A Boy Convalescing – John Athol Bannatyne Murray McGregor’s letters to his father, Sir Evan McGregor, 1822

The McGregor family papers held at the Archives contain many letters written between family members; like many people in the early 19th century, they appear to have been keen correspondents. John wrote these letters while he was convalescing from illness in Portobello, near Edinburgh. It was quite common at this time to send invalids to the coast to recuperate as it was thought that the sea air was good for them. John was in his early teens and had evidently been quite unwell. This was a huge concern at a time when there was no real treatment for the many illnesses that children were vulnerable to and child mortality was very high.

John writes to his father about what he is doing: bathing in the sea, which sounds chilly in September but was doubtless regarded as good for recovery, taking up woodwork, having Gaelic lessons and thanking his father for his new dog, Caesar.

A letter from the boy’s tutor, John Jamieson, gives details of what John was studying at this time and of his parents’ ambitions for him to become a lawyer. Jamieson remarks on John’s fondness for drawing battle scenes and ascribes this to the natural inclination of a young boy.

A later letter, dated 20th March 1826 written by John to his Grandmother, gives details of his first posting with his regiment to Hungary. It appears that his interest in military matters was not so easily dismissed after all!