Friday, July 29, 2011

Ernie Pyle Visits Edinburgh in 1941

Ernie Pyle was a famous journalist during the Second World War. He mostly wrote about the infantry soldier on the battlefields of Europe but, early in the war, he visited England and Scotland. This is how he wrote and this is what he had to say.

Ernie Pyle, 1941

“Edinburgh is a graceful city. It is the Washington or the Ottawa of Scotland. It is a city of government. It is a planned city. And it is the sturdiest city I have ever seen. In its buildings, I mean. Everything is of massive stone, so massive and so heavy that the entire municipality seems embedded in the rock underfoot.

“It seems to me that Edinburgh would stand up physically under an aerial blitz better than any other city in Britain. They haven’t had one yet, and let’s hope they don’t. If they ever do, it will be the rankest of outrages, for Edinburgh is not an industrial city. (EWR note: I don’t know if Edinburgh was bombed during the war. Glasgow was because of the shipyards. Does anyone know about Edinburgh?)

“Many things are different up here. There is more food than in London, and a greater variety of it. There are beautiful restaurants, where Scottish officers dancing in kilts make a picture. Edinburgh children were evacuated, but 80 per cent of them have come back. The movies run during the day and the night.

“True, Scotland has not been on the receiving end of many bombs. True also, there is a certain fundamental dislike of England, but that goes by the boards in an emergency. Their heart is in the war all right. I get the impression that if I were an invading German, or even a fire bomb, I wouldn’t relish the job of trying the land on Scottish soil.

“I like the Scottish people. Somehow, I had them all wrong. For one thing I thought I wouldn’t be able to understand anything they said, but they are easy to understand. Also, I thought they were dour. On the contrary they are fundamentally witty. It is hard for a Scotsman to go five minutes without giving something a funny twist, and it usually is a left-handed twist. All in all, I have found the Scots much more like Americans than the Englishmen are. I feel perfectly at home with them.

“And incidentally, just a couple of tips in case you ever come over here. Don’t refer to Scotland as if it were a part of England, as I did, for it isn’t. England is England, and Scotland is Scotland. Many bars now limit their customers to two drinks. The whiskey is being sent to America for good American dollars to spend on arms."

(Ernest Taylor Pyle was born August 3, 1900, near Dana, Indiana. He was an American journalist who served as a roving correspondent for the Scripps Howard newspapers. As a war correspondent during WWII he wrote about the common soldier and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1944. On August 18, 1945 on an island off Okinawa, he died after being hit by Japanese machine-gun fire. He was buried with his helmet on among other American soldiers in a long row of graves. Later, his body was moved to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific located in Honolulu. There is much information about Ernie Pyle on the Internet. Millions of us cried upon hearing of his death. He was much loved by the American people. I have read that he had a Scottish heritage. Anyone know for sure?)

Wayne Rethford
President Emeritus

P.S.  August 6 is the Scottish Home Picnic, 2800 Des Plaines Avenue, North Riverside, IL.  I will have the museum open from 10-2.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Chicago Storm, August 5, 1862. Reads like our storm of last night.

We have been experiencing some severe thunderstorms in the Chicago area this summer. I came across this article in the Chicago Tribune, dated 5 August, 1862.  If newspaper people could still write like this, I might renew my subscription.

“One of the most terrific storms which has ever visited this section of country swept over Chicago yesterday afternoon and evening. About noon great masses of threatening clouds, piled up in the most fantastic shape, began to gather at almost every point of the horizon, cumulating in cones and pyramids, in a few minutes changing to spiral whorls, and again massing like a vast army for a final desperate charge - all the time traveling and approaching each other with inconceivable rapidity.”

“About three o’clock, a heavy black bank of clouds...came racing up from the west with a velocity almost like that of a flash of lightning. Almost instantaneously it grew dark. The entire heavens were clouded over. Blinding clouds of dust filled the air; sticks, stones, leaves and boughs of trees flew in every direction. The advent of the gale announced itself by a hollow moaning, followed by a full and unmistakable development of its presence.”

“Hugh trees were bent to the ground; smaller trees, more especially cotton woods, were thirsted of at the base as one would twist a straw. In every part of the city, branches were snapped off like pipe stems. Chimneys, steam pipes, signs and awnings flew about indiscriminately. Tin roofs were rolled up like scrolls. Flags were to torn to ribbons, and flag-staffs came tumbling down into the street...” Dry goods boxes, barrels and bales went insanely rushing through the streets in the most reckless manner, as if playing John Gilpin."   (Not sure what playing John Gilpin means.)

“The wind was no respecter of persons even, and bare headed men were as plenty as black-berries, and unfortunate ladies were rendered en dishabille in the most shocking manner. For fully half an hour the gale prevailed without abatement, accompanied in the mean time with a drenching shower, with the surroundings of heavy thunder and vivid lightning. The tempest spent itself about half past four. The wind died away.”

“The oldest settler cannot remember a more terrific thunder storm...It was a grand gathering of the storm clans, and they charged with banners flying, rattling with musketry, booming and crashing with cannons, and lighting up the whole sky with their fiery signals. The rain poured in broad, drenching sheets. For fully two hours the heavens were in one continued blaze of fire.”

"Sharp Parrots, growling rifles and booming columbiads pealed, crashed and rumbled incessantly in a manner which might have driven Napoleon crazy with delight...Upon Bremer avenue, a two story house being raised and resting upon piles was tumbled into the middle of the street, the inmates narrowly escaping injury. W. H. Dillingham, the druggist at the Orient House, corner of State and Van Buren streets, received most unhandsome treatment. His whole store front was devastated, and scarcely a vestige of a window remains. Finding such a ready access, the wind played the very mischief with drugs and bottles, involving Mr. Dillingham’s purse to the extend to three hundred dollars."

Quite a storm and interesting reporting.

Wayne Rethford
President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew's Society

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Legacy of Colonel Walter Scott

(This article is a continuation of one written on June 17 and published on this blog site.)

Colonel Scott had a lifelong interest in policemen and fireman. He was an Honorary Police Commissioner of New York and always sent a check when there was a grieving family. He created a perpetual endowment to provide a medal to be awarded for heroism in New York, Boston, Worcester, Holyoke and Detroit. In 2005, the Walter Scott Medal was awarded to Firefighter Thomas P. Maxwell, Ladder Company 44 in New York City. This is the only reference I could find on the Internet. Perhaps, the other cities have stopped presenting the medal. I did find another reference where Yiqin Chang won the Walter Scott Prize in mathematics also in 2005.

For many years, Colonel Scott was a familiar figure at all Scottish gatherings and was a member of several Robert Burns clubs. He was a close friend of Miss Jean Amour Burns Brown of Dumfries, a great-great-granddaughter of the poet, and was also a descendant of his namesake. Among his old friends was Sir Harry Lauder. His clubs are too many to list and so are his honors, but he did receive the Silver Grand Cross of the Republic of Austria, a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor, and was a member of the Belgian Order of Leopold II. During World War I, he was a member of the New York Scottish Highlanders. He was also a manager of the St. Andrew’s Society of New York.

This article appeared in the New York Times, dated November 29, 1935, “Colonel Walter Scott, Past Royal Chief of the Order of Scottish Clans in the United States and Canada and former senior vice-president of Butler Brothers, died at 4:30 a.m. yesterday at his home, 225 West Eighty-Sixth street after an illness of two years. He was 73 years old.”

Colonel Scott is buried in the historic Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn. On a visit to New York City, I rode the subway out to Brooklyn and visited the Scott family site in Greenwood. It was a long, long walk to the location and once there I found simple stone markers for the family. I also visited the home address at least twice and found a large square condominium-type building covering a city block. The interior courtyard is now a beautiful garden and the covered entrance designed for horse and carriage is a guard house. The security people were kind enough to let me wander around the complex.

In his will he wrote, “I have always felt an impelling desire to accomplish something definite in conferring happiness and relieving distress as conditions permitted me during my life, that I might not defer until after I had passed on an act that might stimulate a heart with joy, bring a smile to a tear worn face, help a struggling student or extend a helping hand to those afflicted with disease, for an opportunity passed to do good is lost forever. I strove to remember my friends while living and to share their joys; I endowed hospital beds to assist those whose needs were immediate. To the extent of my abilities I encouraged all civic enterprises and encouraged the extension of educational facilities to students who were self-supporting.”

Wayne Rethford
President Emeritus

(The Scottish Home picnic will be held on August 6, 2011, 10:00-4:00 p.m. We plan to have the Museum open from 10-2 p.m. The Museum will be a cool place to sit and relax.)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery

We will visit the National Cemetery on our history tour scheduled for July 16.  This might be helpful material for those attending.  For information call 630-629-4516.

Abraham Lincoln founded the National Cemetery System for veterans in 1862 and 14 cemeteries were  prepared during the Civil War. There are ten national cemeteries in Illinois including the Confederate Mound which we have visited on some of our history tours. Last year 8.1 million people visited national cemeteries.

The Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery is some 50 miles south of Chicago on part of the former Joliet Army Ammunition Plant. The nearest town is Elwood, IL. It is the 117th national cemetery and was dedicated on October 3, 1999. The cemetery contains 982 acres making it the third largest is size. The largest one is in Calverton, N.Y. and contains 1,045 acres. Arlington has 624 acres. When our cemetery is fully developed it will provide 400,000 burial spaces.

The Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery has one Medal of Honor soldier. He is First Sergeant Theodore Hyatt (Civil War) Company D, 127the Illinois Infantry, 2nd Division, 15th Army Corps, Battle of Vicksburg, May 22, 1863. He is in Section 1, Grave 1613. The one person I know is Donald A. Penn who died at the Scottish Home. He is in Section G but we were unable to find his grave on a recent visit because of construction in the area. Don’s American flag and a book about his squadron are on display in our museum.

The cemetery already contains 23,000 veterans and  they conduct 2,000 funerals a year. The number of veterans who died in 2010 is placed at 651,000 and 111,800 of them are buried in national cemeteries. That number is expected to increase each year until 2013.

 In one of the Administrative offices the following poem is displayed.

                                       A CONFEDERATE SOLDIER'S PRAYER

Author Unknown,  (Attributed to a battle weary C.S.A soldier near the end of the war)

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve;
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health, that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy;
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life;
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all men most richly blessed.