John Gordon Dickson

b Nov 1879
d Nov 1917 (buried in the Lutheran Cemetry, Petrograd)

He was Granny Armitage’s elder brother. I have always been fascinated by his life but know very little about him. I don’t know the precise sequence of events but I believe he sailed from the UK to China, ended up fleeing the Boxer riots, worked in Osaka, moved to Vladivostok and then travelled by train to Petrograd (now St Petersburg) where he died. I think he died on the day that Lenin and the Soviets overthrew the provisional government in Petrograd but the dates don’t appear to match exactly because the Gregorian calendar was being used at that time (hence the dual dates written on the letters). I have often thought of travelling in his footsteps in an attempt to tell his story more fully.

I have worked from photocopies of the originals and as the handwriting is not always clear I have indicated where the spelling in the text is difficult to read.

Peter Armitage
25 May 2011

British Nursing Home
16/28 Nov 1917

Dear Mrs Dickson,

I am so sorry to have to write you the sad news of your son’s death which took place in the above home on the 8/21 November. Mr Chandler his friend will tell you all particulars but I thought perhaps you would like a line from me being the only English sister here. Mr Dickson was only 10 days in the Home but was ill 5 days in the train before he got to Petrograd.

The Russian sister who was with him all the time & did everything possible for him was fearfully upset by his death and says she feels quite certain he went straight to Heaven. He had a smile and a cheery word up to the very last. We had two doctors, a Russian and an English Doctor and every remedy was tried but of no avail. Mr Dickson was attended by the Rev. Barnes the English curate here. He & Mr Chandler carried out all the arrangements for the funeral. It is very sad when people die so far away from their friends. I also lost a brother in America and years afterwards a lady told me she had visited him in his room where he was very ill and not one near to give him a drink. I thought then how hard life seemed but I have seen many sad cases since. I trust that God will comfort you in this great trial & give you strength to bear it.

Yours very sincerely,

M. McElhone


P.O.Box No. 387 Kobe

Telegraphic Address:-

Kobe, August 3rd 1918

Miss Gertrude Dickson

Dear Madam,

It is a long time since I wished to write to any of late Mr Dickson’s relations, but as I have not been familiar with the address I could not do so until I met a friend who paid a visit to Kobe from Vladivostock & who had been Mr. Dickson’s intimate friend too. This gentleman you might perhaps know, is Mr. P.S.Wood with whom Mr. Dickson lived together for years in Kobe.

It is indeed very sad that a young man like Mr. Dickson died on the way to the front in Petrograd, which report I first heard in December last.

I had been working in Aberheim (spelling?) Bros. and the department to which I belonged to was raw materials department, as I was not well acquainted in wool business. Mr. Aberheim called Mr. G. Dickson from England to Kobe. I had been with him since first he came to Kobe. I worked with him for about 2 years to the entire success of the wool business and then I left the firm. About a year after I left, the firm bankrupted & he had to go home penniless.

When next time he came to Kobe after a stay in England, I joined him again and worked with him until this great war had taken place. He had had experienced very hard time for (more than ?) a year as his business had entirely finished on account of the war. Of course even after I gave up his business I met him almost every day, but I could not find any job for him, the time being so bad at those days. After all, he found a job in Vladivostok and went over there. Since then I had not seen him, but I obtained the sad news of his death last December.

The above being the rough history of how I had been closely related to him and I can say that I am the only one who had been with him almost constantly and therefore my sympathy with you for his death is the deepest of all.

Kindly write me and tell me frankly anything you want here on this side taking me as your brother and I shall carry out your wishes.

Mr. P.S.Wood advised me to write to you and so I do so as I understand you loved your brother as a sister.

My poor English scarcely enables me to write out freely what I think but I shall do so next time when I receive reply to this from you.

With best regards to his parents and yourself

I remain, Dear Madam,
Yours truly,
K. Tonda (spelling?)