Spectator December 21, 1915
"Marley was dead, to begin with.” It was thus that the gifted Dickens began his Christmas Carol. “Old Marley was as dead as a door nail … Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did. Scrooge and he were partners for many years.”
Dickens’ stories are not read nowadays like they were by the ancient Hamiltonians of the past century; and the more pity it is, for their reading would make a better world. The Christmas Carols tell us that old Scrooge was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, “ a squealing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner!”
Hamilton may have a few of the Scrooge tribe, but they are mighty few, as the history of the past four years can cheerfully give testimony. Very few have suffered from the high cost of living, for there has been hard work for everybody that wanted it, wages were good and liberal.
God bless the generous-hearted people of dear old Hamilton! They have always responded to every call from the time it was but a village and called the Head of the Lake. There has never been any need of suffering if the wants of the unfortunate were known, for the women of Hamilton responded to every call for help, especially for women and children. Every church and every society of women have their relief corps. When the influenza became epidemic, how quick the S.O.S. was organized, and the pastor nd official board of the First Methodist church promptly tendered to the ladies the use of their kitchen and outfit, and hundreds of baskets of delicate food were sent out every day to the homes of the afflicted. Those grand women of the S.O.S. left their homes, by units, happy in the thought that there was work for them to do, not only giving their time but also carrying to the church baskets of delicacies from their own larders. And the people who owned motor cars placed them under the direction of the S.O.S. to distribute their bounty in the homes of the afflicted. Let us change Tiny Tim’s prayer just a little, God bless them, every one.
This is not an unkind world after all, and dear old Hamilton stands in the front rank in every good work. Count up the tag days for the Red Cross, and for other benevolences since the dark days of 1914 overshadowed every home and country, and Hamilton has more than met every call made upon it, not only in brave men to answer the bugle call, but for money to provide for the dependent wives and children and parents of those who left home and comfort to create a new world of liberty.
Let us be thankful that the worst is past, and that
“When Johnny comes marching home again,
We’ll give him a royal welcome then,
The girls will cheer, the boys will shout,
The people will all turn out,
And we’ll feel gay,
When Johnny comes marching home.”
Hamilton sent more than its quota – nearly 12,000. Many of the bravest and best will never return home again!
“In Flanders’ fields the poppies blow,
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the shy
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amidst the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved; and now we lie
In Flanders’ fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch. Be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders’ fields.”
In Flanders’ Fields is the tribute of the brave Lieut.-Col. John H. McRae to his Canadian comrades who have been “mustered out” on the firing line. Col. McCrae was born in Canada in 1872; passed from the glory of the battlefield in France in 1918. What a brave answer came back from an American comrade-in-arms, R. W. Gillard, herewith given !
The Red Cross society in Hamilton have done a service that will live forever in publishing the booklet, containing the original poem and the answer, with a handsome sketch of the growing poppy in Flanders’ Fields, drawn by Hamilton lady artist, and a photo of the gifted Canadian author.
Here is the answer:
“Rest ye in peace, ye Flanders dead.
The fight that ye bravely led
We’ve taken up. And we will keep
True faith with you who lie asleep
With each a cross to mark his bed
And poppies glowing overhead
Where once his own life-blood ran red.
So, let your rest be sweet and deep
In Flanders’ fields.
Fear not that ye have died for naught,
The torch ye throw to us we caught.
Ten million hands will hold it high,
And Freedom’s light shall never die!
We’ve learned the lesson that she taught
In Flanders’ fields.
The glory won by our Canadian boys will be told by future historians when recounting the story of the great war of 1914-1918. It cost the blood and the lives of the bravest and best of all in the allied ranks. In thousands of Canadian homes, there will be at least one vacant chair at the coming Christmas feast.
“At the fireside, sad and lonely,
Often will the bosom swell,
At remembrance of the glory,
How their noble Willie fell;
How he strove to bear our banner
Thro’ the thickest of the fight,
And uphold our country’s honor.
In the strength of manhood’s right.”
The boys who responded to the bugle call, and will return home to future years, will proudly tell their children of the humble part they took in the great world war.
Cheers for the returning soldier! Tears for the dead !