Category Archives: 1866

These letters from 1866 from James Johnston show an insight into the lives of ordinary people, but in the vanished world of the British Raj.

21st Jan 1866

My dear Mother

A Happy New Year to you – it is some time since I got a letter from you, not since you sent me your likeness, I hope you are quite well and jolly. And I have not heard from Aunt Agnes for some time. As for the Drummond people, they have got too proud nowadays, however they will answer the next letter I send.

I enclose the first of exchange on the Royal Bank of Scotland for £10, which I trust will reach you safely, and I know my dear mother, I should have done something of this kind long ago, but somehow I always managed to put it off to some other time, which of course never came. It will enable you to get a few comforts for yourself.

How is everybody and everything getting on at home? I seldom see a Scotch  paper, in fact I have so much work in my press that I am obliged to do a great deal of writing at home and have not got much time for reading.

We hear bad accounts about the cattle plague at home, it must be a bad thing indeed. (Editors note-From 1865-67 mass slaughter of cattle resulted in order to eradicate this highly contagious viral disease, often called Rinderpest).

How is the Rev Dr GEORGE JOHNSTON looking? Is he still in the old Kirk? It must have been a sad blow to him, her dying.

Tell me all the news when you write.

I have written by this Mail (which leaves today) to Messrs COWAN, the Paper Makers in Princes Street (Editor’s note-Edinburgh), for to send me samples and prices of paper. We use a great deal and have been getting it from SMITH ELDER in London, but their prices are very high and of course I want to buy at the cheapest market. Why, my last invoice from them was £1,500 and some of the things are an awful price. I spoke to the Major about it and he told me to write now. If you were to ask Mr BOYD, he might drop a note to Messrs COWAN or anybody else he would like, to send samples of all kinds of paper, printers, writing, coloured and drawing – I also would like Lithographic Binding Materials list of prices sent me.

We had great games in the Station two days ago among the troops. It broke the monotony of Indian life a little. It is seldom you see anything of the kind.

Now my dear Mother, write soon, and let me know how you are getting on. With love to self and regards to all enquirers from

your affectionate Son

J. Johnston

I am going to take Jamie off to school next month. He is grown a big chap and never has a day’s sickness. Letty and young squeaker are all right

21st March 1866

My dear Mother

I was in hopes of receiving a letter this mail but none has come. I sent you a cheque for 100/-Rs (£10)  couple of months ago, I trust you have received it all right. Since I heard from you I have had a letter from my Aunt in which she gives me a fine description of the improvements that are going on in Auld Reekie (Editors Note: Edinburgh). I trust this finds you in good health as I am happy to say it leaves me.

I enclose a carte of Jamie taken the morning he left for school. By George, I saw snow for the first time since I left home. When I was uphill, it was snowing – it done my eyes and heart good I assure you.

I am very busy just now in the Press. I have a moment I can call my own and it is the close of our official year which gives me more work -as I have to close all my accounts for the year.
There is nothing new stirring here – the weather has been nice and cool but it is getting warm again and we may look out for being roasted.

With fond love to self and regards to all enquiring friends

I am dear Mother

your affectionate Son

J Johnston

30th May 1866

My dear Mother

I received your letter by the last Mail and was so glad to hear you have received the draft all right,  that you were well, not hearing from you for so long. I could not make out whether it had gone astray or what had become of it………….however it is all right.

Here we have the hot winds blowing very strong. If you happen to go outside you can feel it passing through you, burning your very bones, and yet it is the healthiest time of the year.

Letty has been very ill since I wrote to you – had a mishap and little Ernie has been bad too with his teeth. I have had to send them uphill to Landour. They have been away for about 3 weeks and don’t expect they will be back till about October, so you see I’m all alone.

I had a letter from Jamie from school. The other day he wanted me to send him some marbles, poor fellow. One of the parties connected with the school told me he was a very good boy and getting on very well, which is gratifying to me.
I received all the papers, many thanks. I see you have been having Soiree- now we are going to have a Soiree too tomorrow. “Dissolving Views and a Little Music” is the programme, but we have other concerts, so you see even in this outlandish place, we try to drive dull care away.

I saw the tailors strike in the papers – is Alexander in it ? Those sort of things do no good I’m afraid. ( Editors note: ALEXANDER PATERSON born 29th July 1817, Cockburnspath, Berwickshire-1897, married to James Johnston’s sister Agnes, was a tailor by trade and residing at  7 Henry Street, St Leonards, Edinburgh).

I am much pleased to hear the children have not forgotten me, why don’t you send me their photographs ?  (Editors Note: The children were ANN PATERSON born 6 May 1846 – my great grandmother -, GEORGE PATERSON born March 1848, AGNES PATERSON born August 1850, JAMES PATERSON born September 1853 , ELLEN – Nell – PATERSON  born December 1855 all born 7 Henry Street, St Leonards, Edinburgh)

I will write to Aunt Agness by this Mail.

I will send you one of the Annual reports next Mail, it won’t be finished till after this has gone-I hope the remarks you may see about this “little child” will please you.

Remember me to all enquiring friends and dear Mother believe me to be

Your affectionate Son

James Johnston

Let me know your new address. I will send you a programme. What do you think of the style of our work?