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A Literary Treat as a Scotsman travels back to his "Fatherland" after many years and revisits the scenes of his youth. It is capped by a remarkably detailed account of visiting the shrines of Robert Burns and describing their condition in 1843. Whether you have an interest in the postal history side of this scarce cover or not, We strongly advise you to take a tour through Scotland in the late summer of 1843 to get a feel for what a Scotsman felt. Full transcription below.


Letter from William Graham to Mr. David P Lees of Oakwood "by Galt" in Upper Canada (now Ontario), North America.
It was marked 1N2, 1 shilling 2 pence due as it is in black ink, as the 1 shilling rate covered the British inland and packet carriage. There was then 2d sterling due for the Canadian inland carriage. Due to Canada's currency at that time being weaker than England's, this amounted to a 4d local currency charge. Hence the handstamp 1N4 Cy to remind the postman to collect 1 shilling and 4d if the postage due was paid in local currency (Canadian) or 1 shilling and 2 pence if paid in British sterling.

Reverse of Cover shows faint red boxed Glasgow cancel and faint red Galt, U.C. in double split circle

A REMARKABLE HISTORIC LETTER CONCERNING ROBERT BURNS. There is really not too much to add and certainly any attempt to condense the life and works of Scotia's Bard would likely come up quite short. We can only suggest you read our attempt at a transcript. We would welcome any corrections or identifications.

Scarce Quebec Small black double boxed
1 shilling/4d Currency handstamp converting the 1N2 Sterling postage due into Canadian Currency due. Black indicating the amount to collect. Only used in Quebec from March 1843 to August 1844. Arnell Type A.2

Manuscript rate of 1N2 or
1 shilling 2 pence sterling postage due

Faint red Galt Sep 27, 1843, U. C.
split double circle receiving cancel

Faint Red Boxed Glasgow Cancel
August 27, 1843

Manuscript directive for the letter to travel
 by Liverpool Packet to Halifax and thence
 overland through Canada

Manuscript docking notation of the
date of the letter August 26, 1843

Transcript of the Letter:

Page 1                                                                 Ladhopmoor August 26th 1843

My dear Friend,

     The above date will shew you that I have at length accomplished my long looked forward to, and anxiously anticipated pilgrimage to my Fatherland. I am now at the fireside of Ladhofmoor (not the old one tho’) and surrounded by the scenes of early days; and as I am due you a sheet at any rate it may be as well to write it here before I return to London. I came down by Steamer to Leith and had a delightful passage of 41 hours – so anxious was I to get home that I came right through that day I landed per Coach, and took the folks here by surprise – they did not expect me for a day or two – it was dark or rather grayish when I rapped at the door – my sister did not know me, but my mother knew the voice at once, albeit I tried to assume the English brogue as well I could – after a fortnights stay I set out for the North – from Leith per Steamer I went to Dundee, a large Town at the mouth of the Tay containing 60,000 inhabitants, the Trade here is chiefly carried on by Flax dressers and sail cloth weavers – business a little better than it had been but still very flat – thence up the Carse o’ Gowrie, a beautiful valley 22 miles long and stretching back from the River (Tay) four and five miles. This is said to be the richest land in Scotland – saw many fields of fine heavy wheat equal to any I have ever seen in Essex or Kent – at the top of the Carse stands Perth, one of the finest provincial Towns in Scotland – it is a quiet and rather dull place as regards business, there being little or no manufactories about it – saw here the place (on the North Field) where the Battle between the Clans McKay and Chatten (or Colquhon) was fought – also the Monastery where James 1st was assassinated by a namesake of mine – bad luck, to the likes of him says I [end page 1] From Perth, I went to Auchtergavin, where an Aunt of mine resides, and remained a few days – it is 9 miles north from Perth, and on the very verge of the Highlands – I had some capital rambles among the hills while there – visited Dunkeld – the Braes o’ Athols, and a few other places; From there I set out for Edinboro again; where I took the Railway thro’ to Glasgow, - thence to Paisley, Irvine, Kilmarnock and Ayr. The Town of Ayr and its vicinity you are aware is rife with associations connected with the Scotia's Bard. I was determined to see everything worth seeing and I was not disappointed. 2½ miles Southeast from the Town stands the identical clay biggin reared by the hands of William Burness and where greater part of his Family were born. It is a low thatched house, on the highway side, and kept as a Public House, for which the Landlady told me she paid an annual rent of £45, and no doubt it pays her well too. She points out the bed, or rather the niche or recess where the bed stood where the Poet was born – I approached it with pious reverence and gazed on the narrow space with feelings too strong for description. Retiring to the Spence or Parlour I was shewn a Table on which the Poet while a youth used to write – it is entirely over with names cut in the wood – from all parts of the world – she was offered £15 for it, and when she refused that sum, the party wished to purchase other two along with it and laid down £45, but the worthy old hostess wouldn’t accept of it. Ten minutes walk from the House stands Alloway Kirk – nothing but the base walls are left, and but for the vigilance of the proprietor, they too would have been gone long since piecemeal. The Burying Ground is still in use; on entering which the first object that strikes the visitor is a simple stone; telling in plain language that underneath repose the ashes of William Burness & Agnes Brown, the Parents of the Poet, and on the other side the Epitaph is engraved beginning “O ye whose cheek the tear of pity stains etc” – saw the “Wesscock? Bunker” where his Satanic Majesty play’d the Pipes – also Mungo’s well, - and the “Cairn”, - or rather a tree where the cairn once stood, for I was informed the veritable cairn itself was dispersed over the world – visitors taking it away bit by bit – a little further on the Brigcross the Down where poor Maggie lost her tail, - an old rumble down looking thing it is, - the keystone is cut full of names. I was just in time to hear a party of visitors – twenty I daresay – sing “Ye Banks and Braes o’ Bonny Doon” on the top of the Brig which they did in full chorus very beautifully, and the echoes reverberated from bank to brae in charming cadence. The scenery around, well deserve the epithets of praise lavished on them in that song. The Doon is a beautiful River, a little larger than Leader?, but not limpid for its source is among moors and mosses – but its banks at this spot are much improved and densely wooded to the water’s edge. A very splendid monument is here erected to the Poet’s memory from the top of which you behold almost every object of interest to be met with in his works: the Luzzan? – Ayr – Stenchar? – Girvan – Cart – Colzean? – the Castle of Montgomery – etc – In a little box inside the monument is kept the two half Bibles which he gave to Highland Mary at their parting & on the fly leaf I could hardly make out the name, but could distinctly read the text of Scripture “Thou shalt not swear falsely to the Lord thy God” the Masonic symbols are pretty distinct also – I was told these precious relics had lately come over from Canada. After visiting every object of interest, I returned to Ayr, and in the course of conversation with a person there, I learned that Mrs Begg the only surviving sister of the Poet had lately come to reside in the vicinity of the Town. The desire to see a Sister of Robert Burns was irresistible. “Are you acquainted with her”, said I, “No”, he answered – so off I set, and soon arrived at her cottage and drawing somewhat largely on my stock of impudence and making fifty apologies for any intrusion, etc, she shook hands and welcomed me to her parlour, as did also her two daughters, where I sat, and had a full hour’s two-handed crack with the trio. Mrs B is a hale hearty looking woman of 71 years – being thirteen years the junior of the Poet. I could at once perceive the linements of the Bard in her countenance to whom she bore a marked resemblance. I remarked that it must be very gratifying to see the respect paid to her gifted Brother’s memory and that her privacy would necessarily be often invaded – “Atweel ist” quoth she, “tis very gratifying and a’ mark a’ comers welcome, - I like to see folks like yerself in an ordinary station o’ life that I can crack wi; but ‘deed I canna be fashed wi yer brave flunkified leddies and Gentlemen that come in their fine carriages to ma’ door” – She appears to be, notwithstanding her diffidence, a woman of no ordinary powers of mind for a person in her station of life. She was extraordinarily crusty and told me many things about her gifted Brother. She and her two daughters, thro’ the kindness of the Messrs Chambers (Editors of Chambers Journal) and other Friends, who set on foot a subscription for them – are now enabled to live in circumstances of comfort and comparative affluence; altho’ in her earliest days she knew what it was, like her Brother, to bear the biting frosts of penury – one of her daughters, is a handsome looking girl, about 28 or 30 apparently – the other a little older. I was much pleased with my visit to Mrs Begg. The Town of Ayr is small, and little or no trade done in it – the auld Brig of Ayr still crosses the stream – but is only used by pedestrians. The new Brig is a handsome edifice; but the prophecy uttered by the Auld One may yet be verified “I’ll be a brig when ye’er a shapeless cairn”, for great attention is paid to it by the authorities. Among other things I saw the window where Wallace was thrown over for Dead, as the inscription over it imparted. I returned from Ayr to Edinboro by Railway in 4 hours, a distance of 100 miles nearly. The Crops of grain in every locality I have visited look healthy and strong only they are 4 or 5 weeks later than usual. The potatoes and turnip crops however in most places are very inferior, and in many places a complete failure. Harvest in this part of the Country (Roxburyshire) will not be general there four weeks and much later in high lying places – but on the whole there is every appearance of an abundant crop should the weather prove favourable. I am now a comparative stranger in Elvan Water – almost, I may say all my old companions have deserted it – I can only claim acquaintance with the old Towers and Water, - the former are little or nothing altered in their outward features – the latter gushes along as greatly and pleasantly as in days of yore, tho’ in some places I observe it has been tortured from its natural channel, and waving grain now grows where you & I have paddled in its limpid waters long long ago. But why lament these changes, we are, changed ourselves – twould be no very cheering reflection to sail down the stream of time while every thing around us remained in unchanging verdure. Cohuslie? Is now much improved and also Colinshehill, - the whole brae face from the road (up from the Bentmill) east to the Wood is broken in and excellent crops it produces, - they speak of breaking a lump more in on the west side of the road to extend up the length of the Blackcock planting. Mr Chisholm now resides in the New House (Bailies) and has a few Sheep and young beasts on the Mill Farm, - but I cant conceive how it keeps him, with the rank and dignity he carries on – he was at Glasgow a few weeks ago, and brought home a fine new Gig to appear like the rest of the Farmers, - for all in Elvan Water now sport these Gigs, what think ye! And in these dull times some can ill afford it I doubt, - however “better be dedd than out o’ the fashion” is the motto of many nowadays, tho’ it never was and I trust never shall be an article of my creed. Mr Hoff of Calfhill, has recently gone down to the splendid new farmstead built for him, at Midburn, called “Glenday” [end page 5 with note “see page 1st red ink”]

[At this point we return to the first page and turn it 90 degress clockwise and begin to transcribe the now red ink which was a thoughtful change by the writer to assist in delineating the cross writing. Begin page  6

Glenday is by far the finest Farmstead in the Water, and built at great expence – greater part of the office houses at Calfhill are pulled down – the old House itself still stands, and is inhabited by three Families – Adam Hoff as Shepherd – a Hind, and another man who works at Braining? – Old Mrs Hoff is still alive but very frail and almost in her dotage – she resides with Robert at the New House. Murray of Uplaw? Has built a fine Mansion down from the Farm, that is a little nearer the Water, and a great outlet to the place. I am just thinking what I can tell you as most interesting, and have looked over Thomas’ Letter for that purpose – a propos on that front, my Father is much to blame In part answering it with that alacrity and promptitude it so well merited – the truth is he did begin and I have now the three parts finished sheet before me and a deal of matter heterogeneously piled together is certainly contains, but somehow or other week after week went by when the Letter remained in “status quo” – he is no Scholar, and half suspect he thought shame to send it – however I shall give you all it contains only shifting the scene from ’42 to ’43 – I trust Thomas will be pleased to overlook my Father’s dilatoriness, and I can only assure him that it proceeded from no want of respect, or cold indifference on his part – this I am fully persuaded Thomas is satisfied of himself. [end page 7] I need only extract the pieces of stock, grains, etc – “I arrived Fair this year (1843) was better than last – there were upwards of 70,000 lambs part bred from 10 to 12/, half bred from 8 to 12/ - cheviot lambs from 3/ to 1/6 – Buckholms to 6/ - for theirs, which was the current prices for top weather lambs of the Cheviot breed were a shilling and 1/6 ??? than last year.  Owing to the failure in the Inverness? Cups Ewes are, and will be very low this season at Inverness Market Cheviot Ewes brought only from 8/ to 12/ Wool is 1/6 per hwt? cheaper this year – unlaid Cheviot from L to 22p per stone – poor trade for herds nowadays Thomas from what we have often seen oatmeal at present 27/ to 30/ a load – Barley Meal 26/ to 27/ - Pease Meal about the same – the 174 lb loads at Galashiels settle at 3½ best – Provisions on the whole are reasonable if work was plenty and Trade brisk, and it is ??? better than it has been but still very flat – Galashiels However has stood its ground well even during the general depression last Winter -  all the Mills were going full time and some of them busy – they are very busy at this time – a woman called in had this day from Calin? A ??? who had here over with a bact full wood to get candid and on no account each she get dry of shame to take it in – it is in fact the principle manufacturing Town in Scotland for some kinds of fabrics – such as Tweeds – Tartan shawls – Trouser pieces, etc-, grain, etc – [end page 8] The population of Galashiels is now about 5,000 and great demand for houses – there are also now 10 places of Public Worship and the 11th is going on – Henderson’s is by far the best attended there being not a pew to let, - I am glad they begin to appreciate his worth – he is in fact quite popular & a volume of the sermons recently published has extended his name and Fame far and wide.  The Secession of 400 Ministers from the Church of Scotland has created a very great sensation here. The vacated Kirks are fast being filled up but the talent and Learning of the Works as a body has left – but these things you are doubtless as well acquainted with as myself. What the ultimate results of this great movement may be I cannot say tho’ doubtless it will work for good – at any rate the death knell of Church Establishment has been rung – and much longer exist they cannot and will not, either on this side the Tweed or that or wherever they are to be found. New Ladhopmoor is a comfortable House in comparison to the old one – it is slated, pavilion roofed – a byre with separate door at one end, and the dwelling house contains, as but and a hen?, and chimney to each a goof House is one of the best comforts of life – I am sorry I have not your last letter with me to myself look over and see if there was anything particular you wished me [end page 7] Me to mention. My Father enclosed Thomas’ Letter to your Uncle James, at present herding at Soutra Hill, and he perused it with great pleasure, and returned it – two of his sons and one daughter are married – I saw your friend George Dean at Laccemas?, he looks well and was quite bold – he rents a Farm west from Glasgow, and keeps a deal of black cattle on it – they say he is doing good with it. His Brother in Galashiels still drives a brisk Trade – you are aware I suppose that he is married to Catharine Sanderson of Meigle, by whom he has had two children – a son & daughter, the former of whom is dead. Mr Hoff is still in Howlastone and has lately had his lease renewed – Miss Hoff died about a year ago. Andrew Dun resides in a croft House at Torwoodle, and works at anything he can get to do – he has seen better days poor fellow – Alex Clapperton carries on the Cattle dealing and Grazier business - he lives at Tolleshill with his Brother John’s herd there and I hear a report that he is shortly to be married and a Sister of his Brother’s wife Jean Weatherstone who it seems has a little bit of the “needful” past here. William Murrecy? Inhabits James Colsloughs old House – he has a Family of 7 or 8 I believe – but he will get L300 at the Death of Ann Fabrezt? To help him to keep them – this old Ann has by her Brothers deceased --- [end page 9] Williams Brother George is a Gardner with Ballantyne of Holyler? – Robert & James are Stone Dykers in Herriot. I hear the sisters Jess & Betty have started Business in a Store as dressmakers, and two more upish ??? girls are part in Gala ‘tis said – One old Friends the Blackies I can learn nothing of for certainty. William is married and herding near Hawick – James is not married it seems – their Father herds at or near Landers – I know not that I can furnish you with any further particulars as to our old Friends but as to all the questions you can think of and I’ll try to obtain the information desired – I will look for yours as usual about New Year’s Day – direct as usual to 100 Stone Street London – My Father and Mother join with me in sending our best wishes for you welfare – Father says Thomas must write again and he’ll make a desperate effort to send one in return this time – I Remain My Dear Sir,
                      yours most truly
                           William Graham  [end page 10]

PS When you see the Colelaughs? remind us all to them their Friends here are all well – I wrote George in the month of October last year, which I fear he never rec’d as I have had nothing from him yet.
People here are busy at present with their bag hay – I have got myself well tann’d at it last week – it’s a health – fraught – employment – Does your prairie grounds field any crops of hay?
Saw James Henderson last Sunday – he carrys on the “cadging” alias the Carrying, and resides at Gale Brig and is doing well – all his Family are well – I never saw James looking fresher – he seems to be renewing his age – neither of the daughters are yet married – John Murray Buckholm is now very frail, and a cripple with rheumatism – Robert is still in Williamlaws. [end page 11 which is written on the fly leaves to the address panel.]
                                                W. G.

The odd note: The writer, William Graham, takes note as he is passing through Perth, of an ancestor being an assassin of James the 1st: Matters came to a head on February 21, 1437, when a group of Scots led by Sir Robert Graham assassinated James at the Friars Preachers Monastery in Perth. He attempted to escape his assailants through a sewer. However, three days previously, he had had the other end of the drain blocked up because of its connection to the tennis court outside, balls habitually got lost in it.

A further note on Galashiels: Galashiels has long been associated with the textile trade and the first references to three fulling mills in the town can be traced back to 1585. In 1599 Galashiels was created a Burgh and at that time the population of the town would have been 400-450.

By 1788 there were ten employers in the town engaged in textile manufacturing and this had risen to 35 by 1825. Due to the communication/transport problems caused by the towns geographical location the cloth produced was always going to be more expensive than the "shoddy" cloth produced in Yorkshire where manufacturing costs were much lower. Consequently the Galashiels mills concentrated on producing cloth of superior quality. The growth of the textile trade led to a rapid increase in the towns population which was 1,600 in 1825 and increased to 18,000 by 1891, greater than the towns population today!

The railway came to the town in 1849 which had the benefit of halving transport costs to Edinburgh and also led to an influx of foreign produced wool into the mills.

The increase in population led to many changes both good and bad. Schools proliferated, the first library was established in 1797 and at the Great Exhibition of 1851 Galashiels firms were the largest exhibitors in the textile section, scooping four of the twelve medals that came to Scotland. 1831 saw the establishment of the Galashiels Gas company.

On the other hand, the town became a Police burgh in 1850 following a navvies riot which required the local militia to turn out to restore order. 1849-53 saw three outbreaks of cholera in the town due to the then inadequate water supply and sanitation.

1850-80 was the wealthiest period for the town before the textile industry began to decline. The local connection with many of the mills was lost following the First World War. The town lost 635 men during this war, many of them in a single attack in Gallipoli. Amongst these casualties were many of the mill owners sons so by the 1920's many of the millowners had no natural successors and the companies were in some cases taken over by outsiders.


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Please note that stampless cover catalogue numbers and research come from some of the following reference works:  Robinson, The Port and Carriage of Letters, Inland & Foreign Rates of the British Isles; R. M. Willcocks, England's Postal History to 1840 with Notes on Scotland, Wales and Ireland (1975); R. M. Willcocks & Barrie Jay, The Postal History of Great Britain and Ireland 1981; Willcocks & Jay, The British County Catalogue of Postal History - Volumes 1 & 2, 2nd Ed. (1996); Barrie Jay, The British County Catalogue of Postal History Volume 3 London, 2nd Ed.(2005); Willcocks & Jay, The British County Catalogue of Postal History - Vol 4 (1988), Willcocks & Jay, The British County Catalogue of Postal History - Volume 5 (1990); American Stampless Cover Catalogue 2nd Ed. (1997); J.C. Arnell, Atlantic Mails - A History of the Mail Service between Great Britain and Canada to 1889 (1980); F. Jarrett, Stamps of British North America; W. S. Boggs, The Postage Stamps and Postal History of Canada; Hargest, History of Letter Communications between US and Europe 1845-1874, Starnes, US Letter Rates to Foreign Destination 1847-GPU; Tabeart, United Kingdom Letter Rates 1657-1900; Moubray, British Letter Mail to Overseas Destinations 1840-1875, J.J. MacDonald, The Nova Scotia Post, Its Offices, Masters and Marks (1985)

Offered by
a division of Berryhill & Sturgeon, Ltd.


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