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Wilby Rackham - His Life and Letters
Synopsis of Letters



Letter 1  -  From the Brig “Harriet Julia " of which Wilby is Captain. Wee Dick chats with his master about home affairs - Beleive me , dear Maid.

Letter 2  -  Part letter from Calloa. Wilby’s proud spirit - teetotaller or moderation? - George's ill-temper quite ineffective - Write to Jemima - not favourably impressed by Calloa.

Letter 3  -  From the Ship “St. Magnus" of which he is mate. Waiting for a favourable wind - Lamlash an out-of-the-way place Has Sarah written to Mr. Bews? You need not tell my Parants to write.

Letter 4  -  Still at Lamlash - How to make the time pass cheerfully - keep from Idle habits - he would prize some dark blue worsted stockings - Mutual comfort and prosperity. Dibden's sea song.

Letter 5  -  Buenos Ayres - safe arrival - if only he were Master of a nice little ship - love is making him fat - will she put on weight and want to be Master?

Letter 6  -  Her most welcome letter - go to Edinburgh no cockatoos at Buenos Ayres - will he do in a cage? - love should not make her thin - Sally has not written to Mr. Bews - dear "Willie".

Extract of Marriage Lines inserted between Letters 2 and 3.

Letter 7  -  She is improving in her letter writing - Why Mr. Bews did not write to Sarah - Clyde Place - A glass of your Best, Mr. Crosbie - soap is a shilling a pound.

Letter 8  -  His last sheet of Coloured paper - loaded & ready for sea - will she take a walk to the riverside? Parrots are too dear - the long race - buying soap - kisses to pay for the washing.

Notice. House for Sale.



Letter 1  -  Wilby now Chief Mate of Barque "Leesburg" bound for Cuba, writes to his parents-in-law - Mary to visit Hanley - the fare by steamer and Parliament train.

Letter 2  -  Another letter to his father-in-law - his torturing suspense - Is Mary iII?

Letter 3  -  Aunt may make remarks about letters - life in London - Beware of sharpers.

Letter 4  -  Still at Rothesay - Letter sent c/o J. Tomlinson - wishes for Christmas - look up the Herald - her allotment.

Letter 5  -  At Matanzas - Mary complains of toothache - one set of teeth will serve two - Old Man - may go to Havana - vexed she didn't write - she must occupy herself and not brood - My Lady - the bed to be large enough - Christmas dinner - Rum cheap.

Letter 6  -  The long serial letter. 5000 miles away - frowns for the postman - party on board - oranges plentiful - slaves taking cargo off ship - he peeps at her portrait – Collision - climate - hurricanes - reading a novel on the Sabbath - The British Consul - a new hat - she is ailing somewhat - funny letter like old Journal.

Letter 7  -  Jemima meditates on the joys and sorrows of a sailor's wife.

Letter 8  -  The Battle of Leesburg - have the Yankees detained the letters? - forty two days coming - she must keep her mind easy and trust her Loving Husband to prove a kind and Affectionate Father - the Christening cake - Aunt and the Parrot.

Letter 9  -  From New York - no letter - will the Post Office clerks think him a madman?- horrid dreams - pushed about from port to port - lodgings at a shilling a night - proof against the temptation that befel the Dark-eyed Sailor.



Letter 1  - From Mrs. Crosbie telling of the health of Mary and the little one.

Letter 2  -  Wilby at Lowestoft.

Letter 3  -  Wilby at Gisleham - Edward intends to come to London.

Letter 4  -  From Edward. What happened in the tunnel?

Letter 5  -  Another from Edward

Letter 6  -  The Blessing

Letter 7  -  A short note from Cardiff.

Letter 8  -  How Whitehaven gets its weather.

Letter 9  -  Wilby anxious - call in Dr. Weekes - he hopes to get from Southampton.

Letter 10  -  What a disappointment! Ship goes to Liverpool instead.

Letter 11  -  At Cardiff - will she come to see him?

Letter 12  -  From Portland Bay - little Polly has a cough.

Letter 13  - A letter from a landlady.



Letter 1  -  July 20. 1863. Ship "Lord Elgin” at anchor in the St. Lawrence. Calms, contrary winds and fogs - one must take the weather as one's Beloved, for better for worse - Little Polly's birthday day dreams. No fruit in Quebec - Fruit pies and green peas, please.

Letter 2  -  From Newport to his Parents in law. The female child.

Letter 3  -  To the same.   Meet Mary at Paddington - the Parrot - the Ship Cygnet.

Letter 4  -  A short note per the Pilot.

Letter 5  -  To Cousin James. Winter conditions in New Brunswick - frozen meat for the Northern Army in the U.S.A.

Testimonial. Jan. 13. 1864.

Letter 6  -  Letter written from the Ship W.D. Dinsmore at St John, New Brunswick and dated January 20th.  [1864].   [Nance had omitted this letter from her Synopsis].



Letter 1  -  Wilby is now under steam. S.S.Northumberland. From Sunderland. Domestic Economy - a bit of stake.

Letter 2  -  From Dunkirk, a nice little town - will Mary make the trip? - cargo Iron and Silver ore.

Letter 3  -  The Sabbath at Santandar - wasting kisses on St. Sebastian.

Letter 4  -  A short [note] from Victoria Docks.




Letter 1  -  Barque "Emerald Isle". Capt. Wilby Rackham. First impressions of ship and crew - waiting for a fair wind - off Dungeness - hopes of winning a new hat.

Letter 2  -  A real chatty one -equinoctial gales - War on Bugs - Satan sends cooks - a good-looking Stewardess required, one child not objected to - the Captain's concertina.

(Personal reminiscences inserted here,)

Letter 3  -  From the River Essiquibo.   Why go to Glasgow? the Capt. practises diplomacy - parrots are plentiful - Londonderry not London.

Letter 4  -  From the same place - no meat or fowl for the Christmas mess - an adventure on a sandbank - the Black captain - fever - Wilby needs new white shirts.

Letter 5  -  At Havana - the Captn. has quite a family party this voyage, his wife and daughter and young brother-in-law. Charles, however disgraces himself.

Letter 6  -  To Edward Rackham telling of domestic details and of money investments - Mary and the little girl are first-rate sailors kisses for dear Miranda from Wilby and Mary.



Letter 1  -  To George Crosbie. Glasgow memories - changes at Langside - Mary is sad at the sight of her old home.

Letter 2  -  From Lagos New Year 1867. Mary is full of fear regarding the approaching event – Wilby’s admonishings will arrive too late - He wishes he could be Doctor - another order to be given if the present is of the right kind - Lagos pleasanter than Havana or Nuevitas - mosquitoes, sandflies, parrots. Toasts for New Year's Eve - Mr. Fisher's kisses - the only white women here - Mary has not followed instructions regarding Sarah's affair - Wilby is displeased.

Letter 3  -  From Liverpool. Preparations for the voyage.

Letter 4  -  From Accra. Trading in Ivory, Mahogany etc. at Cape Coast Castle. Trading in houses in London - Mary's education. Wilby plans to live ashore so that they may not always be separated - love and happiness. The “young Captain's" first birthday may be the occasion for a wee drap but "Dinna be aye dram drinking”.

Letter 4. P.S  -  All these moralisings caused Wilby to forget to endorse the draft.

Letter 5  -  He has made a record passage so wins a new hat – Mary must superintend her daughter's lessons - Willie must be schoolmaster too. Connolly has not got his Mate's ticket.

Letter 6  - From Lagos. He has been very ill but is recovered - disappointed at receiving no letter by last Mail.

Letter 7  -  From Lagos. Connolly and Sarah - did she deceive him?   Little Charlie is teething - tea without milk is better than Brandy for a sick stomach, it is less expensive too - Wilby has had another attack of malaria - if only she could have nursed him - his cheerfulness and natural buoyancy - the plug and the £25 - trade is not too good - the washerwoman - Battersea v. Bucknall House - hopes to be home for New Year - New Year of seven years ago.

Letter 8  -  Christmas morning at sea.  “My Darling”.

Letter 9  -  From William Crosbie - business matters.

Letter 10  -  From Mary to Wilby- very domestic - they have sat for their likeness. "The Blessing".      “Forget me not".



Letter 1  -  From Edward and Miranda. Sept 27. 1868.  Wilby may be aboard a foreign ship.

Letter 2  -  From Miranda. Aunt Ward had hoped to see Wilby.

Letter 3  -  From Miranda. Depend on me and edward.

Letter 4  -  From Jemima.   I trust the Lord will comfort and soport you.

Letter 5  -  From Edward and Miranda.  Dec. 23rd. The Christmas Hamper.

Letter 6  - From Miranda. She will meet Mary and the children at Lowestoft.

A Letter  - dated 1929 and not included in the original synopsis, from the daughters of Edward Rackham to Mary Jordan Rackham.