Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Dumbarton July 1945: Post-war Penpals, pt 2

Pen pal letterThe following was transcribed from a letter sent to my aunt on 25 July 1945 from Dumbarton, Scotland. I have the original letter in my possession. For security reasons, since the author may still be living in Scotland, certain details maybe edited out of the transcript. However, I am surprised at the details the young man gives about his hometown's contribution to the war effort, especially considering his relatives lines of work. I would have thought this information would have been still on the censor list. If you were the author or were involved in these pen pal exchanges in this time frame please comment or send an email.

[street edited]

Dear Bobbie,

I received your letter today and I must say I was very pleased. I suppose I had better tell you something about your pen friend in Scotland. I am 5' 8" high, weigh 10 stone; I have light brown hair and blue eyes. I am 17 years of age and I am going into my sixth year at High School. I go to St. Patrick's Higher Grade School which is the only Catholic High School in the County. We are on our Summer Vacation just now until the 21st August. I have just returned from 14 days at my summer camp in Millport. Millport is a little town situated on the south side of the island of Cumbrae in the Firth of Clyde. It has beautiful sands and hills ideal for camping, shooting (as there is plenty of game), golfing, and training, of which we have plenty and of which I will say more about later on. It also has excellent little bays for swimming, and boating. There are splendid facilities for boating in Millport Bay, and the presence of two islands add romance to the splendour of the bay.

Well so much for Millport, now for Dumbarton. The town used to be called Dunbritton which is Gaelic for "Fort of the Britons". This name was established in the days of the Picts, and Scotland was at that time occupied by the Romans up to Dunbritton. They could get no further up so they built a fort on top of a huge rock. That Rock is now the famous Dumbarton Castle. The town and Castle is situated at the join of the Rivers Leven and Clyde. The Leven is famous because of its shipyard, and also because of the fact that it drains Loch Lomond. The Clyde is famous for its shipyards. Dumbarton has a population of about 25000, although at the last census in 1901 it was recorded as 22000. Dumbarton has a shipbuilding yard, engine works, tube works, Aircraft factory, (the only one in Scotland which turned out complete Sunderland Flying Boats), and a brewery and distillery. The distillery belongs to Hiram Walker and is the largest distilling plant in Europe. Dumbarton also has a beautiful Park and Promenade.

I have one brother aged 16 years, who is at present working in the Aircraft Factory. My father is the foreman rigger in the Shipyard which I have already mentioned. My hobbies are: - boxing, golfing, shooting, cricket, rugby, yachting and swimming. I also like motor-cycling and cycling. The training I have mentioned before is for the boxing. I have had four fights; 3 novice and one amateur and I have won all of them. But I am sincerely thinking of stopping boxing as my mother does not agree with it. I like boogie or as you call it Jive. My favorite numbers are: - Boogie Serenade, Barrel House Boogie, and Pinetop Footsteps, these three are by Albert Ammons. But I also have a liking for classical music. Among my favorites in this category are: - Warsaw Concerto, Concerto for two, and the Danube along with some of Strauss's Waltze's. I play the piano and the drums. Oh! and by the way I am enclosing a snap of myself which will (although not a very good snap)give you an idea of what I look like. I would be greatly obliged if you could send me a photograph of yourself in your next letter. Hoping to hear from you soon.

I am
Yours Truly

Notes: A "stone" weight is roughly 14 pounds, so his "10 stone" would be about 140 pounds.
This is a typical introductory letter. It is noteworthy how he balances between boasting and appearing to be a regular chap. It is comforting to read that mothers as far back as the 1940s were concerned with the negative longterm effects of boxing. But some of his descriptions of the area just make you want to skip work, jump on a plane and go wading on this beach. Also, I was amazed at the quality of the penmanship which was a beautiful lacy script.

Links to sites with more information about items mention in the letter:


Short s.25 Sunderland (aircraft)

Albert Ammons (BBC Radio Profile)

Links to posts in the series:

Personal History: Post-War Penpals, pt1
Bradford Sept. 1945: Post-War Penpals, pt3
Dumbarton October 1945: Post-War Penpals, pt 4
Dumbarton Nov 1945: Post-Was Penpals, pt 5
Bradford Dec 1945: Post-War Penpals, pt 6

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