Letters from the Edge


In December 1899 my great-grandmother, Mabel Gibson, left England on the SS City of Rome bound for Sri Lanka to marry her fiancé, George Gillespy.

I have a box file full of letters that Mabel wrote to her mother whilst on board the steamer and over the next two years that she spent in Colombo with her new husband.

The letters were all kept, with their stamped envelopes, by my great-great-grandmother and have somehow ended up with me. I have spent the evening beginning to go through the letters – trying to decode the handwriting that has a distinct family feel to it and wondering what I will do with this treasure trove. Two years in the life of a young woman at the turn of the twentieth century.

I’m going to embark on this journey with her and see where it takes me. I know it will involve punkawallahs, scorpions and homesickness. But I can only wonder at how different life was then for a young married woman far from home. And at the privilege it is to have her precious words.



10 thoughts on “Letters from the Edge

  1. What a delicious opportunity Sophie! Just digging into what was happening in the Britsh Empire, back drop of the 2nd Boer war and it’s impact on colonies like Ceylon. What everyday life and the expectations put on a new bride in Columbo. This is just fraught with yummy hours of resarch. Have fun!

  2. The genealogist in me says transcribe the letters, build their story. There are some passenger lists on line (probably subscription), but what a great resource. It would be wonderful to thread the letters through transcriptions & build a profile up of their time overseas. Complete with pictures if the envelops & stamps. If it helps for me to look the passenger lists up for you, drop me an email.

  3. A treasure trove indeed Sophie. You could write a non fiction book based on the contents of the letters, it would be a best seller. Just proves we should never throw things away. What a legacy! .. Rosy

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