Letters  from the Past

"Dumfries Penny Post,  1831

Mrs. Adie to Mr Campbell."

This letter from the past is a Scottish one with some very interesting postal markings on it. The address panel is:-
P. Campbell Esqr  of Princess Street, Dumfries 
Care of Mr Wilson Commercial Inn, and that has been crossed out and the word Cavens written above it and underlined. This re-direction appears to be because of the written instruction on the side of the address panel, 'in absence to be forwarded'.

The postal markings (Fig.1) show the journey of the letter, beginning with:

  1. Boxed No.3   from one of the Edinburgh Penny Post receiving offices;
  2. Edinburgh circular date stamp for Oct 29th 1831;
  3. Additional Halfpenny Figure 18, type IIa, size 18 x 14, recorded in use 10.6.1829 to 11.8.1836;
  4. Manuscript charge 8 re-directed.  Dumfries is 340 miles from London    Edinburgh is 396 from London  so the difference would be 56 miles  rate at that time was 8d for between 50 to 80 miles;
  5. Dumfries  date stamp  3 line  DUMFRIES 30 Oct 1831 and identifying letter M;
  6. DUMFRIES PENNY POST two-line unboxed name stamp applied at the delivery office.

Now to the letter which has a lot of interesting snippets of information. The transcription is as the letter is written, with abbreviations and some odd spelling. It was written from Edinburgh, but this is the only word I cannot read in the letter – the name of the street .

2 <Mitrle?> St 
Oct 29th  Saturday

My dear Brother
            I received your letter of the 26th and now have it in my power to inform you respecting Philadelphia's times as she last night had her Father's letter by the 'Anacreon' which had arrived on the 25th. The time of sailing again her Father says will not be more than 15 or 16 days after arrival. She therefore proposes leaving this about the end of next week Friday or Saturday. One of her Aunts would gladly have given her a convoy but it is not quite convenient for either of them.  We would be glad she could have a rest at Carlyle as we think it might be too far for her the whole journey at once.”

(Fig.2 first page of the letter)

click here for larger image

Note: TheAnacreon’ was a vessel which took immigrants to America. There is a listing on the internet of the passengers going to Norfolk and Portsmouth in Virginia, in June 1830. It was a copper-sheathed ship built in New Brunswick, Canada, in 1824 by
Robert Ellis.  It was 427 tonnes and in 1830 was owned by Evans Co. The captain is listed as J. Lenox.  It left from Liverpool. 
So for ‘Philly’ in this letter to get to Liverpool from Dumfries, she would have had to travel from Dumfries through to Gretna Green then to Carlisle, and then the day long journey to Liverpool. Her aunt is obviously concerned about Philly’s journey, and is looking to find fellow travellers for her.

            “Mrs Dr. James Wood very kindly proposed applying to Mr Cowans family, the paper manufacturer, if they know of any travellers going that way & now we know the time other friends will be making similar enquiries.”

Note:  The Cowans family were very well known, and they had contacts in Liverpool. I have a letter concerning them, which will be the subject of a later article.

“I am not yet informed what money may be requisite for Philly's passage which with her journey will be her cheif expense. My brother sent a bill for £100 which becomes due in Dec 18th to it he refers for the supply necessary for her.
            If convenient for you I woul'd draw upon you for £100 - Williams say the money from that should be due by this time.  If so I wd draw from that source.”

Note:  That is the financial side of things under control, so she continues with family news.

            “My sister and I feel quite as you wish, we have been very happy with the young people so little while together. We desire to commit all our cares to God trusting that all shall be well.
            Philadelphia shews a most dutiful resolution & I have no doubt she will find her comforts in the affectionate discharge of her duty to her parent.  The three sisters had a most seasonable exchange this morning by a letter from Adam dated 27th May  it is written on his passage to Surat & sent from that place - an afternoon in Cumberland Street never produced a finer flow of spirit as well gay as serious. He had recd letters from Edwd by Mr & Mrs Kinsie.”

Note:  I was surprised that their young relative should have gone to Surat, at this time, but it had been a thriving place in the Gujarat state, west-central India, which became the  emporium of India, exporting cloth and gold. Its major industries were textile manufacture and shipbuilding. The British established their first Indian factory (trading post) at Surat in 1612. By the mid-19th century Surat was a stagnant city of 80,000 inhabitants. It prospered again with the opening of India's railways. The ancient art of manufacturing fine muslin was revived, and Surat's cottons, silks, brocades, and objects of gold and silver have become famous.
      She then finishes the letter with family health details :

“I am happy to say my sister continues better indeed I may say nearly well.  We had a fine walk to buy provisions for Philly - we did send for Mr Ball as soon as the complaint  gave alarm and it was by his advice we were directed.  Dr. Wood says Philly will not suffer from the voyage she is free from her consumption.
Shall we have the pleasure of seeing you before Philly goes, we can promise you a room & bed commodious & Philly reminds you of a promise or something of the kind to spend a Christmas at Norfolk.”
Then written on the side
“My dear Bro  excuse the inaccuracies of this  & my former letter - all this family join me in affectionate regards to you and David & I am dear Brother  your affectionate sister  
P Adie.”

A letter like this has an appeal for different people. Initially it would be of interest to postal historians, but nowadays there is such an upsurge in family history that genealogists would be interested as well.  I am very surprised at the increase in the number of postal history items that are now becoming available on the internet, compared to just 5 years ago. The last time I looked on the e-bay site there were thousands of items for sale, and the prices have risen as a result.  This increase in interest (and values!)  has to be good for our hobby.


For a letter written by Campbell Adie to Patrick Campbell in 1801 click here

Sources:  Immigration Ships Transcription Guild,  Encyclopaedia Britannica,  Alan Robertson’s ‘Great Britain Post Roads Post Towns and Postal Rates 1635-1839’, Hodgson & Sedgewick Scottish Add ½d Mail Tax.

This article was first published in Stamp News the Australian monthly magazine.

Copyright By EARS Leisurewrite

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