The oil lamp on the table flickered, casting shadows on Mrs Kerr’s hands as she finally cast off the stitches on her fourth pair of socks that week. She smiled at her husband, John, who was engrossed in writing his sermon, and wondered how many socks Mrs Logan had completed.
Mrs Kerr picked up the photograph of their son Jack. The reflection of the flame from the lamp sparkled on the glass making a halo around him. How handsome he had looked in his uniform as he marched away with his friends and how proud she and John had been. She thought of Jack and his friends with every stitch she knitted, hoping they were keeping warm and dry. Maybe, she prayed, they would all be home in time for Christmas.
Mrs Logan reluctantly put down her half-finished sock. Her fingers, bent and swollen with arthritis, ached. She was finding it increasingly difficult to focus her eyes. Her needles seemed to have developed a mind of their own and she was dropping stitches. She was loathe to stop knitting: at her age what else could she do to help her family and the boys at the front? But tonight she could do no more. She sighed and looked at the large picture frame on the wall. She didn’t need to be able to read the letter inside it. She could recite it word for word. It was from Queen Mary, thanking her for all the socks she had knitted for the service men. Her daughter and granddaughter had helped and they had sent off a large parcel of socks. How the Queen had got to hear about it she didn’t know. She was not the only one who was surprised when the letter had arrived. Mrs Kerr, the Minister’s wife, and Mrs Jack, the wife of the Session Clerk, had organised, encouraged and cajoled many of their flock and also sent off a huge parcel of ‘comforts’ for the troops but there was no letter for them.
Mrs Logan’s knitting skills had been passed down to her daughter and granddaughter. She remembered their earliest efforts. Sometimes she had undone a few rows and re-knitted them while the children were asleep! They were all expert knitters now. Even her young great-granddaughter was a good knitter. She and her friends in the Sunday School were knitting squares to make a blanket for the Red Cross. She smiled as she imagined the Sunday School teacher helping to pick up dropped stitches.
Mrs Logan’s good friend, Mrs Patience, ran the wool and sewing shop and passed on any spare skeins of wool to the Sunday School. Mrs Patience knew that as well as Mrs Logan’s well-known knitting skills which had helped to clothe many of the local bairns, whenever anyone was ill or in need Mrs Logan would be there to help, or bring eggs or vegetables fresh from her garden. It was Mrs Patience who had written to Buckingham Palace to tell them about Mrs Logan’s kindness to all and point out that, at the age of 85, she had knitted so many socks and other garments for the soldiers at the front.
Mrs Jack had complained to her husband when Mrs Logan received the letter. Not only was Mr Jack the Session Clerk, he was also a solicitor and Mrs Jack was aware of her position in society! Her husband had just grunted and carried on reading the newspaper. He tended to ignore his wife’s continual complaints.
The following weekend a reporter and a photographer from the Press and Journal arrived at the church. Mr Jack, closely followed by Mrs Jack, went to meet him. “We would like to take a photograph of the knitters” said the photographer. “Wait a minute” beamed Mrs Jack “while I round up the ladies.” “No, no” said the reporter “Not ladies”. Mrs Jack looked confused. “But they are the knitters.” “No” insisted the reporter “We want to photograph the Sunday School children handing over their knitted blanket to a representative of the Red Cross.” Mrs Jack reluctantly joined in with the applause when the letter of thanks from the President of the Red Cross was handed to the Sunday School Teacher, Millie - Mrs Logan’s granddaughter.