Sydney Holt - Letter written on his tour to the United Kingdom and Ireland - June 20, 1985

Dear Ones far and near,

From Preston, England we came to the dairy farm called "Dockray Hall" where Archie and Doreen Ramsay live. I told about this in my last letter. The home has the date over the front door of 1699 when it was built! Very thick stone walls and a most interesting courtyard with the old farm buildings enclosing the area. I share an upstairs bedroom that Horace, Bert, and another brother had as their bedroom when they were growing up.

Ann Court, whose parents live in Carlisle, [England] was a high school language teacher before starting in the work here four years ago (now two years in Austria). She took the two sisters from South Africa and me on a drive into Scotland to the village of Langholm where we visited Lizie Davison who will soon be 90 and has been blind 30 or more years. She used to ride her bike to meetings with her husband riding his bike next to her with one hand on her shoulder. She is bright and alert! In her deep Scottish brogue, she quoted a long Scotch poem and gave us many a laugh.

From there we went on to Kirkpatrick Fleming not too far from the British border. The Scot bluebonnets were in full bloom and beautiful. We saw where King Robert the Bruce of Scotland hid in a stone cave (three months from November to January in 1313) when the British were after him to behead him. He fled to this castle where the family of Irvings lived and they agreed to hide him in exchange for thousands of acres of land. From inside their castle there was a secret tunnel underground that led to a stone tower downhill about 400 feet from the castle. Just below this was a vertical stone cliff perhaps 60 feet down to a small river. It was in the face of this stone cliff that a cave about 15 feet deep and wide had been carved out of rock and a rock for a door with four airholes near it. The only entrance to the cave was to swing down on a rope. It was in this cave that King Robert the Bruce of Scotland watched a little spider trying to spin a web and six times it failed to span the distance. However, on its seventh attempt it succeeded! Six times! This king had gone out to battle against the British and lost, but with this lesson he took new heart. The people from the castle let down food to him and took a message from him to be delivered to his troops. A blacksmith shod 200 horses with their shoes put on backwards and when the time was right they came in and rescued their king from the cave. The British were later alerted and went after them, but in the wrong direction! The next year (1314) this king went out in battle again against the British and had victory.

Next we went on a tour through the Carlisle castle, which was part of the wall around the city of Carlisle (England) to protect them from the Scots. The Romans earlier had built a wall (slave labor) from 122-130 A.D. from here all the way across to the east coast and occupied it until the end of the fourth century. Many of the stones from this Roman wall (one mile away) were used in building the wall around Carlisle and the castle from 1092 to 1100 and it enclosed 60 acres. When farmers came into the city to sell their animals they had to pay a certain fee according to the animal for this privilege. The Carlisle castle wasn't for nobility but housed the army as the Scots were always fighting the British here which is very close to the border. I found the castle most interesting with its moats, dungeons, hidden rooms, and walkways on the wall from where they fought. Mary Queen of Scots was captured and imprisoned here from May to July in 1568 before she was taken to London and beheaded.

We had beautiful sunny days for our convention at Dockray Hall and very helpful meetings. Nice to see the Wilson Kellys from Winnipeg and Grace Jacobs from B.C.  Robert Wood and those from his home were here and we had some good walks and talks together. The new workers list for Scotland appeared on each worker's bed during the evening meeting Sunday, causing much excitement! All expected it after the supper meal Monday evening, so this caught them by surprise!

In the last meeting, Ken Paginton spoke very helpfully on things that will help us get victory. Some victories were won in a very small place. I Samuel 14:1,4-16, Jonathan and his armour bearer got a little victory in 1/2-acre of ground (verse 14) and a very big victory (verse 20-23) was brought into the kingdom. They went out and showed themselves (verse 8 and 11) to the enemy as to where they stood. Sometimes it is a matter of standing true and letting others see where we stand. Standing true in business where others are so dishonest. I Chronicles 11:12-14, Eleazar stood in a parcel of ground where barley was. It was valuable because of being cultivated and seeded into barley and worth fighting for. If we are cultivating the little place we have, we too have something to fight for. II Samuel 8:3, "to recover his borders." It's at the borders where the enemy tries to cause confusion and then infiltrate the Kingdom. We all have border battles to fight. Making a difference between the world and ourselves. In Numbers 25:6-8, Phinehas saw something wrong on the border and killed two in the tent. Matthew 6:24, "No man can serve two masters." A clear border in our thinking, in our homes and in our friendships. Psalms 144: 1, "Which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight." Times when David used his hands to fight the enemy with the sword. Other times when David used his fingers to play the harp to quieten Saul, his enemy. Some victories are won not with a sword but by our fingers playing a melody. When Joseph was in Egypt (Genesis 40:15) he told them, "I was stolen out of my country," and, in doing this, he hid what really happened. Can't play a harp if not kept in tune and Joseph kept the harp in tune. He didn't go around talking about it and these men of Egypt could never tell Joseph later to try and get even with his brethren. When Joseph made himself known to his brethren the melody he played was, "Come near to me...I am Joseph your brother" (Genesis 45:4) and (Genesis 50:20) "God meant it unto good." Having a good dose of forgiving spirit to cover up the wrong.

After the last meeting at Dockray Hall, 13 of us were rushed to catch a train for Staffordshire, England where a mini-bus was waiting to take us to the Staff's convention grounds which is three miles from the town of Uttoxeter. The large workers' picture taken in 1921 seen in some California homes was at the convention grounds here in Staffordshire before it was moved to this farm in 1932. There are homes right up to the front entrance into the grounds. It is an interesting place with a real large old brick farm house that dates away back and lots of rooms. A large bus brought a load of workers from the Berkshire convention and, all in all, there are 108 workers here representing 20 different countries! We had a workers' meeting Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. Then just the English workers gathered in the afternoon and their new list came out! Great to see the names of one new brother and two new sisters starting forth. Brad Dooley (folks live in Los Gatos, CA), his wife and two little children came on Saturday so we could visit. (They had a convention earlier.) Hard to believe he has been here eight years now and sounds like a Britisher! Meetings were very helpful, but the weather was damp and cold. The Davies who live on this farm have a son (Wynn) in the work here and Wynn's dad's brother (Howard Davies) also in the work here. Folks listen so well here. Not many young folks.

After the last meeting (ending at 4 p.m.) 13 of us rushed to an airport an hour's distance away from the convention to catch a flight to Belfast, Northern Ireland. Security was very tight and they even frisked each of us very thoroughly. It was a pleasant hour's flight into Belfast where workers and friends awaited us with four cars to take us to the convention grounds at Monaghan which is in the Republic of Ireland (South). Crossing into this part of Ireland was interesting as you come to a red light on this narrow road to stop you at a checkpoint. We had seen two British soldiers with rifles and bayonets all in camouflage with even their faces painted earlier. However, at the checkpoint no one was to be seen, but lots of pillboxes and no doubt well-manned. They take your car license number and put it in their computer and if all is fine you get a green light to proceed. If not, they come out and cheek you out. This convention grounds is a most interesting place, but I'll save it for my next letter.

Tomorrow we go to Galway to look up the old home where my mother lived before moving to Emo, Ontario, Canada in 1906. Also I hope to get to Kilrush where Aunt Dora Holland heard the gospel in 1896 and perhaps see a first cousin who has a tourist house and restaurant on Galway Bay. Ireland is beautiful!

Hope this finds all keeping well and many of you are "counting the days" until preps start.

Your brother in Him,

Sydney (Holt)