prime Minister along with Mr Bonar Law (for the Conservatives) and Arthur Henderson (for the Labour Party) was progressing. Appeals were being sent out to householders in Keith and district to register all males in the household between the ages of 19 and 38 who were willing to enlist for the duration of the war. It was examination day for pupils of local music teachers as they were assessed on their set pieces by the examiners from the various London Colleges. At Banff Sheriff Court, James Smith, the American who had contravened the Aliens’ Restriction Act in November when he arrived in Fife-Keith with Whites’ Amusements, was sentenced to 14 days in jail.
Private James Davidson, C Coy 6th Gordon Highlanders, died of wounds received in action near Armentieres. A native of Boharm,
he was the son of James and the late Jessie Davidson of Burnside, Grange. This 15 year old soldier is remembered on the
Keith, Newmill and Grange Memorials.
Tue 15 – Banff County Council meeting. A meeting was held in Grange to promote temperance and abstinence from alcohol and to establish a local Lodge of the International Order of Good Templars. A poor response resulted in no further progress. A proposal to establish a Keith Photographic Society was deferred for the time being.
Wed 16 – The Christmas Poultry Sale at the Mart in Keith was brisk. Prices for fowls started from 1/10, ducks from 2/3, geese from 4/6 and turkeys ranged from 5/3 to 12/-.
Thur 17 – The annual sale of Reading Room magazines and newspapers was held in the Keith Institute. Prices varied from 11/- for The Lady’s Pictorial and the Spectator to 3/- for the Evening Express and 2/6 for the Evening Gazette.
Fri 18 – In the Middle East, Britain swiftly orchestrated a regime change in Egypt by declaring the country a British Protectorate, removing the Khedive Abbas II and installing his uncle Hussein as the new Sultan of Egypt.
A concert in aid of the Women’s Missionary Work Party was held in Rothiemay. The annual collection for the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary by the generous parishioners of Rothiemay had raised £9.18.7d.
Sat 19 – J.A. Alexander was appointed the new Keith Burgh Surveyor.
Tue 22 – Before they started their Christmas holidays every pupil at Boharm School brought in a gift for the Women’s Work Party to send on to local troops at the Front. The rents of the Lotted Lands and Farms on the Estates of Newmill and Aultmore are payable within the Crown Hotel, Newmill from 10am to 2 pm. The Keith dead meat trade experiences one of its best weeks as it despatches 966 sides of beef to the London Christmas Market.
Wed 23 – A whist drive and concert took place in Sillyearn School. The Rev. W.T. Weir gave a talk to the Rothiemay Mutual Improvement Society on “The Dawn of the Mind”.
Thur 24 – At the Rothiemay U.F. Church the children organised and performed their own concert.
Thur 24 – Christmas Eve at Burnside in Grange and a telegram arrives to inform Mr Davidson that his son James had died of wounds sustained at the Front in France ten days previously.
Fri 25 – Christmas Day: St. Thomas’ Church is decorated with garlands, spruce branches, chrysanthemums and candles for the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass and Services during the day. A Christmas service is held at Holy Trinity and a joint Presbyterian churches service takes place in the Parish Church. All Banks, Law Offices and Shops are closed in Keith and Fife-Keith but the Post Office remains open. It was especially busy for wounded soldiers convalescing at Earlsmount Hospital as 400 local children arrived to join in the festive celebrations with them. Nearly 70 couples enjoyed the Park & Co. of Cairds Hill Sawmills’ Annual Ball in the Longmore Hall with the proceeds going to The Banffshire Herald Cigarette Fund for the 6th Gordon Highlanders. Music was by Innes’ String Band and “Refreshments were served in abundance during the evening”. There were 16 tables at the whist drive in Auchanacie School in aid of the Belgium Relief Fund. After tea, music for dancing was supplied by William Duff and Alex Lobban. In Boharm the Mulben Curling Club hold their first match of the season.
In a letter home from the Front, a Keith Territorial described how on Christmas Day the men from the Buckie and Keith Companies met in the middle ofno man’s land with their German adversaries. A joint Christmas service was held consisting of a reading of the 23rd Psalm and a prayer. Although fighting continued on both flanks of this section of the Front, an agreed armistice to 4pm continued and lasted throughout the night into Saturday 26th. A football match was arranged between the Germans and the Keith and Buckie Territorials for the Saturday afternoon.
Meanwhile, amid the Yuletide celebrations, a German sniper shot and killed Private John Cameron of the 2nd Gordon Highlanders.
Aged 23, he had been in the army for 4 years, prior to which he had been an apprentice mason with Keith builder Thomas Stewart.
Sun 27 – “A perfect hurricane of wind and rain” caused much damage in Grange.
Mon 28 – The Military Cross was instituted. A Grand Patriotic Concert was held in Boharm School featuring the Senior and Junior Choirs of the Parish Church.
Tue 29 – Tom Weir, climber, author and broadcaster, was born in Springburn in Glasgow.
Wed 30 – The comic operetta ‘Bulbul’ was performed in St. Thomas Hall. The Auchanacie School teacher, Mrs Wallace, who had only been appointed in October, resigned to become headmistress of Oldwhat School in Aberdeenshire.
Thur 31 – It was reported that Mr E.A. Thurburn of Mayen had donated a motor ambulance to the Red Cross at the Front in memory of his late wife, Annie, who had died earlier in the year. Keith Town Council hosted a Hogmanay supper in the Commercial Hotel for the 6th Gordon Highlanders. A full moon shone over Keith as hundreds of people gathered in Mid Street to see in the New Year.