Letters from the Past

‘Royal Lanark Militia
Edinburgh to Hamilton, 1806 ’

This letter is in very good condition, and written on heavy woven paper with a watermark of JOHN FELLOWS 1805. It is addressed to Mr John Boyce, Hamilton, and dated 18th Decr 1806. It has two postal marks, first, a charge mark 1/2, and then a faintly applied Edinburgh date stamp in red. This was the new type introduced in 1801 small circle with month DEC then year 1806 then date 18 in three lines.

The charge rate is a mystery. What distance would cost 1/2 within Scotland in 1806? The rates quoted in Alan Robertson’s book lists the new rates of 1805 where even 300 miles only costs 11d, The only way I can come up with this amount is a double charge of the distance of between 50 and 80 miles, which was 7d and that multiplied by 2 gives 14 pence of 1shilling and 2d. The map in Haldane’s book shows that the distance along the mail coach routes from Edinburgh to Hamilton via Glasgow was 51 miles, so that would fit for the distance. However, what could be the reason for a double charge, as this is patently only a single sheet, and it is not a heavy paper, and there was no enclosure. Is it possible that it could have been charged double because it was unpaid?

So now to the letter itself which was written and signed by Alexander Macdonald Lockhart, and leaves no doubt about his wishes.

Edinburgh Decr 18th 1806

There are some commissions to be made out by order of the Marquis of Douglas & Clydesdale, of which the Clerk has received instructions, but to my astonishment he declines extending them owing to an Act of Parliament he has found. Pray inform him from me, that he must act as instructed, and that as Lord Belhaven has been appointed by his Majesty to act as Vice Lt., that he has no opinion to offer. Pray have this done without loss of time & I shall again address you in a few days.

I remain
Your most obet Servt
Alexr Macdonald Lockhart

The note by the receiver on the reverse of the letter is 18th Decr 1806 Sir Alex McDonald Lockhart about Comms to officers of Militia.


There is a huge amount of information about the writer of this letter, Sir Alexander Macdonald Lockhart on the internet. He was born about 1776 and he died 22 June 1816, aged 40 from injuries received in a carriage accident. He was a Scottish politician who represented Berwick-upon-Tweed from 1807-1812, but the main thing in relation to this letter is that he was Lt.Col. of the R. Lanark militia 1804-10, and therefore was writing in that capacity in 1806.

The Lord Belhaven referred to in the letter was another politician who was also Deputy Lieutenant of the County.

I was unable to find any information about the addressee John Boyce of Hamilton.

The Marquis of Douglas and Clydesdale was born 1767 and died in 1836. From the extensive information about him on the internet it is clear he was a distinguished politician including being ambassador extraordinary to Russia during 1806-7. he was the MP for the Constituency of Lancaster 1802-1806.

The website includes this final paragraph :

As a peer, Douglas remained a Whig but took little active part in politics. Inordinate family pride came to rule his life: he convinced himself that he was the true heir to the Scottish throne and at Hamilton Palace constructed a lavish mausoleum in which his embalmed body was laid after his death, 18 Aug. 1852.

But for the purpose of this letter the relevant information is that he was Lord Lieutenant of Lanark 1802 until his death, and was the Colonel of the R. Lanark Militia from 1802.

Sources : Great Britain Post Roads, Post Towns and Postal Rates 1635-1839 Alan W. Robertson

Three Centuries of Scottish Posts A.R.B. Haldane

Website maintained by the Institute of Historical Research Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Authors: M. H. Port / David R. Fisher

Copyright By EARS Leisurewrite

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