Letters  from the Past

“William Barclay of Auldearn Manse
to Col. Macpherson of Ardersier, 1831”.

This is the second of our six Macpherson letters, and is dated 13th March 1831, nearly 20 years later than the first letter. Addressed to Colonel McPherson c/- Ardersier postal charge 4-1/2, from William Barclay of Auldearn Manse.

The stamp applied by the Post town is impossible to read but a Google search for Auldearn Manse shows that it is pretty close to Ardersier and is in the NAIRN postal areal and this could be the name stamp. This map image shows that both places are in the area of the Moray Firth. It also shows Ardersier is also known as Campbelltown.

The letter is sealed with red sealing wax and William Barclay’s seal, which is the initials W B in fancy script, an image of an arm flourishing a sword, and a family motto, which shows up under magnification, as AUT AGERE AUT MORI and it means EITHER ACTION OR DEATH.

An internet search provides the information that this is the Barclay clan motto.


The letter which is very easy to read, as the writing is so clear and the letter has had very little wear, begins:-

My dear Colonel
When I begged the favour of you to dine with me on Wednesday, it did not occur to me that our friend Captn McPherson might not have left Ardersier at that time. I therefore trouble you with this to request that you will make offer of my kindest regards to him if he is still with you and say that I shall feel much obliged to him if he will do me the favour to dine here on Wednesday at 4 o’clock should he remain in the neighbourhood so long. I hope nothing will occur to disappoint me of the pleasure of your company here that day.

With kindest regards to all at Ardersier,
I am
My dear Colonel
Yours ever most sincerely
William Barclay.


I checked online re Colonel Dan McPherson (Macpherson/Mcpherson) in the 78th Foot Regiment but could find no information. Yet this letter has the Colonel as the addressee, and the letter requesting the company of Captain Macpherson. However I found from the research on the first letter that he is Duncan, not Dan. In the first letter dated 1812 he is a Major, so this letter dated 19 years later could possibly be referring to a son.

I found this further information from Wikipedia:

The 78th (Highlanders) Regiment of Foot was a Highland Infantry Regiment of the Line, raised in 1793. Under the Childers Reforms it amalgamated with 72nd Regiment, Duke of Albany's Own Highlanders to form the Seaforth Highlanders in 1881. The regiment was raised by Francis Humberstone MacKenzie, Chief of the Clan Mackenzie, as the 78th (Highlanders) Regiment of Foot (or The Ross-shire Buffs) on 8 March 1793. First assembled at Fort George in July 1793, the regiment embarked for Holland in September 1794 for service in the French Revolutionary Wars.


For the first letter in this series, 1812 click here

For the third letter in this series, 1831 click here

For the fourth letter in this series, 1833 click here

For the fifth letter in this series, 1834 click here

For the sixth letter in this series, 1835 click here


Reference: map from The Reader’s Digest Complete atlas of the British Isles.

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