Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Coaching and the Post Office in olden Times (1)

An excerpt from

''Popular Traditions of Glasgow ''

by Andrew Wallace 1889


Recently ,across the UK,The post office
has been going through some turbulant times.
I thought it may be interesting to look at our
Postal service during the 18th & 19th centuries.



 " What news? what news? your tidings tell,
Tell me, you must, and shall-
Say why bareheaded you are come,
Or why you come at all? "

THE speed, accuracy, and care with which the business of
the Post Office is now conducted, present a strong and
remarkable contrast to the careless and haphazard manner
in which it was carried on in the "good old days " of a
hundred years ago ; and a few incidents relating to postal
matters in those former days, may be interesting to our
readers. Our gossipy historian " Senex " relates that on one
occasion about the close of last century, he found the Fort
William mail bag lying on the public road, a little way —
beyond Dumbarton, and he had to perform the office of post
boy for several miles ; and when he delivered the bag at the
next post village, the postmaster never even said, "Thank
you, sir," but with a 'humph', carelessly tossed the bag into
a corner. This may be taken as a fair sample of the indif-
ference with which postal matters were treated in those
primitive days.

Before the, Union of Scotland and England in 1707, the
mail between Edinburgh and Glasgow was conveyed by a
foot runner , but on 7th November, 1709, application was
made to the United Parliament for a 'riding' post between
the cities, which application was successful ; but the mail,
in reality, had no proper protection, for, down to " Senex’s "
time, the rider with the mail was a mere boy, and his horse
a sorry hack. About the year 1730, and for many years
after, the Glasgow Post Office was located at No. 51 Princes
Street, City, (then called Gibson’s Wynd), and consisted
of three small apartments. The delivery "bole " or wicket
window was a hole broken through the wall of the close,
which close was a common thoroughfare entry to King
Street. The rent of the premises was some .£6 or £8 a year.
 The salaries of the postmaster and clerks were of a similarly
humble order, but these were supplemented by perquisites
for extra services rendered to the wealthier merchants of the
city in the special despatch of letters. About this period
(latter half of last century) Glasgow was becoming a city of
considerable importance ; her merchants carrying on not
only an extensive country trade, but also a foreign com-
merce of pretty large extent. The usual mode of despatch- .
ing letters by the Post Office to the small provincial towns
through running boys, whose regular delivery of letters
could not be depended on, was felt by the Glasgow mer-
chants as a great drawback to their business; it therefore
came to be a practice with our wealthier merchants to send
their letters express by special messengers of their own , but
as this was a rather expensive method of transmitting their
correspondence, they contrived the means of obtaining the
assistance of the postmaster in sending off their express
despatches under the cloak of the Post Office seal. A
private party, who had occasion to despatch an
 express to..........

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