Robert Trotter, 1770s

“ Three business letters of the 1770s,
to Robert Trotter W.S. in Edinburgh ”


Eunice Shanahan

These are three of the seven letters we have which were written to Robert Trotter, during his long career which began as a Writer to the Signet, and ended up as the Postmaster General of Scotland. The first one is sent by someone who is mystified as to why he should have received it at all. It was written and posted Feby 17 1772 by Rob Hogg of North Berwick addressed to : Mr. Robert Trotter, Writer in Edinburgh. The only postal marking is a ‘1’ charge mark, on the front, I can find no town stamp or date stamp, yet it was sent from North Berwick to Edinburgh, both of which towns had name stamps and date stamps at this time, but as it has a charge mark of one penny, it must have gone through the postal system, and the 1d seems to show that they had to pay the one penny to have this letter delivered.

On the outside of the letter, in a different writing is this comment :
1d Northberwick 17 Feby 1772
Robt Hogg
That he never had any dealings with Mr Lock but once – No ansr.

The contents of the letter mention a place called Campvire but I can find no trace of such a place.The writer users well known abbreviations for the time e.g. currt for Current and Dr for debtor

I have yours of the 12th Currt. With an account addressed thus

Mr Robert Hogg in Campvire Dr to David Lock. How you have been misled in sending this account to me, I cannot say, but I assure you I never had any such transaction with Mr Lock, nor ever had save once and that was in the year 1765 for some barley. I suppose the mistake lyes in the address on the outside of the letter. I remember to have heard of one of my name in Campvire but I never knew him.

I am Sir
your most obdt
R. A. Hogg .

The letter was written on a part sheet of very thin paper, with only part of a watermark visible. Paper was expensive at this time, so the writer would not have wanted to use a complete sheet for a very short letter.

The second letter is longer and very interesting. The outside of the letter is somewhat scruffy and dirty, but has no postal markings at all. The address written at the top of the letter is simply Crooks’s so it is possible that it is somewhere in Edinburgh, and could have been delivered by a servant or a messenger. The spelling is unusual for some of the words, even in the address which is :
To Mr Robert Trotter, Writter in, Edinh,
and the text is more difficult to decipher. His comments about the property of Cattleshiell are very direct, and it is another place I have not been able to find either on an atlas or on the internet.

Crooks’s 8th Decr 1772

Dear Sir I was favoured wh.(with) Yours 28th Novr. The Horning ag (against) Ford is in the hands of Mr Moscrop Writter in Dunse (*), who I ordered to charge Will: Foord, but he cou’d not charge without the exact sum foord’s due – send it and the Charge shall be given.

As for the summer stock on Cattleshiell Ther’s little of it dispos’d of yett

Im now thoroughly convinced Cattleshiell will never make one beast fitt for smithfield market. If watter & rushes wou’d feed Cattleshiell I wou’d.
It’s but a few days since poor Rankine had in all that he has for Crop of Corn standing in Ricks in ye yeard (?yard) liker(?) peat stocks than Corn. He tells me he sowed 60 bolls oats on it, will be glad to Reap 100 again most of which are good for little but swine.
Rankine tells me had he farm’d it this year, it would consum’d the whole stock he sold at Whit.d (Whitsunday?) so that not one shilling of arrears woul’d been paid.

Coll. Watson has not been at Cornhill for months past. My compts to your father. Tell him I think Cattleshiell about the worst spott in the Island, For all the Season’s going agt me I expect to be able to pay the Rents out of it This year but will for anything I think of never buy it again. Ther’s nothing but trouble, poverty and disgrace about it. I believe Rankine will not be able to pay when alls done
Yors in hast
Dr Sir Your most
Huml Serv
Jo. Hunter

The note on the outside, written by the clerk in Robert Trotter’s office is

Crooks 7 Dec 1772 John Hunter

Opinion of Cattleshiell
'Ansd 12 Jany.

(*) Dunse, (now known as Duns) is a town in the Scottish Borders, Scotland. It was the county town of the historic county of Berwickshire.

The third letter was written by Robert Trotter in Glasgow ( possibly his father?) The address panel is very messy, with inks blots, and the postmark is poorly applied and across the fold, but it is a two line GLASGOW in a single circle in black ink. The charge mark appears to be four pence, as there is a manuscript figure 4 by the ink blot, in a different handwriting. This seems excessive as the date is 1777 and at that time the 4d rate within Scotland was to cover a distance of more than 80 miles. The letter also has a reference to Cattleshiell.

It seems to have been written in a temper and a hurry, and is difficult to decipher some of the words.

Dear Sir.
I am astonished what Morrison could mean by sending of (off?) himself the Summons of Mult(?) sending to Peebles,to be executed at Mauldslie which requires a messenger to go 33 miles instead of 3 from Hamilton. You’l therefore desire him to recall it directly otherwise he shall pay it.
Execute the Mult(?) paid agt Jas. Turnbull notwithstanding his letter.

Why send Bills (fred?) here when it has to go to the South Country. If my father calls upon Lady Stewart about Mr Sher look in the Cattleshiell Drawer and you will find a letter from Mr Sher to my Uncle promg (promising?) his business upon Mr Humes giving it up which should be shewn – attend to this.

As to Mr Spens &: the other Credrs,(creditors) tell them I will be in Town someday this Week, and which is fact that there is L2000 lying to pay them, that it was impossible to settle as I was obliged to be out of Town & that the loss is Sir James’s as the money lies without interest.

I leave this tomorrow
Yours. R. Trotter
Glasgow 1 June 1777

He certainly sounds a very disgruntled man, and very direct with his instructions.

These three letters are so different from the family correspondence, and the other official letter which was requesting a mail service. I find it surprising that these letters which are also more than 200 years old, still survive and are still legible and intelligible, well, mostly, although some of the words have defeated me.
These are the links to the previous two letters to Robert Trotter.

Request for mail service, 1805

John Trotter to his brother Robert, 1798

Copyright By E & R Shanahan
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