19th Nov 1864

My dear Mother

With pleasure I sit down to write you these few lines trusting they will find you quite well and in good health. E’er this, you have received my letter of last Mail and as I mentioned in it, I hope you will look over me for not writing before, and I trust you will have no cause to find fault in future. I used to feel it very much to see the English Mail coming in and seeing everybody else getting letters but me-but I only had myself to blame as I could not expect to get any if I did not send any. You can’t tell how English news is looked for here; how every paper is looked over and prized as being the latest news from home, and more especially if it comes from localities and places that you know. It makes it more interesting.

I got some beautiful photographs to bind of different views in Edinburgh from Dr Murray THOMSON, who comes from Edinburgh to the College as Professor of Experimental Science. There was one of Princes St Gardens showing the National Gallery and the foundation was just being laid when I left. Another of the Palace (editors note: Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh), showing a fountain and new gates, that was not in my time, in front of it .

I enclose a photograph of your humble servant. What do you think of me? I am afraid you will think I have gone off in a consumption. If India don’t agree with some people, I think you will say it has not affected my health much. The weather here is very pleasant just now,  (although at night it is chilly) but it is the extreme heat during the day and at night cold that makes you feel it’s so uphill. where we were living in September and October . It is very cold; in fact everybody that can leave does so. There is just a great rush down when the cold weather sets in, as there is when the hot weather sets in on the plains and they all make for the hills.

Where we were living was on the very top of the hill, 8,000 feet above the level of the sea. The clouds pass right through the house, so you see we’re up in the world then!

We have such a beautiful view all round, on one side looking into the Feyrah Dhoon, that is a lrge tract of country between the large mountains of the Himalayas and the another lower range of hills called the Siwalik hills or, the lower range of the Himalaya. It is a beautiful country, the eastern portion of it all cultivated with rice and a great number of tea plantations, the western portion of the Dhoon is a perfect jungle swarming with wild animals elephants, tigers, bears, leopards and while I was uphill there were two hill men caught by bears on the road after dark, in fact it is not safe to go far after dark alone without a light. On the other side of the hill is nothing but continuous ranges of hills as far as you can see, getting higher and higher until they end in the snowy range. It is something awfully grand, in fact a person looking over them and looking at the frightful ravines that lay between them cannot but feel struck with wonder and with awe. When I was coming down I called upon a friend of mine who is in charge of a large tea plantation, and I saw the tea growing on the tree, saw it plucked, saw it made and bought four different kinds of tea away with me (off the one tree). What do you think of that? You don’t see that everywhere. I don’t know if I told you in my last (letter) about my killing a large cobra snake in my bedroom when we were going up hill. We had put up at a hotel for the night at the foot of the hills, and when I was going to bed, I heard a strange noise, like a person breathing very hard, and on looking about I found the gentleman with his hand out and his head about a foot and a half off the ground ready for a dash. But I happened to be too quick for (it) and killed him. He was about five feet long; they are very plentiful in the jungle at the foot of the hills.

Now my dear Mother, I must say good-bye for the present. I am going to write to Aunt Agnes and Uncle James by this Mail, sending them a photograph similar to the one enclosed.

Hoping to hear from you soon. I remain

My dear Mother

Your affectionate

Jas Johnston

Lettie send her love. I am afraid the race of the Johnstons is not extinct yet by all that.

Editor’s Note: James JOHNSTON son of James JOHNSTON (described as Serjeant of Thomason College Press, Roorkee) married Letitia Jane ROGERS (Spinster) daughter of Samuel ROGERS on 15th September at St John’s Church, Meerut. The marriage was performed by John SHARKEY, Chaplain.

Witnessed by W.H FOSTER, W.WILSON, and C. BATH.

Although both are only described as of “full 18 years”, Letitia was born in 1840 making her aged 24 yrs. James probably born in September 1839 and therefore aged 25 yrs.


Reference: India Office Library and Records – N/I/ vol 105/ Extract 82