This letter appears with the kind permission of David Eastaff. Copyright, of course, remains with him. Mr Eastaff has a number of queries about the letter which may be found here, along with the original notes that Mr Eastaff sent. If any reader is able to help, please contact him directly.
In this typed version, the original spelling and (lack of) punctuation is retained. The symbol / denotes the probable end of a sentence. The correct spelling of some of the words is added in square brackets. [Added by Marjie Bloy]. Click on the images for larger views
The letter, which was discovered among the papers of Tom Shirley of 132 Buckingham Road, Bletchley, was not accompanied by any supporting information although is it reaonable to asume that it came into his possession either through a Shirley family connection or through a connection to his wife's family, the Meagers of Bletchley. One tantalising clue exists among other papers in Mr Shirley's possession. A William Pugsley's signature appears on two Indentures from Devon dated 1728. It seems too much of a coincidence for there to be no connection.
The letter, addressed from Cawnore, which had a central place in the Indian Mutiny, is written in what appears to be reasonable neat copperplate. However, the clarity of the writing, and some unusual spelling, make some of the words and letters difficult to interpret. It is also completely devoid of any punctuation whatsoever and effectively therefore, the letter is one long sentence with 'ands' and 'buts' to some extent taking the place of full stops and commas. The author also makes frequent use of capital letters.
Clearly the author can spell many words correctly but many of the spellings appear to be phonetic and it would be reasonable to assume that they reflect how the writer actually spoke. For example, 'hail' spelled 'ale'; 'were' spelled 'ware'; 'gallows' spelled 'galis'' 'different' spelled 'difrent'; 'awful' spelled 'offul' and so on. Is it too fanciful to imagine him speaking with a bread country accent, possibly from the Devon area?
At one level, the letter, although short, is surprisingly informative and gives a real flavour for the barbarity of the Mutiny. It does, however, raise many questions about William which cannot at this point be answered.
- What was William's rank: ordinary soldier, a non-commissioned officer or a junior officer? Clearly, with the reference to his Captain, his position was below this rank.
- What regiment was he in?
- Did he survive the Mutiny and if he did, where did life take him?
- What other actions, if any, was he involved in?
- He mentions that 'in a day or so' the army would be moving on to Lucknow, another well known location during the Mutiny. Did he reach Lucknow and take part in its relief with the senior officer mentioned by name (Sir Colin Campbell)?
- If he survived, where did he live in England?
- When and where did his life end?
Last modified 7 March 2006