c.1630 Letter from Isobell Haldane of Ballycarry

Author: Isobell Haldane

Date: 1630

Source: 1630s letter from Lady Isobel Edmonstone (née Haldane) at Red Hall, Ballycarry, Co. Antrim, to her son Archibald Edmonstone, Laird of Duntreath (Duntreath Mss., Scottish Record Office). In Report on Manuscripts in Various Collections, Vol. V, The Manuscripts of ... Sir Archibald Edmonstone of Duntreath (Historical Manuscripts Commission, 1909)

Comments: This letter contains some of the best surviving examples of uninhibited Scots writing with an Ulster provenance in the 17th century. Isobel Haldane’s correct surname was of course Edmonston(e), but the peculiarly Scottish custom of married women retaining their maiden surnames continued until last century in east Antrim, and can also be identified in east Down on many gravestone inscriptions. A linguistic and historical analysis of this letter can be found in: Robinson, Philip, ‘The Scots Language in Seventeenth-Century Ulster’, Ulster Folklife 35 (1989), 86-99.

Doc. ref. no.: USLS/TB/Doc/1200-1699/002

“Worthy and weilbelovitt soun, I have receavit your letter. Ye persave by myne that I ame glaid of that begun redemtion (as ye call it) of Duntreath, and so I ame indeid, blissit be God for itt and He only, both His helping your deir and worthy father to leave you as he did quhen I remember how he was left, and his helping you sa happily in all your proseiding in it to your auin honour, to the comfort of your freinds, quha I knaw feirit ay the worst untill they hard how ye war landit, and to the disapointing of thair hop quha heir tocht never ye wald have doon that ye have doon bot wald rather have bein willing ye had brokin tryst. Always ye say it bot begun, it is sa indeid, bot blist be God it is ane fair begining; for I kna baith quhat ye had to pay, quhat to pay it with, and quhat it is ye pay it for. Ye will wrestle with it, ye say, giff I will, and the worst of it will be to trail a pick a few yeirs untill ye be able, and your body is abler for that nor it was. Blist be God your body is weill, bot God send yow sum better exerceiss to it nor that; your worthy father had far harder wrestlings nor ye have be many degres, and he never trailit ane pick. God send yow sic ane end of your wrestlings to saul and body and estate as he had. As for my will, quhat will I ever had ye suld have had over heavie burdings, God is ane wittnes to my inward affection how loth I was to it. And giff my outward actions hes nocht bein ansuerable to that I profess to be within according to my power and beyond it, lett many honest folks both sib and freind be witnes. Indeid (to writ frely to you) by many of your words to myself, and to sindrie of me, I mycht see ye thocht litle of it or of anything I did that was gud or gave yow contentment; bott all (almaist) was allways wrang. It mycht be sa, bot to you, giff it was sa, it was far be my dessing, and it is far by the opinioun many hes had of me, young and auld, especially your deir and worthy father, to quhoun I may say I was never mair willing to have doon my dutie nor I was to yow in your awin place and ever salbe as I ame able. And I salbe loth to make my self unable by unnessisare spending, with the grace of God. I confes I am far fra sa gud ane gatherer, as many ar; I was never of that natur nor never I think salbe; bot for my wastrie, it hes nocht bein sa mekle it neidit to be mikle spokin of. Giff God hes nocht giffin me ane wardlly wyss hairt, blissit be His name his blissing hes supleit my defects. Quhatever I be, giff it had bein God’s will I wald ye had had the hairt to me I had to yow and far les, and then according to our first agrementt quhen ye came hame to duell with me with confortt, every ane of us wald have doon for uthers weill. I that man spend suld have keipit house to us all giff I war able, and ye with that was yours by your cloths releivit sum debt and put sum thing to the help of your brethers portioun everie yeir; and giff I wad nocht in everything doon as ye thocht fitt lovingly have tauld me and nocht gloumit and froumitt and tould ane uther. I ame nocht sa perverss bot I will heir a servant. I suld ather doon your will or giffin ane reassoun to the contrair, and baith have streivin to be als quyett as we culd. This had bein sueit and confortabl leiving, and this was always my mynd, and that that I aimitt att, and in my judgment, was best for us all; bot every ane was nocht of my opiniouns bot quhilk was the best opinioun I leave off to judg; and giff myne be best, quhais breck of dutie to uther hinders it lett God and thair awin contienc bear them wittnes of it, and giff it was wrang, rebuk them shairply for it that thay may mend. As for your gudwill to your brethers advancment, lett it kyth indeid, and for the cuirsis thay rin, thair is nocht mikl ill in them, blist be God We have all sum falts. Jams, giff God help him through with his bargan, I hop wilbe reassounable, and Mr Jhon be tyme sall leiv without being troublsum to his freinds, bot for the present hard ineugh. As for Mr Robert, ye think his being with me hinders him that hes sindre stays. I have found him a confort to me with litle din sindre tyms quhen I had neid of it, and in doing that I hop he thinks nocht his tyme tint. I am sory to heir ye can nocht leiv with credit in Dintreath before ye bestow tua thosand merkis upon it. I suld kua quhat will do mair nor it neids to a house; it neids nocht bot to mak it dry and mend the glass and the plaister and this wilbe far fra that soum; for timer wark ye neid to by nane, bot giff ye think your credit canocht stand without hingings and uther plenishing conform to that, indeid ye may soon ware out that soum. Bot God forbid ye be sa daft. I hop ye remember your ain Italian proverb; and your worthy father and I confynd our leiving with creditt within ane Irish crech for sein yeirs, quhich, blist be God, did na ill to yow nor na discredit to us. Thair is na help nor further your wiff seal craew of me I canocht sho sal it want. As for the teilling in the coumons I wald be willing to further it, bot the tym was almost past of teilling ley befor ye wreat to me, being within four or fyve dayis of Martch, and indeid the pleas I heir is very waik. Your wif had spokin with Mr Dallnay in it and was nocht pleist with his ansuer, as I hop sho hes wretin to yow. I reprovit him for it. He said sho mistook him. He wald breck no promeiss he had maid to you. He had sindre reasons stayit him that I kneu to be treu, bot sa far as I culd understand his cheiff reassoun was he wald have had your self present. Sa wissing God to bliss yow and derect yow rycht in everi thing, I will comitt yow to him still quhill I remain, your very loving mother, ISSOBELL HALDANE.”

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