Thursday, 13 December 2018

Peace On Earth 1918 - An Archive Advent Calendar #13

We mentioned patient, betinselled Stanley Cursiter in our last post and today we look at his end-of -war experiences. Stanley Cursiter was one of Orkney's best loved painters and served as both Director of the National Gallery of Scotland and the Queen's Painter and Limner for Scotland. He received both an OBE and a CBE.

Orkney Library and Archive Photographic Collection

Cursiter fought at the Somme with the 1st Scottish Rifles and, after being invalided out, used his artistic skills to produce maps for the Survey Unit. Of the time immediately after the end of the war he wrote:

Life in Cologne with the Army of Occupation was very pleasant after years in the area of hostilities... The German mark had gone down to eight-a-penny, so we lived in luxury at a very modest cost. For instance, we shared a box at the Opera with the Army Commander, but as he was not an operatic enthusiast we were able to attend fairly regularly - at a cost of four pence! We indulged in the most expensive Rheinland and Moselle wines at twopence and threepence a bottle.

Perhaps the most extraordinary of a number of coincidences was that the house we occupied as our Battalion Mess had been designed by an architectural firm in Munich - the firm with which Rennie Mackintosh was associated after he left Glasgow. All through the house the influence of Mackintosh was evident; in the dining room, there was a large sideboard with silver panels in repousse, signed 'M.M.M.', the work of Mackintosh's wife.

One day I went to get my hair cut. After the barber had tucked the sheet round my neck, he leaned over my shoulder and said 'What is it like these days on Princes Street, Sir?' He had cut my hair in pre-war days in Tensfeldt's shop in the Caledonian Hotel.

Road in the Battle Area, 1916. (Private Collection)

Watercolour painted by Cursiter whilst in France, 1916. (Private Collection.)

Taken From 'Looking Back - a Book of Reminiscences' by Stanley Cursiter. 1974.


  1. The Peace on Earth 1918 Advent calendar is a great idea. I've enjoyed every one of the posts. Thank you for this glimpse into life back then. My dad was born in 1918, so it's particularly interesting to me to read about life across the Pond during that year.

    P.S. I'm currently making a tunisian crochet blanket. The pattern is called "Firth." In the same booklet is another blanket pattern called "Orkney." Just thought you'd be thrilled beyond words to know that. ^_^


    1. We're glad that you are enjoying it Sue and hope that you finish your cosy blanket in time for Christmas.


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