Letters  from the Past

"John Carrie of the Isle of Man to Scotland,  1820"

This article concerns the only old letter from the Isle of Man which I have ever seen.  It is dated 1820, but the writing and spelling is so individual, that it is impossible to read the month.  The postmark is also illegible being smudged and incomplete, (Fig.1)

but is possibly RAMSEY, as that is from where the letter was written.

 For readers not familiar with that part of the world the Isle of Man is a part of the United Kingdom, and lies in the Irish Sea between Britain and Ireland.  It has a long history, and also an interesting postal history. In 1766 Douglas – the capital city – became a sub-office under Whitehaven, (on the mainland) and as early as 5 July 1767 a regular packet service was established between the two ports. The Whitehaven packets ran until 1822. From this, it seems likely that the smudged postmark could be Douglas and not Ramsey.

The other two postal markings have no indication of the date. The boxed additional ½d was applied in Carlisle, and this particular type listed in Hodgson & Sedgewick as type 3a, F161 was in use from 8 June.1816 to 27 January 1826.  The ‘9’ charge mark was made up of the shipping cost from Douglas to Whitehaven on the mainland, then road to Dumfries via Carlisle. This image shows the route on a map (Fig.2)

Ramsey to Whitehaven, then Workington, Carlisle (Add ½ applied), then up the road to Dumfries. The cost in force from 1805 to 1822 was 3d single for the sea trip, plus the inland charge from Whitehaven to the destination.  The watermark has only the year 1814, and a crest (Fig.3), so that is no help

From 1958 British Regional Issue low value sterling low-value definitives were produced with a very distinctive design, (Fig.4)

and these were replaced with decimals in 1971. These stamps all had a representation of the Triskell,  or ‘triskelion’  (from the Greek ‘three-legged’), which is one of the oldest symbols known, and is said to represent the three dynamic elements  water, air and fire.  It has to be shown pointing to the right, as pointing to the left represents hostility. It is also believed that it represents the idea of “whichever way I fall, I fall on my feet”.  This is the emblem on the Isle of Man flag. (Fig 5)

An independent Postal Authority was inaugurated on 5th July 1973 since when they have issued their own postage stamps, which still bear the silhouette of the Queen’s head as part of the design. Because the island has a history of Viking invasion and settlement, these are often represented on their stamps, and they are well worth a look in the catalogues.

The Isle of Man has a democratically elected parliament called the Tynwald, which exercises full control of internal finances and territorial waters. A stamp was issued marking the 1000th anniversary of this Viking introduced institution.

So now back to the letter, which is addressed to Mr Broun, at an illegible place which looks like Nothrevwood,  by Dumfries.  (See Fig.1) However, I can find nothing even vaguely like this on the map of the Dumfries area. 

The spelling in the letter is not standardised, probably phonetic, and spoken with a Manx accent This may prove difficult at first glance, but apart from words like ‘Conterery’   which is obviously ‘contrary’, most of it can be understood.   The date is difficult to decipher (see illustration –Fig.6), but looks as though it is ‘May’.

click here for larger image

Ramsey 14 Of May<?> 1820

Mr Broun 

Der Sir  I on Satterday last received a letter from my son Hugh which from Conterery winds the Packet was staid for a week. He desir’d me to forward his caracter and sertificats from his diferint imployers which I hier inclose to you to be post’d at Whaithaven. I am sorie to put you to so much expences but I hop to have it in my powr yet to sattisfaie you for the saim. his trunk, with sum shirts and Bouks   are sent to your cair by Smak from this to Whaithaven than to be sent by a Dumfries traider and if ther is none of the Dumfries sloops than it is to be left with Mr Handery for first opportunity if any of the sloops from your port are going to Whaithaven please  caus them to call in cais it is thair for want of one opportunity I will estim it a partickler favour if you will writ me and say what appointment you have given him as his mother is very onhapies until she hers of his settlement and a letter from your hand will give her grait comfort.

I have wrot him by saim post and no dout if he is at Bankpattrick as saim as it araves then he will call on you or if he is with  you it is directed to Cair of John Ball and  left at the Black Bull Inn <sands?> Dumfries  whair he can call for it

I beg as he is now under your Cair that you will gave him your good advaice which I trust he will attend to in ivery partikler

I am my dear Sir your most sincair frind and wellwisher John Carrie

PS I surely intend being in Dumfries in Caus of this Sumer whain I will mak free to call and see you

I could find no information about the writer of the letter, John Carrie, but Mr. Broun, the addressee is of interest.  A web search shows that he was born in 1768 and died on 30 November 1844 at age 76. He succeeded to the title of 7th Baronet Broun of Coulston, in 1781 but did not assume the title until 19 March 1826. So when this letter was written he was still plain Mr. Broun. He gained the rank of officer in the service of the 30th Foot, serving for 10 years in the West Indies, during the Caribbean insurrection. In 1799 he raised a troop called the Lockerbie Volunteers, and he lived at Coulston Park, Lochmaben, Dumfries.   That does not seem to be the address written on this letter, but obviously the Post Office officials would have known Mr Broun, and been able to deliver the letter.

Many of our old letters have given me a similar challenge – and when it is coupled with the ‘crossed’ writing, it is even worse — but this is all part of the appeal of postal history.


For the ‘for the Port & carriage of letters’, 1570-1840 by David Robinson
The website http://www.thepeerage.com
Alan W. Robertson, ‘Great Britain Post Roads Post Towns and Postal Rates 1635-1839’
Hodgson & Sedgewick Scottish Add ½d Mail Tax.

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