Today, July 3rd, is a day to celebrate a long-lasting marriage. Fifteen years after the 1913 garden photograph on the eve of the Great War, discussed elsewhere, a Golden Wedding was celebrated, and ten years after that, in 1938, a much larger family of descendants and their spouses gathered with a photographer for group and individual shots that are full of formality and charm. The 1938 celebration was for the Diamond Wedding anniversary (60 years) of James Scobbie (1853-1943) and Williamina (“Mina”) Black Laughland (1852-1945), who were natives, neighbours and notable lifelong residents of Newarthill, a coal-mining village in Lanarkshire, Scotland. They were married by Mina’s father 140 years ago today, in 1878. The anniversary was written up in the local papers in 1928, 1938, and 1943 (a so-called “Ruby” anniversary), providing excellent detail of their lifelong relationship.
This Scottish summertime photograph, helpfully labelled on the back, celebrates the 35th (so-called coral) wedding anniversary of James Scobbie and Mina Laughland on July 3rd 1913, just before WW1. For photos from their diamond wedding celebrations in 1938 just before WW2 along with newspaper biographies, see the post on their diamond, gold and “ruby” anniversaries. A looming war is invisible in photographs like this, if we can resist the temptation to use hindsight to pour meaning into the expressions of the people in these gapless gatherings.Continue reading “The long summer of 1913”
At the time of his death, Dr David McKenzie Newton had been a medical missionary for around a dozen years, and was the superintendent at Beaconsfield Memorial Hospital. It seems he also had a wider role, being identified also as “the college physician” by Smyrna’s International College in Paradise near Smyrna, an American educational institution which had been run by missionaries for 25 years.
His death (30 May 1916) from typhus, a family of bacterial infections carried by lice, aka “jiggers”, was probably caught in the course of his work tending patients, including Turkish soldiers, and due to the terrible conditions discussed elsewhere. His death was reported in contemporary newspapers and reports, and the aftermath was the subject of governmental communications (hence, luckily, preserved in the National Archive), as the Church of Scotland (his sponsors) and the families of David and his widow Ebeth attempted to help her in her perilous situation (see here).Continue reading ““Broughty Doctor Dies at Smyrna””
“Ebeth” is a relatively unusual contraction of Elizabeth, compared to the more familiar Beth, Bess, Bet, Betty, Lisa, Liza, Liz, Lizzie, Libby, Lily, Elspeth, Elspet, Ellie and even Lizbet… Normally, for a favourite family name like Elizabeth, close relatives would have differentiating versions, but the Scottish Scobbie family seemed to like “Ebeth”: using it for aunt and niece. It’s not clear if this is because the younger Ebeth’s birth and early childhood occurred while her aunt was in Smyrna, or not. I believe her grandmother (born Elizabeth Bertie Stevenson) was called Eliza, and also by her middle name.
I like this portrait – I think there’s a little bit of attitude. More on the hairstyle below.Continue reading “Ebeth Scobbie (1914-1994)”
At the beginning of September 1916, Alithea Williamson (pictured) and Nurse-Matron Mary Parkinson from the Beaconsfield New Hospital struggled hard to keep my great-aunt Ebeth alive, and Grace wrote:
We are not sure yet what the end will be.
Grace Williamson wrote vivid contemporary letters/diary entries, and the Williamson family via the Levantine Heritage Foundation have made these and many other resources available online. It is therefore possible to get a flavour of life in Smyrna in 1916 generally, to read in more detail Grace’s experience of running a Maternity Hospital, and to read first hand accounts of Ebeth Newton (neé Scobbie) and her situation. It is hard to imagine a better way to gain insight into Ebeth’s role as the wife and then widow of a mission doctor and hospital superintendent (at the Beaconsfield), and as a single mother.
Dr Elizabeth Mitchell (as she would become) is shown here as a child in delightful photographs from 1920 or earlier. She survived her tough beginnings in Turkey during WW1 and lived a long and successful life. Like her father, she qualified as a doctor (from Edinburgh University in 1942), and ended up as a consultant anaesthetist in the dental service (for schools) in the North of England. By then she had married Dr John Mitchell, and had two children, both of whom also became medical doctors in turn, one of whom I’ve now had the pleasure to meet. Her grandchildren and great grandchildren also feature members of the medical and allied health professions, in common with many in our extended family.
The girl on our left in this picture is Ebeth, photographed with her siblings and parents in Scotland when she was 12 or 13, around 1896. Here is some of her life story. I collected some of this material in 2016, at the time of the centenary of the tragic day on May 30th 1916 when she was widowed, aged 33, in Smyrna (now İzmir on the western Mediterranean coast of Turkey), and now a year later, in the days before posting this blog, I finally located and visited her grave in Morningside, a few minutes walk from my home.
Why was she there? What happened to her? Why am I writing about her?Continue reading “Ebeth Scobbie (1884-1940)”