Letters from the First World War have helped Reading Friend Kay find out more about her family history.
From “Miss” to “My Dearest”
‘The letters were written to my mother, who was born in 1894,’ says Kay. ‘Some were written by her fiancé, who was fighting in France. Their letters show how their relationship developed – they start very formally, calling each other “Mr” and “Miss”, then move on to their first names before using phrases like “My Dearest”. Sadly, he was killed in action at Ypres. Her next boyfriend survived the war, but later died of TB. Then she met my father, and they married in 1929.
‘I also have letters written by my grandmother to my mother, which are like an ongoing conversation. In those days, people would write a letter, post it, and it would be delivered the next morning. Before telephones it was the only way to keep in touch. The letters include local gossip and household advice. One letter starts with my grandmother saying, “First let’s deal with your washday queries. You seem to have an awful lot of washing for two people”.’
Finding a purpose with Reading Friends
Kay has macular degeneration, which means she can no longer read herself or do crossword puzzles, which caused her great sadness. But Reading Friends stepped in and sent volunteer Pat to meet her. For the past six months they have been getting together every week, and Pat has helped sort the letters and is reading them to Kay.
‘My lack of sight is isolating,’ says Kay. ‘I have family but they can’t visit all the time, so when I found out about Reading Friends from a neighbour I got in touch. I used to read such a lot – the two hardest things have been stopping driving and not being able to read anymore.’
Having recently retired, Pat was looking for something to do and Kay is her first ‘match’, brought together by project co-ordinator Morag at Stirling Library. Pat has mobility issues herself and has difficulty walking but enjoys spending time with Kay, working out different handwriting and chatting about the stories the letters reveal.
‘Reading Friends is about finding someone who likes the same things that you do,’ says Pat. ‘Having no purpose is the difficult thing.’
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