This letter from the past is addressed to Elizabeth Dreghorn, Lady Campbell, Barcaldine, Bonaw, Argyllshire, from her son Alexander (15 June 1819 - 11 December 1880), who became the second baronet. He was 16 when this letter was written. Later, he commanded the Lochaber Axe Men of the Royal Breadalbane Highlanders on the visit of Queen Victoria to Taymouth in 1842; he was Sergeant at Arms in Queen Victoria's Household. In September 1842 Queen Victoria & Aldershot, from a sketch by Marianne Young (facing p. 21). Prince Albert stayed with Lord Breadalbane at Taymouth Castle which led indirectly to their purchasing Balmoral Estate from the Earl of Fife in 1852 and building the new castle there to Prince Albert's design.
It is undated but has 6 postal markings:
- PETWORTH circular datestamp April 20 183. - Petworth is in Sussex 50 miles from London
- London circular morning duty stamp in red of 21 April, 1835
- boxed additional 1/2 stamp applied in London; front of letter showing the boxed 1/2 which is 17x13mm in size and has the oblique stroke from top right to bottom left actually touching the frame at the top, but not right in the corner).
Left: This 1/2 is a puzzle — wrong date, wrong type — according to the illustration in the Hodgson & Sedgewick specialist handbook of the Scottish Additional Halfpenny Mail Tax. The additional ½d stamp could be applied at either end of the journey, but these illustrations explain why there is still such a lot to be researched from original material. The actual handstamp on this letter does not fit in with either of the types for that date. Middle (Bonaw illustration): size 19.5x13mm earliest recorded 27.9.1837 so it cannot have been applied at Bonaw; also the oblique stroke is not the same angle or length as the one on the letter. Right (London illustration): size 17x13mm issued 20-1-1836 earliest recorded 27-1-1836. This is the most likely, although it is not the same as the illustration, and if it is this type, then it must be a variation, as it is earlier than the issue date of the handstamp.
Now for the letter itself. The first page, and part of the second is 'Crossed' (see left-hand column). The principle of a crossed letter was to save money in postage, as one of the factors in the cost of postage was the number of sheets in the letter. To prevent the expense of another sheet, the writer would turn the paper 90 degrees and write across what was already written.
My dear Mama,
I received your kind letter a few days since, and was surprised to hear that you were still at Barcaldine. I directed a letter about three weeks ago to you at Edinbro', where I expected you were. Do you now intend to go to Edinbro'. I expect you are completely tired of Barcaldine now.
Another young man came here about a week since, an old Harrow companion. So Greene was one of four, three of them have been at Harrow. The newcomer is of the name of Sharpe and is an Irishman. The other who was educated at Harrow is called Bicknell. He comes from Jersey - the remaining one is the son of a physician who keeps a large private madhouse. I believe he is very rich. There are sixty madman inmates of his establishment, from some of whom he gets less than 300 pounds and from some six or seven hundred a year.
There are very few parties given at this time of the year here, however I have been at several and known a good number of people. They are dreadfully snobbish and inveterate card players. I have met several old Harrow fellows here.
Parson Shiffner1 is one of Canon Residentiaries at Chichester and resides here for three months at this time of the year. He invited me to dine last Monday but it was put off.
I believe Longley2 is at last to be the Bishop of Chichester. The people seem to wish him to be their diocesian.
Has Mary returned yet from Edinbro'. Do you know what has become of Andrew Buchanan. When I saw him he said he intended to go to Italy as soon as his health permitted. I get on very well with Greene as well certainly as3 I expected after I had known him for a week or so. He is dreadfully stingy and very captious. He always imagines we are laughing at him. Away from Hampnett he is quite a different man, very polite and obliging and very apt to be groggy after a dinner party.
I am going to a dinner party today at Mrs Greene's Father's. Has Jimmie commenced to flog the burns4 yet and has he had his usual success.
Give my love to Papa and all at home.
I remain yours truly,
He then turns this page as well and adds this postscript :
P.S. A little cash would not be unacceptable, as what with hiring horses a good deal of money runs away."
I find with many of my old letters, they raise several unanswerable questions. For instance, this one sounds as if he is either at a university or a college of some kind, but I don't know of one 'Hampnett' in Petworth - or Chichester for that matter.
- What about the private madhouse? That one must have been very profitable - unfortunately Campbell does not give the name of this young man, nor his origins. Intriguing.
- Why was he hiring horses, which was running away with his money? If it was to travel to dinner parties, why didn't his hosts provide transport?
This letter has an Australian connection since there is a town of Barcaldine in Queensland (the birthplace of the Australian Labour Movement), and in the tourist guide there is a page which advertises that “the origin of the name is from Barcaldine Castle, Argyll, Scotland, the ancestral home of the Campbells, of Glennurchy, was held by an uncle of Donald Charles Cameron when he migrated to Australia in 1852.”
On 1st May 1851 Lord Breadalbane declared the Great Exhibition opened on behalf of her Majesty Queen Victoria. The Exhibition was attended by more than 6 million persons between 1st May & 15th October.
Last modified 31 May 2010