Midland Sta. Hotel, London

4 A.M. February 29, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:–

I wrote you #32 from Edinburgh, but did not number it.

I left Glasgow at 4.35 P.M. and was due here at 5 A.M., but, strange as it may seem we were 1½ hours early and I have until 6 A.M. to get the first train out to London Colney. I walked here from St. Euston Sta. Nobody is about although there are several lights lit on this ground floor. I just walked in and made myself at home. I have not taken an inventory of the cash draw yet. I have a light on over a tea table at the foot of the grand stair case. My pack is conveniently spread about on some fancy wicker chairs, and as I write I am chewing on some dates and a biscuit that were left over from the junk I took on the train for dinner. To complete the setting here in the vast stillness of the hotel I have a vase of faded yellow and white flowers on the tea table at which I am writing.

Well my trip is just about over. I am more than satisfied. Aside from seeing the cities and shipyards I have gotten entirely away from the aerodrome and the R.F.C. men, and gotten almost a taste of peace times and the industrial frame of mind and thoughts. I did not meet any Scotch people on intimate terms but from what I saw of them in Edinburgh and Glasgow I like them and their land more than Londoners.

I have experienced some real Scotch weather, but it did not harm the trip at all—in fact the combination could hardly have been improved. I mentioned the storm Wednesday afternoon at Arthur’s Seat. Early in the afternoon while I was walking to and looking over Holyrood Castle the sun was shining through good clouds. As I climbed up the steep path around the hill to Arthur’s Seat the wind became a hurricane. I thought it would blow me off. Then I went up by way of a steep and rugged little foot path. It was a strenuous mountain climb gale and all. On top I had to hold on for dear life. There is a stone monument about 3′ 6″ high with a bronze table on top giving the direction of principal objects in the view. Every time I moved and changed my grip on it I thought I would be blown into the distant Firth of Forth. It was too stormy to get much of a view. I could see the town indistinctly and some little bit of the Forth. The storm developed to sleet and rain when I started down. I had quite a cross country spurt down the grassy steep of the east side of the hill with the wind at my back. Then on the walk back to the tram I got pretty well soaked below my trench coat.

I got to Glasgow about ten o’clock. Got located at the hotel (which happened this time to be an inferior one, Queen St. Sta. Hotel) and then went to the Central Sta. Hotel to ask for mail, as Mr. Whiting had said he might address me there. I found a letter from him enclosing a letter of introduction to Mr. Luke the works manager of the famous Clydebank yard, John Brown and Co., where Prof. McDermott was naval architect, and where the Lusitania and Aquitania were built. It was just what I wanted so I returned to my room in high spirits after getting posted on the morning trains to Clyde Bank.

I got down there about 8:45 and was sent back to get a pass from the Senior Naval Officer and Supt. of the Clyde District. He gave me a pass, but I was not desired in the Yard until 11:30. So I walked to the river and had a look at some of the yards from the outside. I saw Alexander Stephens where Knud used to work from across the river. You can throw a stone from bank to bank.

Then I went to John Brown’s and was taken through a portion of the yard by a young draftsman at a 2:40 clip—40 minutes for the trip. I thought I should at least use my letter to meet Mr. Luke so found his office and did so. He had been to London the previous day, seen Mr. Whiting, been told about me, and told Mr. Whiting that I could not go through the yard because of a strict regulation barring aliens. I was asking him permission to go in alone and see more of the place and he was raving and calling up secretaries and gate keepers to give them a calling for letting me in.

He is a very interesting and highly amusing man. I bickered in his office for half an hour but did not get to see any more of the yard, although I enjoyed the visit very much and learned considerable. This Mr. Luke is no relation to Rose’s relatives at Denny.

Gerald Whiting had given me a letter to Sir Archibald Denny, Bart., the owner of a yard at Dumbarton, but I decided I would not have time to try to go there as I had to leave Glasgow at 4:35. So I returned from John Brown’s at 2 p.m. I got dinner and boxed around Glasgow a bit before leaving.

I thought the train ride was going to be very long and weary, but it was not at all bad. I looked out the window until dusk, read some of Burns’ poems, ate some of the dates and fruit and then dozed off to sleep. When I came to we were at a station, away down to Crewe and it was 11:20. I got out, got some tea and scones and the rest of the night spent talking to two British officers about Cambrai etc. They were on their way back to the front line after a leave at home.

So “now my tale is tole,” and I am not sitting on ice either.

I’ll get out to the aerodrome in time for early flying. I don’t feel very sleepy.

My eye is O.K., just a bit black still. My nose is a bit lopsided and congested. The congestion will disappear but I am afraid one slight external bump is permanent.

I hope to find a stack of letters from you all waiting at London Colney for me.



The Midland Station Hotel is probably the Midland Grand Hotel at St. Pancras; Parr seems to have conflated St. Pancras and Euston stations. It was also at the “Midland Hotel” near St. Pancras that Parr had intended to stay during the air raid described in his letter of January 31, 1917. The very grand Midland Grand Hotel closed in 1935, but has recently been renovated and opened as the St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel.294

Parr has misdated this letter; there was no February 29 in the year 1918.

Mr. Whiting’s letter was probably to Southampton born William Joseph Luke (1862–1934), who was for a time an instructor in naval architecture at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, but who, by 1901, had relocated to Glasgow where he worked as a naval architect.295 A 1907 newspaper article regarding the Lusitania indicates that he was a director at John Brown and Company; he and his family were on the Lusitania for her maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York in September, 1907.296

John Brown and Co. was originally a steel manufacturer. In 1899, it bought the Clydebank shipyard established by J. & G. Thompson (west of Glasgow on the north bank of the Clyde) and became a highly successful shipbuilding company, responsible in particular for a number of ships of the Cunard line.297 In addition to the Lusitania and the Aquitania, John Brown and Company built the Carmania, on which Parr sailed to England.

George Robert McDermott (1860–1937) taught naval architecture at Cornell’s Sibley College of Engineering starting in 1891. Originally from Glasgow, where he studied engineering, he presumably worked at J & G. Thompson, the predecessor firm to John Brown and Co., before accepting the position at Cornell.298

Alexander Stephen and Sons was a shipbuilding firm founded in 1750 and originally located in Aberdeen. It operated for a time in Dundee, and on the Clyde starting about 1851. Its Linthouse yards on the south side of the Clyde where Parr could see them were established in 1868. During World War I, Stephens made planes as well as ships.299

The mother of Parr’s friend Rose Lindsay Hopkins (see letter of January 8, 1918) was Isabel Luke Hopkins, whose father, William Luke, was originally from Scotland.300 This possible connection to the disobliging Mr. Luke may have provided conversational fodder as Parr was attempting to gain admittance to the yard. I suspect that “Rose’s relatives at Denny” should read “Rose’s relatives at Catonsville” or “at Wilmington” (where her mother’s family lived for a time); Parr’s mind may have been jumping ahead to his next topic.

Sir Archibald Denny (1860–1936), 1st Baronet, was a partner in his family’s shipbuilding firm, William Denny and Brothers, known in particular for its ship model experimental tank, which Sir Archibald Denny helped develop.301