Disaster at Wanlass How

This is a transcript by GJ4 of two letters, source unknown, tentatively dated 1904 by him.

Wanlass How

Dear Mrs MacIver,

I must write at once to tell you of our disaster. I shall see to the expense of course, but it may well mean some inconvenience for you. It happened last night long after May and I had gone to bed. We both woke at the same time and thought we had heard a bump. Each hastened out of bed and met in fact at my bedroom door (your bedroom of course).

May had thought that I must have fallen out of bed. I am still not sleeping well (I never had that trouble when dear George was with me). I had thought that something had happened downstairs. I was right of course.

We then heard such a strange noise downstairs. The sound was of water running, bells ringing and banging on a door, and of maids all talking together, and then we heard a man's voice. Then Mrs Youds came up, with a kitchen maid. Both were nearly hysterical with fright, and when I spoke sharply to Mrs Y she forgot her place and spoke sharply back. Then the kitchen maid did have hysterics, and May took her into her own room to comfort her. Mrs Y then managed to convey to me that there had been an explosion in the kitchen: and that the man's voice was Christie's.

He had come down at once from his quarters and when he had seen smoke and steam coming out of a broken window in the Servants Hall he very sensibly ran round to the front door and shouting his own name was soon let in. By the time Mrs Y and I came down with our candles, Christie had managed to light a lamp and had taken charge. The back door was open and the scullery maid was busy sweeping water out of the back door in the hope that this might stop the water going further down the service corridor (where Christie had made a "dam" out of table cloths and cushions) and so into the house.

We could then see what had happened. The hot water boiler had burst first scattering hot coals and then showering water all over the Servants Hall. Christie had already found the main water tap and turned it off. Soon the water subsided leaving just a general dampness. So I thanked Christie and sent everyone off back to bed. I made my way up the back stairs, so as not to take water into the Hall and so found my way back to bed. May had meanwhile calmed and comforted the kitchen maid and nearly missed me by going down the front stairs to join me while I was coming up the back way.

In the morning after breakfast I went into the kitchen and found Mrs Youds rather sulky but she cheered up when I congratulated her on having got so much tidying up done so soon! I sent for Christie, and found that he had already been to fetch the plumber and was discussing with him who should do what. I shall write again tomorrow to tell you how we are getting on.

Yours sincerely

Georgiana Jager

PS. We shall of course miss having a hot water supply from the taps: but, to tell you the truth, the water had not been really hot lately. I don't think Mrs Y really understood that boiler.

Manor Hill

Dear Mrs Jager

Thankyou for your prompt letter and promise of another. I am so glad that you did not send a telegram as David is not very well and I would not like him to be worried by our domestic mishaps. Florence is rather a silly girl, and I am not surprised to hear about her hysterics. I hope Lily is none the worse for her exertions in sweeping out that water. You will find that Mrs Youds is at her best when she has difficulties to cope with. Christie must have been in his element. You know he was bosun on the "Tuscany" before he retired and became our boat builder.

Please tell the servants that I was glad to hear from you that they all behaved so well and that I hope they are none the worse for their adventure. I hope that you and dear May have now recovered from your disturbed night and are able to get back to your golf.

Yours sincerely

Edith E MacIver

PS. I fear that it is my fault that Mrs Youds does not understand boilers. I have made a practice of seeing to it myself last thing every night.

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