“ Letters from the Past .
To Robert Reeves Esq Dublin
from E. Thomas in Tralee, 1809”


Eunice Shanahan

This is interesting as the written letter is enclosed, unusually, in an outer wrapper, and it appears it may be a FREE letter. I base this supposition on the fact that the writer has signed in the bottom left hand corner, and has written in full the date and place at the top. Tralee December four 1809 No.5. In 1809 the regulations in force allowed for ten letters to be sent and 15 to be received per day free of postage, and that may be why he had noted that it was No.5. We have not seen another Free Frank letter where this has been added. In this case, the Mermaid date stamp is so poorly applied it is impossible to confirm that it actually has a FREE included in the crown at the top of the stamp. The Dublin office used this type of date stamp from 1808 to 1812 in various inks, so this letter would fall into this date line. The date stamp in smudged brown ink does appear to have a faint outline of a crown and the date is DE 1809 but the day is not visible. It is not a good example, but the reference book by Lovegrove has the information that the Mermaid FREE franks are very rare, and this brown ink was in use from 11.10.1808 to 8.9.1810.

The second postal marking is the mileage mark for TRALEE 151 which is the mileage to Dublin. The signature is not one I recognise, but it looks like Gladdope? So I checked with my contact in England for anything connected with Free letters, and he confirmed for me that the signature is that of John Crosbie, 2nd Earl of Glandore, who would have been entitled to the use of the Free Frank privilege, However, that is not who wrote the letter, as it is signed by E Thomas, and on the back is a note that it was written by Revd. E. Thomas. The letter was sealed with a big blob of red sealing wax, but again it is so poorly applied that the design is not visible.

The letter is addressed to Robert Reeves Esqre Merrion Street Dublin, and research shows that the Reeves were attorneys with offices in Merrion Square.

Merrion Street (Irish: Sráid Mhuirfean) is a major Georgian street on the southside of Dublin, which runs along one side of Merrion Square. It is divided into Merrion Street Lower (north end), Merrion Square West and Merrion Street Upper (south end). It holds one entrance to the seat of the Irish Parliament, the Oireachtas, major government offices and two major cultural institutions. The street and square are named after Oliver FitzWilliam, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell who lived at Merrion Castle. The term “Merrion Street” is often used as shorthand for Irish Government in the same way as Whitehall or Downing Street is used to refer to the British Government.
The letter itself is in very good condition for such an age and the writing is very easy to read, and gives the impression that this poor man is juggling his finances, to try to meet his obligations, with help from Robert Reeves. The writer used common abbreviations, using an apostrophe to indicate omitted letters, e.g. rec’d for received and oblig’d for obliged. The text concerns money matters of bills and bonds, which I find confusing enough from 200 years ago. At that time, the system was well used and well understood.

Tralee Dec 4th 1809
My Dear Sir
I rec’d a letter from Mr Jordan Rooke last post telling me that he had seen you and desiring me to draw on you at 30 months in his favour for his demand against me, he has also very kindly offer’d to Settle David Rooke’s & John Stacks demands against me on the same terms, which I should not have been able to effect without his assistance. I have therefore given him a bill on you for the entire at 2 & a half years, with the Interest, which is but paid(?) as I consider Rooke one of the fairest & honestest man I have ever met with, indeed I have reason to be oblig’d to him. I have also given Mr McGillycuddy a bill for £23.6.0 at Two years, the money he actually paid yesterday to John Mulchinock who had a decree against my goods, & executed it. I shall never forget Mr McGillycuddys kindness to me on that as well as on many other occasions.

Enclos’d I send you Three Bonds of Thomas Moynahans, payable 29th of Sept 1811, 25 of March 1812 & on the 29th of Septr 1812, which in all I am intitled to demand from him at present.

Healy is in Cork, & as soon as he returns, I will send Two from him. I was in hopes to have heard from you this day &that you would have sent me a little money, on my word & honour we have not a shilling to buy bread.

With best regards to Mrs R believe me yours very truly
E. Thomas

The rest of the letter is written on the third side and lists the names and amounts of the three bills mentioned in the rest of the letter, with a final comment

Jordan Rooke’s demand £ 69. 11.7
David Rooke’s do       £29. 15.6
John Stacks decree       8. 6. 7
                    £ 107.13.8

Mr McGillycuddy has beg’d of me to Send his bill in this letter for your acceptance, which I do.

Obviously at this time, the currency was sterling, which worked on the system of pounds shillings and pence. 12 pence to one shilling, 20 shillings to one pound. His arithmetic is correct.
As a matter of interest, the background for the man who signed the front of the envelope to claim the Free Frank privilege is available on the internet, and this is an extract.

John Crosbie, 2nd Earl of Glandore PC, FRS (25 May 1753 – 23 October 1815), was an Irish politician. This portrait was painted by Hugh Douglas Hamilton.

Crosbie was the only surviving son of William Crosbie, 1st Earl of Glandore, by his first wife Lady Theodosia, daughter of John Bligh, 1st Earl of Darnley. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1775 he was returned to the Irish House of Commons for Athboy. The following year he was elected for both Tralee and Ardfert. He chose to sit for the latter, and held the seat until 1781, when he succeeded his father in the earldom and entered the Irish House of Lords. He was sworn of the Irish Privy Council in 1785. In 1789, he was appointed Joint Master of the Rolls in Ireland alongside the Earl of Carysfort. They both held the post until 1801. The office was then a sinecure and did not require any legal qualifications. In 1800, he was elected as one of the 28 original Irish Representative Peers to sit in the House of Lords.

Lord Glandore was married in London in 1771 by Frederick Cornwallis, Archbishop of Canterbury, to the Honourable Diana, daughter of George Germain, 1st Viscount Sackville. The marriage was childless. She died in August 1814, aged 58. Lord Glandore survived her by a year and died in October 1815, aged 62. The earldom and viscountcy of Crosbie became extinct on his death while he was succeeded in the Barony of Brandon by his cousin William Crosbie.

I was unable to find out when or why he became a Fellow of the Royal Society.

….References : Herewith my Frank J.W. Lovegrove for Irish Free Franks

Wikipedia for the addressee, the writer, and the Free Frank signatory, John Crosbie, 2nd Earl of Glandore.

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