Many other diversions
Of course there were many other diversions which we enjoyed to the full. Our own tennis lawn was nearly always occupied, and, conveniently close, were the numerous courts of the Field Lawn Tennis Club in the Park, which for the most part consisted of 'family' members - that is, one fairly substantial subscription included the whole family. It was immensely popular, and every week one of the hostesses gave a great tea feast. Then, we made up bicycle parties, and often as many as twenty or thirty would ride out to Leasowe, or make rounds of the Wirral.
Speaking of Leasowe, which then consisted of the lighthouse and one or two cottages close under the embankment, it was almost a weekly event for us to be driven down there in the pony trap. We took tea and the babies; and we paddled or bathed. The old Castle stood close by, in the gardens of which was an old stone seat supposed to have the magic property of granting the fulfilment of wishes. But it was private ground: so one had to remain enviously outside. One summer, we boys pitched a tent beyond the lighthouse and camped there for several weeks. Rae Anderson and a friend had started the fashion. We used to be joined by MacIvers and Carvers and others: and played ninesomes on the Moreton Links in the evenings.
Another very popular habit was to row up the River Dee. Large parties would hire boats at Chester and row up to Eaton Hall, picnicing on the bank, and come back in the twilight. How we used to sing as we rowed along - all the old favourites;- "Listen, listen, Music sounds afar", "Funiculi, funicula" and
"A boat, a boat, haste to the ferry,and of course many others. Those were delightful summer Saturdays when we went "Up the Dee".
And we'll go over and be merry,
And laugh and quaff and drink brown sherry"
Now I have a feeling that it may be asked by some of the more serious minded of our younger generation;-
"Did this nonesuch family, which seemed to live on a bed of roses, ever do anything useful?"Disclaiming any personal allusion to my own activities, which were simply those of first a schoolboy then a student, I may truly say of Father, Mother, and May that they lived extremely useful lives. Father was a wise and generous employer of a very large number at Burlington Street and in Leith. It is a fact that it was the rarest thing for anyone to leave George Jäger & Son once they had been enrolled in its ranks. Men used to stay on till their lives end: and it is some pride to Tram and me that that fine tradition has been maintained to this day. Much more than that, Father never failed to give a helping hand - to how many I cannot say, for he never let his right hand know the generous deeds of his left. His brothers-in-law were successively (five of them) in considerable trouble and difficulties, and he helped them all. No sisters ever had a more faithful and generous brother: and there were uncounted others who blessed him for generous and timely help.
Mother, who was always a marvel of energy and activity, found ample time among her family cares and duties to carry on for years the arduous and trying work of district visiting and conducting Mothers' Meeting. That she did so with acceptance and appreciation, was shown by the gift they gave her when she left Birkenhead. She was also on the Committee of the Rescue Home, and she would back up any good cause by writing at great speed dozens and dozens of letters of appeal for help.
May, who, as I have told you, in spite of happy periods of freedom from pain, was never strong, devoted many years to the teaching of a Sunday School Class at St James by the Dock Cottages - a duty she carried out most conscientiously and well. Moreover, she was a shining example to us all of unselfishness, uprightness and peace. She never spoke ill of anyone, never quarreled or allowed a bitter word to escape her lips. How right it is that you should know, that, though perhaps you seldom saw her, and knew so little of her character - when you did meet, an angel crossed your path and a benison went with you.
Tram & ArthurTram and Arthur, like me, were schoolboys and students. Tram left Rugby and went to learn the science of Sugar Refining at Brunswick in Germany; after this he joined Father at Burlington St, and, if I mistake not has ere now completed his fiftieth year in the firm. You all know that he leads a very useful and public-spirited life following most honourably in his father's footsteps. Twice he served his country in war: and, though he will not ever tell you, he acquitted himself with the utmost gallantry on many occasions during the first world war, notable at the Battle of Cambrai, where, advancing with his brave sergeant in front of his men, he personally reconnoitred the advance of his Tanks over the dreaded No man's land in that great victory for British arms.
Arthur too was in the thick of the fighting in Delville Wood, and it was in the trenches that he contracted the dread disease from which he died while still in the prime of his years.
Mary and Frieda and"The Bamboo Club"
Mary and Frieda were sweet and happy influences in our devoted family. There could be no brighter ornament to a house than were these two inseparable and lovely children. And they had such a charmingly attractive circle of friends. There was an institution so unique that I must try to describe it. It was called "The Bamboo Club" and, something like the 'Jeunesse Doree' of Napoleonic Days, it consisted of the elite 'under seventeen' of the neighbourhood, only, instead of carrying 'short clubs loaded with lead' (like the scions of the guillotines) they bore long sticks of bamboos with which they used to pole-jump across the pools and rivulets on Bidston Hill. Their doyen was the tall dark distinguished Cyril Irven, a young man in his twenties, who was a member of a very charming family who lived just below the Observatory. Like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, he led them awav on all manner of rambles on and around the hill and its beautiful woods. Mary was his devoted lieutenant, and Frieda went wherever Mary went. There were the Anguses, Muriel and Sandford Evans, Peggy Castle, Anson, Nancy and Ida Wright; Hester Elaine Collis Irven (Cyril's sister); May Haughton and Kitty Tipton (both strikingly beautiful children) and many others whose names I forget. Each year they held their annual sports in Farmer David Jones' field near the Wirral Ladies Links. Their families used to attend in great strength, and they witnessed running and jumping and bicycle races. Farmer Jones himself was an enthusiastic spectator, and he used to exclaim with great pride:-
"I do like to see the haristocracy enjoying of themselves"I am reluctant to leave these happy days of the so-called 'naughty nineties' for they were soon to be overshadowed. Before I do so I must say a word or two of the wide elder circle, the dear personal friends of Father and Mother.
Lingdale friends and neighbours
For years before our great happiness of knowing and marrying into the MacIver family, dear Buffie's brothers and sisters had long been friends of Father and Mother. From our earliest infancy they knew Uncle Judge Tom Carver and Aunt Maud and their family of eight; Uncle William and Aunt Georgie Hope were our close neighbours when we lived at Nassau House, as also were Uncle Tucker and Aunt Ethel Squarey. Uncle Arthur and Aunt Clara Squarey were always most charming friends. Indeed Grannie and Grandfather MacIver were almost the last of this charmed circle whom we were privileged to know. Beside these they had many other intimate friends. James Wilcox Alsop and his gentle wife Constance were also great friends of May: they took her to Switzerland with them. There were also Leslie & Mrs Ferguson, both most delightful friends and neighbours: the Thornelys, who lived on the other side of Tollemache Hill at 'Landore'; the Cullens - fine old Scotch stock; the Crooks, and many, many others, far too numerous to mention. They all left gracious memories behind them. No society could have been more friendly or more congenial. For me it is a wonderful recollection to think of all the dinner parties at which these good people were regular guests.