Church of Scotland Mission

Bamdah, PO

Via Simultala,








Dear Alex


Why don’t you get a typewriter: you have no idea how companionable they become.  Well, this is to be a short letter and I mustn’t start any descriptions of declamations.  In a way it is to reply to the letter you wrote me from Alford at Christmas.  Also to thank you for the book; - “The Cathedral”.  I had not read any of Walpole’s and enjoyed it thoroughly.  It depicts the overthrow by misfortune of a “pillar” of the English church, who is steeped in ecclesiasticism, conservatism and self-satisfied pride in the state of the church.  Yet one cannot help liking the man and one feels his misfortunes too harsh for his faults.  It arrived during the week I spent in bed with a boil and was so doubly welcome.


I have recently bought and read V Sackville West’s All Passion Spent.  It is of course a picture of old age and a most charming story at that: little pictures of this old lady, wife of a former Viceroy of India (now deceased), who has all through life sacrificed her individuality and now takes a house by herself and discourages her family from visiting her, in order that she may have a few years complete selfishness with her own thoughts at last.  I also got Virginia Wolff’s Waves – but it was quite beyond me and I returned it to the booksellers in Calcutta.


I have just now an American mission doctor with me – quite a young chap, so I know all about ‘frat-er-nities’,’glee clubs’, etc.  The thing that is most striking, however, is the tremendous gaps in what you and I would consider everyday knowledge – and one never knows when one is going to con on one.  By the time you get this, I half expect to be in Calcutta for a week taking a short two weeks course on leprosy.


I hope you have got my last two or three letters to Dad and Jean; if not please write for them without delay, for details of my present rebellious state of mind.  Bamdah really has been a Spartan introduction to missions.  By the interest and novelty of work and surroundings I successfully surmounted all thoughts of loneliness for many months.  But nothing can make up for that necessity of youth – company of one’s own age, and someone to exchange ideas with and I confess I shall now be glad when this phase is over.  I do not think I shall really regret having come but the contemplation of this strange bite out of life afterwards, may be more pleasant than the actual experience. 








I am planning to return home in 1933 to do post-graduate work and one or two jobs – being in hopes that the tremendous eye experience here may get me an eye appointment at home.  Though I doubt very much if authorities at home would believe me.  Whether I would then return to the mission field or go into Government service abroad (in which I feel there is an equally useful life without the handicaps of understaffing and poor equipment) I cannot at present say.



One presumably wants to think of marriage between the age of 25 and 30; the chances here are nil and if I remained five years here I should return home completely out of touch.  That may seem a very selfish reason, and one I am rather unwilling to admit but no doubt you will agree that it probably unconsciously weighing with me a good deal.  I may say I have seen a number of missionaries who came out single – and they have married fellow missionaries then and even fifteen years older than themselves.  What a future to look forward to!  I must be careful, however, not to propose to the first good-looker I meet on returning from the jungle.  Ronald Macphail, you know, a hardened bachelor, proposed within 24 hours of landing in London, to a lady with whom so far as I know, he did not even write.  Smart work!


Once you get a principal teachership, I trust you will soon set a good example in this direction.


Somerville and I plan to holiday at Darjeeling in July, doing a fortnight walking tour to Everest – not quite to the top.  What are your plans this summer?  I hear from Jean that she has been paying you a visit and that Dad has been off to Nairn.


It may interest you that on my first year here I have saved about £90 (£20 of this is locked up as insurance premium).  In addition I have sent £15 to Dad.  Salary is £240.  How does this compare with a normal year of yours?


Dr Gass and I are going into camp this weekend – the only way of fleeing from hospital for a bit – and intend to walk thirty miles through picturesque jungle en route.  Weather is perfect at this season you know.


With apologies for this scrappy letter.


Yours affectionately