A letter to Elgin in 1812 (Can you help us decipher it?)

Letter addressed ti Robert Grigor, Writer, Elgin, Moray, 1812

We’ve written previously about a Grigor & Young employment contract from the 1850s.

This time, it’s about a letter even older than that, possibly with connections to Grigor & Young.

Until his recent retirement, John Chalmers helped us as a Law Accountant, feeing up files for us in court-related matters.

John’s main hobby is philately.

His particular interests are in German stamps up to the end of the Allied Occupation, Scottish postcards, and postal history.

As part of his online postal history research, he came across what he called an “entire letter” (as opposed to simply a “wrapper”, which is only the outer cover of a letter).

He kindly sent us the letter on loan. We set out various photos of it below.

The letter is addressed to a Robert Grigor, Writer, Elgin.

“Writer” in this context is an old word for lawyer or attorney in Scotland.

The letter was sent from Thurso, Caithness. It is dated 8th August 1812.


The firm of Grigor & Young began trading around 1828.

The founding partners were William Grigor and Robert Young.

It may be that Robert Grigor was a relative of William Grigor, possibly his father.

The signature on the letter appears to be that of a Jim Gordon.

The front of the letter is inscribed “11”. This means “11 pence” – the rate at that time for the distance between Thurso and Elgin, via routes used by the Post Office.

You can also see a hand stamp – “775 E” – which identifies the originating Post Office. “775” is the mileage from Thurso to London, via Edinburgh, travelling by routes available to and used by the Post Office. (Mail to west of Scotland destinations would have the mileage to London via Glasgow, followed by “G” for Glasgow).

John also explained that the writings in the left margin of the outer cover are likely to be that of the recipient or someone in his office. It states when the letter is dated, who it was from and to whom. Sometimes such writings also make reference to the subject matter of the letter, but not in this case.

Can you help us decipher what the letter says?

The letter is addressed to Robert Grigor, Writer, Elgin. Our best attempt to work out what the contents say is set out below. [NOTE: This has been edited and improved from the original version here, with kind assistance from John Chalmers]. It does not make complete sense, some words are probably misread and there are possibly some gaps – but there’s a hint that an interesting story is fighting to get out:

Thurso 8th August 1812

Dear Sir

I just now received a letter from my wife mentioning a Summons being left at my house to appear before the Sheriff of Banff. I trust she has communicated the same to you. Last time I had any conversation with you on the subject I thought he could not reclaim at such a long period. I mean Jamieson, I will let you know the following intercourse between Smith and me. Since the roup was dismissed by the Commissar of Murray. I see’d him at Appleby Fair in Westmorland. He (?) made very kind with me in said fair, in first part of June at Stackshawbank in July 4th where he came forward and lent me every assistance both in helping me to herd my cattle the same as a driver and provided a stray beast and brought it safe to me, helped to count my money and drunk glasses together all before witnesses. I also being asked my friendly advice to him told him and informed him all concurring the country Yorkshire where he was bound for and parted in a friendly manner. Hugh I see’d buying cattle at Grantown [on Spey] where he invited me to drink with him and was so much obliged by any last advice and would not allow me to pay on [i.e. one] farthing and in presence of the company impowered me to collect money for him which I will call for on my way home. I trust your to employ someone at Banff who will not be easily baffled with him. Trusting to your best exertions. I am dear sir your loyal servant Jim Gordon.

PS You please have the goodness to write me in course of a week at your convenience by post as I will be anxious to have your opinion on this disgraceful business – as I will be home in course of a week.

Do you have any ideas as to where the mistakes are and how the missing sections should be completed?

The letter, folded up and unopened.
Page one of the letter.
The PS on the letter.
The letter folded out.
Showing how the letter was folded up.
The seal on the letter.