This is a short piece about a letter from the Balfour Papers. It’s short because we have a fascinating letter about which we know very little and we’re hoping that by throwing that little out to all of you, someone’s going to come back with some or all the missing pieces of the jigsaw.
In Box 22, bundle 10, item 15, of the Balfour papers, there is a letter from Mary Checkley at the Malt Shovel, Solihull, near Birmingham, to Colonel Belford, Cork, Ireland.
|Orkney Archive Reference: D2/22/10 Item 15 (Click on photo to enlarge)|
I have a Husband in your Regiment if living but have sent several letters but can get no answer from him so must conclude he is dead – which if so, please to give me a line and your petitioner will ever pray,
I am Sir Your most Hble [humble] Serv, [servant]
I’ve rooted about in Google and have found lots of references to the Malt Shovel at Solihull and it’s clearly an inn dating back perhaps to the 17th Century but have not yet found a history of the Inn and who might have owned it in 1796, and what Mary Checkley’s connection to it is.
Similarly I’ve looked for Mary herself but other than finding lots of Checkleys around the Midlands, both as a place name and a surname, I’ve not found Mary herself or her husband, alive or dead.
I’ve not found Mr Checkley yet in the records of the North Lowland Fencibles Regiment. He may be in future boxes, still to yield up their many secrets, but he’s not obviously in boxes 1 to 21.
So …….. who is Mary? Who is her husband? Was he dead? Where and when and under what circumstances? Or was he just a bad correspondent? The Regiment was safe enough in Ireland, albeit illness might easily consume a man in the late 18th Century British Army.
And how much concerned was Mary that he might be dead? Did she mind? Was she bereft? Did she have another plan and her Checkley husband was surplus to requirements? Did she have children needing their father home again? What were her financial circumstances? Why had he taken the King’s shilling and left?
She has an elegant and strong hand, if Mary herself wrote the letter, and she expresses herself well, if baldly. She writes with some maturity, but did she write the letter? She doesn’t quite get the surname Balfour right, but even addressed to Colonel Belford, the letter gets to the Thomas Balfour, and she knows she has to write to him at Cork.
These are the bare bones of it all. Can anyone help add to the story? We would very much like to hear from you.Posted on behalf of the Balfour Blogger.