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London Caithness Association 

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Second World War

Now to return to the social life of the "Caithness", which we left in 1939; the outbreak of war, the call-up of young men, and the intensity of air raids over London resulted in a temporary cessation of meetings.  This led to the writing of a letter in the Groat from someone signing himself "Old Member", asking what had happened that there were no meetings, no social events.  He recalled that during the First World War, Mr J Tudor Crowe had organised Saturday afternoon meetings.  The following week, Mr GW Macdonald, Vice President and an ex-secretary explained in a reply that the honorary secretary Mr J Henderson had been transferred to Edinburgh and that so far no successor had been appointed.  Mr Macdonald refrained from observing that so far as London was concerned, owing to the Blitz and other factors, conditions differed very greatly from those in the 1914-1918 war.  The committee had already decided to hold meetings whenever possible.  It is, however, not until 1942 that we find a report of the resumption of activities, when the severity of the air raids had abated somewhat, even if only temporarily.  At a Halloween social held that year, when Mr RR Tait was President, there was a record attendance.  From then, until the end of the war, meetings were held in the afternoon, in the Royal Scottish Corporation in Fetter Lane.

As in the First World War, the members of the Association made every effort to help the men from Caithness or London Caithnessians who might be serving in the armed forces.  Funds were collected for comforts and the Caledonian recreation centre for Scottish soldiers was supported.  At the annual general meeting in 1940, a welcome was given to a visitor William Sinclair, a native of Latheron and a Past President of the Vancouver Caithness Association, who was serving with the Canadian Forces and who brought greetings from his Association.  In 1941, one the members Sergeant George Rosie of the Metropolitan police, who was a son of ex-police officer Rosie of Castletown, was congratulated on being awarded the George Medal for bravery.  Doctor Malcolm Manson, living in North London, a native of Canisbay, was also decorated for services in releasing people trapped under debris, following a heavy raid.  Both in the case of Sgt. Rosie and Dr. Manson, they worked at great risk to their own lives, but as Dr. Manson said quietly afterwards, "We had to get he people out".  The buildings collapsed almost immediately the people were dragged clear.

The honorary treasurer, Mr Alex Simpson was home on leave, late in 1941, and handed over the treasurer's books and documents, Mr Taylor agreeing in the circumstances to prepare a financial statement.  Mr Simpson died a few months later, and at the annual general meeting in 1942, 100 was voted to his widow, 25 to be paid over at once.  Mr Simpson had held the office of honorary treasurer for twelve years, and his devoted service had earned the highest appreciation of the committee and members.

As will have been noted, the annual general meeting was held even when no other meeting was possible, but whether "Old Member" attended, we do not know.  Other meetings were held as and when possible and reports clearly indicate that wartime conditions in London were not preventing the Association from continuing its activities up to a point.  In addition, members kept in touch with each other, contacting their immediate friends after severe air raids or later when the "doodle-bugs" rained destruction on the city.  Their efforts, too, to provide comforts for the men on active service remained unabated.  In 1945, twenty thousand cigarettes were sent to local boys serving in Western Europe, as it had been decided that this was the most practical assistance that could be undertaken by the Association, at the time.  It was hoped that the cigarettes would arrive in time to constitute a New Year's gift to the boys, many of whom were serving in the same regiments as their fathers in the First World War.

In March 1945, the annual general meeting was held in the afternoon, in the Royal Scottish Corporation, in spite of all difficulties. The honorary secretary said that while the majority of kindred societies in the Metropolis had been dormant under wartime conditions, the London Caithness report and the accounts showed a continuous record of activities.  In the following March, Mr WJ Taylor said apropos of appealing for new members, "It should be a natural thing for any Caithness parent whose son or daughter is leaving home for London, that he informs the London Caithness Association or gets the secretary's address for the boy or girl to contact a member of the Association on arrival. 

At this time, Mr RR Tait, who had manfully shouldered the heavy responsibilities of the office of President, throughout the trying war years, resigned, and Mr Herbert Sinclair was elected in his place.  He emphasised that the future of the Association depended on young people coming from Caithness.  At a committee meeting held in April, it was resolved to push forward a publicity campaign in the Caithness Press and to seek the co-operation of local ministers and town clerks.  Meetings, the committee decided, would have to be held in centrally situated premises, warm and attractive, and programmes attractive to younger people, would have to be provided, such as socials, dances and outings, the latter perhaps jointly with other Northern societies.

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