Christmas 1946, Clydebank and Hogmanay 1946 Loch Lomond youth hostel
This material adapted from Len:Our Ownest Darling Girl – Letters between Mother and Daughter 1939 – 1950. Mother was Helen Bryers, Dad was Harry Bryers and their daughter was Helen (“Len’) Bryers.
Mum and Dad Bryers lived in a rented house in Coldingham Avenue, Yoker, near Clydebank. Dad was an engineer and Mum had been a seamstress.
Their only child, Helen, known as “Len” to family and friends, had worked in the latter stages of the Second World War as a shorthand typist for the Ministry of Supply at the Royal Ordnance Factory at nearby Dalmuir. Still working for the Ministry of Supply she transferred to a similar post in Cairo in November 1945. She was almost 20. At the time there was strong Arab anti- British feeling in Egypt, and contempt for the king, Farouk. Occasional demonstrations and targeted explosions at British associated Cairo buildings were occasional irritants. Otherwise Helen (‘Len’) was living in the land of milk and honey- no food or clothing rationing for her. Back in post-war Britain Mum and Dad and millions of others were experiencing rationing harsher than it had been during the war. Bread, freely available during the war, was rationed starting in July, 1946. There was also an acute shortage of houses. The weather wasn’t that brilliant, either.
I just couldn’t let this night pass without letting you know you are in our thoughts as always, our darling.
Here’s the latest re. hoose.
I called at the B.S. (building society) yesterday to pay the surveyor’s fee and the under manager told me he’d just been getting a letter typed to ask us to call for an interview with the manager, so I made an appointment there & then for 3 p.m. today. Just as we were getting ready to go out, Mrs Rae from next door called for a loan of a pudding basin as they were just about to put their plum pudd. on to steam when the basin broke. I think ours must be what is termed “a well appointed” house for I was able to produce a selection of basins for her choice.
At last we got away in a ghastly thick fog and frozen roads. We saw the B.S. manager – very efficient & polite – who phoned up their solicitor for an appointment for us and we are to see him at 11 a.m. on Thurs. They evidently got a very favourable report from the surveyor. The surveyor reported that, with vacant possession the house would easily sell for £1,750 or £2,000, so you see honey, if we can get it in the region of £500 to £800 it w’d mean a profit for us anytime we sold whilst the present housing shortage lasts & that looks like being for many many years. (The housing shortage was anticipated during the latter stages of the war by the British Wartime Coalition Government – much housing had been lost in the Blitzes, and the V1 and V2 raids – and the first prefabricated home (prefab) was erected and occupied in London in the Spring of 1945. It is reported that by January 1947, a few weeks on from Mum writing this letter, 100,000 prefabs had been built. However, there was still a housing shortage, particularly in the bomb damaged cities of Britain, most of which also had crowded slum areas.)
Dad & self then went shopping and went into Masseys. (Glasgow wide provisions stores of the time.)
There was a huge pile of mince pies on the counter & Dad asked about them & the guy serving said they were only for registered customers & I said “He (Dad) doesn’t understand all about the difficulties of shopping, ha! ha! But I’m going on holiday and he’ll get to know.”
Dad said “Yes, she is going to the land of milk & honey”, and the fella said “Where is that” & I said “Cairo, Egypt” & that started it – he was recently demobbed and said if he hadn’t been married he’d have rejoined again so as to spend another 6 months in Cairo, which he says is a most exciting city & he liked it very much. Well, we jawed & jawed & he said “Oh! I must give you some of these mince pies as you are old Egyptian friends.” He made up six lovely mince pies for us! – so you see, honey, ‘agaun fit is aye gettin’. (‘A moving foot is always gaining things’.)
We hear on the radio tonight that a bomb exploded in the Anglo-Egyptian Club but no one hurt, thank goodness. Must stop now, my sweetie pie, hope Santa puts something nice in your stocking. It’s raining cats and dogs tonight, the weather is terrible.
Boxing Day. 26.12.46.
Just look at the day it is and we never got this away to you – yesterday just seemed to go in wee bits of cooking, cleaning and shopping. (Shopping on Christmas Day: Christmas Day in Scotland historically was not as significant as it was in England. As late as 1967 it was not a holiday for blue collar and shop workers in Scotland.)
We are just off to the solicitors to make arrangements re. his getting in touch with Mrs Mac’s chap – I guess she’ll throw a pink fit when she hears our offer in the region of £500 – £800! (Mrs Mac was the owner of their home, her name fore-shortened by Mum.) It was such impudence of her solicitor to try to stampede us into £1,200.
Our kitten, Hope, is really a pet and is growing like anything, he is creamy ginger colour & so clean and dainty. How do you like his name? It had to be something beginning with “H” as is our tradition & I thought “Hope” so nice & cheerful.
There’s cards in for you from Mrs Holt and Bob Getchel, I’ll forward them in separate envelopes. (Mrs Holt was a former pre-war neighbour from Dagenham, Essex and Bob Getchel was a U.S. serviceman the family had got to know during the war.) The mantlepiece is decorated with over 20 Xmas Cards we got.
We got a most lovely aluminium teapot and silver jam spoon from Aunt Ena – they are really beautiful and just what we wanted. I got a tin of Bath Salts & tin of talcum from Joan Brandley, very sweet of her to send them. (Joan Brandley was a close friend of Helen’s and family friend) We intend to go to L.L.Y.H. at New Year – what am I to do with Hope? I’ll be running up here every few hours. (L.L.Y.H: Loch Lomond Youth Hostel. The distance between the youth hostel and the family home in Yoker was 3 miles.)
Best love in the world to you, our own one.
Cheers & love, honey girl, Mum. x.
Monday. 30 December 1946.
Dearest and Best,
We are all well and happy, but busy, boy! I’ll say we’re busy! I’m writing this in the middle of a mouthful of lunch. I note all the splendid tips in your letter re. filling in my forms and shall act accordingly, after New Year my thoughts and deeds will be dedicated mostly to arranging my trip. (Mum was planning to visit her daughter in Egypt.) The days just now are so brief and meals so many.
We are going to L.L.Y.H tomorrow – both Jack and Dad stop at 12 so we shall be off soon after. (LLYH: Loch Lomond Youth Hostel. Jack was a young lodger.) Jack is thrilled to bits at the idea of the hostels and I’m going to get a membership card for him in town today – that is to be his New Year gift from Dad & self. Jack is really a lonely soul and has not much young company so he is enthusiastic re. visiting L.L. and yesterday put on the outfit he proposes putting on for the trip so that we c’d O.K. it – or otherwise; he has a camera and films so will try to get some snaps.
We’ll be thinking of you on New Year’s Eve and wishing you all that’s Merry. May all your dreams & wishes come true in 1947.
Your own ever loving Mum and Dad.
The beginning of the year 1947 in The Old Home.
Our Darling Own One,
This is the very first letter of the year and the first one we received this year was from you – we are so happy you had such a wizard time at Christmas. We just got back from Loch Lomond Y.H. last night and oh! boy – what a time we had! It was one of merriment and fun from the time we got there on Hogmanay till we left last night.
Jack was overcome by the Membership card we gave him and some of his Norwegian Pals propose coming over to Scotland for a tour during the summer and he is to get a bike in April so he will be able to make good use of the card.
Like ourselves, he thinks Auchendrennan is wonderful and quite admires Joan MacDonald and thinks she is so pretty “like a doll” as he says, she is certainly a bonnie lassie and as sweet as she is pretty, as I told him, however Jack is so shy, he just remained tongue tied.
Before the clock struck midnight we all (about 85) of us trooped out and Henry Lindsay listened for the Chimes (this was because a piper was playing loudly) then we all trooped upstairs where Mr. & Mrs, Mac (the wardens, surname fore-shortened by Mum, as she has done with the owner of the house in Coldingham Avenue) received us with ginger wine and cake, then we had dancing & singing then Dad, Jack & self were invited into the kitchen where the fun was terrific & later Mrs. Mac. invited us all up to their own flat, it is very nice and, my! what a party – Daddy kept saying it was the best for years, it was hilarious – even riotous with fun and singing and ended up with several prostrate forms lying around, a true Scottish New Year.
At the hostel (but not at the party) there was a party of students from the International Club. Mostly Indians and EGYPTIANS (Mum’s capital letters)) and, as is my wont, I made hay while the sun shone by talking to the nicest Egyptian I could see.
Our festivities were broadcast by the B.B.C. at 8 till 8.20 on New Year and this E. I spoke to was one of two picked to ‘say a few words‘ over the mike, and I found his name is Doctor (it sounds like this) “Kiellally” – however, I’m going to invite him & his girl friend down some night – she is studying social science at the University and lives at Danes Drive, Scotstoun. The doc. is awfully interested in my trip and we talked Egypt for hours and he says what a pity I can’t wait till June to go out as he is going then and would be delighted to travel with me. I bet he knows the ropes re. that journey. He says I could go via France without bothering with Cooks and there’s a regular service of ships once a week from Toulon to Alex or P.S. It w’d be exciting to go like that, the only snag being baggage and customs, but I guess I c’d manage. Cooks make one feel so helpless, it makes me mad.
Now what I want you to do pronto is to give me your views re. travelling via France, free from any agency, I know I don’t need a visa to get into France but if I travel on my own how shall I get a visa to get into Egypt? And what about inoculations?
Re. the house, Dad & I saw the solicitor as arranged and he suggested offering £750. He further said not to worry in any case as the house (with the present legislation) is ours anyway, but that it w’d be nice to buy as one’s own house.
I have the most ghastly feverish cold, the first in years so I sh’dn’t complain – but I do!
Keep well and happy own darling, we are loving you all the time. All the best in the world in 1947.
Cheers and love, Dad & Mum. xx
Adapted From Part Two, Chapter One “Fresh and Innocent” of Len:Our Ownest Darling Girl