" London to Largs 1791
concerning lost wine. "

by

Eunice Shanahan


This letter is very interesting as it has been roughly cut along the middle, but the cuts do not match, so it looks as though a page has been deleted. However, the postage charge is not for a ‘double’ letter and the contents of the letter do not seem to have anything missing. The watermark on the paper seems to match as well.

The postal markings are a London Bishop mark (type in use from 1787 to 1791) with the year in two figures at the base of the stamp, for MA 9 91 in black, then the Edinburgh Bishop mark three days later MA 12 very faintly applied in red. There are two charge marks. ‘7’ for the London to Edinburgh sector (this is also a mystery, as the rate should have been 8d, new Act in 1784), and then a ‘3’ which would cover the Edinburgh to Largs, Fife, for a distance over 50 and below 80 miles, Edinburgh to Largs = 51 miles.

The next mystery is that the letter is addressed to Mrs Durham of Largs, Fife, and that is on the front address panel, but when the letter is opened up, underneath that it is addressed Mr Johnston, Surgeon No 71 Queens Street Southwark London, and there is no reference to that name in the letter at all. So now to the letter :-

London 9th May 1791
Dear Madam
I am favoured with your esteemed letter of the 2 Current. It will afford me much pleasure if now or in future I can be of the smallest use to you here.
I am sorry, however, on enquiry at Mr. Laughlan that I have not been able to learn anything concerning Capt Durham’s present of Maderia. He has looked over all their letters since November without finding it mentioned. As I see him daily, if he ever hears any thing of it you may be assured of hearing from me. But I daresay it is sent by some other channel, at all counts, when the Captain returns, there can be no doubt of our finding it.

It appears to us strange that we have not heard from William Young by the last vessels from India. He ought to have told us of the issue of his voyage & speculations.

I beg leave to present Compliments to Mr Durham, being most respectfully
Dear Madam
Your most Obed Hmbl Serv
John Carstairs


NOTE: I could not find out anything about a Captain Durham or anything about a William Young going to India in 1791. I have a CD for the East India Company records but it is the 1830 edition, so it is too late to show anyone arriving in 1791. Although there probably is a William Young in the records, I would need to know in which of the areas he was stationed, as each of the Presidencies had a separate listing.

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