KEEP THE HOME FIRES BURN­ING

The Oban Times - - THE GREAT WAR -

In a me­dia-sat­u­rated, dig­i­tal world, when you can tell mil­lions of peo­ple in­stantly that you are rolling on the floor laugh­ing, it is hard to imag­ine life a cen­tury ago when the near­est the West High­lands had to mass com­mu­ni­ca­tion was The Oban Times. Con­scrip­tion, the mass ca­su­al­ties from this first truly mech­a­nised war and ra­tioning of food and re­sources by sub­ma­rine block­ades, saw a ma­jor up­heaval in home life dur­ing the First World War.

Ra­dio was ‘cat’s whiskers’ or ‘crys­tal sets’ and more or less a hobby un­til the Bri­tish Broad­cast­ing Com­pany be­came the Bri­tish Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion in the 1920s.

Tele­grams – where a mes­sage was sent by teleg­ra­phy to the Post Of­fice and de­liv­ered by hand – was the fastest method of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and of­ten de­liv­ered the dread­ful news of men wounded, killed or miss­ing in ac­tion.

Tele­phones in pri­vate homes were only for the very wealthy or pu­bic ser­vices with calls con­nected man­u­ally by switch­board op­er­a­tors.

Na­tional news­pa­pers ar­rived by train and then fer­ries, of­ten reach­ing is­lands and re­mote com­mu­ni­ties days later.

The Oban Times car­ried not just lo­cal re­ports, but na­tional and in­ter­na­tional, and through­out the con­flict had a weekly sum­mary of the war news.

The cin­ema was silent pic­tures. There were re­ports across the coun­try that peo­ple went to see a news­reel of the Bat­tle of the Somme again and again, hop­ing they would catch a glimpse of some­one miss­ing.

Mu­sic shar­ing back then was a sing-song. So any snatch of news was wel­comed and re­ported in the pages of The Oban Times.

Re­ports of men on leave re­turn­ing home or listed as miss­ing or in­jured where given reg­u­larly; and sadly as the war went on the obit­u­ar­ies be­gan to mount and fill the pages weekly.

Pre-war pho­to­graphs in The Oban Times were few and far be­tween. It was an ex­pen­sive busi­ness; film had to be de­vel­oped, pic­tures printed and then en­graved. Even though the Ko­dak Brownie had rev­o­lu­tionised pho­tog­ra­phy, few peo­ple owned one. Many sol­diers turned to pho­to­graphic stu­dios for sim­ple pic­ture post­card por­traits, taken here or on leave at the front, to give to their moth­ers, wives and sweet­hearts.

It is th­ese por­traits you see star­ing out of The Oban Times pages along with their obit­u­ar­ies; week af­ter week, along with list af­ter list of the dead cat­a­logued by is­land, town, clan or reg­i­men­tal rolls of hon­our.

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