Letters  from the Past

"To Duns, Berwick upon Tweed  from  London 1778"

This letter was written at a time of turmoil in England. King George III was the reigning monarch and his actions (with those of his government), at this time had resulted in the American colonies declaring their Independence. In 1778 the English were fighting a losing battle to retain their possessions on the North American continent.
The letter was written from an expatriate Scot who was living in London with his sister, and they are miserable, but not from the loss of the American Colonies. Their woes are much more personal. It has several postal markings two of which are complete mysteries.  (Fig.1)

 1) a faint, and partly struck DW in a circle, the London Receiver’s mark.  This would be David Wishart who was the General Post Receiver from 1752-1780 in Coventry Street London  (1760-1776)  and also in Piccadilly.
2) POST PAID  in a circle in red ink.  The rates in Robertson’s book show for a distance above 80 miles in England the charge was 4d (fourpence)  and then as Duns was in Scotland, the extra charge from Berwick to Duns was an extra 2d (two pence) making the 6d in all. 
The other two marks – the elaborate scrawl across the writing of the address, which looks like 1/4 (1 shilling and 4pence) and the ‘X’ on the right are baffling.

The letter is addressed to
Mrs Cockburn Askew House  in Duns by Berwick upon Tweed, and written in fancy older English with odd spelling – making it very difficult to read. For instance, on the address panel (see image Fig.1)  the Post payd  actually looks like Posh Royal.

There is no indication of the address inside the letter, but the postmarks prove that it was somewhere in London. There is a filing note in a different handwriting.
“Pat Cockburn to his mother pressing a Letter 2nd July 1778”

It is a letter full of depression and misery, just the thing to upset his mother! (Fig.2)   

click here for larger image

 

My Dear Mother
I am realy sorro’d (sorrowed) I hear so seldom from my good friends in Duns – They ought to forgive thear London friends for not writing the Spring Quarter for We are so Hard Worked  that we have hardly time to refresh ourselves. Particklerley to you I am sorro’d I have not wrot oftener but Dayley Expecting to hear from my Brother mead me Delay from writ to a  Degree.  In Deed I am Hartly sorro’d to think of the Best of Friends Should Drop a correspondence to a Sister & Brother that so much Wishess to support the Oanly Blesing that Providence has Left – that of communicating the sincear wishes of the hart, Friendship Goodwill & Affaction —   Could my Brother figer the Pean (pain) she has suffer’d from  Not hearing of you & his Dear Litel family he would imploy’d a Clerk Had he Not bean abell to Anserd her last letter. Shon has been from London 3 weeks. Shon is of a Poor Constitution & anything that sticks on her spirits hurts her greatly – the last words She spock to me was  — how sorro’d I am my Brother his not wrote, I wish to God I only know the Reason, I realey expected his anser befor I left towne & now I go to the Country Realey unsatisfayd Nor shal I be hapy till I hear from him.”

(Note:  The spelling at this time was not set in concrete, and quite often the words are not only spelled phonetically, but also in the dialect — in this case obviously a Scot. It is difficult to me to decipher it, but I think that his mother must have been able to read it, or he would not have written to her, but written instead to a third party asking them to pass on the news. He continues with great distress about his sister’s state of health, and the reason for her being so unwell he blames on his family for not keeping in touch).

“Dear Mother it is truly that my Sister feels the Return of her Complaint & this year Shon left London in better health than she has Dun for years past, but even a little thing Disturbs her, & as I trust in God, I believe her not hearing from my Brother hurts her already & will more so if she does not hear sune – it is Realey Amasing he write so seldom, but this I asure you my sister is of that ancious a disposition that She is now realey unhappy — if there is any thing that can Restore it, Sertainly must be the Health of the Best of Sisters”
(Note: the next sentence is really puzzling — as it cannot really be ducks in the bush, but that is what it looks like.)

click here for larger image

“ None can wish more to the wellfear of his family & my worthy Sister – Cockburn in the Most sincerity offer my best Respects, may the Good will of him that <DUCKS?> in the <BUSH?> be with her dear family. (Fig. 3)
 It is my sisters happiness & mine to speak of the ones debard from seeing them by the situations of our labor but its in our friends in Court so Let us hear of them – in short my spirits fails me to think I should already be abroad before I hear from the Only Friends I have in Earth —   I  can’t account for it I am in hopes to hear from you all. Do God Bles you prevell (prevail) on my Brother to write I have nothing to convay to you but anciety to hear of your wellfear thank God I still go well  but the time & many complaints & reproches may God of his infinite Mercy suport  & Bles you all your Dear Litel family, My love to sister Cockburn Pervis and Davidson Miss Hom Davidson & all friends in Pean (Pain) Yours R. Cockburn.”

The page has then been turned over and he has continued on the ‘ears’ (Fig.4)

click here for larger image

 

“Forgive this I am in hopes to hear from you all I’m so much oppressed in my Spirits that I can’t enter on any subject onlucy. Write by the return of Post I Can’t write my Brother Least I should Affront him By being too open in obreading (upbraiding) him for not writing I have Never had one letter since the Death of my Worthy friend Mikel Davidson
I has to write I am over com’d with low Spirits
July 6th 12 Oclock 1778
The paper is a very thick one with a good watermark of Britannia in a circle, but without a date. (Fig.5)

I can only wonder at what was causing such misery and homesickness, but there is no denying that this is a very unhappy man stranded about 5 days journey from his family in Scotland.

This article was first published in Stamp News the Australian monthly magazine. As a result of which Kevin from Canberra contacted me via the Postage Stamp Chat Board and Stamp Bulletin Board http://www.stampboards.com/ and suggested that the words were actually 'dwells in the best'. In fact on looking again 'dwells' certainly seemed right but the 'bush' still seemed correct. A google search on the Internet for 'dwells in the bush' came up with the answer — it is a quote from the Bible from Exodus:- "The eternal fire of the divine nature DWELLS IN THE BUSH of our frail nature, yet our frail nature is not destroyed. So God dwells in this bush, with all his goodwill towards sinners." So many thanks to Kevin.

Copyright By EARS Leisurewrite

Contact us

back to Old Letters

Return To our Home Page