Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The McRae letters–continued



This is the third letter in the batch of letters between Jane and Welsh McRae.



Auckland 21st Nov1887

Dear Jane
Yours of the 17th to hand, also one each from Amy and Nellie. Contents of all three individually noted, Will answer collectively only question perpounded. (Viz.”” When will you return to Opua”). Cannot tell..future.. in that direction: a dead wall of uncertainty... without a break to hang a hope on. Inclination directs me that way.. Prudence cries “Keep back” Let Prudence be obeyed!
Sorry you misconstrued my meaning re moral training of girls. Please read sentence considerately again. You will doubtless discover the true interpretation of it. No reflection indented, I do assure you. It would be criminal to insinuate , in the way you put it, on so limited an acquaintance. Moreover, I esteem you too highly for that.
Would be happy to advise you re lease of land to Jim. But knowledge of your business and domestic relations too circumscribed to draw upon. Would counsel guidance of your own judgment in the matter. No one can be better posted than yourself.
I note your remarks on the young lady.. she is altogether too youthful for me. I am in dead earnest on this matter of matrimony and would like if you could name a suitable person, equally in earnest, willing to open a correspondence right away and exchange photos. She must not be under thirty or over forty, moderately good looking, tolerably plump, to make amends for my “leanness”. Education not so much an object as disposition..’country’ rather than ‘city’ birth preferred. That’s my  style!  There are hundreds around qualified to fill this bill. I pass them on the streets every day. If they, dear creatures, were aware of the existence of the bait, the rest would be easy of accomplishment. They would take hold as leeches to a blood vessel. My bachelorhood would be a busted bubble and my matrimonial existence a stern reality.
But enough! I trust you received the goods in the same order as sent. The wicker casing of the tea would have made you a pretty lunch basket if it reached you safely. Two letters to hand to date. I thought you said there were three, Hectors address is Hokaikau, Bay of Islands. Forgot to enclose it last mail, though I had written it out.
Remember me to Amy and Nellie, I was a little disappointed in their letters, but happy to receive them, nevertheless, especially Amy’s . Will always be pleased to hear from them. I would reply separately but as this is a triple combination for you and them please let them read , if they are so minded. And oblige.

Yours very sincerely

P.S.  I will send along some grocery fixings for your Christmas, if you will let me know your needs in that respect. They will go by the “Norval” (if convenient). I lost track of her last trip.
I witnessed the funeral of Colonel Lyons yesterday, conducted in military style. A very imposing affair, Streets crammed with struggling humanity, eager to observe and be observed. He expired very suddenly in his bath from disease of the heart.


Unfortunately we don't have a copy of the letter from Jane that Welsh  refers to. If we did it may answer some of the more pressing questions we have regarding Jane and her relationship with the father of her children.
It would also be interesting to see what inference Jane too regarding the  upbringing of her daughters. Clearly she took some offence to Welsh’s comments in the previous letter regarding their moral “downgrading” .

One of the most interesting points in this letter from Welsh is the reference to Jane enquiring about his opinion of her “leasing land to Jim”.  One would assume  she is referring to James John McRae, her estranged “husband” , however it could mean her brother James Thompson  Middlebrook.
Either way, it would be wonderful to know what land she thought about leasing him and where it was, and moreover  how she had come into this land as she appears not to be particularly wealthy at this time in her life.

It seems Welsh had quite a high opinion of himself as a marriage suitor, and this was quite likely a relatively legitimate view. He clearly was a man of quite independent means, and was kind and generous ( at least toward his sister in law and his nieces.  He was 58 years old at the time of this letter, and as far as we know had never married.  In fact he never did find himself a wife, dying a bachelor only 5 years after these letters were written

The Colonel Lyons, that Welsh refers to in his postscript was actually Colonel William Lyon, an Imperial veteran, who commanded the Constabulary and Volunteer forces in the Waikato, with headquarters at Cambridge,in the 1870’s , and was in charge of the Auckland Volunteer District, 1884until his death in 1887. He began his soldiering career as an officer of the Coldstream Guards, and exchanged into the 92nd Highlanders, serving with that regiment for ten months in the Crimea. He lost an arm through a shooting accident in England, and left the Army to settle in New Zealand. When the Waikato War began he was appointed to the New Zealand forces, and served throughout that campaign and afterwards in the wars on the West and East Coasts. He was second in command under Colonel Whitmore in the final campaign against Titokowaru in 1869.

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