Eunice and Ron Shanahan have shared with readers of the Victorian Web this material from their website, Letters from the Past. Click on thumbnails for larger images.
This letter is interesting as it consists of two letters: one to and one from Daniel Clark Esq, of Acheleck near Campbeltown, Argilshire. It was written by Archibald McNeillage, of "Albion Terrace, Commercial Road, Limehouse, London". It has 5 clear postal markings, and two other smudged and illegible marks. The letter must have been handed in at a Twopenny Post office, as it has the '2' handstamp.
There was a Limehouse Twopenny Post office from 1793, and a faint strike across the fold — maybe the Receiving house stamp. From there it went to the Chief office of the Twopenny Post and received the oval datestamp. This type of oval stamp with the month before the day (2 o'Clock FE 6 1817 A.Nn) was in use until 1822. At the General Post, the Evening Duty datestamp was applied. This has a double rim, the year in 3 figures, day in circle, which was in use from 1800-1822 (FE 6 817 B ) code. Also the 'Additional ½d' (poor impression) was applied - the '2' handstamp was scratched through and the total amount of 1/5 written in manuscript, which was the 1shilling 3 pence London to Acheleck plus the twopenny post charge, the total of which would have to be collected from Daniel Clark.
It is not in the best of condition, and would be quite unsuitable for display or competitions but the contents are interesting.
"6th Feby 1817
I received your letter of the 26th Decr 1816 informing me of the death of my good old Mother. It is what I expected that she was not to live long in this World. I am happy to hear that she was perfectly collected to the last. No doubt but what my poor Aunt will miss her, but it was what she looked for, she must keep her spirits up, and make herself comfortable, I will not forget her for her kind attentions to My Mother.
Please to let my Aunt have all which belongs to my Mother, Clothes &c &c. Be so good as give me an account of the Expenses laid out in my Mother's Funeral, and what you have in hand to support my Aunt — I have honoured the two Bills drawn on me, one in August, and one in December, Thirty pounds in all. The first Bill of 20£ did not come to hand in proper time, which I am very much surprised how it could be mislaid or lost.
Your letter of the 12th Decr 1816 I received, and Mrs Mc was to answer it, but being so very poorly, could not well attend to it, but she has now recovering very fast, she will write to you in a very short time.
Give my best regards to My Aunt, Mrs Mc joins me in best regards to you and Mrs Clark and all other good friends,
Believe me to be
The second page of the letter is pretty much illegible - very tiny writing, faint ink, and I think the rats have had a piece of it, but the last paragraph is written sideways and is more legible in parts. From these comments it appears to be Mr Clark's reply to the letter, which he kept as his copy.
"If I have sometimes accused you of being lazy at writing I have for once balanced the account in that respect, for I do not recollect when I was before so long in answering such a letter as your kind one of 6th February, but when you know my reasons I make no doubt you will readily forgive me.
I was then in Glasgow where my partners chiefly reside, altho' it is now three years since we entered into partnership co-partnery no less than three of the partners failed in their own business, which was very considerable, this together with the bad times, just as the business was put on a footing - and other unfortunate circumstances caused the other solvent partners to put an end to the business, just when it was put on that footing. All the erections & machinery were erected at a great expense, all which may now be considered as lost, before a fair trial was given. The consequence has been that it has ruined me, and obliged me to take out an Act of Sequestration, an event which I am sure both Mrs McNeilage and you would be sorry to hear of.
Luckily as before this took place, before I went to Glasgow, I paid all your mother's funeral expenses, which amounted to only £6.15.3d, beside some little your Aunt paid. She had after all a little trifle and it was with difficulty I got her to take £2.18.0. which with your gift of £5 has served her since, but she is now run out and altho I have still a Balance of yours, yet as my hands are completely tied up, I am sorry that I have it not in my power to supply her.
Until my affairs are winded up and that I can act again, I think the best plan will be for you to send occasionally a £5 Bank of England Note. This you or Mrs McNeilage may do in a letter to herself or to Mrs Clark who will hand it to your Aunt when recd.
She has taken a garret room to which a small garden is attached in the Longrow, so that we can see her often as we pass her door every time we go to Town. There is a decent neighbour on the same flat so that she will not be so lonely as at present. I saw her yesterday and promised I would lose no longer time in writing to you as she is desirous to hear of both your welfare.
It has truly given Mrs Clark and me much pleasure to hear that Mrs McNeilage was recovered from her long illness - it certainly was a most severe winter, but we have at last got a pleasant Spring, which will revive invalids as well as make all Nature rejoice. No doubt these bad times has reduced thousands as well as me.
The worst of it in my case is there is no feel here for doing anything , I must therefore try some other plan in the course of 2 or 3 months when everything I have - my furniture not excepted - will be handed over to my Creditors, I must then endeavour to get into some situation however humble to atone. I have reason to be thankful that notwithstanding my misfortune, my health is good. I shall cheerfully work for my creditors even at a fee if no better situation comes up, could you in this course of events if not too hard get me recommended for a situation."
Louisa Pineault - gave me a legal definition of "sequestration"
"The taking of someone's property, voluntarily (by deposit) or involuntarily (by seizure), by court officers or into the possession of a third party, awaiting the outcome of a trial in which ownership of that property is at issue."
There are 40,000 entries on the sequestration database held by the Business Archives Council of Scotland, Archives & Business Records Centre University of Glasgow - and Johanna King confirmed that Daniel Clark is one of them, listed as 'a manufacturer'.
I find it surprising that a businessman, in the midst of financial ruin is still kind enough to look after the aunt of a friend more than 400 miles away in London. I wonder if Archibald McNeilage was able to look out for some work for his financially ruined but optimistic Scottish friend as repayment.
George Brumel, The Local Posts of London 1680-1840
B.C.C. of Postal History, London Willcocks & Jay.
Last modified 13 December 2002