Wm Tweddall, 1814

“ Wm Tweddall in Aberdeen,
to his father Thomas, in Glasgow, 1814 ”


Eunice Shanahan

I have two letters written by a son in Aberdeen to his parents in Glasgow, and the postal markings on both letters are an ABERDEEN three line date stamp with Mileage 528 — E signifying that it would have gone through Edinburgh, which is proved by the octagonal date stamp applied in red in Edinburgh. The date stamp on the first one is AUG 15 1814 with W on the left and A on the right. Both have a partial cancellation of receipt in Glasgow.


The manuscript charge mark looks like 1/½ or possibly 11½. The second letter is definitely 11½ which is the inland cost plus the additional halfpenny mail tax, but the distances are 528 from Aberdeen to Glasgow, which is 405, the difference being 123 so if the Edinburgh section is added 132 to Glasgow, about 44 miles this does make it up to more than 170 miles (11d is the cost for 110-170 miles).

They are both addressed Mr Thomas Tweddall, New Street Calton, Glasgow. The letters are written by an obviously educated young man, the language being used, and the subject matter shows how good the education in Scotland was in the early part of the 19th century. The first letter begins,

“Old Aberdeen 13th August 1814,

Dear Father and Mother,
I have just received your letter which was long expected by me, and I am happy to observe the accounts are now closed. I am glad to see the last accts of rent balance them with a small surplus. I am induced to write thus speedily that you may not be put to any unnecessary disappointment in looking for my arrival with you at Glasgow.

Arrangements have been made by me for a considerable time for a residence in this place. I designed to attend Professor Copland natural philosophy class at Marischal College. The professor is a man of great reputation and his apparatus is quite unrivalled in this country. I cannot attend this class with any advantage without a considerable knowledge of mathematicks and I have therefore put myself under a mathematical Tutor that I may make as much progress as possible before the commencement of the session in November. On this account it behoves no time be lost, as I will be obliged to pay liberally for my lessons. Having all along designed to be in this place next winter I considered it might be a subject of much regret were I not to make use of that opportunity in attending Coplands classes. I will still continue the study of the languages and endeavour to obtain as much knowledge of the Greek as I now have of Latin to enable me to pursue it hereafter with advantage. There is nothing I have now so much reason to regret as the late period in which I have begun to turn my attention to those subject and there is nothing so incumbent on me as to make the best use of time. Do not fear I give now too close attention Alas! From my habits not being early formed for study of this I am not capable. There is much more occasion to recommend a sedulous attention I cannot be too often warned in this particular for I am sensible I do not study so closely as the circumstances of my case demand.

(Note: that explains why he will be so busy, he next turns to descriptions of his health and where he is now living, and offers a suggestion as to where his father might look for a place for his retirement. The ink has faded over the years, and the letters are very closely written, but it is still easy enough to decipher the words.)

I enjoy good health, the natural result of this most healthy situation and of walking a good portion of each day. This old town here is a pleasant little country town with numerous good houses belonging to Gentlemen retired from active life. Here are all the advantages of the Sea Air and Sea Bathing with a country on every side most delightful at this season of the year, two noble rivers and medicinal waters of every kind. I might rather recommend Aberdeen to you than think of leaving my present blessings. But I know there exists a natural affection for places we have long lived in that would make this place appear to you a wilderness not withstanding all its charms. There is a mediocrity in the character of the inhabitants here, very pleasing. There is not such a display of grandeur and pride as abounds in Glasgow nor any senseless scorn and frowning contempt on persons in ordinary circumstances which is so glaringly seen and felt by persons so circumstanced in Glasgow.

I mention these things rather bye the bye than having any relation to my wish to see you which I hope will take place at some future opportunity. Although it is not likely I will choose Glasgow as my place of residence yet there is no place I regard with so much affection as the banks of the Clyde from Glasgow to its remotest source, and I would seriously recommend you to take it into consideration before this next term – to look out for some agreeable situation as a retirement during your life somewhere in the vicinity of Clyde – say between Hamilton and Lanark.

It was my first thought when I heard of this property and would give me the highest degree of satisfaction as I believe it would contribute most essentially to your happiness. Many most delightful circumstances suggest themselves to the mind in viewing this scheme which I will not now enter into but I wish earnestly you would do it and I shall be glad to hear from you on this subject.

(Note: the next paragraph is all about finances, and family concerns over legal proceedings.He also notes the cost of postage – that it would be cheaper to send a bulky letter by coach, rather than by mail.)

It gives me the most sensible pleasure my friend will soon be relieved from supporting me I now understand that from the rents of the next term in November I may be furnished for the necessary expenses of my living – and I would wish the rent of my room for this year to be paid therefrom which is £5. My other expenses will be only a few books and Fees for teaching.

The Bartons will scarcely be so foolish as involve themselves in any law proceedings in which the certainly would be foiled. The probability is no one will undertake their cause unless they are sufficiently rich and can afford to lose a great deal of money – if they should however be bent on such a measure of procedure our best way is only to wait the consequences – our rights can never be so well established – indeed if he can afford to squander money upon it – it were even to be wished, as it would establish as beyond all controversy – or if we held it upon untenable grounds it were much better they should have it. The idea of bribing them might be improved by an artful person to our most serious disadvantage.

Will Wilson wrote me a letter on closing the whole, I suppose the accounts will not be more than a double letter, if otherwise it would be cheaper to send by the coach or some other way.

I will expect a speedy answer. How is Jamie coming on seeing his time is now out.
I am Dear Father and Mother
Yours affectionately
Wm Tweddall

(Note: Having said that the Bartons would be fools to take it to court, the next letter shows that the Bartons obviously HAD done so.)

The second letter is dated Old Aberdeen 16th November 1814, and like the first one is closely written, and fading, but still quite legible once you become accustomed to reading this old handwriting.

Dear Father
I have delayed writing for some time that I might be enabled to state in what manner I was likely to be situated in consequence of the alteration of affairs at Glasgow. I wrote to London mentioning what had occurred and expressing my willingness to enter upon any measure circumstances might dictate. I formed no expectation of being able to remain in this place considering the expense I must necessarily incur.

You cannot but join me in extraordinary admiration of the kindness of this Gentleman when just at a period he had to encounter very considerable unforeseen difficulties and which must continue to operate for a long time he yet resolved to make exertions in my favour. I will therefore still continue in this place, the rent of my room will be discharged and my other expenses borne by him. He is actuated by the noblest motives could influence a human being and yet I have much cause to wonder that he who is wise and prudent in a very high degree in every transaction of life should so load me with benefits who have merited them so very ill, nay very very much the reverse. I owe him a debt of gratitude which I will rejoice to have an opportunity of evincing a willingness to discharge though I could not adequately repay it with the wealth of an Empire.

(Note: There is no mention of the name of this benefactor, but the letter writer is obviously grateful and obviously intends to carry on with the study so that he repays this generosity. The next paragraph is about the legal problem which has arisen.)

This extract is cropped to show the one part of the letter which is less faded than the rest, and shows how he added the post script in a darker ink.

I have this day received a printed copy of Summons of Reduction & Declarator with messengers written summons on the last leaf of appearance before the Court of Session. With regard to the whole affair I want intelligence from Glasgow before I can form an opinion. In the meantime I consider there are many more chances for than against us and which I hope will induce the Writer or some other person to support our claims.

As I was ignorant how I might be situated I wrote to the Writer for information respecting the whole business. I have not yet got an answer but am constantly expecting it. I am in hopes it will not be long in being brought to a decision (a very important matter in my case). Above all let us not neglect anything which might afford any service to our cause. Whether we shall be successful or not it will prevent any after reflections.
Write me immediately all that you know, I expect with impatience your letter.

I am now attending the Natural Philosophy Class and second Mathematical Class of Marischal College and a private Greek class.

I am dear Father and Mother
Yours affectionately
Willm Tweddall

I have just got your letter which answers the greater part of the particulars I enquired for but wish you to write me soon again with further information.

So that is the end of the two letters. Like many other of our letters, the matters raised are intriguing, and will probably remain so, unless there is a genealogical link for the Tweddall family.

I was interested in his references to the Marischal college as we have another letter on our website from another student of this famous college in Aberdeen.

This link will take you to that letter, for more information.


Copyright By E & R Shanahan
If you are a GB collector contact us

backto Old Letters

Return To our Home Page