Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Tommy's War - The Diaries of a wartime nobody - Thomas Livingstone

Guest Review by Mr Mac 

Mrs Mac bought this book for me, as she did many of the others I have on my shelves ready to read.  This one was special, because I am a Glaswegian, and so was Thomas Livingstone, the "Tommy" of the title.  Although written long before I was born, there are many similarities in the way Tommy lived, and the way I was brought up.  His descriptions of tenement living are so similar to my memories that it all came alive for me.  Tommy’s health kept him from call-up to the front, so his job as a shipping clerk made him party to information that the general public had no knowledge of.

In a more priviledged position job-wise than manual workers at that time, it afforded him a slightly bigger and nicer apartment in his tenement block.  Considering the conditions of those tenement dwellers at that time - with washing, drying, cooking, and a coal fire for heat all mostly in one room, ill-health was rife, and Tommy and his little family did well to have a good space for themselves.

Tommy and his wife Agnes and son (wee Tommy) come alive in the pages of the diaries not least because he illustrated his pages with little sketches about his family and the war going on outside.  His style is short but sweet  - the entry for Thursday 8 November 1917 is a perfect example of home and war news in a few words!:

     Agnes doing a lot of knitting this weather.  Italy still advancing backwards.

Considering that these 20 or so diaries with their charming little coloured illustrations were put into a sale and purchased for £300, we are lucky to have them.  I found  this a great picture of how the city functioned and the people lived during WW1.