James Baillie, Edinburgh

Letters from the Past

Mrs George Bailey,Bath
to James Baillie, Edinburgh 1776

by

Eunice Shanahan

We have three letters addressed to James Baillie, all are different and all of interest.

James Baillie was the Distributor of Stamps for Edinburgh and Leith, a responsible position, which he held until his death in 1818. This first is from his mother in 1776, and is a personal, family letter, giving him information, and asking questions.

It is dated Bath 24th June 1776,addressed to James Baillie Esq Stamp Office, Edinburgh, and the postal markings are first a BATH straight-line town name stamp, then a partially struck London Bishop Mark 2? over IV (for June), charge mark 9 crossed out and altered to what looks like 10. The letter would have had to go via London, so this would be correct, for the journey of over 80 miles Bath to London = 4d London to Edinburgh 6d, making a total of 10d

From the contents of the letter is seems she is in Bath to drink the waters for her health. Bath Spa was known for the healing properties of the Baths which were built by the Romans when it was known as Aqua Sulis. There is a note written on the outside by the addressee probably Mrs George Baillie to James Baillie 27 June 1776, Bath. As the letter was written on the 24th, this would be the date it was received in Edinburgh.

The writing is really clear, although somewhat faded in the nearly 250 years since it was written. Some of the words in the letter seem to be written in the Scottish dialect, and so I have put an interpretation in brackets, but she used abbreviations regularly, like wch for which, wt for with, and many of the words are contracted by use of an apostrophe instead of the letters, like shou’d and wou’d. Spelling has changed over the years, so I have transcribed it as it was written, because these words are perfectly understandable.

Bath 23rd ( and amended to 4th) June 1776

My Dr. Jamie
I just now had the pleasure of yours of the 18th under cover of one from Menzies, as he knew I was anxious to hear from you. He sent it as soon as it came to hand. You never use to be so long of writing me wch realy made me uneasy, however I’m glad to hear now that you are well. I can’t regrat the good old lady’s death as she had such an uncomfortable life for some time past. I hope she has made a happy change and reaping the fruits of her charitable good deeds. I’ll weary to hear from you again how poor Mrs Carmichell is and if she’s to stay at Saltcotts (Saltcoats?) this summer wch I realy think she had better do while the weather is good.The Lady’s death can make little alteration as to company to her, and I suppose the servts will all be kept till Marts (Martinmas?) and then all the household stuff will be to be dispos’d of. I suppose a great part of it will be Roup’d and sold, and what Lady Durrie and Miss wants to keep should be valued or divided in 4 parts and lots cast for it, I wou’d by all means shun quareling wt them, at the same time I think you shou’d not yeild to what you’ve a right to or your due.

Note: Roup is a Scottish term for an auction.

I wish Mr Webstr be not troublesom, I really Pitty both Betty and Mr Young, it will make a great change to them, and Betty will be at a lose where to take up her abode as she does not agree wt Edin . I hope she has got better in her health. I wrot to her to come to Bristol where I shou’d attend her. It was thought good for any weakness in the inside, but I’m afraid she’ll think the journey to long.

Lady Ann Dusign is often inquiring for her and very sorry she’s not well. She’s a very good obliging well behav’d lady, and lives very desently but retir’d but is very well spoke of, she’s much wt Mrs Carmichael the Bishop’s widow who is bad and confined wt the gout. Mr Dusign is gone last week to Spa for his health. I’m very sorry for C. Bertm I’m much afraid she’s in a bad way. I think Bristol would be very fitt for her but she shou’d take advice of a physician, but I shou’d think much riding or exercise wou’d be apt to bring the spitting of blood on again. I shou’d be glad if Lady Locks & Miss took their jaunt either here or to Londn I would be glad to meet wt them. I’ve been in very good health and spirits ever since I wrot you, except a few days I was anxious to hear from you. The Rheumsm is not gone yet, but that will take a time. I have not bath’d for a fortnight past, the Doc. thought the weather too hott for that so wou’d not allow me, nor does he think the sea bathing for me he says it wou’d put it all into my stomach, but he thinks the warm weather, and the travelling to Londn and then to Scotland wch is long Rides will put it off, in the meantime he gives me drops to take wch he says is good for the Rheum & I drink the Bath Water twice a day wch agrees vastly well wt my stomach & as I’m now very well.

She then continues with a description of her husband’s illness, about which he is too stubborn to take advice.

I wou’d have left Bath before this had it not been your Uncle’s indisposition. He’s not at all well. About 8 days Agoe there came out lumps and swelling through his whole body, not all at once, but just his back and body and then his face and head and legs and as one went away another came out. The Doc says it’s a great disorder in his blood, and he’ll not be advis’d or take any medicines. He’s the most unreasonable man ever I saw and it’s realy hard upon me and hurts me, and if he be any way tolerably well, I intend going to Londn end of this week or soon the next. I must take care of myself for I can’t do any good to him, as he thinks his own way but I wonder, you did not writ me how your Aunt Nelly is and all the rest of our friends but I fancy the hearing of our good old friend’s death wou’d confuse and hurry you.

I had a few lines from Menzies today inclosing your letter but he had got an inflamation in his eyes so cou’d not write much, but was rather better and growing better in his (hole in paper). He wrot me so days agoe that C McM was to go to Scotland wt Mr Lawson Kern Muir & this day was Sett for their Setting off and in this letter wch I got today, he said he had not seen Mr Lawson since he wrot me, so did not know when he was to go. I’m realy vext the girl is so long at Londn needlessly how she’s employ’d I don’t know, She’s at Hampstead wt the Mrs Browns as Menzies writes me, but I’m sure it would ease my mind much she were safe wt Uncle John. You did not writ me how our Neman was employ’d now. I suppose Peggy is spining but what is Betty doing. I wish they may spend their time right. I’m glad her eyes is better. My best wishes to you
I am my Dr Jamie your affect mother.

E. Baillie.


Many people imagine that 200 years ago women were not educated, but this is not entirely true. Children were given a basic education with the rudiments of letters and numbers, and only the very poor would have had no education at all. As can be seen from this letter, Mrs Baillie was able to write a good informative letter to her son.


The second one is from Mauldslie Castle, dated 1798, and concerns financial matters. The third consists of two replies in the same letter from the Gordon brothers in London dated 1810. These letters are together on a second page on our website click here

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