In December 1914 while the people of Carluke and the surrounding communities prepared to celebrate Christmas, their thoughts could not help but turn to the local men serving in the armed forces. They wanted to send them a little something to remind them of home and so the recently established Ladies’ Work Party organised a public collection to fund a gift for every Carluke serviceman while family and friends of the men were encouraged to provide names and addresses to ensure nobody was overlooked. A very generous public donated £50 2s 8d while the pupils of Carluke Higher Grade and Public Schools raised £4 9s 3d. A donation of £20 from Lord and Lady Newlands brought the final total to £74 11s 11d.
While we don’t know exactly what was in these parcels apart from a cake of chocolate gifted by the schoolchildren, the recipients of these first Christmas parcels were most appreciative and sent their thanks via ‘The Carluke Gazette’. James Graham wrote :
‘Please convey through the medium of your paper my warmest thanks to the people of Carluke and the school children for their kind and thoughtful Christmas gifts.’
Meanwhile, Corporal Robert Boyd of the 12th (S) Battalion, Highland Light Infantry wrote on behalf of all the Carluke lads serving in the 12th HLI :
‘Will the people and school children of Carluke accept our very sincere thanks for the very handsome Christmas gifts received by us on Monday 14th. Hoping that the above mentioned will have a merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.’
Thus, began a tradition that didn’t just last throughout the First World War but was replicated in the Second World War and the servicemen who saw action between 1939 and 1945 were equally appreciative of their gifts and proud of the people of Carluke and their community spirit.
In December 1940, a Lance Corporal in the Cameronians wrote :
‘… It was a much appreciated parcel, and all the articles in it were just what I required. The socks and mittens were just fine, and the tube of Shavex and razor blades I badly needed. The chocolate, needless to say, quickly disappeared and was greatly enjoyed.’
In another letter, an Aircraftsman explained how :
‘The receiving of such gifts brought a chorus of “By Jove, Carluke must be a great place when the folks send parcels like these” from the other lads. Needless to say, I am proud to belong to a community which remembers its lads in the Forces to such an extent. Each article is acceptable and the knitted ones are the admiration of all in this room.’
A private in the Royal Army Observer Corps wrote :
‘…. I am sure that all the other lucky receivers of parcels will agree with me when I say that Carluke must be one of the foremost in its generosity. I have not heard of soldiers from other towns receiving such gifts – both useful and appetising.’
A gunner in the Royal Artillery claimed that :
‘It is what one would expect from the Carluke folk, and the kindness was only equalled by the thoughtfulness of the contents. For once, at least, I was the envy of the other lads in the billet, and the general comment was “Jammy Carluke”’.
At this time of year, it is nice to look back and consider such thoughtfulness and generosity shown by the parents, grandparents and great grandparents of today’s Carlukians.