Index

Letters from Andrew David Geddes, 27th Inniskillings, to his sister


These were written by Andrew Geddes. The sister was Margaret Geddes, called Maggy by her family. Their father was Adam Gordon Geddes, and uncles were John Geddes IV and David Geddes. They had a brother, John Geddes V (who may have been known as Jack).


Cork Barracks
Saturday
29th July /54

My dear Maggy
I have got regularly introduced to the 39th mess, I dined there last night. They are a nice set of fellows - 10 in number.
My boxes got here quite safe except for the bed-box which is quite smashed, although it is much stronger than any of the rest.
I find that I am in want of a great number of articles, which I must get today, such as breakfast things, wash-hand basin and stand, candlestick, etc. etc. etc. -
I have got capital quarters, a room about the size of your diningroom, and two closets off - one holds the bed with lots of room to spare, the other does for my servant, whose name, by the way, is John Johnstone, brushing my boots etc. With very little expense, I can make my room look quite handsome.
I have set Johnstone to clean out the rooms well before I get them arranged. The barracks are in general very good, built in a style something like Piershill, and are perched on the top of a hill overlooking the city.
I must go off to to order my furniture so goodbye for the present.

Yours affectly
A D Geddes

Miss Geddess
etc. etc. etc.

Letter from Andrew Geddes


Cork Barracks
Sunday
Augt. 7th

My dear Maggy
Here I am, fairly settled in a barrack-room, and on a fair way to becoming a soldier. My drill during the last week has been very hard work, and I am very glad of a rest today.
I get up at six, and am on duty of one sort or other, I may say till I go to bed at ten. On coming in at night, I have sometimes sat down and fallen asleep with my bootjack in my hand, awaking in an hour or two as stiff as a poker and wondering where I had got to.
I have got, as far as I can see, a very good servant; a steady going, sober fellow, who was a servant to a Captain of ours before, and accordingly, knows how everything should be done. I have agreed to give his wife fourteen shillings a month for washing, to wash as much as I like. Do you think it too much? I have got my dining room quite comfortable looking now, with the help of a carpet, arm chair, hearth rug etc. which it could not do without. The green table cover and cloths fit exactly. I have two clumsy barrack room chairs, one of which I have put in my bedroom, the other is fitted up with Betsy's air cushion, and a cover, and supports my august majesty when sitting at the table, as at present. The arm chair is a capital one - I consider it a decided bargain at 38/-. It folds up, and is made of mahoganny, with red leather back and seat. It will be a great inducement for me to stay at home and read a great deal. I hhave invested in a set of breakfast things, and can breakfast for sixpence or less, instead of paying a shilling for the mess breakfast.
I go to church in the forenoon with our regiment - and hear english service performed in the barrack chapel, the minister always gives us a most energetic discourse, fitted for a military audience.
How are all my friends and acquaintances? Remember me to them all, and tell those from whom I received parting tokens of friendship, that I find them all both useful and ornamental, ring, watch packet, razor wiper, turkish cap, everything in its way. Tell the young lady from whom I received my last present, that I preserve it carefully in my uniform case, as I do the memory of her in my heart, to be used only on some particular occasion.
By the bye, ask my father if it is usual, when I do not dine at my mess to pay the same as if I did? There are always some of ours absent, dining elsewhere, and I should think they must find rather expensive. I shall expect a letter very soon, and you may look for a regular screed some day from

Your affecte brother
A D Geddes

Miss Geddess
etc. etc. etc.

Letter from Andrew Geddes


Garrison Hotel
Cork Barracks
Saturday
August 27th

My dear Maggy
My duty with the Dorsets has been so constant for the last week that I am glad of a day's rest. I have got leave from Church parade today, and intend going down the river in an excursion steamer, which is to sail all about the Bay at Queenstown. The weather is very warm - I do not require to drill now unless I like, which you may fancy is very seldom.
I have not got orders about my removal to the Inniskiillings. Major Finley wrote yesterday to Dublin about it, and I expect the answer will be down tomorrow or next day. What are you doing now, I have not had a line from you for some time. If the orders give me a month's leave or so, I shall leave here on Wednesday at 8pm for Liverpool by steamer; or if I think of going by London I leave here on Thursday at 9am. Ask my father whether I should attend the Mily. Secrs Levée, to ask to get to India overland. There is time to get an answer here before Wednesy. If not, and he thinks it worthwhile, he can telegraph here, either "London" or "Home", so that I may know which route to take. I am quite tired of Cork, it is such a dirty town, and the hill up to Barracks is so steep, it comes very hard either on my purse or myself. [drawing of horse-drawn vehicle going up a very steep hill] ADG as he appears going up to Barracks in his outside car.
Give my love to Aunt, Uncles, and all particular ones, classing yourself among the last.

I remain
Yours affectly
A D Geddes

Miss Geddess
Edinburgh

Letter from Andrew Geddes


Edinburgh
7 Henderson Row
Tuesday
5th Sept.

My dear Maggy
How unfortunate I have been in missing you! I got to Glasgow early on Sunday morning from Belfast, but found there was no train to Edinburgh that day. I wrote my father a note saying I should breakfast with you on Monday morning, and accordingly came through by express train about ten o'clock.
On arriving at Henerson Row, what was my surprise to find no-one in the house. I thought you had all gone to the country, but some of the neighbours assured me to the contrary. I was completely at a loss, till the appearance of Betsy, coming along the street, who told me that you had gone to Callander, and that my father would not return for a day or two. I had serious intentions of returning forthwith to my barrack-room in Cork, but amused myself whistling "Home, sweet home" for the rest of the day, til my father came home, and here I am in "Auld Reekie" again.
It was with great difficulty I got away from Cork so soon, but the copy of my leave sent me by my father put all right.
I suppose you enjoy yourself very much at Callander, you could not find kinder friends or better scenery anywhere.
Mr. Vernon and Robert are to dine with us tomorrow - Uncle David is to be of the party too I believe. I have not yet seen him.
I have to arrange a great many things today, so you must excuse a longer letter. I shall look for a line from you very soon, and three scratches of a pen from Miss Trotter would put me in ecstasies. Si ditês-elle -
With remembrances to Mr and Mrs Trotter and the rest of the circle.

I remain
Yours affecte brother
A D Geddes
Enniskillingher

Miss Geddess
etc. etc. etc.

Letter from Andrew Geddes


Chatham Barracks
Thursday
Novr. 2d.

My dear Maggy
I have just got settled in my room, so small that I have to remove the table before getting into bed - but it is all the more comfortable as I don't require to rise to get anything, not even to ring for my servant, who sleeps in the kitchen above. Since I came I have been very busy, quarters being scarce, and drills the reverse, so I seize a quiet hour after mess to have a confidential scribble to you - which is always one of my greatest relaxations from regimental business. IMprimiswhen, I don't know, as it bears no date. He does not expect to be sent out to the service companies for some time.
You will be glad to hear that the report of Reade's death was an error. At least I think so - for a day or two after, I saw the death of a staff assist. surgeon, James Alexr. Reid advertised in the daily papers, which could not be J.B.C.Reade. I hope my conclusion is true, but I cannot ascertain exactly. Do you know anything more of it?
I expect to spend a very nice time here, the officers of ours are particularly kind to me; and there are lots of other subs like myself, i.e. quiet, steady going fellows, with whom I associate among the rest, Colt of the 5th Fusiliers, late of Inveresk, Massey, ditto, whom I met at Cork.
All the Pongoes, as the Provisl. Battalion are called, mess together. There are generally about 40. We grub in full togg buttoned up, so that my uniform will be well worn by the end of next year. Nearly all the subs have the new uniform, but they are quite disgusted with it, and those with the old coatee and epaulets can afford to pity and patronise them. I am very glad that I did not get the new.
Tomorrow is Friday. I must write to Jack and tell him how I like Chatham. I think I shall live cheap here, with a little management. There is plenty of duty to do inside the Barracks, and the town does not appear at all inviting, from all accounts.
Drop me a line or two soon, and I shall give you the Garrison news in return. I hope Aunt is keeping better. I wrote to her since I arrived. Remember me to Uncle, I shall write him when I get more settled.
Love etc. etc. to all friends. What does my father think of Sebastopol? A lot of men are going from here as hospital orderlies, volunteers.
I am very sleepy, so goodnight.

My dear Maggy
Yours affectionately
A D Geddes

Letter from Andrew Geddes


Chatham
Tuesday
Novr. 7th.

My dear Maggy
I wrote to my father yesterday, and am going to write to you today, not that I have anything particular to say, but partly from a selfish motive which will be developed towards the end of my letter.
I am busy with my duile [?] nearly all day. I have just been down to town ordering some groceries, blacking, etc. What a shame that a sub can't keep a wife on his pay who could do all those sort of things for him. But I am content to be as I am, as I can get my own way, which you know I am very fond of having.
I live very comfortably here, much more so than at Cork, and what is better, much cheaper. I have got a piece of my carpet to fit my room, the rest will keep till wanted. The arm-chair is a very nice thing I can assure you and not a bit too luxurious. Some of the fellows have their rooms, small as they are, splendidly furnished, the walls covered with pictures, handsome pier glasses [mirrors] etc. which I don't intend to sport, unless I get them in a present. The usual style here is, for those who have no furniture except their drawers, to pay 2/6 per week to a furniture lender, who furnshes their rooms for the time - Rather expensive style.
The Pongos here are all on capital terms with each other, we drop in to tea, occasionally after Mess, and assist each other in duty matters in a most cordial manner.
My kit is quite perfect now, as far as I can see, except in one particular. I rather stupidly left my slippers at the Hotel in London, and as I could not get up again for them, I feel the want of a pair very much. Perhaps it might amuse you and I assure you afford me great pleasure to have a pair of your working. A stunning pattern has just occurred to me - viz - the Inniskilling castle worked in gold thread on the point with a shamrock twined on the sides in green silk. The ground might be red cloth or any colour you please. [diagram of the pattern] Something in this way. The idea is taken from my ornaments on the uniform. Tell me what you think of it.
How are all my friends in Auld Reekie getting on - Remember me to them all and give everybody's love to everybody.
I hear the first Mess bugle clear sounding afar and ravenously prepare to rush to the attack, so pray excuse any hasty concusion. The fellows here are nearly all Irish, so that I am in a fair way to become a regular Inniskillinger. I intend writing John this week, to tell him of my Chatham life.

Adieu Ma chere Soeur
Toujours le votre
André D Geddes

Letter from Andrew Geddes


Chatham Barracks
Sunday
Novr. 13th.

My dear Maggy
This is the only day of the week that I have little duty to do. There is no drill, and no parade, except the one for chruch, which I attended in the forenoon. The weather was so uncommon fine for Chatham, although very cold, that I went for a walk in the afternoon. I have scarcely been out of barracks since I came, so that I enjoyed the walk very much. I went down with Hope of the 10th, an Edinburgh citizen, to see the works thrown up by the engineers near Brompton. There is to be a grand attack of them some night soon. I never saw such a place as this. The dirty towns of Rochister Stroud and Chatham stand about 2 miles along the banks of the Medway, extensive docks and lots of men of war, some ready for sea, others laid up in ordinary [reserve fleet] and painted white which makes them look very peculiar, are to be seen on the river. The open country on the other hand, seems to be used entirely for military purposes, lines upon lines of mounds of Earth and deep ditches. Windmills abound upon all the high grounds. On a fine evening when the sun is setting, the lanscape is very pretty. If it was summer I might make some fine sketches, but the weather is very cold now. When I was at brighton, Miss Hicks made me a present of a thing you know I have so long wished for, viz - a tin sketching case with moist colours. I a sorry I can't get it used. Madeline and Jane also gave me a beautiful little gold pencil case.
I find the value of experience and the value of good advice very much here. I try to practice the hints given by my father or Uncle, and always find them right. I am very comfortable here for the winter. Uncle's blue surtout comes into good use here - we are not allowed to appear in Mufti much, and at any rate I have never time to change, so in going to town or anywhere, we wear a surtout exactly like mine with a collar and black tie, sword and sling belt, sash, and forage cap; it is a much warmer dress than the jacket, and I think looks much better. My dear Maggy, I want a piece of advice from you, being a great hand for etiquette - Mr Gresson of ours married lately, he lives out of barracks - I see him every day on parade, and have met him on the street with Mrs Gresson - do you think I should call at his house, or ask me to introduce me or what - being in the same corps, he might expect me to call. Pray enlighten me.
I expect a letter from you every day, which may solve all my present difficulties. I can't forgive myself for being such a fool as to give away my servants Mess livery at Cork. I shal have to give Fitz's as I call my present one, extra wages in consideration of the suit he has to wear. Experienced as I am, I find something is required to be got almost every day, which I could have brought from home,for instance, I might have seized your silver candle-sticks, most of the officers have them. I had to get a cheap bronze one which does match the one I got at Cork. I had to get a cruet stand, price 3/-, extra plates, kettle, and other household goods which you have too many of. I want to spend as little money as possible and those sort of things seem to run off with it at an alarming rate. If I want any things you can give me, you might make up a box and send them, the carriage would not cost much. My clothing and linen department are all right, in fact my kit could not be better. As a finish I shall give yu a sketch of my little room as it at present appears. The subs rooms here are all exactly the same. [follows a sketch of his room]

Yours truly
A D Geddes

Miss Geddes
Edinburgh

[crossed on first sheet] If you like to answer my letters whenever you receive them, and I yours in like manner, we shall just write one letter per week
ADG

Letter from Andrew Geddes


Chatham
Friday
Novr. 17th. /54

N.B. Put on your specs and prepare for a lengthy epistle.

My dear Maggy
There has been a great change in the weather here, since I came. Up to the day before yesterday it was very fine, though rather cold, and I got through my marching and musket drill very fast. But on Wednesday, when I was to begin Company drill, it began to rain, and has continued to do so ever since. In consequence, there is very little doing in the Barrackyard. We parade the men at ½ past 9 morning and ½ past 2 afternoon in their rooms, there is no drill, and I and the other subs amuse ourselves as we best can, practise the sword exercise, look into each other;s rooms and have a chaff etc. At the present moment I am surrounded with the sound of musical instruments. The paymaster's wife of the 18th strums on the piano above, Hope of the 10th blows the flute beneath, Hume of the 56th invokes sweet sounds from the concertina next door - in short almost everyone plays some instrument. You never heard such a Concert? in your life as there is going on. I wrote you the other day, and expected an answer before this, perhaps something may arrive by the post at two o'clock. I shall keep this letter open, and send an answer if there is.
I am vice president at the Mess this week, and have great fun sometimes, and plenty of carving to do. Colonel Jervis dines at Mess, being a bachelor. About 60 of us sit down. The Captains and old hands near the head, the subs and young fellows near the Vice. After helping the soup, which I assure you is a very tiring operation, the side dishes are handed round. We have a French cook and it affords great amusement to find out what they are. The covers are all removed, and the Vice invariably discovers he has Rosbif to carve. Somehow or other, the Colonel always has a Turkey or Goose, and a voice is always heard from that quarter "Mr. Vice, let me send you some Goose" (or Turkey, as the case may be). "Thank yo, Colonel" replies the obedient Vice, as a refusal would not do, and the Vice gets the Tit bit of the table. Then follows a regiment of jellies, puddings and all sorts of sweet stuff, then cheese and salad. The table cloth is then drawn, and wine put down. The subs allow the decanters to pass round once, and then withdraw, Vice president included, leaving the old hands to enjoy themselves. I have only taken wine once and don't intend to do so again. I have now given you an idea of the proceedings at the ondo Mess, which is generally considered a good one. It is supported by Voluntary contributions, there is no regular sunscription for it.
I have got my room in nice order, it is snug a place as one could wish. If I had a couple of nice pictuers, it would look quite stunning. The fellows here have all pictues, and spend a lot of money on them, which I can't afford to do, so my walls must remain as they are.
I wish I had brought my Foils, masks and gloves with me, fencing is capital amusement is wet weather.
I have seem very little of the places round here, having scarecely had time to leave the Barracks, so that I have little news that can interest you. Our forces in the Crimea are getting dreadfully cut up, if the papers report truly.
Early this morning, an order came down from London for Volunteers, the Battalion turned out on Parade at ½ past seven, and thirty men volunteered altogether, a Segeant and three men from our depot. They are off this morning to join a regiment in Dublin, who are going to sail to the East. The first ship of the five that sailed with the 27th on board, has arrived at Calcutta; and I expect to hear by next mail that they have all been landed safe. The landing of troops there is rather a difficult operation, I believe, owing to the tremendous surf on the beach.
Captain Philips has gone on two weeks leave, and as Mr. Gresson lives some distance from the Barracks, I have almost command of the depôt!! What do you think of that, ma chere?
There is said to be good shooting on the marshes hear here in winter, our fellows are all cleaning their guns, to be ready when the first frost setsin. They nearly all have guns, my next door neighbour has a fine revolver, much larger than mine, rifled. He is a capital shot with it. The weather has cleared up a little, so I suspect there is to be a parade. Adieu, till after it.

P.S. ½ past 4 - Afternoon.
No letters for me today, so I must just seal up this one. There was both parade and drill today, and I have just returned from the latter, in time to escape the rain, which has again commenced. I have shut my shutters, lighted my candles, which are the bane of my existance, they have not been five minutes lighted before a stream of grease begins to run down the stand, whence it proceeds to form a pool on your green table cloth. I have to keep paper always under them in consequence. I just came here in time for the winter supply of fuel. The coals last very well, but I have to buy candles every week. I cannot quite regulate my expenses till the end of the month, but they are something like the following:-
Breakfast - Tea, Bread, Butter & Eggs = 6d
Lunch - Glass of beer, Bread etc. = 6d
Dinner - 2/3 - Beer etc. at do 4d = 2/6d
Coffee etc. after Mess - say 6d
Per Month say £6.0.0
Add Washing 15.0
Sevt's Wages 8.0
For Mess livery per month 5.0
For sundaries say £1.12.0
Total p.m. say £9.0.0
Total per day 4/-
Total per week 30/-
Total per month £9.0.0

My stupidity at in giving away my mess livery at Cork still haunts my mind and the vision of money spent uselessly there rises before me like Banquo's ghost. As you may notice over the page I think I must give my servant some compensation for the suit he has to wear.
Tell me what you think of my arrangements before the end of the month. There goes Hope on his flute, the air is "We're a noddin'" very apropos for a scotchman who has nothing praticular to engage his mind. All the fellows nearly are Irish except Colt, Hope and I. It behoves me to become a Paddy too, as much as possible, being in an Irish Corps. My uniform and appointemnts are much admired, the other fellows are fierce at my being allowed to sport the Castle while they only have a plain number on their forage caps. Most of the wearer's are dsgusted with the new Tunic, one of them got the loan of my coat to go to a ball. But fortunately it did not fit well, and he was obligued to go in his own Tunic minus the splendours of Epaulets and lace. I shall expect a letter very soon.

Your affecte brother
A D Geddes

Miss Geddes
etc. etc. etc.

These letters are mostly written on a single sheet, folded over, so I have scanned both sides, even though it makes the last 'page' to come first (it saves time!) However this letter has an extra half sheet, so I have put the pages in order, top row, then bottom row.

Letter from Andrew Geddes


This letter was transcribed by John Dibblee who added notes (see below).

Chatham Barracks
Tuesday February 13th 1855

My dear Maggie,

It is now some time since I wrote to you - but shall try to make up by giving an account of my employment lately. Since the 94th. went away, the duty has been very hard on the P.B. I was on guard on Wednesday and Friday last, and was on again yesterday, the intervals were filled agreebly with Court Martials and other duty, to give you an idea of the place I shall give you a sketch of a - "Day of the Main Dock" - By the order book of the preceeding evening I am informed that Mr. Geddes 27th. is for Guard next day - With an eye to as much bodily comfort as possible, on the eventful morning I first "walk into" a good breakfast before walking down to parade at 10am; where, hving inspected the Guards, we march off to our respective places of banishment, viz, a sub, to the Main Guard at the Gate, another sub, to the lower-dock, about two miles off, & a captain with say your humble servant as subaltern to the Main Dock - The snow which was very deep a short (while) ago has got so beaten and slippery, that the men often come down musket and all. Arrived at the Guardroom, the guards are changed, the one one marches home and the Captain & I make ourselves comfortable in our room for the day. We have to sit in our full togg and greatcoats till the F.O. turns us out, which by the way we did all yesterday, as he never made his appearance at all - My senior having already visited the sentries, 30 in number, about 3 o'clock I prepare to do the same.

Dock area
Copy of Andrew's sketch (made by JFD)

Going through the stores and other wooden erections opposite the Guard house, I keep close to the wall where the sentries are, till I reach the water. Then turn to the right, and pass along the edge of the wharfs, launching slips and docks , often crossing on a narrow planking over the water gate of the dock, which are tremendous places; in one there is a 90 gun ship rearing its tremendous sides thirty or forty feet above me, in another is a ship just building enclosed by a large iron shed with windows in the roof. Passing perhaps 30 or 40 of these docks, I pass along the edge of the wharfs to the Lower Dk. Gd., inform the officer of the hour at which we dine, as he always dines at the Main Dock, and proceeding along the sentries close to the land-wall, from which one looks down upton the numberless docks and stores through which I have just passed, arrive again at the Guardroom - where find the Captain perhaps asleep or busy reading, I resolve on a stroll through the middle of the dockyard through which runs the road, such as it is, with the stores etc. on each side,. Entering one, I find it full of boats of all sorts and descriptions, in another I find masts being made, in a third chains, cables & ropes and so forth - going into the engine room, I see immense bars of iron as thick as a man's body cut through by a tremendous sort of hatchet, like cheese, and lots of strange things too numerous to mention. Going round the sentries is by no means easy or safe at this season. With a cutting wind blowing in one's face, & the edges of the docks & the narrow planking on which we cross covered with ice - Last night I tripped on a boatline and would have pitched headforemost into the river if I had not been caught by a chain placed to prevent such accidents. A sergeant marches in front with a lanthorn not a glass one, to marshall me the way, and give sentries the parole, without which no one can move about the Yard at night - I get little sleep on Guard, as I have to inspect the reliefs for the sentries which go out every two hours, have to turn out the guard to the F.O. and Captain of the Day and go round the sentries during the night - such is the way I have employed most of my time lately - hard as the duty is I often think how easy it is compared to the work the poor fellows before Sebastopol have to undergo, out in the trenches up to the waist perhaps in water and mud, at night to sleep on the wet ground and if not frozen to death before morning to have to return to the trenches again - with a piece of salt pork or worse to appease their hunger all day - I see that the 39th have not landed yet. I should have been a liet. in it by last gazette - I almost wish that I had stayed in it a little longer, but time alone can show what is coming, so "Cheer up, Sam, don't let your spirits go down" as I sing preparatory to winding up this epistle, & putting on my hat and swell greatcoat, fo a turn down town.

Yours affecty
A.D.Geddes
27th Inniskillings

To Miss Geddes, Edinburgh

(Crossing on first page) I got my father's letter containing the 27th. colours.

Letter from Andrew Geddes


Notes by John Dibblee August 1989

This is the last of 9 letters to Maggy from Cork, Edinburgh (1 on leave) and Chatham. Andrew had joined 39th (Dorsets) in Cork the previous summer and transferred to 27th, shortly after. This may have been because it was his Uncle John's regiment (he was to become its honorary Colonel 5 years later) or because, as an Irish regiment, it was cheaper, especially as it was due for India, where a subaltern could live on his pay. (I am not sure where 39th were going - the pre-war Dorsets had battle honours "Sevastopol" and 2 Indian ones but were a merger of 39th &. 54th).

The main body of 27th had already left for India where Andrew was soon to join them. Both at Cork and Chatham he felt obsessed with economy and kept careful accounts. He was spending, on essentials, slightly more than his pay, so his father must have made him a small allowance. From all sources the family do not appear to have been well off - a situation well known in service families for many years after that!

"PB" stoff for "Pongo Battalion" and was obviously formed of various infantry units for guard duty at Chatham Dockyard. They had to wear uniform at all times, so were pretty well on a war footing. The mess was a happy one and the subalterns got on well together. "FO" means, I think, Field Officer, i.e. a Major or possibly Lieut. Col. with responsibility for the whole battalion that day.

Andrew's normal brekfast cost him 6d. (six old pennies, 2.5p) served in his room, as against 1/- (one shilling old money, 5p) in the mess. He appears from his letters to have been a serious and sensitive young man, without much humour, but with a high sense of duty. His chief recreation was sketching although they seem to have been no opportunities at Chatham. He had recently been given a new paintbox. He does not appear to have been a solitary, though. When going out, he always mentions a companion. He reports all other subalterns (mostly Irish but two Scots) as playing musical instruments, but doesn't seem to have done so himself. He regrets not having brought his fencing kit to Chatham, so he probably fenced at the Scottish Naval and Military Academy.