A ‘Spiflicating’ Time

The unique and humorous letters of Colin McCallum, a young St George’s School chorister, who, in 1902, took part in special Royal services at the Royal Mausoleum, Private Chapel at Windsor Castle and the coronation of King Edward VII at Westminster and shared his perspective on events in letters home to his mother.

The hard life of a chorister…

25 January 1902

My Dear Mother,

I received all the things you sent off quite safely thank you. There is a lot of news this week. On Wednesday we went to the Mausoleum; it was lovely. I will send you a form of the service. We had the Accession service at 10 ‘o’ clock and the Mausoleum a quarter to twelve. We had to stand the whole time even in the address and we had work before Breakfast at quarter to 7 and then you wonder at me getting run down – I don’t!!! Well as it is I have come out of it alright and then on Thursday there was the confirmation work a quarter to 7 and also on Friday when we sang at the Private Chapel the service was at 9 ‘o’ clock… Think I have put this letter as short as possible because you will see half the information in the papers.

I remain ever your loving son: Colin.

A budding archivist…?

18 May 1902

My Dear Mother,

Thank you very much for your nice long letter. I am reading ‘The Dilemma’ now. It is by ‘the Author of the Battle of Dorking’… I, MacBean major and MacBean minor went to the Private Chapel today. The King, the Queen, the Duke of York, the Prince of Wales, and Prince Albert of York and Prince Arthur of Connaught were there. With the King we have to sing the whole of the psalms, the Te Deum and Jubilate when with the old Queen we used to say them all. It is simply frightfully tiring. I enclose a letter from the dean to Sir Walter [Parratt, St George’s Chapel organist] keep it and put it in my Windsor box as it is the dean’s signature. I wish you would send me an autograph book and I could get some very nice autographs. Now I think I must stop.

I remain your loving son


The whole Choir are going to the Coronation!

The coronation of Edward VII…

10 August 1902

My Dear Mother,

Thank you very much for the telegram I got it in when I was in bed. I saw the Coronation splendidly and I saw the King actually crowned but not anointed, and I only saw the Queen going up to be crowned under a rich pall of gold. I saw all the procession.

I will give you a short account of what we did: called at 5am, breakfast 5.30, caught 6.30 and took bus to dean’s yard. On the way saw Bengal Lancers, Japanese regiments and Irish Guards. We went through the last part of the [Hubert] Parry Anthem twice because the Westminster Scholars shouted Vivat Rex Edvardus before the King came so they had to shout it again. We saw Peeresses put on their coronets. An Indian dropped two diamonds which delayed the ceremony somewhat.

We had a spiflicating time.

I remain ever your loving son

His Highness

Colin Duncan McCallum

[SGC M.18]

Gemma Martin, Archives Trainee

The King's Free Chapel. The Chapel of the Most Honourable and Noble Order of the Garter. The Chapel of the College of St George.