British India

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A letter from William Pugsley in Cawnpore to his mother, 8 November 1857

This letter appears with the kind permission of David Eastaff. Copyright, of course, remains with him. Mr Eastaff has a number of queries about the letter. If any reader is able to help, please contact him directly.

The letter, which was discovered among the papers of Tom Shirley of 132 Buckingham Road, Bletchley, was not accompanied by any supporting information although is it reaonable to asume that it came into his possession either through a Shirley family connection or through a connection to his wife's family, the Meagers of Bletchley. One tantalising clue exists among other papers in Mr Shirley's possession. A William Pugsley's signature appears on two Indentures from Devon dated 1728. It seems too much of a coincidence for there to be no connection.

The letter, addressed from Cawnpore, which had a central place in the Indian Mutiny, is written in what appears to be reasonably neat copperplate. However, the clarity of the writing, and some unusual spelling, make some of the words and letters difficult to interpret. It is also completely devoid of any punctuation whatsoever and effectively therefore, the letter is one long sentence with 'ands' and 'buts' to some extent taking the place of full stops and commas. The author also makes frequent use of capital letters.

Clearly the author can spell many words correctly but many of the spellings appear to be phonetic and it would be reasonable to assume that they reflect how the writer actually spoke. For example, 'hail' spelled 'ale'; 'were' spelled 'ware'; 'gallows' spelled 'galis'' 'different' spelled 'difrent'; 'awful' spelled 'offul' and so on. Is it too fanciful to imagine him speaking with a broad country accent, possibly from the Devon area?

At one level, the letter, although short, is surprisingly informative and gives a real flavour for the barbarity of the Mutiny. It does, however, raise many questions about William which cannot at this point be answered.

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Last modified 13 February, 2019

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