Postcard past

Apr 12th, 2008 | By | Category: Personal Columns

Searching though boxes in the attic, an anonymous brown paper bag yielded a wad of postcards; a correspondence from ninety years ago; a very ordinary story of ordinary humanity lived against the background of an unfolding hell.

Postmark: Newcastle, Co Down, 6PM 23 SP 14

Miss Nora Morrison, Springfield, Rathfriland

“C” Co 10th Battn RIR

Donard Lodge Camp

Thanks very much for birthday card. You’ve a good memory. Wish I had it. Hope you got letter before leaving. Best of good wishes from (Pte) Tom Mahood.

Postmark: Newcastle, Co Down, Date unclear

Miss Nora Morrison, Springfield, Rathfriland

“C” Co 10th Battn RIR

Dear Nora,

I think the train reaches Ballyroney at 5.30 Saturday so that I’ll be with you soon after 6. I’ll wire you if I don’t get a permit but not otherwise. Looking forward to seeing you fit and well. Love T.M.

Postmark: Newcastle, Co Down, Date unclear

Miss Nora Morrison, Springfield, Rathfriland

“C” Co 10th Battn RIR

Dear Nora,

Cakes arrived yesterday morning and are now no more. They were fine, thanks very much. Weather here keeps good and I hope you are in good form after your holidays Love and best wishes from Pte Mahood (written with a little stump of pencil).

Tom’s battalion, the 10th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles (South Belfast Volunteers) were part of the disastrous assault that marked the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1st July 1916.

On 3rd July 1916, Tom was allowed to send a Field Service Post Card, one where soldiers simply deleted as applicable and were allowed to simply sign and date the card.

The battle was such that Tom was allowed to send a second similar card on 6th July 1916, just three days later.

In July 1917 Tom sends a Field service Post Card (presumably from the Messines area after the Irish Divisions had fought alongside each other in the battle there the previous month). In the intervening twelve months he must have returned to Ireland on leave, for when he writes from the Front it is no longer to Miss Nora Morrison.















On 7th September 1917, Tom was in England. He sends Nora a picture postcard of the interior of Wells Cathedral in Somerset with the greeting, “Very pretty isn’t it? Am keeping as fit as a fiddle. Love Tom”

Tom’s battalion was disbanded in February 1918, the postcards do not record to which unit Tom was attached, but in the spring of 1918 he is back at the Front, writing Field Service Post Cards to “Mrs T Mahood, 126 Henaham Vale, Queen’s Park, Manchester, England” on 24th March, 30th March and 7th April 1918.

There the postcards end, ninety years ago last Monday -ordinary people living ordinary lives in extraordinary times.

What will be left behind from the current time for people to discover in 2098?

Leave a comment »

  1. Very little I would say, since people seldom put pen to paper nowadays.

  2. I agree Grannymar, all the EMails will have been deleted too.

  3. I love those postcards . . is it a member of your family or just stuff you pick up? I have a couple sent from one of my Great, Great uncles to my Gran during the first world war . . they are hand made and stitched with embroidery from France. He was killed there at 22 years of age so they are indeed treasures.

    I’m an internet junkie so all my correspondence is in email form but I save anything of significance . . I’m a great ‘note writer’ when things go well or I have a gripe and don’t want a fight . . the kids put them on their noticeboards! Nobody could ready my kacky handwriting anyway.

  4. Baino,

    It’s family stuff – Katharine’s great uncle and aunt. I didn’t know Tom, but knew Nora; Katharine was next of kin and I was executor for their daughter Pat who died in November 2006.

    We are hoping to find where Nora’s brother Robert (b. 1876) worked in British Columbia when we go to Canada.

  5. Post cards, especially picture post cards are a window on the past, more so than letters. I have a fair number going back to the 1890s some have writing on some have not.
    Among them are cards with lace fastened on them and small message cards written by my grandfather to my Mother when he was in the army in France 1914-1918

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