Thomas Ker

“ Letters from the Past Edinburgh Penny Post letter

To Tho. Ker Esq. WS from Robert Rollo 1830”


Eunice Shanahan

The letter has three postal markings, first an unframed two-line India Street in black ink. This was one of the receiving houses of the Edinburgh Penny Post. There was no address for Mr Ker, but as a Writer to the Signet, the Post Office probably would have known it, but the letter had to be transferred to the Edinburgh main office, where the framed 3-line date stamp of 6OCLK PM 31 Mar1830 was applied in black ink and also the handstamp figure 1 to show the postage had not been paid.

India Street Receiving House was on the western edge of the city opened in 1828 until 1834. It was the 19th City receiving house, and this two-line stamp was the only handstamp used there. As Mr Rollo lived in Dundas Street and there was a receiving house in that street, I wonder why he lodged the letter in the India Street one instead.

Transcription - This was so easy to read there were only two queries : a phrase which apparently “right of hypathec” . An internet search provided this definition from Wikipedia, which appeared to be the contentious item in the letter.

Under Scots law, Landlord's hypothec is a common law right of security enjoyed by landlords over any goods sited on the leased premises, regardless of who owns those goods. The hypothec does not secure all sums which happen to be due to the landlord, only a portion of the rent.


Which explains what seemed to be the contentious item in the letter, and one there was other word which is barely legible because of the fold of the letter, and proved to be ‘dislike’.

The writer used the 'long S' when he had a word with double ‘s’ in it, and although it is not possible to use that key, the nearest to it is the letter 'f', so I have put that in where it appears, e.g. ‘asfigned ’ for ‘assigned’. The subject of the letter is complex and needs a lot of words to explain the situation, and the writer has not bothered much with punctuation.

I also sourced the map through the internet to show the location of the three streets relevant to the letter, and they are quite close to each other. Jamaica Street mentioned in the first paragraph as the property in question, was a street of terraced houses, which survived to the 20th century when they were demolished as being slums and replaced with new dwellings called Jamaica Mews.

16 Dundas Street
31 March 1830
Dear Sir
I am favoured with yours of yesterday requesting that the titles of Mr Dickson’s property in Jamaica Street over which the security in Capt. Ker’s favour extends, shall be deposited with you in further security in order to prevent any preferences over the sum lent, by a “right of hypathec”. This request I must take the liberty of saying is not only unreasonable in the circumstances but quite unprecedented in general.

When the security was afsigned to Capt. Ker the rental of the property was upwards of £150 after deducting the fee duty so that even if property of that description had fallen another which I do not understand is the case, in any situation and which is fully more than can be stated on account of the change in the respectability of the inhabitants of which however I am not aware, there would remain ample security for the sum lent by Capt Ker. But in the next place besides Mr Dickson’s personal security which has never been questioned, Capt Ker has collateral security for payment of the interest which tho’ apparently only to that extent is in fact a collateral obligation for the principal. And in addition to this the interest has been regularly paid whenever demanded Mr Dickson has no doubt like all other Debtors applied for reduction of the interest but this he considered no favour as he could easily obtain the money elsewhere and for my own part I am always more inclined to dislike a security where advantages are held out higher than what are general.

I can therefore see no reason but rather the contrary in the circumstances of the case for further security being required and I should certainly advise Mr Dickson to pay up the money, even by a new loan which I have no doubt he could easily obtain, rather than bring his credit into question by agreeing to any additional security perfectly unnecessary in his situation & so unprecedented in general.

On general grounds I would also object to the introduction of such a principle which might lead to very great embarrafsment in the management of heritable property were the title deeds always to be committed to the custody of heritable creditors.

In what I have now stated I have certainly no personal objection to the proposal because I consider Mr Dickson’s security as perfectly sufficient without any ““right of hypathec” for any account of businefs and in fact he twice a year generally settles a few shillings whatever balance is due either of Cash payments or accounts of businefs which are never of any amount and I have not the slightest idea will ever endanger any security he may have granted.

I am, Dear Sir

Yours truly

Robert Rollo

It is amazing that this letter which is nearly 200 years old, is perfectly preserved and the ink has not faded, a testament to the quality of the products in use at that time.
Sources : The Postal History of Great Britain and Ireland, R.M. Willcocks
Great Britain Post Roads Post Towns and Postal rates 1635-1839 Alan W. Robertson,
Google maps and Wikipedia
A postal history exhibit by Jack A Gunn Edinburgh and District Penny Posts

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