Thursday, 1 January 2015

A Highland New Year in Bedford

Seaforth Highlanders at Bedford 1914 [Z1306/12/6/28]

Friday 1st January 1915: Last night’s Hogmanay celebrations passed off in great style. At every venue the soldiers were served with a cold meal of joints of meat, mostly ham and beef, followed by hot plum pudding and sauce, tea and cakes. The Modern School Hall was used as a central depot for crockery, cutlery, silver and utensils. Supplies of cakes and mince pies were also kept at the School, with a total of around 30,000 distributed. This report from the Guild Hut in Bedford Park describes just one of the eighteen separate suppers.
The Rev. Herbert Reid, M.A., was Chairman and Chaplain at a little supper party of 460. The forty stewards of both sexes included four Brigadiers of the Bedford Fire Brigade, who obviously found their new avocation as much to their taste as fire-fighting. Just before the appointed hour the 460 members of the 6th Battallion Seaforths, headed by their pipers, reached the hall, which was absolutely ‘it’ for such an occasion, and took their seats with military orderliness. The three long tables stretched the full length of the hall, which only that day had received the finishing touches from the decorator, and looked beautifully spic and span. Filled with such a fine body of men, it was a sight to gladden the heart. Grace having been said by the Rev. Chairman, the men made a determined attack on the abundantly spread tables.  
The Chairman, in proposing “The King” said that on the program the Committee had artistically combined the Thistle and the Borough Arms, and he hoped this association would long continue. He was sure they would carry away very warm memories of their stay in Bedford. Mr Burridge, proposing “Our Scottish Hosts” said the men’s good fortune in being sent to Bedford had been Bedford’s good fortune too. Bedford people now looked upon them as ‘our boys’.
The New Year began at midnight with an enormous crowd of Scottish soldiers gathered in the market place linking hands to sing in 1915 with Auld Lang Syne. Today yesterday's arrangements will be repeated to provide more simultaneous suppers for the rest of the Highlanders. 

Source: The Highland Division at Bedford: An Illustrated Souvenir [X414/162]; Bedfordshire Times 1st January 1915

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