Sunday, 15th July (1917)

Rain commenced on St. Swithin’s Day and it is the local superstition that if it rains on that day the rain will continue for 40 days and 40 nights.

Out grazing horses.  I noticed innumerable baby frogs no bigger than a blow-fly in the wet grass – one was making frantic efforts to get out of the way of the horse’s mouth and I could imagine what the great blubbing lips of the horse looked like to him – goggly.  I can now appreciate Dad’s experience when he was a boy of seeing them actually falling with the rain, probably taken up by some waterspout.  His mates swallowed some of them out of bravado.  Went to a sort of variety-show given by Manchester girls.  Some of the songs would hardly have met with your approval, but men are made of sterner stuff.  The song which took best this evening, and I must confess I rather liked it myself, was “Come and Cuddle Me”, sung by a lanky jolly-faced girl with a very large mouth.  I am writing with this villainous needle-pointed pen – in fact, la putrid plume.  Here endeth the umpteenth Epistle to the Antipodeans.

Saturday, 9 p.m. (14 July 1917)

Am sitting with a pint of beer in a little wayside inn.  After roamed about, did another sketch and found my way hitherward – inward – backward.  The usual gathering of local characters, gossiping slowly in broad Lancashire, smoking and enjoying their pint-pots.  Their local knowledge extends about one mile.

[Sketch by Lincoln Lee, titled ‘Roadside Pond near Oldham Harts’]

G L Lee - Roadside Pond near Oldham

13th July (1917)

Went down canal again this evening and did another little sketch (makes me think of a popular song – “another little drink”).  Went out with the wagon teams today and galumped round a rough paddock and back over the cobble stones; – like a mild and continuous electric shock.  Men keep drifting in from the Hospitals, many being main-body men.

[Another sketch by Lincoln Lee, dated July 1917 and identified as being ‘Near Oldham’]LOW RES-1-3_Cropped

12th July (1917)

Watched a bargee and his missus manoeuvre a barge through the locks and met several of the boys out with their tarts and wished I had my tart to stroll about with.  Having my usual 3d supper in Y.M.C.A whose name be praised!  We had a lecture on gas today (by a sergeant who has been gassed) and put on the goblin helmets and things and breathed through the respirators – rather uncanny.

9th July (1917)

I have not yet seen the Northern Stars as it is light until after bed-time and on the occasions when I have been on guard it has either been bright moonlight or overcast.  Yesterday evening having received note from a Mr. Green I went after tea and hunted him up at his home in a pleasanter part of town.  We had a chic little supper – to wit – lobster salad, claret, corn-beef, gooseberry tart, cream cheese and biscuits, strawberries and cream, and a glass of port, which put me in the best of humour with myself – themselves – and things in general.

This afternoon we went for a route march of about 4 miles – a very hot and dusty march, part of the way along the banks of a canal.  The lock-gates with the overflow rushing round out of a tunnel at the side are picturesque.

[Note – Lincoln Lee was an amateur water-colour artist.  As a family we have retained a set of sketches he did in 1917 and 1918.  Almost all are the size of large post-cards.  On a number of them Lincoln indicated where they were painted or drawn, and attached some to the original version of the type-script reproduced here.  Unfortunately, most were detached at a later date, so it is a matter of guess-work as to when each image was painted and where they may best accompany the text.  Lincoln did not appear to have painted at the front itself, but there are some paintings of villages or country scenes in France which he must have done at times of leave or recreation.  The below image is marked “Farm near Chadderton near Oldham”.  Potentially it was painted in the period after his return from leave and the current post].

LOW RES-26-1_Cropped

Thursday (5 July 1917)

Got leave yesterday afternoon to Manchester.  The tram soon plunged into miles of streets grimy and uninteresting except for an occasional old Inn or farmhouse, once a landmark, now swallowed up by the great city.  Had a glance round at the immense business places and went off to “Bell Vue Gardens”, a pleasure resort where there is an extensive zoo, many booths, dancing platforms (the people waltz solemnly round in the open), skating rink, refreshment rooms etc.  Thought I’d have some afternoon tea and they gave me one tiny cake with apologies for war regulations, so I compromised by having a meal – a small pie and 2 small slices of bread and butter and tea, 1/3.  Back to Art Gallery: several splendid Gainsboroughs, Romneys, Reyburns, Reynolds, etc.,  landscapes by Turner (Dido at Carthage, and others), Farquharson, Morely, and other well known painters.  Here are Sir F. Leighton’s huge “Andromeda”, “Hero’s last watch”, etc., Watts’ Good Samaritan and Paolo and Francesca.  Then there were several pictures each of the Pre-Raphaelites, Rosetti, Ford-Maddox-Brown and Burne-Jones.  The big Turner is a gorgeous affair – a dazzling sunset between mountains of glorified architecture towering up from the shores of an inlet of the sea.  Hadn’t time to look at the collection of Wedgwood medallions etc. but lingered over the three Rodin statues which the city is lucky enough to possess: they are “Eve”, “Victor Hugo” and “The Age of Bronze”.  The Eve is powerful, no grace of form except a kind of primeval uncouth motherliness; great thick ankles and wrists; a heavy form and in the down-hung head an expression and attitude of infinite sorrow – the whole thing giving the impression of the Earthborn, and the shame and the responsibility for shame.  The great head of Hugo is an embodiment of intellect.  The Age of Bronze is simply a nude figure of a muscular, lithe youth.

I then hunted up the Cathedral – built many centuries ago.  It was shut, but I persuaded a choir master who was rehearsing some boys to let me in and one of the boys showed me around.  The altar piece is particularly fine, whilst the carvings round the organ and the coloured glass windows were magnificent.  It has, besides its grand organ, the oldest English-made organ in the Kingdom that can still be played, and that has, they say, a full rich tone still.  Thence off to have a look at the Town Hall, an immense structure with a huge pointed clock tower in the centre.  Had a the Midland a grilled steak 2/6, 2 potatoes 6d., a little bread and cheese 10d, glass of beer 8d, tip 6d., Hat-man 2d. – total 5/2 for a very light meal.  That’s what comes of living in style.

Back in Camp – Saturday, 30th June (1917)

In the afternoon I formed one of the pall-bearers to a deceased Tommy.  We marched into a very squalid part of the town and carried the coffin out of a room full of sobbing femininity; then did slow march for about a half-mile beside the hearse, shouldering deceased to the graveside.  This evening I went into Oldham and visited the Market Place.  It was highly amusing – a regular Fair, with booths under canvas awnings in which were displayed wares, fruits, goods and cheap jackery of every description; and Merry-go-rounds of monstrous design braying out the most ear-splitting music; cock-shies; quack-doctors; in fact all of the motley you see in old prints of country fairs, except alas, the country.

At the Oldham Art Gallery to my astonishment I found a number of very good and even famous pictures, e.g. Turner’s “Phryne going to the Bath as Venus”, an Alfred East, several of Turner’s sketches, landscapes by men like Parsons.  Finished the evening with a supper of eggs and toast and walked 2 miles or so back to camp.  As payment for doing pall-bearer today will get a half-day off next week, and a pass to Manchester.  Three months since we sailed out of Wellington Harbour.