Letters from The Great War

Letters from The Great War – Lee Darrach

Leading up to Remembrance Day 2018, we will feature a series of transcribed letters written by former Clyde River resident Lee Grant Darrach (1882-1953) to his brother in Boston during The Great War. Lee grew up in Clyde River, PEI, one of nine children, in the home now owned by Sidney Poritz on the Clyde River Road. Lee spent time in Boston as a young man, and, in 1915, he headed over to England and ended up in the British Army. For those of you who have ancestors who fought in The Great War, it will offer some insight into their conditions. We welcome your comments and observations and for you to share stories passed down from your own ancestors in the comments section. There are 33 letters, so we will plan to publish 2-3 per week leading up to Remembrance Day. We warn readers that some of the writings describe some raw scenes, but such is the nature of war. Here is the first letter.

Eccles, England, June 20th, 1915

Dear Brother;

Just a few lines to let you know I am well. Hoping this will find you all the same. Well, I had a hard time to land here. I had to skip. They are sending everybody back that is not British born. You have got to have your birth certificate or, if you are American, you’ve got to have a passport, but I could not see through it after getting over here to get sent back. When we got to Manchester, we could not get off the ship. When the nine inspectors got on the ship, we were all lined up, so I showed him that card of Vernon’s. The card was alright but he would not take my word for being born in PEI, so it began to get too hot for me. I began looking for a way to skip, and when no one was looking, I slid down on the rope that was tied to another ship across the canal. I had just got on the other side when a bobbie seen me and order me to halt. Yes, I halted alright. You could not see my heels for dust and the damn bobbie after me. I hid under a pile of lumber from 10 o’clock Monday morning until 11 o’clock that night, so they did not get me.

We had a fine trip coming over, got weather all the way. We took horses to Avonmouth, that is five miles from Bristol. It is a military base. You could not get off the ship; there were soldiers guarding every ship. Fifteen of our fellows enlisted there; that was the only way to get off. There were 10 Americans tried to enlist. They would take them alright, but the captain would not let them leave the ship, only Canadian born. Well, when we got rid of the horses, we started for Manchester. It was 36 hours sail. We got along pretty good until we got inside Holyhead and then a submarine got after us. Well, you believe me. There was some excitement. They put every man that could lift a shovel down firing and the old ship done some zig zagging, but we were lucky there was a patrol boat came to us. They fired six shots at the Kaisers and they went down. We saw no more of them, but the patrol boat came in to the bay with us. Right on the outside of the bay, there was a big merchant ship that they sunk the day before we came. We could see about four feet of her derricks.

Well, Jack, I never seen such docks in my life as I seen in Liverpool – 10 miles of docks. There were regular canals and locks you run a ship in and they close the gate and there you are, all concrete. They got America skinned to death for big buildings and everything up to date that is in the business line such as factories here in Eccles than there is in the whole state of Massachusetts.

We came up the canal from Liverpool to Manchester. It is 36 miles and, Jack, I never seen such a sight in my life. Some of the finest bridges and factories and old mansions that I ever seen or I ever expect to see. It is worth a man’s life to see this place. Right handy where I am boarding, there is a home for Belgians. I seen a little girl yesterday about 12 years old with both her hands cut off at the wrists, little children maimed in every manner you could think of, it would make any man cry to see them that had a heart, children that could not harm anyone.

I wrote to Fulford for my birth certificate. If they get me now, I will get six months. There is all kinds of work here. When I get straightened out, I am going in the admiralty service on the transports. You get big money and a bonus from the old King.

Well, Jack, I had better come to a close for this time. Hoping to hear from you soon and give me all the news. Give my best regards to all.

From Lee

Lee Darrach
14 Irwell Grove
Lancaster, England

The following article written by CBC videojournalist Brian Higgins was reprinted with the permission of CBC. 

Daryl Guignion walks a newly reconstructed stretch of the Clyde River where a bridge will soon be built for the Cornwall bypass. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

The Cornwall bypass is intended to move more cars faster. A major piece of river realignment now underway is intended to help fish get around better, too.

“We’re putting the river back the way it used to be,” said Daryl Guignion, technical advisor to the Queens Wildlife Federation. “It’s become too shallow because of changes made to the watercourse over the past 200 years or so.”

Guignion donned a pair of chest waders Tuesday to walk through a newly reconstructed section of the Clyde River. Around him and above him, construction crews were preparing ground for a new bridge across the waterway, part of the final stretch of the Cornwall bypass.

“It’s five feet deep past here, seven feet if I take another step,” said Guignion, up to his chest in free-flowing water. The Clyde hasn’t run that deep in decades, due to gradual siltation that had been choking fish out of their former habitat.

“I do like what I see. It’s going to create deeper pools for fish,” said Guignion, carefully stepping up the bank.

The old river bed is shallow and slow moving. Machinery is preparing ground for re-routing of the stream. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

The river was rerouted by construction crews now working on the bridge. They were guided by a plan put together by an engineering consultant hired by the Department of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy.

The plan made a 325-metre section of the river straighter, with gentle curves, rocky sides, and large rocks placed strategically to create turbulence and to add oxygen to the water. By relocating the course of the stream, crews also created firm footing for the massive bridge to be installed overhead.

“We’re doing some unique work,” said Brian Thompson, director with Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy. “We minimize any impact on the environment and where we have the opportunity, like we do here, to actually improve habitat and improve the environment.”

Duck ponds and wetlands to be created

​The province is working with two local watershed groups — the Clyde River and the West River  — to complete the project.

As part of the work, the province will also rehabilitate the site of an old dam, upstream from the new bridge. Duck ponds and wetlands will be created or enhanced at several sites along the bypass, according to Thompson.

Guignion says he hopes to see walking trails built along the river too, similar to trails built by the province in recent years in nearby Bonshaw.

Link to the story on the CBC website here.

As in past years, the Clyde River municipal council presented the expenditures for the previous year (2017) and the budget for the upcoming year (2018) to residents at a public meeting in March. Those same figures have, once again, been audited by an independent accounting firm. The accountant’s report is complete and now available for viewing by any Clyde River resident who wishes to do so. Interested residents can arrange to see the report by sending an email to clyderiver.cic@pei.sympatico.ca

The Canoe Cove Women’s Institute is organizing a tour of historic churches in our area. Burnside Presbyterian and Baptist Churches in Clyde River are included in this tour. Check out the poster below for details on purchasing tickets.

Burnside Church

Burnside Presbyterian Church in Clyde River is pleased to invite you to their annual cemetery service on Sunday, July 29th, 7:00 p.m.

Burnside is caretaker of the cemetery that has been in use since 1861, with a new section added in 1962. As the cemetery grows, so does the list of families who are connected to the cemetery.

The cemetery committee has endeavoured to find the names of descendants who have a loved one(s) buried there. Their wish is to include all those people who have a connection to this cemetery to attend their July 29th service.

Having their service at 7:00 p.m. in July allows us to still have sunlight that will make it possible for visitors to visit the grave of their loved one. We are planning an uplifting service of remembrance with special music and a time for refreshments and visiting. There will also be musical accompaniment as visitors enter and leave the church. The service will finish at 8:00 p.m. and visitors are then welcome to the Riverview Community Centre across the road for refreshments.

They welcome you to attend with friends and relatives to remember your loved ones that have gone from your everyday life, but who clearly live on in your memories. While death may be sad, remembrance is not.


We talk openly of life.
Of joyful times we had.
And the joyful times we will have together.
Death gives no joy. It has no voice.
We have muted it because there are no more time to have together.
While the remembrance of death is painful, the remembrance of those who lived,
those we loved, is joyous.
They have left footprints implanted in our minds, in our hearts,
and in the very essence of our being that shall remain forever.
Death is sad. Remembrance is not.
So, let us remember their lives. Forever.

Author, Patrick Cunningham

Art in the Park

Art in the Park: Saturday, July 21, 9:00 to Noon, Murchison Place Park (shine or light rain): Art in the Park welcomes all levels of painters, especially the beginner. Come on out for an enjoyable morning of painting with new and old friends under the dappled canopy of the park. We also welcome those who enjoy watching art being created. All are invited to join a free demo and painting lesson in an interactive workshop style with artist Julia Purcell, starting at 9:30 am. Get started working in Plein Air painting and learn to develop a well-built start for your painting by using a view finder to shape a limited focus, plus many other painting insights. Bring your own painting materials and easel if you have one. View finders will be provided. If you plan to participate in this lesson, we ask you to pre-register by emailing juliampurcell@gmail.com. Coffee provided. There is a washroom on site.

Clyde River Women’s Institute welcomes you to attend their annual Strawberry Social on Wednesday, July 11th, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Riverview Community Centre. You can enjoy the flavour of strawberries and ice cream along with some home-baked treats.

Enjoy the succulent sweet taste of the season and a stunning view of the river. You can un-wind and re-connect with friends, relatives and neighbours. There’s bound to be a few folks home from away. Admission at the door.