25th December 1915 Saturday
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Having just recovered from three days in bed with flu, Douglas attended the packed parish church in Calonne. Douglas was a regular churchgoer throughout his life and sometimes complained that so few of his men attended church services.
He described the church as “a beautiful building, being not unlike St John’s Episcopal Church in Edinburgh”. (The Church of St John the Evangelist was and still is about three minutes’ walk from his parents’ house in Alva St).
Then he continued, “The church was profusely lit by candles, especially up at the altar and there was a tableau at the end of one of the side aisles representing the shepherds with their flocks. The church was packed and there were very few men present. The front pews were occupied by children, who were kept in order by a man in an ancient uniform and cocked hat who carried a gold-topped stick. At times he walked round and administered a resounding smack on the head to some unfortunate child for looking round or not sitting still! It was very comical”.
“The Abbé entered the church accompanied by six little boys in red and white surplices. There was a great jingling of little bells and loud moans from an ancient precentor who had a voice like the Inchkeith foghorn on a particularly foggy night. A choir of girls on the left took up the refrain and the old man and the girls took it in turns to keep up the moan for fully fifteen minutes, until they at last got tired of it. The Curé entered then to the accompaniment of more bells and preached a very fine sermon. He had a splendid voice and spoke very slowly, so that I was able to understand most of what he said. After that there was more moaning from the choir and then the Abbé departed, preceded by his six little attendants and accompanied by bells”.
Christmas Dinner was served up at 8pm. Fourteen of the company sat down to dinner that Christmas night in battle torn northern France, the menu had been devised by their Roman Catholic Padré, Father Brown. Here is that very menu, signed by all of those present.
The next diary entry will follow tomorrow, Boxing Day.
Ray Coggin is both a Taxi Tour Guide and a City of Westminster Guide and leads both walking tours and taxi tours (both highlights and themed) around Central London and further afield. Details of his taxi tours can be found here.
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