Sydney Holt - Letter written on his tour of the United Kingdom and Ireland - May 1, 1985

Dear Fellowlaborers and Friends,

These are days full of very special privileges which I wish to somewhat share with you in this manner. Since it was arranged for John Porterfield and me to help out at some conventions in the British Isles, and perhaps later on the continent, it seemed a good chance to leave a little early and visit Mother's three sisters in their nineties living together in Wisconsin. One day I walked to the nearby cemetery to see Grandma Holland's grave (1863-1963). My two days with them were very special as they filled me in on more family history dating back to Aunt Dora Holland hearing the gospel in 1896 in Kilrush in the western part of Ireland. It was 1902 when she went into the work and then 1905 to Canada. In 1906 my grandparents and six children came to Emo, Ontario, Canada where Uncle Harry had his homestead. I had two days in Emo with Uncle Philip (85) and my cousins. It was 1908 when Aunt Dora and Mollie Long brought the gospel to Emo and Uncle Harry along with others professed. There has been a Sunday a.m. meeting in the Radbourne home ever since and convention since 1920. It was a treat to be in the very room (log part of the Radbourne home) where Mother professed 76 years ago as a girl of 14 years! One night we saw a lovely display of Northern Lights.

From Emo, my cousin Muriel Holland (in the work in Sask.) and I flew to Minneapolis where we stayed with LeRoy and Vonnie Dake (my cousin on Dad's side). Aunt Mamie Thomas (Dad's sister) is 92 but very alert in her mind much of the time and such a treat to be with her perhaps for the last time. We spent two hours in the basement Sunday night because of a tornado alert. No damage near us but a good deal in the country area where it touched down. From there I flew to Chicago and on to Newark, N.J. where I caught "People's Express" which is a real cheap fare (747 jumbo jet) to London. Every seat was filled but a pleasant 7-hour trip. We are eight hours ahead in time from Arizona and California.

It was a pleasant sound to hear my name called by George Pepper (retired friend in London) as I walked down the airport exit. George took me on a train and then the "underground" (subway) to his home in southwest London. There is excellent public transportation and Peppers don't own a car. Their home is 100 years old, but fixed up lovely and such a useful home in every way. Sunday a.m., evening, and Wednesday meetings are held here.

All who meet with them are black friends from Barbados and Guyana. Elsie Pepper is such a homemaker and it was a real haven to come to. Two different workers called long distance to welcome me to the British Isles! George took me on a tour bus ride (1-1/2 hours) of London, which proved most interesting. It was a double deck bus and one could see so well from the top seats. The "City of London" was one mile square and the Romans built a wall around it and one section is still standing. The fire of London in the 1600s destroyed much of the city. We crossed on the new London Bridge (old one is in Arizona!), the Tower Bridge, saw St. Paul's Cathedral and many other sights. As we passed by the Record Building the guide called it the "hatch them, match them and dispatch them" building! Then we walked to the Buckingham Palace where we watched the Changing of the Guard, which was extra special since it was an unusual sunny day and the Queen's Guards (wearing large bearskin headdresses) gave the guard over to the Royal Air Force Guards and marching bands for both units were there. Buckingham Palace covers 44 acres in downtown London.

Friday afternoon George Pepper and an old sister worker (Kathleen Spice, whose job it is to meet the incoming workers, took me on the underground to where I caught a train (travels up to 125 miles per hour) which took me 4 hours up the east coast of England. The countryside is a beautiful green with all the fields divided by three-foot-high hedges. Lots of sheep with their new-born lambs close by. Passing through one city I saw a very old and large cathedral and also a castle. The town where I got off the train was Berwick by the Tweed (river), which is a border town still in England. There is a wall around the old part of the city, which Robert Wood and I walked around on later. The English and Scotch often fought here and the city exchanged hands often! Saw the “stocks” where they secured wayward persons on the streets for all to see.

Robert Wood (in the work in Peru) and his dad met my train and took me to Flemington (their homes have names), which is their 300-year-old two-story stone house with many large rooms and stone out-buildings for the cattle they once had on this farm. Across the green grainfields one can see the landowner's castle. Conventions were held here at the Wood home from 1920-1940. Robert's grandparents professed in 1903 in a nearby village of Burnmouth (mouth of river), which is by the ocean. It was when Robert was a baby that his mother died from burns and his dad and Aunt Effie raised him. Now his dad and aunt are elderly (don't farm any more) and Jim and Alice Dougal (brother and sister) stay in a cottage in the yard and help around the place. This home was once a stagecoach inn for those going on to Edinburgh, which is 50 miles northwest. Very cold out and it snowed most of Sunday so all the warm clothes you can get on feel good!

On Saturday Robert took me about 15 minutes ride to just outside the town of Duns where we saw the home where Uncle Willie Jamieson was raised and the hills where his dad shepherded sheep. Drove down the road Uncle Willie walked down after he said goodby to his parents who weren't in agreement with his going forth to preach. Also saw the spot where he sat down and looked back wondering if he were making the right choice! Then the train depot (not in use now) in Duns where he caught the train. Robert attended high school in this town. We then drove to Chirnside, where Uncle Willie worked for a butcher in his shop. Saw the very hall in Reston where Uncle Willie first heard the truth at a special meeting! In Chirnside we saw the farm where the first convention was held (1911) in this part of Scotland.

Across the road is a very old church (still in use) with a large cemetery with grave markers dated in the 1600 and 1700’s. Five workers are buried here (saw John Martin, Joan Gibson and Sarah Skerrit’s graves). John wrote some of our hymns and his last was “Nothing Matters But Salvation.” On his gravestone is inscribed: "Nothing matters but salvation, was his final exhortation." A few graves away from these three is the grave of Jim Clark from near here. His dad had two large farms for him to run but Jim decided to follow racing instead. In 1963 he won the Indianapolis 500 and in 1965 was killed in a race in France. Such a waste of a life compared to the others!

Sammy Dougal (worker) came from the fishing village of Eyemouth (mouth of the Eye River) very close to the Woods' home. You may have heard of “Black Friday" or “The Disaster Day," Friday Oct. 14, 1881. The morning was a combination of sun and calm but the barometer read very low. One fishing boat set out to sea and the others decided to follow where they soon fanned out to their fishing grounds eight or nine miles out. About noon a horrible sort of stillness fell over everything, and then the sky thickened with dark, heavy clouds and a fierce wind arose. Soon it was a shrieking hurricane with the cracking of masts and ripping of sails. Some went down there and others made it close to harbor before making shipwreck on the rocks but a very few made it safely back. That day the North Sea took away 189 precious lives and 129 of them were from Eyemouth. One half of the male side of the adult fishing population of Eyemouth, leaving 73 women widows and 263 children fatherless. Many families lost father and a number of brothers, as often it was a family venture.

Robert took me on a 2-mile walk to the top of a hill near their farm which was a Roman Camp about 200 A. D. A real commanding view of the whole area and two moats around it. They later dropped back south to Newcastle area and hung out until about 400 A.D.

May 2 I take a train to Edinburgh where I will meet other workers and later in the day travel on north to Findochty (fishing village on the coast in the north) for my first convention here in Scotland. Their conventions start on Saturday and end on Tuesdays. No gospel meetings and the meetings run at different times than ours. Perhaps I will be able to tell you more about it in my next letter! Hope this finds all of you well with much to encourage you to put your best into the conflict.

Your brother in Him,

Sydney (Holt)