"The Hon. Donald Ogilvy of Clova,
— Scotland, 1825 "


Eunice Shanahan

I have been a stamp and postal history collector for decades, and over the years my interest has become more fixed on postmarks and postal history. This is partly because of the individual interest of these old letters. Anyone can obtain a complete stamp collection of, say, the Australian Antarctic Territory, but only one person can have a particular letter. One of the things that has drawn me to the postal history is being able to research each item. For my AAT stamp collection, Australia Post has done it all for me, and I am not complaining about that, as it saves me a lot of work, but unlike the postal history, my stamp collection is just the same as that of any other collector.

This letter is a case in point. The research for this led back to the 1745 Scottish rebellion. I was never interested in history when I was at school, and was not a subject I studied, so that many of the happenings and events referred to in my old letters are new to me.
Over the years, I have acquired a number of text books for reference, but by far the most useful tool nowadays is the internet. When I made a search for Balnaboth, I found the website of the present owner, Hector Ogilvy MacLean, who has kindly given me permission to use their images.
The letter itself is purely a family finance matter, and as such has no national importance, but it is the context of the letter and the place of Donald Ogilvy in the story of this family which makes it interesting. These images from the website show the Glen Prosen valley (Fig.1) and Balnaboth (Fig.2)

Balnaboth Estate occupies around 5500 acres in the middle of Glenprosen. It is centred on Balnaboth House and Glenprosen village and managed by Hector & Jeannie Ogilvy MacLean. It comprises the farms of Spott, Balnaboth Home Farm, and part of Cormuir Farm. There are around 20 dwellings, of which around half are let as self catering holiday houses. Note : Mr MacLean very kindly sent me this image of the portrait of the Hon. Donald (Fig.3)

So now to the letter, which is addressed to The Honourable Donald Ogilvy of Clova, Balnaboth, Kirriemuir, (which is in Angus, a few miles north of Glamis Castle), and written by Stevenson & Yale, lawyers of Edinburgh. (Fig. 4)

It has three postal markings: the Edinburgh date stamp, an unboxed Additional ½d tax stamp applied in Edinburgh — of the type recorded in use 25.5.1825 to 12.11.1836, as this is clearly dated 2nd May, this extends the known use of this particular mark. The manuscript charge mark of '9' which covers the cost of sending a single page letter a distance of between 80 and 120 miles, — Kirriemuir is about 86 miles from Edinburgh.
The letter begins with information given to the factor (land agent) MacNicol, and then the financial accounts. The sums of money seem enormous for 1825, and apparently reflect large sporting rents, also new found wealth from sheep.
"Edin 2 May 1825
Dear Sir,
We have sent to Mr MacNicol the Deposition of Bastardbank Balloch and Redlaitin to be granted by you to Captain Ogilvy that he may see it properly executed.

The sums we have to pay on your account on the 16th curt are

  • 1 to Mr James Balfour £8000 interest thereof from 16 November 1824 to Candlemas 1825 at 4 percent £68.7.8d
  • From Candlemas to 16th curt at 3½ £79.0.3d. = 147.7.11
  • 2 To Miss Balfour 7000
  • Interest thereof from 16 November 1824 to Candlemas 1825 at 4 percent £59.16.8d
  • From Candlemas to 16 curt at 3½ 69.2.7 = 128.19.3 In all £15,276.7.2
  • and we request you will have the goodness to put us in cash to answer these demands as we have to dispose of the money on the day after the term day. The case relative to Mr Morley's Settlement has been adjusted here and sent to London to be revised by Mr Peter.

    We have heard nothing further on the subject of Airly Peerage

    We remain with great respect
    Dear Sir, Your most obedient humble servants
    Stevenson & Yale
    (The Term Day is Sunday and therefore interest is calculated to the 16th May)"

    click here for larger image
    The letter is sealed with red sealing wax which is perfect and unbroken, (often they have been ripped into pieces by the person who opened the letter!), and the motto around the seal is PER VIM ET VIRTUTEM. (Fig.5) Mr MacLean advised me that this translates as through strength & courage.

    The present owner advised me that the reference to the peerage is that

    "Balnaboth is the residue of a much larger estate passed down through the same family (the Ogilvy's) since 1470. During the time of the 1745 uprising, the Earl of Airlie's brother, Walter, was living at Balnaboth, and on the Earl's attainder and exile to France, Walter administered the family estates. In common with many such cases, the lands and title were eventually restored to a relative, in this case his younger brother, Walter, who was trained as a lawyer, and the lawsuit referred to his ultimately successful claim to the Airlie earldom at the beginning of the nineteenth century. He gifted the lands of Clova and Glenprosen to his second son, Donald, who became the Hon. Donald Ogilvy of Clova.
    Donald's wife was Dorothea Morley, and the reference was to her financial settlement. "

    I knew vaguely about the Scottish rebellion in 1745, but I had to look up the "attainder" — which was the confiscation of land and property in the case of treason. The victors in these old battles were quite ruthless, and Hector MacLean explained what had happened to his family estates at that time.

    "Donald renovated and enlarged Balnaboth House, which at the time comprised four separate houses and over the next fifty years most of the houses now standing in this part of the glen were built, or where houses stood before, a slate roof ensured their survival. A new formal garden was laid out at Balnaboth, near which records show there to be the ruins of the original glen church, which preceded the present one in the village. Roads were improved, the road at Buckhood being built to replace the track over the hill, a stone bridge constructed at Spott and the present driveway to Balnaboth."

    More information can be found on their website. Hector MacLean also sent me this beautiful photo of their current seals, (Fig.6) explaining that the yellow one the left is Morley, the green on the right Lord Airlie's the lettering "A Fin", to the left again Clova (then the principle lands of Balnaboth).

    I think it is surprising that one letter like this can link the past from 1470 to the internet in the 21st century.
    This article was first published in Stamp News the Australian monthly magazine.

    Copyright By EARS Leisurewrite
    Contact us

    back to Old Letters

    Return to our Home Page