Diaries of Thomas Cairns Livingstone (1882 – 1964)

Scope and Content

The collection comprises the illustrated personal diaries of Thomas Cairns Livingstone for the period 1913 - 1933. The regular or common content of his daily entries includes what time he awoke and when he went to sleep; family visits; morning and evening temperature; the weather; quotations; the anniversary of personal events; family illnesses; chores; visits to the library and the cinema as well as the walks he took. The earlier diaries also include the yearly visitor tally and brief accounts.

In keeping a diary, he was following a tradition which was begun by his paternal grandfather and continued by his own father: Not every entry is illustrated and the coloured illustrations only continue until the early 1920s. Thereafter, they are pen and ink drawings.

The diaries are particularly significant in providing a perspective of life on the homefront of Glasgow during the First World War (1914 - 1918). Common wartime subjects include the rationing of food and other provisions; increasing prices and rents; the employment of females in previously male-only occupations; fundraising initiatives by various organisations for various causes and the threat of air attack. He dedicates the bottom portion of each daily entry to war news: loss of life and casualities; notable gains and losses and the addition or withdrawal of countries to and from the conflict. These details were largely supplied by the newspapers he read.

The diaries are also a record of family life for the Livingstones. His son begins the diaries as a toddler and ends them as a student at the University of Glasgow. He is a gifted scholar who excelled in his classes at Victoria School, Strathbungo Secondary School and Pollokshields Secondary School. The family also benefitted from changing technology: they installed a wireless set in their home and attended films with sound towards the end of the diaries.

The diaries come to a close as the effects of the Great Depression begin to be felt in Scotland. As Thomas works longer hours for a reduced salary, he no longer has time to write his daily entries.

[Sources: the diaries of Thomas Cairns Livingstone; "Tommy's War: A First World War Diary, 1913 - 1918" (HarperPress: London, 2008) and "Tommy's Peace: A Family Diary, 1919 - 1933" (Mainstream Publishing: London, 2010)]

Administrative / Biographical History

Thomas Cairns Livingstone (1882 – 1964) was the only one of his six siblings to have been born in Scotland. His father, Joseph Livingstone (1847 - 1921), was born in Lurgan, County Armagh in Northern Ireland where Livingstone's siblings were also born. Livingstone was born and brought up in Rutherglen before moving to Glasgow as an adult. He married Agnes Smart Cook (1879 - 1950) in 1910 and they had one son, Thomas Cairns Livingstone Junior (1911 - 1995) who is known as Tommy in the diaries.

Livingstone began working in 1896 and at the time of the diaries was employed as a mercantile book-keeper and shipping clerk by Paterson, Baxter and Company. The company were linen merchants and manufacturers of sailcloth with an office at 170 Ingram Street where he was based. The company had domestic operations in Scotland (Glasgow) and England (London and Leeds) as well as international operations in Denmark (Christiania and Copenhagen) and New Zealand (Wellington). He joined the Scottish Clerks Association on 9 August 1907.

During the span of the diaries, the Livingstone family lived in Morgan Street (first at number 20, then at number 14) in the district of Govanhill. The family regularly entertained close and extended family as well as friends and work colleagues there and paid visits in return. The Livingstone family spent their annual holiday at various locations along the Clyde coast including Bute, Arran, Largs and Ardrossan.

Livingstone had a number of interests and hobbies. He was fond of music and played the piano. He read extensively and visited many of Glasgow's public libraries particularly Govanhill, Langside and Stirling's and, to a lesser extent, Pollokshields and the Mitchell. He was a good walker who often took walks in the local area and further afield: Govanhill, Langside, Queens Park, Pollok Estate, Cathkin Braes, Carmunnock, Bellahouston Park and Dumbreck were among his favourite destinations. He often took his family to the local cinemas, first to see silent films and then to see talking films. During the 1920s, he became an avid philatelist (stamp collector) and acquired stamps and contacts from throughout the world. He was also artistic and drew the illustrations (many of them coloured) which accompany his diary entries.

While Livingstone did volunteer for service in the First World War, he was never mobilised. He initially volunteered under the Derby Scheme on 9 December 1915 and was assigned to group 39. However, he was declared medically unfit for active duty during May 1916. He received a further call-up in August 1917 but his employer appealed against it as his occupation was considered to be of national importance. He was again declared medically unfit for active duty during January 1918.


The arrangement of this material reflects the original order in which it was received.

Access Information

No access restrictions apply.

Conditions Governing Use

Application for reproduction should be made to the Archivist

Custodial History

Thomas Cairns Livingstone

Thomas Cairns Livingstone Junior

Northumberland auction house (2005)

Shaun Sewell


These diaries have formed the basis of the following publications: "Tommy's War: A First World War Diary, 1913 - 1918", Thomas Livingstone and ed. by Ronnie Scott (HarperPress: London, 2008)"Tommy's Peace: A Family Diary, 1919 - 1933", Thomas Livingstone and ed. by Ronnie Scott (Mainstream Publishing: London, 2010)