Letter #77

‘Cad’ means a junior assistant or odd-job man. 

Governor MacGregor was indeed a ‘great sufferer from old wounds’. The Clan Macfarlane website relates that ‘he was wounded in seven places when treacherously attacked, with his own sword sheathed, while receiving the surrender of Fort Talneir in India in 1818: receiving severe kris wounds in the left shoulder, left side, and in two places on his right side – not to mention a sabre wound across the mouth, a second right through the nose, and a third nearly cut off his right arm above the elbow joint’.

Barbados 9th May 1837

After a very boisterous but short voyage my dear Kate I landed here early yesterday morning from the return mail boat Maryanne, its cabin nor the passengers, with the exception of Lt Goodman 36th Regt, I never wish to see again. My headpiece is so confused with the perpetual motion I have of late endured – change of scene with the extreme submission and overwhelming Coloneling as commandant added to the pain of every joint being nearly dislocated that it will be a difficulty to afford you any detail of passing events or what has gone by since I last wrote to you. But as I have to attend the General Sir S F Wittingham’s Levée and the Mail sails at 2 oclock, a dash at the heads of my principal adventures &c will be more discreet. You would guess most likely by the last letter I was not quite myself, in fact I was confined with an attack of fever which has fined me down and rather improved the shape. This was a matter not worth tormenting you about & I have now to report myself not only convalescent but as well as ever I was, the change of air & voyage having already contributed to strengthen & put me in spirits again. You are already aware that a Lt Goodman, son of a Col of that name often alluded to in my letters, arrived to act as Assistant Engr to release me from Com’s dictates. The little indisposition would have detained me but the quarantine of which you have received ere this notice, made a difficulty to meet Sir Charles’s wishes impossible. However, after some little trouble, a clean Bill of Health was obtained on Thursday last the 4th Inst for the Return Mail Boat. When I embarked with Lt Goodman, my horse & 3 serts, that is a poor old Color Sergt under the name of one, with his wife & child in order [word missing] the former a free passage, & landed all safe, notwithstanding Tropical torrents of rain; safe, my horse without a scratch or cold altho on deck. So my dear Kate here is your lord in a new character in orders as comdg Engr West Indies, comparatively speaking in a palace or about to be so, & all on the alert or a look – what humbug! Soon after landing a message for a boat from the shore with Leicester Smith, now my Cad, came along side armed & dressed minutely according to regulation, in due form and after breakfast, drove me the round of official visits commencing with Sir S F Wittingham by whom I was recd in a very polite manner, as by his Aid de Camps, evidently shewing that a good character had preceded me – at least my self vanity led me to fancy so. A fine bottle of Hudson’s pale ale was produce by the Joly Aids – what a contrast with Sir Com Smyth – in the Ante room and a parting invite to call for it whenever I made a visit there. From thence to the Governor’s where I put my name down – he is a great sufferer from old wounds I understand – the Quarter Master & Adjt General, Commandants &c completely fagged me, some unpacking, & Mess dinner at the RA & RE Mess at 4 oclock somewhat restored my usual good spirits. On landing I found Sir Charles had flown and had left Lady Smith in Shot Hall. He departed in the Packet last Saturday week. I was rather pleased to find her Ladyship still in possession of the quarters, thus preventing the usual robery of rare plants or trees and other little purloining. Her final departure is not decided but I immagine in a few weeks. In the mean time I have occupied the Resident Engr’s quarters & got last night into my own bed – no small comfort. Today Col Tyler dines with me at Mess. Tomorrow I dine at Enmore with Mr Torrance, an old acquaintance, Thursday with 36 Regt, Friday 76. Col Studd sailed with Sir Charles for England. Thus far you are made acquainted with my proceedings at Barbados. This morning I breakfasted with Col Story RA, with whom I think as yet there will be no difficulty as to Respective Officer duty, for in truth I find the REs’ Dept very strong here. At the Adjt Gen office I was informed confidentially yesterday that every order or measure of interference on the part of Sir Com which was all laid before the Comd in Chief Horse Guards had met with most decided disapprobation in every sense. The letter from Ld Hill had been dispatched a few days before I reached Barbados for Demerara. Fortunately so far the irruption will not annoy me. Poor Com will be furious. I hear he has paid very hard but in fact the D A Genl told me the censure was so marked that Sir Com would resign. All this must be kept to yourself & fire side. Not a word to Sir F Collier. My remark was this – certainly that Com would pocket the affront & keep his post. It is to be regretted that Sir Charles Smith departed before these final orders reached Barbados. It would have been satisfactory had he known the result of his reports to Hd Quarters. Just returned from the Levée – General very gracious & Aid de Camps pleasant young men. You may suppose how happy I was to get away from Demerara unexpectedly & without intimation from hence or from Capt Biscoe. Word was brought me one morning 10 days since that he was on board the Packet with a family of 12 persons, this about eleven in the daytime. Rather than drive such a host of persons into expensive lodgings I packed all my traps into one room & they arrived at 4. Pity me – a poodle puppy, Canary Birds, dirty children & a long elderly Gent with a short wife, Irish maid servant &c took footing in my former quiet dwelling – Oh what a riot! What confusion, all the way from Galway. The following day they unpacked their piano forte, it had never seen the light for months. Constructed in the year one, not a note in unison. 3 young ladies practised the Duke of York march, Battle of Mague &c for 4 successive days, one down, another came on. By some mischance I have not recd your letters for the last two packets. Thinking I was sick, L Smith ford them to Demerara. I look for their return with anxiety. Adieu dear Kate.

Red ink begins here

The time draws near for closing the letter bag. How are the dear girls and Gusto – what has been done about the latter? I wish much he was settled in some pursuit. How is my good friend Miss Parker? Regards to her. Thro Tom Naghten I have a rumour that Mrs OB has been a sufferer. Your letters I trust will clear this up satisfactorily. Best regards my excellent Uncle & all the Catisfield party. I was disappointed in not receiving his congratulations – tell him a letter would cheer me exceedingly. How are Brother John, Edward & Charley with their good helpmates and children? Remember me to them all & my poor headstrong sisters. I have drawn for lots of money but do not be alarmed, I will take care the promotion shall add I trust materially to your income so soon as I can settle myself in the Command. All eyes are upon me just at this moment but I shall not steer out of my course. In a few weeks I shall be enabled to give you more information as to this command which I suspect requires all one’s wits and resolution to guide well.

Accept my best love and believe me your ever afft Fred E

What have you done about Epaulettes, Madame? & Mosto net for the old gentleman – pray.