10248-1 imageThanks to modern technology, we have the luxury of effortless contact with far away friends and family. John Campbell of Ballyrobbin, County Antrim, who emigrated to America in 1796 was eager for snippets of family news and, unfortunately for him, had to depend solely on snail mail (or rather sail mail). It was not possible for Mr Campbell to see and speak to his family via the World Wide Web, hold a conversation on a landline or send a text message via a mobile phone. He had to be content with lazy correspondents from home, a flawed international postal system, within which letters were frequently lost or stolen, and sinking ships; he often went for great swathes of time without news. In a letter to his brother James, dated 18th March 1797, he pointedly writes:

‘The great distance and unusual absence makes me verry desirous of hearing from you I expected to have had Letters from you…’

After another lengthy silence, in another letter dated 2nd April 1814, he moans:

‘… It is now nearly four years since I have had aletter from you, and you may Judge from your own feelings, the anxiety I have felt at so lengthy asilence…’Campbell blog

Campbell blog 2Nowadays, we feel uneasy if there is a time lapse of four hours without an expected reply from a loved one, much less four years.

TCD MS 10248, which contains correspondence from other members of the Campbell family, mainly from Augusta, Georgia (1796-1851), including that of his niece, Mary Ann Blair, the subject of an earlier blog post entitled ‘Not Such a Wise Move’ (October 2013), is available for consultation in the Manuscripts & Archives Research Library, Trinity College Dublin.

Aisling Lockhart