"Letters from the Past
19th century lawmen in Ayr and Wigtown,
Scotland 1831 and 1832".
We have two interesting letters addressed to Sheriff or Sheriff Clerk. The first concerns the transfer of prisoners, and the second is about the cancellation of a trial. The links between them are that they were both signed by D. Cleghorn in Edinburgh, (who was the Crown Agent) and they both concern the town of Ayr. The first is a really interesting letter, and the outside of it also has interesting notes, which almost hide the address
The paper is heavy cream with a watermark of J WHATMAN 1831.
The letter is addressed to
Edinburgh 17th Dec 1831
The filing notes on the outside would have been written by the Ayr Sheriff or his Clerk. The first is just the basic filing info:-
“Ed. 17 Dec 1831 The Crown Agent with Warrants agt Sam. Waugh &c.”
The second is information regarding the prisoners.
“Waugh, Ramsay, Moffet & Forsyth to be sent off on Tuesday 20 Decr so try to be at Roadside from 10 to 11 a.m. Farrel to be sent off on Weds 21 Dec by the Glasgow Coach 18 Dec. wrote Sh. At Paisley accordingly.”The contents explain why the cost of sending the letter was so high, the enclosure of the warrants would have put the weight up to 7 times the basic rate of 8d for ¼ of an ounce, but unfortunately the warrants are not with the letter, presumably having been filed in the court records in Ayr. It would be interesting to know the crimes involved with these prisoners.
I wanted to know about this tolbooth, and received the following information from the Museum of Scotland.
They advised that it was likely that at the time of this letter, the prisoners would have been held in the Canongate Tolbooth in Edinburgh, built in 1591. It is a historic landmark of the Old Town section of Edinburgh built in 1591 as a tolbooth, that is, a courthouse, burgh jail and meeting place, for the then separate burgh of the Canongate. The building is now occupied by The People's Story Museum and is protected as a category A listed building.The next thing was to find out about the Ayr Tolbooth, and found it from Wikipedia , the free encyclopedia.
The New or Over Tolbooth was where the town's business was conducted and the jail was below. It crowned the rising ground in the centre of the Sandgate. It was built in 1574-5 on the site of its predecessor and in 1614-5 a belfry was erected on it. A steeple was projected for it in 1697, but was not completed until 1726. It was removed about 1823, at which time it was replaced by the new Town Hall.This was 8 years before our letter was written, so the new place must also have had facilities to include room for holding prisoners.
D. Cleghorn was the Crown Agent in Edinburgh, and an internet search explained his duties
Crown Agent, Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer and Chief Executive
The second letter, is also written by D Cleghorn in Edinburgh dated September 6th 1832 and addressed to Sheriff or Sheriff Clerk, Wigtown, endorsed with O.H.M.S. in manuscript.
The paper is cream and good quality and with the watermark of J WHATMAN 1832
It also has an Edinburgh additional halfpenny stamp, but this is figure F18 type IIa but a different size 18mm x 14mm recorded in use 10.6.1829 to 11.8.1836. It has only the Edinburgh circular date stamp for SEP 6 1832 in red ink with the identifying letter C and N for night mail. No backstamp for the receipt at AYR. The rate appears to be 6d which covers a distance between 20 and 30 miles.
This letter is quite different, but shows what kind of correspondence would be involved between the Crown Agent in Edinburgh and the Sheriff in the other towns, in this case Wigtown.
The letter has been folded (as it was posted ) for so long that the folds make it difficult to scan it without trying to press it flat, but the image is legible despite the creases.
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