Robert Trotter from Martin, 1774

“Martin Trotter in Edinburgh
to his brother Robert, in Dunse, 1774 ”


Eunice Shanahan

These are the last two of the seven letters we have which were written to Robert Trotter, during his long career which ended up as the Postmaster General of Edinburgh. The first one is written much earlier than the second one, and is from different ends of his career.

It is addressed : To Mr Robert Trotter Writer, to the Care of James Loraine Esqr

It has only the one postal marking, a charge mark in black of 2 which is for a distance below 50 miles at that time. Dunse (historically in Scots, Dunse is now known as Duns) is a town in the Scottish Borders, Scotland. It was the county town of the historic county of Berwickshire and the distance to Edinburgh, was about 36 miles.

So now to the very easy to read letter,in a fancy handwriting, written with a quill pen, from his brother, which begins wih a paragraph about the correspondence they have received, and then mentions something that was all the rage in Britain.

12 May 1774
Dear Bob
I yesterday received payment of Mr. John Scots promissary Note, who did not make the least hesitation. There was nothing by the post today nor nobody calling of any consequence since you went away.
We are throng reading Lord Chesterfd Letters, Papa having got the first Volume from Gordon. We sat up last night till twelve O’clock at them, and we must speak & behave with great Circumspection otherwise the Answer will be that that is not Lord Chesterfield’s doctrine. In short Lord Chesterfield ingrosses the whole Conversation from morning to night.(*)

Your private tryals /if I may so call them/ I thought had been keep’d in a more secret Style but in place of that the first Writer or Writers Clerk I meet I’’m sure to be saluted with O I hear your Brother has past his private Tryals &c.

Papa receid a Letter the day from Mr. Thomson & inclosed a form of a letter which he would have papa Write to Mr Steuart in favor of his son Jamie which Papa signed but as you know the Story I need say no more about it. No news here but am Glad to see you are getting such tolerable weather, however Good or Bad I don’t expect you home on Saturday come eight days.

But now let me Conclude by telling you as a friend of ours says that this is all Buckram, downright Buckram,(**) however if I thought that Writing Letters should be of any service to you, you should have a letter every hour of the day from Yours &c
Martin trotter
Edin. 12 May 1774 To Mr Rob Trotter Writer.

This image shows how the letter was written on the inside of the paper, and the fold is clearly visible.

The note on the right hand side of this image was written by the addressee or his clerk:
Pd 12th May 1774 Martin Trotter anent affairs.
This is a word which is no longer in use but my OED old version shows the definition of anent as archaic Scottish word meaning concerning.

(*)Lord Chesterfield and his letters to his son.

This is an extract from Wikipedia which has a huge amount of information about this important politician. Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, KG, PC (22 September 1694 – 24 March 1773) was a British statesman, diplomat, and man of letters, and an acclaimed wit of his time. Eugenia Stanhope, the impoverished widow of Chesterfield’s illegitimate son, Philip Stanhope, was the first to publish the book Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman (1774), which comprises a thirty-year correspondence in more than 400 letters. Begun in 1737 and continued until the death of his son in 1768, Chesterfield wrote mostly instructive communications about geography, history, and classical literature, with later letters focusing on politics and diplomacy, and the letters themselves were written in French, English and Latin to refine his son’s grasp of the languages.

As a handbook for worldly success in the 18th century, the Letters to His Son give perceptive and nuanced advice for how a gentleman should interpret the social codes that are manners.

(**) Buckram in slang use, was used to signify of no consequence or nonsense.

The second letter was written nearly 30 years later and by now Robert Trotter was the Postmaster General for Scotland, so the address as written by Lord Torpichen recognises this.

Robert Trotter Esq. &c &c &c
General Post Office

It has received a beautiful little circular date stamp APR 1803 7 in red, on the address panel, and a figure 8 charge mark in black. There is also a faint unidentifiable circular stamp at the top of the image.

The holes either side of the paper were caused when the seal was broken away to open the letter.

The letter itself is not of outstanding interest, but for me the appeal is being able to trace information about the writer and the person to whom it was written.

6 April 1803 from Calder House, Lord Torphichen

Lord Torphichen with his best Compliments, takes the liberty of requesting Mr Trotter will be so good as to direct & forward the enclosed Letter.

The address is then added, but no letter enclosed unfortunately

To Captain Sandilands
Care of Messrs Begbie & Hunter, Broad Street London.

So the interest for me was finding out about Lord Torpichen and his family name and home, which is now so much easier than it was 40 years or so ago, now that so much information has become available on the internet. The wikipedia entry explains the background to this family. This is an extract,beginning with the original creation of the title.

Lord Torphichen or Baron Torphichen is a title in the Peerage of Scotland. It was created by Queen Mary in 1564 for Sir James Sandilands .... The first Baron Sandilands had previously served as Preceptor of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes, and of Malta in Scotland, and took the title from the Torphichen Preceptory in West Lothian..... He was succeeded by his great-nephew James Sandilands (who was also the current feudal baron of Calder). Thereafter the Lordship of Parliament of Torphichen and the Feudal Barony of Calder were conjoined, and all later lords were descended from the second Lord Torphichen. His great-grandson, the seventh Lord, was a strong supporter of the union with England. His grandson, the ninth Lord, and great-great-grandson, the 12th Lord, sat in the House of Lords as Scottish Representative Peers.

As of 2017, the title is held by the latter's great-grandson, the 15th Lord, who succeeded his father in 1975. He is Chief of Clan Sandilands and also holds the feudal title of Baron of Calder, granted in 1386.

Torphichen, is pronounced 'Tor-fikken'.

The family seat is Calder House, near Mid Calder, West Lothian.

The website includes a complete list of all the men who inherited this title in date order, and at the date this letter written in 1803 could be either of these two listed.

• James Sandilands, 9th Lord Torphichen (1759–1815)

• James Sandilands, 10th Lord Torphichen (1770–1862)

Is it possible that there could have been two holders of the title during the same years?

There are many images of Calder House on the web, and is obviously still standing.

For a later letter to Robert Trotter in his role as Postmaster General of Edinburgh click here.

for three commercial letters to Robert Trotter in the 1770s. click here.

for a letter from another brother, John Trotter in 1798, click here.

Copyright By E & R Shanahan
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