Mab’s back and off on her holidays.

Horekelly, Madampe, (N.W.S.), Ceylon


Dearest Tom*

I posted a letter to you on Friday to catch an intermediate French mail, but I believe it must have caught the proper one as it went out two days late. If so, you will have got two letters together. I haven’t got much to tell you this week, things have been going on very quietly, and we have had no more fights. George has written to try to get ‘Elephant Nook’ for the first fortnight in November. We are looking forward to going away and it will be so jolly to have the same dear little house again. George has to go to the court again on Friday to hear the decision, as I think I have already told you, and then we shall get away as soon as we possibly can. Mr Norman wants George to stay in Colombo a day or two just as there are one or two things he wants to see him about, otherwise we had planned to go up to Colombo in the boat, and then on by the night mail. We want to take our bikes if we can, get them to Colombo in time, but they have to go as far as there by boat and of course I expect there won’t be one going when we want it. The water is very high just now. Sometimes when it gets to a certain height, the boats can’t get under some of the bridges. If that happens, we shall be done.

Fancy you having a dance so early. I do hope it went off all right and that you all had a good time , especially Dor. How I wish I had been there to see her, really grown up. I expect she looked awfully nice.

I should like the pattern of the little nightgown very much, especially as it is easy, but not any stuff. I wore my muslin frock when I went to call on Mrs de Livera. I rather begrudged it in the bullock cart though as I did not know who had been in it before, but I had a cushion to sit on and a rug on the floor. I have been getting out my flannelette blouses as I shall want them for Newera Eliya, also my coat skirt. Oh, here is a tiny moth hole in my skirt. I am mad and I am constantly taking it out and shaking it but moths are dreadful here, those very tiny ones. The hole is fortunately not in a conspicuous place. I think wearing the frock will be good for it. I wish I could do it more often.

lots of love and kisses to everybody

from Sammie**

*Mab’s name for her sister, Amy.

**Mab’s name for herself

George and the Hockey Stick.


Dearest Tommie

Oh, wot a day we’re ‘aving, and ‘ow cheap!

George has been nearly put in jail for manslaughter, only luckily the man is recovering and George didn’t hit him either but some other ruffian. You know I told you in my last letter about the row between the head packer and the sheller who went and annoyed him. A lot of them are jealous of him because he is getting on so well. Well! George and Mr Van Dort went down to the Court House the next afternoon to defend Juanis as the sheller had taken out a case against him for assault. It was adjourned until the 23rd and they thought the matter would drop till then. But in the evening just after dinner, about 8.30, Juanis sent a man to ask George to go over to his house as a lot of these men were abusing him and he wanted George to stop them. When I heard there might be a row, I made him take his hockey stick as I thought it might be some sort of protection and might frighten them.

When George got there he found an excited crowd, but being dark he could not see much who they were. So he took hold of one man by the arm and said, ‘who are you?’ The man said he was the owner of the piece of ground (it was just outside the mill boundary). George let go his arm and turned to speak to Juanis. As he did so, the man gave him a little knock over the head with his hand. Anthony, the watchman, was standing behind George and was so mad with the man for touching the ‘master’ that he gave him a punch with his fist and then Juanis flew at the man and a general row began. They shouted and bellowed. I was nearly frantic with fright as I thought George might get hurt. However, Anthony made him come away directly they began to fight as he said his being there only made things worse.

So he came to the house and sent off for Mr Van Dort and the head man and then hearing that the former had already got there, he went back to the scene of the fray. When he arrived he found that Juanis had been knocked senseless and one of the men on the other side had got a most tremendous blow to the head and was bleeding horrendously.The man was not insensible and both he and his friends declared that George had hit him with his hockey stick and they wanted him taken off to prison then and there. Mr Van Dort who is splendid at managing natives sent George back to the house to be safe and then started trying to pacify them. He had to talk for a good time but at last he managed to calm them down and thee two wounded men were taken off to the hospital. Juanis was not really hurt much, only badly bruised and was able to appear in Court the next day but the doctor said the other man only got there just in time. Another half hour he would have been dead. And yet that man, although he knew he had nearly died, swore the next day that it was George who had hit him.

The head man came to fetch the hockey stick in the morning and they were all very disappointed to find it had not got an iron tip, also that it was not covered with blood. They all went off to the Court House the next morning. George and Mr Van Dort started at 9 o’clock and did not get back till 8. I can’t say I passed a very happy day. The way those men lied in the witness box was enough to turn you blue, the only thing was a great many points in their tales did not tally but they all swore George hit the man. There was only Anthony who could speak for George and they had got hold of him (he is quite young) and so terrified him that he declared he did not go near the place till after the man was hurt. Of course, the magistrate knows that George is speaking the truth and the men are lying but he could not dismiss the case straight away as they would be sure to appeal so it has been sent to the Attorney General to decide and he will either dismiss it or send it to the District Court to be tried again but both the magistrate and George’s proctor think it will be dismissed. George and Mr Van Dort think this is really a put up job directed more against the Company than George personally and they think a man who was dismissed for stealing coconuts some time before we came is really at the bottom of it. When the row began they hoped George and Mr Van Dort would go so that they could mix them up in it.

2 p.m. It is raining hard and thundering. The N.E. Monsoon is on us and it begins to rain a little earlier every day and soon I expect we shall have whole days of it. But it is delicious to have it cool. It is quite chilly early in the morning and the water makes my hands quite cold. We have not taken to a blanket yet although have had it aired all ready. George is writing an account of his adventures to his mother and I have sent one to Kate and also written to Maggie. I am rather sorry the baby is a girl. It would be good for Dudley to have another boy and I hope Gwynie won’t be jealous. Mrs Gillespy said that Mr Bois is rather pleased that it’s a girl as he says he likes girls.

George and all the men have to go to the Court House on the 26th to hear the result of the Attorney General’s decision. If it is all right and the case is dismissed we are going up to the Nuwara Eliya for a fortnight’s holiday. Of course if it has to be tried again, we shall wait till after that but anyhow we shall go away directly it is all settled. We both feel as if we should like a change after all this bother and worry. It rather shook my nerves that night hearing all the bellowing and shouting and then being by myself all the next day was not very cheering as I kept on imagining all sorts of things when George was so late. He wished afterwards I had gone with him to the Court House but it would have been very uncomfortable for me there and besides he was riding my bike as Mr Van Dort’s had come to grief so he had to lend him his.

Mr Norman, the manager, came up on Thursday and stayed till Sunday. Of course he could not actually do anything but George thought it best to send for him, it is so difficult to explain things in writing. There is a slight chance of our being moved from here soon. I only hope it will come off. But Mr Norman says that the Company would like to get rid of Mr Harton but as his agreement is not up for a year they could do it without paying him six months salary. If they do that they will make George sort of visiting agent to both factories and we shall live either at Veyangoda or Colombo. Mr Van Dort will be in charge here with a responsible fitter for the machinery and George will come down regularly once a month to inspect. Of course this is very vague and they may keep on Mr Harton for his year and then move us but Mr Norman says Mr Harton is doing nothing for his money so they would really save six months salary by letting him go. I suppose we shall know by about Christmas time.

Very many thanks for the films which came all right. They are beautifully fresh aren’t they and might be all right.

I hope Mother’s finger is quite all right. It sounded a nasty place.

George says will you find out the price of sparklers per dozen.

Well, I think I have told you everything. This has been such an exacting week. I have not had time to think much.

Good bye, lots of love and kisses to everybody

from Mab

Mab is back and she’s living the dream!


Sept 26th 1900

Dearest Tommy

Behold us luxuriating in civilisation! Only for two days though, we came on Monday and go back tomorrow (Thursday). But still, it makes a little break in the monotony of one’s existence. We are staying here this time, we thought we would see what it was like and we like it better than the G of H which is right in the town. This is a little way out, quite on the edge of the sea and is much more breezy and open. We have got such a jolly bedroom with one window looking onto the sea. The beds, washstand and dressing table all up one end, there are thick curtains which can be drawn right across that part and the rest is furnished as a sitting room, with comfy chairs and sofa and a sort of little sideboard and tables. One could live quite comfortably in a room like that, in fact a lot of people do live here and at the G of H. It is almost less expensive than having a house.

We have had early tea at 7 in our room and George has gone down to the office. I have had a cold bath and have been sitting opposite to the sea to get a freshener. There is such a jolly breeze coming straight off it. There is a seawater swimming bath in the hotel but I have not the courage to go alone. I wish it was mixed so that George could come. Between here and the town is a long parade and drive (3/4 mile) by the edge of the sea. Everyone takes a constitutional along it early between 6 and 7, either driving, riding or hiking.

Yesterday morning I went shopping and then picked George up at the office and had a chat with the men there. Mr Waldrock, the manager, who went home just after I came out has got the sack. The reasons have not come to light, but he had been rather unlucky in his work lately and the directors, being in a cantankerous mood evidently, came to blows with him. It is hard times as he is married with two children, but he has heaps of friends out here and has got one small appointment already and will doubtless soon get one again. Mr Norman, the man next to him, is the manager now. They don’t seem as if they are going to put another man in at all.

Yesterday afternoon we went to call on the Stanley Bois but they were not at home and we have an idea that they, or at any rate she,  is up country as their drawing room floor was being relaid. I was sorry as I should liked to have seen her. In the evening after dinner we went down to the G of H to see Mrs Maxfield. I expect I have told you about her. She is the mother of the man in charge of the Mill at Veyangoda. She is the matron, or whatever you call it,  at the G of H.

The night before we went along Galle Face to get a blow before we went to bed. It is rather fascinating spinning along in a rickshaw at night, by the side of the sea with only the lights of the town in the distance.



I have been into the town again with George and now he has gone on to the office and I came back to write. I don’t think we are going to do anything much this afternoon except go to a nursery garden and try to get some little ferns for the table.

We got the mail last night, or rather I did. George was very disgusted as all the letters were for me. I had quite a bundle. It was jolly. Five altogether, from you, Kate, Jo, Mother and Maudie, the first time she has written to me. I shan’t have time to write to people this week so I am going to send Mother, Kate and Mrs G. pictorial post cards as they are rather good little views. I have put a mark against our bedroom windows, the front one is over the porch and the sea is to the right by the coconut trees. You can get a little idea of the Galle Face from the view on this paper. Then there is a view of the lighthouse which is in the middle of the town and you get a view of a bullock cart with its great big thatched roof. Then there is a picture of a catamaran. The one we went out in at Negombo was a little bigger than that I think. You can see the out-rigger where they put the braid across for us to sit. You can see a rickshaw in the hotel scene. They are not very comfortable as you have to sit forward and it makes your side ache after a bit.

This hotel is really quite palatial like the Metropole only of course with huge verandahs and corridors which make it more airy, but all the appointments are very good and plenty of servants about. I am using all sorts of paper as I began to write in the reading room. Now I’m in the Ladies drawing room and they give no smaller paper.

Then I am going to make your mouth water as it never did before – I’ve got a bicycle! We got so sick of walking along those beastly roads always the same way and George would not go out for a ride without me, so he got it for me, and it came down as a surprise. Wasn’t it sweet of him? It is an American machine. White is the maker and it is to cost R.187. George is going to pay for it in three monthly instalments. It would have been R.170 cash. Of course it is a fairly cheap one but it is strong and well-made and suits me capitally. I’ve only had it since last Wednesday and have been out three times. I got on all right only the roads are so rutty that sometimes I get off a little unexpectedly. But tell Mother I will be very careful. She is not to think I am going to be reckless and try to go fast or anything and besides George is much too cautious over me to allow me to do anything rash. But it will be so much nicer for us to go out for a little spin of an evening instead of just meandering along the road and of course the exercise will be much better for us and will be just the thing for my tummy.

I do hope you did not hurt yourself when you fell down those steps. It sounds horrible. The Long’s party does sound jolly. I wish I had been there. Your blouse does sound sweet, I do want to see it so badly. You must keep it till I come home.

Isn’t Jane awful? Do tell me all about it or send me a paper with her trial. Who is the child like? Sil Ryder is good to take it but why is it a handful? It must be quite small? How lucky Fay is. I should think she’s off her head with joy. I can quite imagine Ma being sceptical.

I am so sorry Aunt Lin has rheumatism so badly and hope it is better now. Tell her she had better come out here and all of the heat will work it out. George will be coming in for lunch in a minute. It is past 1.30 and I’m hungry so I hope he won’t be long.

Tell Jo I was awfully pleased to have her letter and will answer it soon.

Lots of love and kisses to everybody

Yours ever



Letter to Mother, 24.01.00



My dearest Mother

I was so glad to hear from Amy that you were just a tiny, scrap better but it does not sound much all the same. You are a wicked old woman to go and get ill, and I only hope you are better by now. And the Aunts too, I hope they have got over their manifold afflictions.

I also most sincerely hope you have got a servant, it must be awful for you with the weather so cold. It makes me feel piggish to be luxuriating here.

We are going to move next week if all goes well. Monday and Tuesday we shall pack up, and on Wednesday the things will go off in bullock wagons under charge of the ‘boy’ and his satellites. They ought to arrive at Horekelly on Friday morning and I expect we shall get there that same evening. We shall go to Colombo on Wednesday and come on by coach on Friday, leaving at 7 am and arriving at Horekelly at 5 o’clock. I expect I shall be pretty well tired out as the coaches are not very comfortable. We stop halfway for breakfast, so that will make a little rest. George is very anxious and keeps on saying ‘I know you will be dreadfully tired’ in a doleful voice. He treats me as a very frail reed, and spoils me almost as much as you and Amy do, waiting on me hand and foot. In those ways, he has improved tremendously since he came out, he is much better in doing little things than he used to be.

I had to leave off then as first George came home and then the little black clergyman arrived to call. He is a very nice little man and can talk English quite well. He is only a deacon and the Vicar, who also has a living in Colombo, comes over once a month for communion. He came to see me on Saturday and I liked him very much. He is a native but white, what they call a burgher, a mixture of black and white.

Interval for dinner

There is a tremendous thunder storm going on. We had one tremendous crash while we were at dinner and then I thought it had left off and just now I wandered into the verandah to look at the rain and there came an enormous flash of lightning and the thunder exactly with it right over head. I have never heard a clap quite so loud before. I was quite paralysed for a second, and then simply flung myself onto George for protection. He says he does not remember ever hearing such a loud clap before. It is still thundering but only ordinary so to speak and I don’t mind it, but I hope it does not go on all night.

I don’t believe I have ever told you what wedding presents George has had. Of course, Maggie’s and Percy’s you know about, it is awfully nice but I only just had one peep the night we arrived and somehow could not take it in much, but there are knives in it, large and small I think. Then the boy who was going to be his best man and then got ill, Walter, gave him a picture, a very pretty girl’s head, but I have forgotten what it is called. Mr and Mrs Waldrock (the manager at Colombo) gave him a lamp, and Mr Masefield (the man here) a butter dish, oak and silver, a fern pot, and a photo of himself and bungalow. Another man, Mr Bolton gave him a set of silver afternoon tea spoons and tongs, such jolly ones. We are well off for teaspoons as that makes eighteen silver ones, besides a dozen in Maggie’s chest. Then the day before we were married, there came a little silver pepper pot from Vi and Reggie Saunders, and a few days afterward, a dozen Indian sort of d’oyleys from Colonel and Mrs Fanshawe, the married Miss Saunders.

My two boys on the ‘Rome’ have also sent me presents. Mr Wren some Maltese lace d’oyleys and Mr Renny a lovely table centre, white satin all worked in silver wire sort of stuff and an Indian tea cosy, worked in thick gold. Wasn’t it nice of them? I am going to send them my photograph as soon as I get it. The proofs came today and also our wedding ones. The big group is very good, but the one of George and I alone is too awful for words. We are going to have the negative and everything destroyed. I simply tower over George in that beastly hat. The ones of me are not at all bad, one is rather good, better than usual. We shall send you some of both as soon as we get them, but they are very slow here and we can’t see about them until we go in the shop next Thursday.

I am so glad our ‘boy’ will come with us to Horekelly. George was rather afraid he wouldn’t and I was dreading having to cope with a new one. This one looks after everything so well and is strictly honest. He takes great interest in me and likes giving me new things to eat. George was afraid he might not like him getting married but he seems rather proud of it and told George he was used to looking after ladies. They all call George ‘Master’ and me ‘Lady’. It sounded so funny at first. The boy has got a nice little ‘House coolie’ who can talk English and will come to Horekelly but I don’t think he has got any others yet, but I expect he will manage it all right. A ‘House coolie’ helps wait at table and cleans silver etc and is like a parlour maid, and is supposed to be ready to come whenever I call him. The ‘kitchen coolie’ washes up, and sweeps the rooms, does washstands and baths.

Thursday 8.30 am.

The ‘boy’ is gong to Colombo for a holiday today and coming back tomorrow morning. His wife and family live there but I don’t think he sees them very often. He is quite a middle-aged man and has grown up children. This evening we are going to dine with Mr Masefield. He has his sister staying with him. They are not bad sort of people in their way, although I should not exactly care to get intimate with them. I am hoping I shall like the manager at Horekelly. He is a burgher too, his name is Van Dort, of Dutch extraction as so many are here. He is quite young and George likes him very well, so I expect I shall too. It would be awkward if I didn’t, as he lives quite close so we are bound to see a certain amount of him and if we play games or anything it would be so mean not to ask him in. I expect he is very glad to have us as Mr Harbro is the sort of person who never does anything at all, but just sits in a long chair in the verandah and won’t take any kind of exercise. They all hate him and Mr Masefield is awfully sad at the prospect of having him here.

I wonder how Eddie Goddard will get on at the war? It is nice and plucky of him to go but aren’t Mr and Mrs Goddard dreadfully cut up abut it? Why doesn’t that cowardly little Ronald go and try to be of some use in the world? I think all loafers ought to be compelled to go. It would be a case of kill or cure and would prove if they have any pluck at all. Our Ceylon contingent leaves next Thursday and as we are in Colombo that day we hope we may see them off. They are sending 120 and they had no end of applications, ever so many more than they wanted. They are cavalry, so were obliged to ride well.

We had cocoa for ‘early tea’ this morning and used Walter Lovett’s silver jug. It looks awfully nice on the table. The ‘boy’ likes to have everything nice, and is very pleased when I give him out new things, but I have not got out much at present. He always makes the table look very pretty for breakfast and dinner, with lots of flowers. We’re using Miss Willis’ table centre for breakfast and Lucy Greenwood’s for dinner at present. Well, I must finish this up as the ‘boy’ is going to take it when he goes. Will you ask Amy to tell Florence that her photo came on Monday and thank her very much for it and the frame. I have not time to write to her this week, if she won’t mind only having a message.

Lots of love and kisses to everybody from Mab.

Mabel Gillespy!! It sounds so funny, doesn’t it?

Letter from George


Jan 24/00

My dear Amy

I have owed you a letter for a long time past, and now I have left it so late that I have only time for a few lines. I have received my marching orders to proceed to a mud hut in the jungle abut 240 miles from Colombo. Fortunately the place we are going to is a healthy one on the whole and we shall have the additional arrangement of a two storied bungalow which is a great thing in any tropical place healthy or otherwise. The journey is by coach or water but our launch is just now out of order so we can’t go by the latter this time, so Mab will have the new sensation of an 8 or 9 hour journey by coach broken by an hour and a half at a place for breakfast. I am afraid she will find it more tiring than a train but it will be quite new to her and more exciting. She had her first experience of a tropical thunderstorm tonight. There was one quite startling clap which made us jump out of our skins. It is unusual this time of year but the rain was welcome as we were getting dried up.

Mab doesn’t seem to feel the heat very much though the days have been somewhat close of late. We have games of tennis and badminton nearly every evening. There is no court at Horekelly but I must set to work and make one when we get there. The house there as I said is a two storied one, two rooms below with a verandah in front and two rooms above with a verandah also. The verandahs are of course wide ones and the upper one will be a useful sitting ‘room’ if I may so call it. One of the lower rooms is now used as an office but I hope to build another office and then we can use both rooms. The house faces the canal which runs past the mill. It is a fairly deep cutting and the banks are lined with trees and other vegetation. It is rather pretty.

The soil is all sand and opposite the house on the other side of the canal – and the road which runs by the side of the canal – is a large coconut estate, one of the oldest in the district with tall trees, so tall that you can’t see the trunks unless you look up and that has a monotonous effect as there is no colour of course on the coconut palms except at the top. There are coconuts near the house but they are all young ones. Then there is a bridge built of iron. There is a waterway all the way to Colombo partly canal and partly natural streams or lagoons and the same beyond Horekelly for miles up the coast.

The mail goes out this morning. It is settled that we leave Veyangoda next Wednesday, stay in Colombo probably at the Grand Oriental Hotel for two days and go down to Horekelly on Friday. I believe Mab gave you our future address.

℅ Orient Co Ltd
Horekelly Mills

We shall not be very badly off there as we shall see one or two Europeans now and then which is more than we do here and of course a member of the Colombo staff will be up once a month and stay at the bungalow. There is also a doctor fairly close, in fact very close as distance goes in Ceylon, only about 1 1/2 or 2 miles I think.

Goodbye now. Many thanks for your letters which are always welcome.

With best love

Yours affectionately

G. T. Gillespy

Letter from Mabel, 21st December 1899


SS Rome
Thursday, December 21st

My dearest Mother

Not much longer to wait now, but the days do crawl. I can’t a bit realise that I am going to see George in three days. I suppose it will dawn on me soon and I shall be wildly excited by the time Sunday comes. I had a letter from George at Aden and also one from Maggie. She is coming to Colombo on the Friday to do some shopping and then she and Mr Bois and George and I will all go up by the 7 o’clock train on Xmas morning and we shall arrive at their house in nice time for dinner. It seems rather a shame to cut up their Xmas day, but she is awfully kind and does not seem to mind.

Mr Haines bought me such lovely feathers at Aden with his share of the prize money. Wasn’t it nice of him? There are four bunches, one of white, three of natural. The only drawback is that they are all quite straight and flat. I don’t know whether I shall be able to get them curled at Colombo. The Captain says they are worth the money he gave for them. I am going to send some home to Amy when I am sending a parcel. They might come in for something or other.

We all felt very sad on Monday when all our various soldier boys left us. We had quite an affecting parting. Mr Renny got quite chokey. He and I have been such chums. There is hardly anybody nice of the male sex left except Mr Haines. The first officer Mr Bruce is an awfully nice man, and the doctor and purser are both jolly fellows, quite youthful specimens. I don’t know any of the other officers except the fifth. He looks after the library and we have great fun with him.

There are two very nice Australian girls, Miss Way and Miss Stirling. The latter is most comic and we never know what she is going to say next. We played cricket yesterday and the day before, mixed teams, and it is rather good fun. I have proved the champion bat, much to my amazement. I made 24 on Monday and got too excited for words.

Maggie said in her letter that she thought we should be married on Wednesday the 27th. It does seem close now and I can’t quite believe it. I have a dreadful sinking sort of feeling every now and then when I begin to think how far I am away although generally I only feel as if I were just staying away for a time. I think when I get on shore I shall begin to take it in more. Life on board is so messed up somehow that one’s thoughts won’t flow properly. And we are all so terribly lazy, it is quite dreadful.

I shall be very glad to get on shore and have a more comfortable bed. Mine is like lying on wood, it is so hard ad lumpy. My bones quite ached at first. Both the bed and the pillows are stuffed with horse hair, so you can imagine what it is like.


Tuesday, December 26th

Well, Mother dear, here I am safe and sound and in a state of excitement too great for words. It is so lovely seeing George again and he has not altered a bit, just a scrap thinner, that is all. We had a most awful time landing on Monday night. We did not get in till past nine and it was simply pouring with rain, thundering and lightening as well. George and Mr Bois came to fetch me. It was too wet for Maggie especially as it was so late. We managed to get my big trunk all right but I had to go down in the pelting rain to pick it out. We finally got on shore about eleven o’clock and got to the Bois house at 11.30. I had put on my clean blue print and it was absolutely filthy when I arrived. We came up here by the seven o’clock yesterday morning and got here about 5 o’clock. It is three quarters of an hour’s drive from the station. This is a jolly house and all the furniture and everything is perfect.

We are going to be married tomorrow at one o’clock, quite quietly I am thankful to say. Then we are going to stay up here for about a fortnight. George has taken a little house a few miles away. It is called ‘Elephant’s Nook’, why I can’t imagine. We went over to see it this morning and it is a dear little place, quite hidden away. George’s ‘boy’ has come up to this house and will take charge and look after everything, so I shall not have anything at all to do with the housekeeping, unless he suggests anything I don’t like. He was there this morning and filled me with awe and admiration. I know I shall be dreadfully frightened of him.

I have just been unpacking and looking at my clothes and they all look satisfactory, so be sure you let Kate know as it will ease her mind. My hats are also all right, the feathers hardly a scrap out of curl. I am wearing my check coat and skirt here as it is quite cool enough for it. I am going off in my white alpaca tomorrow.

It was quite affecting saying goodbye to the Captain and everybody on Monday. I had the chief and fourth officers and Purser to see me off, nearly all the passengers had gone. Mr Bois had a special launch so we did not go with the others, and we were so late because of my box. I was the only one who got any heavy luggage. It was so delicious! Mr Bois passed the box with the silver teapot inside it through customs as a Christmas pudding, wasn’t it cute? He did not know what was in it so said the first thing that came into his head.

Well, I must say goodbye now. Thank you and everybody for the calendars and cards. We were very delighted to have them. We drank to ‘absent friends’ last night at dinner. All the children sat up for it. Gwinnie is such a duck, tell Lottie she is simply sweet. I will write next mail and tell you everything. I feel too topsy turvy today to think much. Maggie has got another wedding cake. We could not possibly get more.

Goodbye, kisses and love to everybody, from Mab.

Letter from George Gillespy


This is a letter I have found from my great grandfather in Colombo to his prospective mother-in-law, Amy Gibson (my great great grandmother), in Croydon, October 18th, 1899.

My dear Mrs Gibson

After leaving it till the very last moment, I have at last made up my mind (after talking it over thoroughly with my sister and Mr Bois*) to ask you to let Mab come out to me at the end of next month, so that we can be married from my sister’s house before she leaves for England which will be on the 18th January. As she will have all her preparations to make before leaving, it will of course be most convenient for her to have Mab before Christmas, necessitating her to leave at the end of November.

I am afraid I have not given you much time in which to finally make up your mind to entrust Mabel to me, and I know what a trial it will be to you to part with her, but I am sure you will be glad that the uncertainty in which I have kept her and all of you for so long is at last at an end. Any slight hitch there may be to Mab’s comfort in our being married now instead of a year or so later when I might have offered her a home in Colombo instead of a dull pit-station, will be counter-balanced I am sure by her being able to be married from my sister’s house, and I know you will be glad to hear from the latter all about our wedding when she comes home in February (Maggie).

And now dear Mrs Gibson, please be quite sure that I shall do my utmost to make Mab’s life out here as happy a one as it is in my power. Things unforeseen may arise which will make our stay in Ceylon longer or shorter but I expect we shall be able to return to England either for a long holiday or for good in three years time.

You know that my indecision has been due to the company proposing to place me in Colombo, but I have since had another letter in which the matter is not again referred to and therefore have concluded that it has been abandoned or is in abeyance and I have written to the managing director of the company announcing my intention of settling at Veyangoda anyhow for a time at the end of the year. I have the assurance of Mr Waldoch, the manager in Ceylon, that I am not likely to be required to live in Colombo on my modest income, and therefore I think the risks of the course I am taking are not of any significance and Mr Bois, with whom I have discussed it, is of the same opinion.

Goodbye now. I have not said anything about the best way for Mab to come out as you will be able to get the necessary information from the different lines better than I can give them to you. Although the time will be short, I don’t think there will be any difficulty in getting a berth for Mab at the end of November.

With love to everyone

Yours affectionately, George Gillespy.

*George’s sister, Maggie, is married to Mr Bois and they also live in Ceylon.