Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Castle Mains, 4 July 1879

Back to Marion now, but she's still quite unwell (see last letter).  Gravel (probably kidney stones), blood "almost water," and "other complaints" are the troubles now, and she's been confined to bed for months.  She says she's been ill for fifteen years--which carries her illness back to 1864, when she was 21--but there are other references to her being ill in childhood as well, so it's not clear what changed in 1864.  The rest of the household fares little better--Aunt has very bad "rheumatisms," and Tam Scott has been off work with smashed ribs.  Meanwhile in America, there's another Bryden boy born (and Aunt demands to know the child's name--he was called James, by the way). 

Castle Mains
July 4th 1879

Dear Uncle

We have been expecting a letter from either you or James Bryden this some time and none has come and Aunt is got out of patience and just made me start today to write and ask if you are all about your useal in health or what is come over you at all  the truth is she takes fits of wearing and thinks the time longer than it is but it is five months since we had a letter from you now.  I hope this will find you all well how is Marion and her two boys getting on Aunt says you have to send her word what the youngest ones name is.  Aunt is wonderful well but very bad with rheumatisms sometimes. 

Tom & his wife and his son is well Tom was of work for ten days he got his ribs smashed one of the planks of the gang sliped at the top and he happened just to be half way up so he was tiped right over and got sore ribs over it but he is better and able to work again the baby is a fine Healthy boy and his name is Samuel.  trade is very dull around here just now and wages is down and provision still keeps high but I hope things will soon take a turn.  we have had no summer weather yet it has been both cold and wet.*  I hear them say that the hay crop is looking well and that is so far good 

I have not seen any of the crops this year for I have been nearly close confined to bed for four months my complaint was gravel and brought on other complaints throughout all the time I have been ill I was never so bad as this time for two months the doctor was at me every day and very often twice a day, some times i cannot but think that I have been born to troubles but I may be thankful that I can sit up for an hour every day now and if the weather would turn more settled may be I would get stronger the doctor tells me my blood is almost water and that is how I am so long in gathering strength and there is no doubt but the blood is the strength of the whole body. 

dear uncle it is fifteen years since I turned ill and I have always lived in the hope that I may get strong sometimes I wonder if ever I will get that hope realised but us poor sinful creatures has no right to grumble and if God sees fit he will raise me up at his own good time, and if not I hope I may be content what ever my lot may be. 

Now I have to tell you again from Aunt that you are to be sure and write soon some of you she says as many of you might have a letter here every month you would not beleive how she wearies to hear from you and how often she talks about you. Uncle William and his family are all well and all other friends as far as I know now I must stop for I am tired with kind love to you and all other friends in which Aunt joins I am your affectionate Neice Marion Brown

be sure and write soon

*The mention of a cold wet summer is confirmed by this historical record of Scottish weather, which describes the summer of 1879 as "notably and persistently cold...also very wet, particularly in June, July & August; loss of bee colonies reported widely & great loss of harvest." 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Would Marion Brown have an Etsy shop?

I have a google alert set up for mentions of Sanquhar history.  It's not very active--usually just mentions of the post office.  But today, the link it brought me was to an Etsy story, about Sanquhar knit gloves.  It even mentions the author's father growing up on a dairy farm near Sanquhar.   Now I'm picturing Marion Brown with an Etsy shop, selling her knitting, just to bring in a little extra money; or Aunt Agnes, selling her artisanal cheeses online, to hipsters in Brooklyn...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Castle Mains, 4 June 1879

This is not a letter by Marion Brown.  She is referred to as "May" in this letter, and has apparently "had a very bad turn."  So her cousin, Tam Scott, is writing instead.  Tam's handwriting is fairly legible for a man's hand, but his spelling, capitalization, grammar, and punctuation are less standard than Marion's, and quite a few words are hard to work out.  Nonetheless, it's a newsy partial letter that gives a glimpse of Tam's personality, and shows Marion Brown's situation from another perspective.

Tam is a new father, it seems, with young Samuel Glencross Scott already 9 weeks old.  We know from other letters that Robina moved into the Castle Mains residence as Tam's wife at the end of January; she must have been quite pregnant at the time, if their son was born in early April.  His mother (Aunt Agnes Scott) is "fair daft" about her first grandchild, but at the time of this letter's writing, she was away from the home, teaching cheesemaking at dairies near Auchengruick (not sure where that is on current maps).  That leaves Marion at home, too ill even to write; a newborn, Samuel; a new mother, Robina; and Tam, who is unable to work from having "smashed ribs."  And, apparently, chickens. Sounds stressful!

Tam says work is scarce, very scarce, especially since the "Duck" (the local landowner; Tam misspells "Duke," or does he?) isn't hiring at the moment.  But Tam is making some money with his prize poultry.  He's obviously proud of his Hamburgs, and travels to various shows to compete with other breeders.  But rats (or "rates") ate a bunch of his best chickens, which made a significant dent in his prospects for earning. 

There's also mention of Robert McWhir, who has turned up in at least two past letters.

Castle Mains

June 4th 1879

Dear Uncle I take the pleasure of droping you a few lines to let you know how we are all getting on  hopping this will find you all well I may say that May is getting a little better But has had a very bad turn and my mother is well but Bothered with Rehumatism  She is at Auchengruick just now larning them to make the chease she has both the dairs to lairn  She is standing her age well i do not know much els of her but scarce so fast as in formar days I may say that the Wife is well and the Son he is 9 weeks old today and a fine Strong Healthy Boy but i dout he will get too much of his one [own?] will with them.  Mother is fair daft about him and May not much Better I will depart from this topic But first i will give you the Son's name I call him Samuel Glencross Scott 

I may say that Robert McWhir is cum hear for man [men?].  I am of work just now with Smashed Ribs which i got at my work but work hear is very scarce and will be scarcer before it is mor plentful.  the Duck is stoped puting on his repairs sing[?] to his son standing for Mid Lothian and it is a grate pity if he would get on for he is puting this place in a pitful state we are just finishing up old jobs that we had not done it is sed that it will be 3 years before it is any better as the Duck is deep in det their is nothing going on at nothing it dos not mater what it is their is 100 on the Road that cannot get work no place.

Every part is alick their is no use leaving one place and going to another for all is alick bad and markets high you sed I had shurly a good stock of Poultry I have the best Stock of Hamburgs I think in Scottland the have to cum from York and Leads Lincolnshire the best Breeders in England the do nothing else but attend Shows and make their living of them and a good one to I sold eggs of my Birds this year at 6 shillings and 6 pence a dozen their were 2 settings sent to Nottingham and i am going to have a Draw for 4 Pair of my Prize Birds I am getting them Printed at Dumfries i intend to make a little mony of it in this dull tumes I will not stick at nothing I had 44 chickins some 10 weeks old and on Monday night the Rates found them and thought they would make a good supper and killed 6 of them and the Best to I could have got 1 pound a peace for them It will tell hard against me this year for the Shows as you can Scarce get them to run[?], the Shows too years althoe I have an old cock this year has only been shown two times took 1 at Sanquhar and First and Special at New Cumnock show the judge told me he was the Best Cock that he had seen and he put it in the Papers to and I took 2 to at New Cumnock my next hshow will be Dumfries Union Show which is in August i mean to take First at it to if i am well 

I was to give you Robert McWhir's kind love you and Uncle John and you have to send word what sort of a country you are in I could fill the letter about my Birds with Prizes and Remarks at Shows but i will let them drop I hop trade is getting better with you Tom will be a man by this time His cousin Tam is 6 feet and Built from the ground he was home hear at the Saison [?] he always calls it his Home you know he never knew anything els you might tell him to write a letter to me as i fell as  [rest of letter is missing]

Monday, September 10, 2012

Castle Mains, 24 February 1879

 A month has passed; still no work for Tam, Marion's ill in bed with "gravel" (kidney or gall stones--from the mention of back pain, probably the former), and the snow keeps coming.  In the US, James Bryden has broken his collar bone, but uncle John Glencross has sent some money to the Sanquhar household to help during this hard season.  (The younger son of James and Marion Bryden has a name (James), but the American cousins have neglected to mention that in letters so far.  "Aunt thinks you are all turned doiled" --"doiled" in this context means foolish, daft.)
Castle Mains
Feb 24th 1879

Dear Uncle

I write to let you know I received your kind letter on the 18th all right and I was able to go up to the bank and get the money and I got it all right and I have to say from Aunt that she was very thankful to see it for it has been a very hard winter here on all classes and you must execpt of my best thanks as well and I hope our heavenly Father will give you a blessing for your kindness to us. 

I was sorry to see from James Bryden's letter that he had got his collar bone broken but I hope before this time that he is quite better it has been bad weather this some time for broken bones I hope Marion and the two boys are well, you have never sent us word what the name of her youngest boy is Aunt says she thinks you are all turned doiled when you have forgot to send us the name of the boy.

I am writing this lying in bed so you must excuse blunders I have had a bad turn with gravel and my back is so sore that I have had to keep my bed for two days.  We have still very stormy weather the ground is white with snow and there has been a good deal more last night and still falling more today.  I hope the storm will soon go away now for I think every working man and farmers as well will be wearing for fresh weather for nobody can get working the frost has been so hard.

Tom has not been working for three months and he is getting very impatient now. Uncle William and his family are all well and all other friends as far as I know I must stop for I am getting tired.  Aunt sends her kind regards to you all and you are not to be so long in writing for we weary to hear from you all execpt of my kind regards to you hoping to hear from you before long and that this will find you all well and may God guide you all is the desire of your affectionate Neice

Marion Brown

Monday, July 2, 2012

Castle Mains, 23 January 1879

It's been almost a year since the last surviving letter from Sanquhar, but this one comes with big news:  Tam Scott will marry without any ceremony whatsoever--no ceremony, no party, no family gathering.   I've always thought they didn't even do that;  irregular marriages "by cohabitation with repute" were legal in Scotland until 2006.   But Irene Macleod got in touch to let me know there was a record of their official marriage at New Cumnock in 1879.  (Thank you Irene Macleod!) 

Marion Brown is apprehensive about moving another woman into their home, but she recognizes that Aunt and herself have no real alternatives.  As if trying to convince herself to accept the situation, the word "thankful" appears in this letter three times, and "kind" three more.

It's winter in Sanquhar, and the weather has been "hard" for months.  She's not one to exaggerate:  The winter of 1878-79 was severe, according to the reports in the Transactions of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland. Marion can walk into Sanquhar, slowly, from their new location; but she is not able to speak much.

Castle Mains
January 23rd 1879

Dear Uncle

It is now a long time since I wrote to you I hope when it reaches you that it may find you and all friends in the enjoyment of good health for which we ought to be very thankful for nothing in this world is a pleasure to us if we have not health to enjoy it.  I have some news to tell you this time Tom is going to be married on the last day of this month if all goes well.  the woman he is going to marry belongs to New Cumnock her name is Robina Boyle.  he is going to have no wedding only a marriage she is coming here to live along with us.  Aunt thought it was the best way for her to come beside us as Tom could not keep two houses.  Tom wrote to uncle Joseph but he said he would leave me to write to you as he never saw you.  and we must just try and put up the best way we can there is no doubt but we will feel a difference if she is kind to Aunt I dont care for myself so much but I would not like to hear her speak cross to Aunt she has always been so kind to me and Tom has always been very kind to me.

Dear uncle if I had been strong and able to fight the battle of life for myself it would have been different but as it is I ought to be very thankful that I have always some place I can call home our heavenly Father is always kind to me and there will always be a way and will turn up when we least expect it. 

Aunt has moderate good health but is very bad with rheumatisms.  I am just about the same my back is still sore but I can walk about a little altho but slowly I can go up to Sanquhar but it takes me half an hour what another person can do in ten minutes however I am very thankful I can walk as I do.  I have been worse at speaking this some but the want of my voice does not put me about as long as I am able to move about.  All friends here is well as far as I know.  We have very hard weather just now and has had for two months now.  I must stop with kind regards to you and all friends in which Aunt joins hopping to hear from you soon I am your affectionate niece Marion Brown

PS the post is just waiting

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Castle Mains, 11 February 1878

A new year and a new return address for Marion Brown, Aunt and Tam Scott:  Castle Mains by Sanquhar.  This is the only surviving 1878 letter, but it's a long chatty one that shows how precarious the health of all three Sanquhar family members has been--Tam Scott with his ongoing lung issues, Aunt with her bad chest cold, and Marion unable to walk, barely able to speak.  Perhaps in response to the financial straits that prompted their move, James Bryden has sent the household a gift of (presumably) money.   The spurs a reflection on dependence and gratitude from Marion, and lavish thanks and well wishes for the American kin.  There's still mention of trying to get Aunt to emigrate; and further mention of Aunt's cheesemaking skills.  The Americans are instructed to get photos taken, so that Aunt can consider who young John Bryden resembles most. 

Castle Mains
By Sanquhar
Feb 11th 1878

Dear Friends

We was all very glad to see your kind and very welcome letter for we was wearing very much to hear from you.  I hope this will find you all well when it reaches you and I am glad to be able to say that Aunt is just about her useal way again she got a bad cold when we flitted but I think has got clear of it now  Tam was off work for a fortnight with a bad cold to his chest is not very strong and when he has a cold it always takes hold of his lungs but he is a good deal better and able to work but he is drinking cod liver oil and the doctor says he has to drink it always to keep his lungs soft.

I am glad to be able to tell you that I feel no worse this two or three weeks I can speak a little but not much I have to do the most of my talking in writting yet and I am very bad at walking but it is my back  that makes me so bad at walking it takes the power from my legs altogether at times.

Now James you must give uncle our very best thanks for his kindness in sending us such a present.  The truth is this if it was not the kindness of my friends to me I dont know how I would do for I have never been able to work for myself and seems to be as unfit for work as ever but our heavenly Father is always kind to us and gives us far more than we deserve and I ought to be very thankful that I have always had kind friends to take care of me for Aunt has been a Mother to me and I have to tell you from her that she hopes you will always have plenty and she would be very glad to see you come steping in.  in summer and perhaps she would not be so hard to advise to go over with you this time and she thinks altho the cows is not her own she could get you some curds when you come and she says you are to be sure and get your son's likeness taken uncle Marion you and John altogether  and then she will see who he is like.

Uncle William and all his family is well in the meantime my Brother and his wife and family is all well but the youngest one that is my namesake Marion she has had a very bad turn with Bronchitis but is a little better if she continues and I hope she will.  You must give uncle Joseph and them all our best respects we have had a very mild winter and I hope the spring will continue as mild.  

Now I have to tell you from Aunt you are not to be so long in writting for she says if you had not been so far away she would have tried to have gone to see what was keeping you from writting now I will stop hopping this will find you all well and also hopping you will writing sooner and with kind love to you all and all friends I am your affectionate Cousin Marion Brown

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Women in the dairy industry, Sanquhar 2012

Regular readers of the Letters from Sanquhar blog will know that "Aunt," Agnes Glencross Scott (1817-1902), was a cheesemaker near Sanquhar, apparently a woman of some skill in that field. So I was interested to see that a young woman from Sanquhar named Grace Smith was recently the first woman to win the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers’ Dairy Crest Student of the Year Award. I'm sure the industry has changed a great deal since Aunt Agnes's time, but I'm also thinking she might recognize a bit of her own love for dairy work in young Grace.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Tower Cottages, 5 November 1877

This is one of my favorite letters by Marion Brown. Why? Well, it's quite detailed about her physical health (or lack of health, speech, and mobility) in the first section; and it mentions bigger events (hard times in America), which is rare for Marion Brown; but mainly, I love this letter because she mentions sending a photo.... and we have that photo (left). Seated is Marion Brown, with her cousin Nellie Glencross (standing), in Thornhill, 1877, on Marion's way back from visiting an aunt in Carronbridge. It's unusual to ever find Marion outside of Sanquhar in the correspondence, so this letter is also interesting for that fact. She also mentions that she and Aunt will be moving at the end of their lease, to a house near the Castle at the townfoot of Sanquhar--significantly closer to town than Tower Cottages.

The unquiet that Marion Brown refers to in America might be the general poor economy in 1877; but it might more likely refer to the Shamokin Uprising, which could well have affected James Bryden and John Glencross's work as Pennsylvania miners in the summer of that year.

The quarries where Tam has gone to work in Gatelawbridge were red sandstone--much of what was quarried there in the 1870s would have been shipped to New York to make the famous "brownstones" there.

Tower Cottages
Novr 5th 1877

Dear Cousin

It is now a long time since I got your very welcome letter but you must excuse me this time I was not at home when it came and it is just a week since I came home. I went away to CarronBridge to see my Aunt and turned ill there and was away for three months before I could come back I cannot speak a word I have to do all my talking by writting and I am very bad at walking it is all I can do to walk across the floor my back is so sore and my right leg is sometimes quite powerless. Human nature is hard to mend and sometimes I think my lot is very hard but there is no doubt but it is all for my good in some way that I have been afflicted and we have no right to grumble at our heavenly Fathers dealings with us.

I hope when this reaches you that it will find you all in good health I see by your last letter that you have had very bad times in America this sometime but I hope by this time you are started to work again and has more quiteness around you as when you wrote. I may let you know that we are going to leave Tower Cottages at the term and is going to the Castle at Sanquhar town foot Aunt is not going to have any cows but she has to see if the woman gives the cows their meat right Mr. Colvin does not mean her to work any but I know she will always be at some thing if she is able to crawl.

Tam went away this morning to work at Gatelawbridge quarry and will not be home till the term he means to work there all winter if spared and well. There is no work going on about Sanquhar that he could have come home at night. Aunt and me will feel it very lonely if spared to go to the Castle in a house by ourselves and nobody near us it is not so bad here my brother and his family is just next door. However we must cheer up there is no use looking at the dark side of the cloud

Aunt is wonderful she had a turn with her stomach but she says she is beginning to feel about her useal again. you told me in your letter [damage here prevents reading full sentence] you was thinking [more damage here] your little boy's cards taken you must be sure and send me one to let us see what he is like many a time Aunt says she would like to see him

Uncle William's eldest daughter came to CarronBridge to bring me home and when we was at Thornhill she would have our cards taken so I will send one and I think it is like me but they have made me squinting and I am sure I do not squint I tell Nelly that she tries to make herself to prim when she gets her card taken you may ask uncle John if he thinks I am anything like what I was when he made me walk through the house with a prim mouth now I must stop all friends here is well as far as I know give my kind love to all friends and execpt of the same to yourselves in which Aunt joins I remain your affectionate cousin Marion Brown

I mean to write to uncle Joseph next week

Friday, March 2, 2012

Sanquhar Post Office turns 300 years old today

Considering that this project is based on mail all sent from Sanquhar, seems like I should include this news at this blog: World's Oldest Post Office Turns 300. I don't think I mailed anything AT the Sanquhar post office while we were there--I used the old, old VR mailbox down the road--but we did buy stamps there. And knowing that the current postmistress is named Penny also brings me a smile. So happy birthday, Sanquhar Post Office!

My photo of the post office, taken August 2010 while waiting for the parade to start (which explains the people standing around--it's not really a loitering spot on an ordinary day):

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Tower Cottages, 2 July 1877

This letter is somewhat damaged (in its current existence it's in four pieces), but full of news. Aunt's been unwell, Marion's lost her voice, Tam's okay, weather is hot; there's a crop report, a wages report, and the terrible news that Marion's sister Sarah in London is sick in a hospital with smallpox, leaving two little children in danger of losing their mother. Marion Brown is moved to an extended paragraph on religious resignation to God's will by this news.

What she is not moved to mention: this letter was written on Marion Brown's 33rd birthday.

Tower Cottages
July 2nd 1877

My Dear Friends

We are always very glad to see a letter from any of you and I hope this will find you all in the enjoyment of good health which is the best earthly blessing we can have I am sorry to [have to?] tell you that Aunt has been very poorly it was like bilious fever she had and she was very sick for a week but is now on the way of improveing if she could take more food I think she would soon get stronger but she can take almost nothing However we must hope for the best and look to our Father in heaven for the blessing on the means that is used.

the weather is come in very warm and it is very trying at least I feel it very much my voice is entirely [failing?] me again you could scarce know a word I say. Tam is keeping wonderful well this some time which is a good thing when both aunt & me has been complaining. I was sorry to see from your letter that uncle Joseph had been so long bad but I hope he is still keeping better & all the rest well,

you want to know what kind of crops we have here abouts well as far as I have seen corn hay potatoes and turnips is all looking very well at the season. [unreadable section lost in a torn fold] country is dull as well as with you at Thornhill hay and harvest fair the masters tried hard to bring down the wages but in general the servants got about last years wages I have very little new to tell you this time I had such bad news from London [unreadable section] my sister Sarah is very bad with smallpox they are not qute sure how it will stand with her yet her husband tried hard to get keeping her at home I mean in their own house [unreadable section] knew it was small pox he made her be taken away to the hospital, we must just wait with patience and hope for the best. she had two little boys and if she is taken from them they will miss a mothers care which is a great want, but God knows best what way is the best and what he sees fit to do we have no right to say a word but human nature is hard to bend and we feel the afflicting rod hard to bear but we have great promises to cheer us in affliciton as well as in health for whom God loveth he chasteneth and he is the friend that sticketh closer than a brother

now I must draw to a close uncle William and his family is all well at present and all friends here as far as I know and hopping to hear from you soon and with kind love to you all every one in which Aunt and Tam joins I remain your affectionate cousin

Marion Brown

PS tell uncle John that we have a great time here with hens instead of singing birds M. B.