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Wilby Rackham - His Life and Letters
Part Five





S.S. Northumberland

at Sunderland

April 8th./ '64


My Dear Polly


We arrived here this morning after a very favourable passage of 28 hours from Strood and (so far as I know at present) we are to Load for London but I think we shall be several days here as there are 3 steamers to Load at the same place before our turn comes. I like the Ship and Captn very much but I hope we shall go into some other trade for I do not like the system of finding myself in provisions, it is such a bother to get it cooked in such small quantities. I think if we are to stop in this trade you might make the most of my meat ready and bring it on board just before we leave London. Anything like a meat pie could be warmed up for dinner, and I could carry tea, coffee, sugar, butter, Bread, Potatoes & a bit of stake. My wages are 10/- more than they were when we were trading to Cardiff &c because the Ship found us in provisions and I fancy if we manage It right I can live for less than 10/ per week.


The Captn says it costs him about 9/- every week and his Wife brings nearly all of it and gives it to him when the Ship leaves the North for London or Strood but we shall see when we get back, as our time in London is very short. I shall want you to come to the Ship as I could not get from New Wandsworth in the morning. Give my kind Love to all at home and I will let you know when we are to sail from here. I will now conclude with my kindest Love to yourself & Baby


and I Remain Dr. Polly

Your Loving Husband

W. Rackham




S. S. Northumberland

at Santander

May 29 / 64



My Dear Polly


We came here on thursday last and have commenced taking in cargo but are getting on rather slowly so that I expect we shall not be ready to leave here before Thursday next and then you may allow us just another week before we arrive at Dunkirk. We had rather a windy passage from Cadiz but no very bad weather. I have been ashore for a walk today with the Engineer and have seen a few of the Spanish Sabbath amusements. In the morning the bells were chiming for Mass (prayers) by 6 oclock and people were hurrying from all parts to get to Church. By 7 oclook all places of business were open and the Markets crowded with all kinds of produce and people in hundreds bawling and shouting as they offered their goods for sale. I bought a pennyworth of strawberrys and my money was all gone so we left the market and walked down the street a little way and met a Religious procession and the Street was quite stopped with the Crowd. When the Priests came near, the whole of the men uncovered their heads and everybody went down on their knees except two heretics who did not go to pray but to look on, but we did not have the pleasure of being spectators long, for one of the Monks (I call them) came and desired us to follow the Example of the rest. I hesitated for a second or two but when I saw a woman hugging and kissing a wooden image of St. Sebastian and was afraid they would request your humble servant to do the same we chose rather to withdraw thinking at the same time what a fool she must be to kiss a wooden man when there were so many of us full of flesh & blood standing round her. After abt. 10 oclock they dance & sing and drink for the rest of the day so now you know what sunday is in Spain. It is a beautiful country round here and we had a nice walk in the afternoon among the green feilds and vineyards which I was much pleased with and wished you had been there to enjoy it with me my dear. I must cut this short or it will be over weight so give my kind love to all at home also to Aunt & Uncle with my best Love to yourself and baby


I remain

Your Loving Husband

W Rackham



Write to me on the 7th of June   Address Dunkirk France and tell me if you got your money allright how Mothers ancle is and how Aunt & little one are getting on with all particulars W R






S. S. Northumberland

at Dunkirk   June 6th.       [1864]


Dear Polly


We arrived here to-day at about 12 oclock and am glad to say had a very fine voyage. We have a cargo of Iron and Silver Ore to discharge and another cargo of Railway Iron to take in and I think it will take another 8 or ten days altogether. The Steam boat for Dunkirk starts from Fenning's Wharf London bridge (Surrey Side) on Wednesday morning at 2 oclock and again at -- oclock on Friday and arrives here on the following days about 2 or 3 in the afternoon. If you are quite well and you think the trip would be pleasant to you I shall be most happy to meet you and will get the most convenient place I can in the nice little town of Dunkirk. I would say do not bring any thing more than what is absolutely necessary for own use for the time. Give my kind Love to all at home also to Aunt and Uncle Jordan, it is just upon post time so I must be like you, cut it short for the present and have a little more to say the next time. Accept my kind Love hoping soon to have the pleasure of your company


I am Dearest

Your Loving Husband

W Rackham


kiss our dear little Polly for me






Decbr. 13th.       [1864]


My Dear Polly


We are now in the Victoria Dks Below Blackwall and I shall try to get home tomorrow night but am not sure that I shall be able to come untill we get up to the Globe Dock. Give my kind Love to all and accept the same from Your Loving Husband



in haste