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Colin and Mary Rowntree

Letters between Colin and Mary in World War 1

Comments derived from the letters

Home page for Colin and Mary


From Mary
Mother her  and Max going down to Ruan ( Grade-Ruan, Cornwall) by motor.
Fun Journey – Father to follow later for a fortnight.
Colin is to let her know if he changes his mind about marriage.

Letter before marriage (1914)


From Mary
Ref. To Colin being played through Beaconsfield. And invited to stay at Fairfax Road.

Thought to be Sept 1914


From Mary
Interesting about the Hermes
Mothers day on Sunday - all sorts of people coming.
Tell Donald sorry not to see him at station.
Knitting a scarf.



From Mary
Going to tea at  No 11 (Fred Rowntree) tomorrow
The Russell Flints dropped in on mother's day Willy armed with a little sketch of his.
Glad Colin is not plunged into the actual fighting at once
Lovely weather - warm as Ruan
Have been finishing some of my flower sketches - great fun and they are rather nice.

Estimated to be 1914 because of no ref to Michael


From Mary
Mary and her Father had been to the Lord Mayor Show and the Opening of Parliament – London was such fun!
Refers to having 10 women from the workroom to tea. Some of them are very nice.



From Mary
Mary sends advert for a reversible Fur Cuirasse which she say she could line with leather.
Comment regarding the day of Molly’s wedding – hardly seems a year.
Refers to the death of the son of one of her workroom women. Mother and Mary dread visiting the women for fear of a husband has died.
Looking forward to a letter.

 See picture


From Mary
Ref to sending Colin tobacco, mittens. Ref to “Colly” not being well
Mary making lots of clothes. Mary’s cousin, Julia,  sent her two old brooches – miniature of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette- bronze and garnets.
Colin’s Mother in law wants to know if he wears his belt night and day.



From Mary
Mary has had mild flu
Took Eileen to the house
They are painting and wallpapering.
Going to lunch tomorrow at No. 11 and will try to get Nan to see the house in the afternoon



From Mary
Father is better but Mary poorly with a temperature.
We have shown Rhoda the house on Monday She is very excited and full of planning out her work. You should have heard her tongue wagging in the kitchen after she got back
The tide has been exceptionally high and there was a large pool at the bottom of the stairs
Eileen awfully excited and insists on seeing it tomorrow.



From Mary
After dinner on Sunday Fred Nan Oslo and I went to see the house and the aunts arrived. They all like it.
It used to be three stories and the floors have been raised to make it 2.
Bought material from the weaving school 10/- a yard. - about £12 in total
Looked at linoleums at Liberty's - quite a pretty dullish olive green.
Mary was reading Honore de Balzac books.



From Mary
At the house yesterday - comment about tell them (decorators) about painting details.
Plan of Garden not to scale

See garden plan.jpg


From Mary
"We are going to have a child.
Colly dear, I shall never have you to myself again, and I've hardly had you at all yet
I wonder if by about June or July you could get work at Vere Street….. "



From Mary
Mary had got the garden all dug over and is busy planting perennial seeds to flower next year - it will be fun if they do and much cheaper.



From Mary
Ref to her music cupboard looking nice as it is finished. Other things to be painted and stained.



From Colin
Colin refers to his watch being broken and asks Mary to buy him a new cheap one as it is awful nursing without a watch. He would also like some electric light batteries.
There is also reference to new regulations about letter writing and censorship.



From Mary
Mary reports that Mother Father and Max  has been to Richmond to see Rhododendrons and she spent time in the garden. Refers to the plants. Going to see Francis Flint (William Russell Flint’s Father) tomorrow.  She supposes that they ought to sublet the house if the war is going to go on. Perhaps Willy and Ada would like it for the winter

On June 25th going to Perranporth in Cornwall. The nurse says she can swim a bit.
(Mary was pregnant and just 21 years old; got married before she was 21.)


From Mary
Mary reports that Mother Father and Max  has been to Richmond to see Rhododendrons and she spent time in the garden. Refers to the plants. Going to See Francis Flint (William Russell Flint’s Father) tomorrow.  She supposes that they ought to sublet the house if the war is going to go on. Perhaps Willy and Ada would like it for the winter
On June 25th going to Perranporth in Cornwall. The nurse says she can swim a bit.

(Mary was pregnant and just 21 years old; got married before she was 21.)


From Mary
Haven't heard about Winkie
Poor wee Ann, She will have had a very short Reign
Saw the Flint baby the other day.
Quite a shock -- He is so ugly although something nice about him.
They say he is a relica of Willy who is not flattered.
Father ( Sam Begg ) has a wild desire to go to Chiswick Empire and see "Ever Been Had"
- A revue
Met, in Turnham Green Terrace, Griffith of the the Mongolia - fought in South Africa and is Captain or something in Cavalry
"How the women with men in the trenches live from day to day I don't know. I count myself lucky beside them. But my darling I never thought to have you from me at a time like this.

Michael due in November


From Mary
Got you letter - you are a good person to write so soon.
Molly has a wee girl about midday Tuesday

Betsy Knight nee Thorp born


From Mary
I am writing now by an open window…..

From Perranporth Beautiful description of the locality
See separate letter

26/06/1915 From Mary   - Postcard from Perranporth  


From Mary
Colin's new place in Belgium sounds rather nice.
We went to Newquay the other day - it must have been a lovely place thirty years ago.
Hope you and I shall go to Padstow some day.
Mary feeling miserable
Reference to thinking about Daltote  - will they ever go again
Reference to the calm evenings and sunsets
This evening we walked to a circular earthworks call Pirans Round got lost and found a stream flowing in the wrong direction.
Flowers are beautiful
Reference to pet dog howling on the sad when then go bathing. Loves going for a walk on the sand.
Excuse me for not writing but feel tired or lazy.;

From Perranporth

Daltote is on Loch Sween


From Mary
"Do keep you moustache until you come home and let me see how funny you look."
Feeling tired and stupid but no cough she had before coming away . Looking fat and brown.
Living on honey and cream. Been to St Agnes
Description of St Agnes ..
We went by the cliffs and saw some of the finest weirdest coast that I have seen. Very wild, it was and just alive with gannets. St Agnes itself is rather a queer place. A big mine close to the sea (some of the deserted ones are right on the edge of the cliffs in most weird situations. ) The stream run thick grey with stuff from them and discolour the sea for about a mile out.  Then there is pretty fertile valley and then the "town" away up on one side - we couldn't find it for ages, till two women, who said they were going to the "teahouse" conducted us. The Teahouse turned out to be the dentists, but we got a good tea that we were very much in need of. St Agnes is quaint - it's glory. It was very much more important some time back. I always think these places are rather fascinating. There is a quaint weird old burial ground right away from the church with some funny old carved slate tombstones, the most striking now are to three little girls all dying with a few days. (small pox I suppose) and one erected by his shaft mates to a man drowned in the mineshaft. That must be a ghastly thing, when the sea breaks in. Did you see the poems they are so fond of in the death notices in the local papers when you were here. The make you think of Mrs Adeln's book - "We have lost our little Annie etc"
Some of the "killed in action ones", I afraid ,  are very funny.
The country inland here is lovely Very pretty valleys and nice very well kept cottages and lovely gardens with gay wild flowers. One thinks at first that the cottages must be inhabited by artists or such like people, but it is nit so. And yet the children are not half so well kept as further north. …

"Do you suppose uou will get leave soon"

Reference to Colin having been there !
Written from Perranporth Cornwall


From Mary
Reference to the new house, the Wisteria and the carpet.

The house referred to must be Picton House - Strand on the Green.


From Mary
Many Happy Returns
Some photos of Poperinghe arrived for you.



From Mary
Writing from Hailie Liphook Hants
Reference to Aunt May and the garden – sound of firing from Weaver Down.
They have turned all the people out of the cottages bordering on Weaver Down.
Mother went up with May to the WMCA hut.
Feeling proud about November  – I shall love you both so much.
Yesterday the Black Watch play recruits onto the train at Waterloo – it was glorious.
Her train was crammed with sailors.

Michael, Mary's first born was due in November


From Mary
Hope the cold is better
Annie had a letter saying George in Poperinghe
Douglas rang to to know if Winkie could come.
Betsy is growing like you
Do you remember this day last year - we went to Black Head
Mary sick of herself but grateful for the people about her.
"I'm going to indulge in the exhilarating occupation of hemming nappys. If you were only here I'd make you do them.
PS How funny meeting this Bootham friend.

Black Head may be Beachy Head.
Michael Rowntree born on 7th Nov 1915


From Mary
Reference to Michael’s enjoyable behaviour as a baby.



From Colin
Non-censored letters have been stopped because someone put in something he shouldn't have.
"Sickening I saw Chas yesterday, He has moved to the town where the chateau is and not altogether pleased about it.. We are going to join the rest of the Motor section." Weather better after the snow. Going down to the orphanage today to a fete -- the curie's birthday. Got a letter from Nan today saying Mary and Michael had visited.



From Colin
Ref to snow again after spring had started. Saw Chas who had been moved to the same place as his Hospital ( Maybe Pop.) and heard that they may be shelled that night. Colin planning to evacuate more children.



From Colin
There is a letter from Colin, still with the FAU but he may have been in England. The last entry in his diary with the FAU is on 22 April 1916 and the first in a diary with the Royal Engineers is 27th June 1916. The letter is from FAU to Mary at Liphook in Hampshire referring to not coming to see her until she returns home, so she is to let him know when that will be and he will try to get to see her then. He is busy doing two people’s work accounting and paying bills.

 From this it is surmised that Colin had very little time training for the Royal Engineers and comparison can be made with the time of about 6 months spent by Lionel Aglio Dibdin when training for a similar commission in the R.E. but planning to work in the trenches.


From Colin
One letter, 3rd Aug 1916, from Colin soon after he joined the Royal Engineers working on Graves registration indicate a philosophic acceptance regards to being killed by a shell while working. It is difficult to judge whether or not the risks were greater than during his time with the FAU.
This letter develops into a maudlin comparison between himself and a once possible rival for Mary’s affections. He also points out that Mary is not keeping him up to date with how Michael is growing up. He mentions that his batman has been with the war since Dec 1914 and was blown up by a mine and was unconscious for 4 days. All the men on Grave registration are called Permanent Base Men and are deemed not fit for action in the trenches because of injury, shell shock or old age. He says they are a curious crowd. – “Goodbye Princess”



From Colin
"We had another orgy down at M Hameaus ( the place where I am billeted.) It was the usual thing Glass after glass of very nasty wine and lots of sweet cakes and biscuits. All of us are very tired and bilious today. They are horrible occasions but have to be gone through from time to time. They practically force the stuff down your throat until you think the next glass will make you sick. The worst of it is that when I feel a bit seedy I always get an attack of home sickness. Oh how I low to see my darling again." …. "I suppose you will be going to Perranport soon .. I hope you have a good time and get quite well and fat again. She is a naughty girl not getting fatter …
The weather has broken - the roads are frightfully muddy - quite like winter …"



From Colin
Refers to money issues
£20 kit allowance
£10 month pay in advance
Thanks for the ham - only took a few days because sent direct otherwise it could take a month
Don't send cakes Nan is sending them
Will get a photo of Jack Websters grave soon.
Will not get leave before you go to Perranporth
"Now darling, please don't do too much cooking; you have to be careful with yourself."



From Colin
Writing to Perranporth as Mary about to go down to Cornwall
She is a naughty girls for not writing. -please do write.
How are Michaels teeth
Colin is now sleeping in the same building as his office - not as comfortable as the billet but there are advantages.
The weather is awful

To Perranporth


From Colin
Colin is ok although nothing to report as usual. Doing the same things day after day.
Missing Mary. Refers to Chas who is travelling about the area and earning £1 a day.
Feels sorry for Teddy. Chas showed Colin a long letter from Donald who loses his heart to a different girl each day. - "he will probably end up with somebody awful". Comments on how beautiful Mary is.

Colin was working on graves at this time.


From Colin
Colin has been censoring letters.
Reference to the possibility of leave.
Time goes by so slowly when expecting leave. Colin is longing for Mary.



From Colin
To remind Mary of Monday – had hoped to get home by then but doubtful
Today is anniversary of FAU going out – a celebration. Thanks Mary for letters who has been good at writing recently. – Must stop as he has a pile of letters to censor.



From Colin
No news of leave.
No reason for not having leave as Capt Fair is back.
Beastly weather so not much work done.



From Colin
Returned from Leave which he enjoyed.
Had to stay the night at the Base as there was no train
got to the town were the HQ in early hours of the morning and spent night in guard room on bare boards. Walked 3 miles to HQ in the morning in time for breakfast

This was after 7 days leave.


From Colin
To wish you a Michael Happy Christmas
Reference to the Guv getting that job (presumable Fred.)
and only Willy to help - he will be busy.
Reference to his watch at Barkers.
H.G.Wells prophesy interesting but what does he know about it.



From Colin
Colin worried as it is a week since he heard from Mary - "Naughty and I forgave you last week and it occurred again - please be good darling YOU have no idea what your letters mean to me and how miserable I get when I don't get one for some time. Every day I hope and then disappointment"
"I hope Michael is keeping a good boy - but I am sure he is with such a clever Mother.
I am proud of you dearest and Michael too."
"Excuse the stupid letter - feeling low."



From Colin
Pleased for your letter and to hear about Michael - nice boy isn't he.
How are you - are you getting fatter - you ought you naughty girl.
Had indigestion recently - thought I was getting my old complaint. Better send me that stuff of Mrs Bouchers
The men here had a sort of Sing song on New Years Day. Singing the dullest and slowest songs you could think of. It waas exactly like at that party at the Hotel at Lullworth on New Years Eve 2 years ago. Do you remember ?
Got a letter from Nan - The Guv (Fred Rowntree) seems to be over here now. Poor Nora - IT must have been terrible not hearing from Teddy for a month. But he stands a better chance out there than I should think.



From Colin
His tummy is playing up – may be the food or the cold.
Harvey’s wife died – He is having difficulty getting leave.



From Mary
Glad to hear Colin better
Bad luck for Douglas starting in this weather.
Hung a coconut out for the tit. 6 at one time. Michael loved it.
The cold weather makes Mary feel absolutely stupid and she hasn't a think in her head. - horribly lazy and reads when Michael is out of the way.



From Mary
Mary went with Molly to Margaret's Hospital ( King's College)
Willy has a commission
Michael enjoyed his outing in the boat yesterday - twice round the island.
God weather for sailing.



From Mary
Parting gets harder. How many more times ?
My usual trouble has started again today so I suppose that has made me more stupid!
Mary refers to Michael's disgraceful behaviour in town
-putting out his tongue at people and at Liberty's lying on his back in the middle of the floor.
One being pulled up he let his legs go soft. On being scolded he shrieked with laughter
Took him to Kensington Gardens.

Returned from leave on 9th July 1917


From Mary
They had gone to the cinema. The girl was really lovely.
A heartbreaking film but realistic and sensible.



From Mary
Local news
Michael says Daddy and slobbers over a photo of Colin.



From Mary
News of Michael  - -and them going down to Dorset.



From Mary
Went to see Mrs Robson in Trelawny of the Wells
Comments about Douglas and family.
" Mother's workroom women were turned out of where they were and they could not find anywhere else. So we have given them the dining room for the winter. We have managed to make the drawing room quite comfortable we use our own table for meals. It is quite nice to see them. The old women are only here 4 days a week so it isn't as bad as one imagined."
Dug 37 lbs potatoes
Going to Nan on Sunday - and onto the boat if fine.

Trelawny of the Wells,  Arthur Wing Pinero's 1898 comedy (brushed up by Patrick Marber) follows actress Rose Trelawny as she ditches her thespian friends at the (Sadler's)Wells theatre for a young gentleman.


From Mary
Received 2 letters from Colin in consecutive posts
Went to tea with people in coastguard cottages. - details
Michael has fallen off his chair

Date could be 1916 or maybe 1918
Burton Bradstock


From Mary
"You are the naughtiest person to get so run down and that wretched skin trouble."
Michael insists on writing  to daddy!" -- a scribble



From Mary
Reference to Colin's old trouble.
Mary is a bit anemic and off colour
Took Michael to Kensington to see the toys and had tea at Barkers new place. - with an orchestra. Michael talking now.
"Are you still waiting for this wretched reorganisation business?"



Michael and Mary Photographed
Food supply short particularly fats but nobody need go hungry yet.
Took Michael to his  "Strand on the Green Garden"
Johm has been gassed slightly -some weeks in hospital
Noone seems pleased about his engagement - she certainly seems an affected little ass.
Other local news.



From Colin
Please to hear Mary is better again
Colin remind Mary that they went to only one A.A. fancy dress dance.
They went to another AA dance after they were engaged at the Empress Rooms.
The only other fancy dress was at Rathbones when Mary wore a Nymph dress
Request for Players Navy Cut tobacco that can be sent "Out of Bond" - duty free.
Or Captstan Navy Cut.
"If I had been moved from here I would not have got my promotion - so turn out ok as I would have missed my leave and my jobfor nothing.

T0 23 Fairfax Road


From Colin
My Darling Mellow
Glad to get you letter - thought you had forgotten me. - a week since your last.
In bed with Flu Started on Friday
My room looks out onto a main road and there is a continual streem of lorries and motor cycles all day. Just read "Passionate Friends" very sad and annoying - the girl is so stupid.
Hear that Ralph has been slightly wounded. I wonder how he managed that.
Thank Michael for the candle.
"Now Mary you have got to be a good girl about writing. If you are not I will only write when I get letters from you. I don't see why I should write two to every one of yours. SO don't forget dearest.
Very very dearest love .. Your own Colly."

Passionate Friends - book by H.G.Wells


From Colin
No sign of the tobacco so no smoke for 3 days but managed to get some for his pipe.
Rumours that the Boche are returning up here. If so there will be plenty of work to do.
They have had stormy weather.
He asks for a dozen 1d stamps for his cheque book.
He hears that Ralph has got across.



From Colin
The weather has been diabolical
Things seem to be going marvellously - they have started on our new front and doing well
we have done in one day what we could not do in six months last year. And very very few casualties. Got a letter from Jewell the other day - He is very unhappy with that fellow. He is at the place they tslked of putting me. And Jewell isn't a person who says anything bad about anyone unless he has very good reason.
I hope Michael got my letter alright.
Fair gets back tomorrow  - ratheer glad as we shall have more of our units forward ( if not ourselves) if we advance much further.

one of few comments about the state of the war and Colin's work.


From Mary
Angie Michael and Mary poorly.

No comment by Mary regarding the war over.


From Mary
Ref to Colin having a sore back

In Dec Colin admitted to Hospital with Flu and Broncial Pneumonia


From Mary
" I haven't heard from you yet .. But if it is your fault it is very mean indeed of you and I'm really angry with you. I'm longing to hear how you get on at the board tomorrow"
Monday afternoon .. Your letter has just come.. I still do think you might write sooner.
Michael say he wants to see you



From Colin
Reference to Mary being away and needs to feel strong again.
Colin sent a cheque for £3-10-00
Of course Colin will met her.

Date unknown but notice the sender address
From 45 Strand on the Green


From Colin
You are a naughty girl about writing. You said you would write twice a week and so far I have only had one letter from you. I suppose the children must be worrying you
Report on Holiday place and family
Pleased to get Michael's letter.

1921  or later
See "2 letters from Colin in Daltote"
From Daltote Achnamara
to 45 Strand on the Green


From Colin
Friday        Report on Holiday place and family -- Love to Michael and Paul

Date unknown but notice the sender address                     1921  or later
See "2 letters from Colin in Daltote"
From Daltote