Captain Hughes,Ballyshannon, 1834


A piece of British Military history, 1834

52nd Foot Light Infantry

This is an amusing and informative letter written by H.S. Davies from Ballyshannon in Ireland to his Regimental colleague Captain W Major Hughes, 52nd Regiment, Omagh. The letter is dated simply Saturday but the post mark is Ballyshannon AU 16 1834 . It is written on very heavy paper which has a watermark of the posthorn but no initials or year.

The charge mark looks like 7. This would be to send a letter over a distance of between 45 and 55 Irish miles. That looks about right from Ballyshannon in Donegal County to Omagh in County Tyrone.

The letter begins in what appears to be Latin.

Gratulator! (at dacem) Titulis accidence (notris?) & head of all the Spuggins!! Verily the Spuggin family has reason to be proud of the Elevation of one of their number to the rank and pay of a captain in the 52 Regt of Light Infantry.

Note He has drawn a representation of the badge here

For to myself who am apt as Boogee Allen expresses himself to scan the situation of men and their prospects I really think that the office above mentioned and to which fortune has thought fit to bring you, is not to be snubbed at – accept therefore my very valued friend the congratulations of your humble servant and know that we are on the tiptoe of expectation at your coming and that if you have any little legacies or trifles that would ill become the translation of your newly acquired rank I myself who am still a lieutenant and your humble servant to command will willingly relieve you of any (swadries?) which gracing the table or pocket of a sub would rather be out of character with the increased size of your bullion.

My first salutation to Blois, on seeing his name in the gazette was "v’at shall I give you for de rings he?"

perhaps an attempt at a German accent?

We are in status quo St John is at Lifford I believe by this time Blois and I will dine ** with Connolly today. people have deluged us with cards but we are very lofty and have vowed not to dine out Pingey improves in his dinners but will not make good tea so I have cut the breakfast help. The guard have bothered me with presenting arms

Note ** where the letter was opened, the words are stuck under the seal, and by peeling it off carefully the word ‘dine’ can be deciphered.

As he has completely covered all the paper on the inside he has then turned it over and written on both of the sides of the address panel to complete his news, and that is still not enough,

and I have had great difficulty to make the company understand it is Blois who has got the Majority. We bathe daily, the sea increases in beauty owing probably to sympathy from having received so often the impression of my limbs on its bosom.

Vansittart is going I am sorry to say we liked him amazingly. Jas has been fishing here to no purpose. Poor Dick King slept in my room the night his father died, I had dreadful Dreams all the live long night.

He has then turned back to the first page of the letter and continued across the top.

Remember me to your party and beg Arbuthnot to allow you to bring my (rob?) back as I am in want of it.
Faithfully your
H.S. Davies

A friend in the UK kindly checked the Latin at the beginning of the letter, and sent me this translation.

Gratulator! [to manifest joy, be glad, congratulate, rejoice]

(ut ducem -- leader) (Titulis accidence nostris -- Our happen titles)

(I think it’s saying something like, congratulate our leader!)

Checking on the internet I was able to find the image at the top of the page, from a website of British Army Regiments and it says
52nd Foot Warrant Officers Last Shako Oxfordshire Light Infantry, File name s9952WO.jpg.

The 52nd Regiment seems to have been the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, 2nd Battalion, raised in 1755, but then it disappears from the records.

The enlarged image of the crest shows that the motto is HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE.

There are two newspaper items which are relevant to this letter.

The Morning Post (London, England), Monday, August 04, 1834; pg. 7; Issue 19861


From the Limerick Chronicle.

On Saturday last a detachment of the 52nd regiment arrived in Ballyshannon, under the command of Major St. John, Captain Blois, Lieutenants Hughes and Davies and Ensign the Hon. A. Arbuthnot


and secondly
This was from the Perthshire Courier, of Perthshire, Scotland, Thursday 21st August 1834, 6 days after this letter was written and posted to ‘Captain’ Hughes.


52nd Foot Captain W. Blois to be Major by purchase, vice Gawler promoted. Lieutenant W. J. Major Hughes to be Captain by purchase.

So the purchase had been known before it was reported in the newspaper.

It really is surprising how much information can be gathered about a letter which was written in 1834, close to 200 years ago.

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