Post Office Circulation Map 1852:  a rare map revealing fascinating detail.

A good friend of mine found this map some time ago, and in a fit of generosity let me have it for a pittance.  A Victorian map showing Post Office delivery details doesn't sound the most fascinating of items, but once again it shows at a glance how the far north was treated. 

As this is a very scarce map (the NLS has a later example, dated 1892, which is worthy of comparison), I have taken detailed photographs of all the areas:

The key, not a lot of use, possibly waiting for handcolouring.
The Lowlands
The South-east, including Edinburgh district.
The South-west, including Glasgow.
Glasgow local posts.
The East Coast.
Central Scotland to Inverness and beyond.
The Far North.
The Hebrides.
Orkney and Shetland.

Postal delivery is of course reliant on communications, and the map reflects clearly road and rail infrastructure in 1852.

So far as the far north is concerned, the map shows that places like Ullapool, Poolewe and Lochalsh were getting a regular delivery 3 times a week, while further north, Lochinver and Scourie were getting one twice a week via Lairg. Likewise, Tongue had a mail delivery twice a week from Lairg, but was also part of a service along the north coast which saw a delivery as far as Durness three times a week, via Thurso.

Thirty years previous to this map, there would have been no postal service to these areas other than by the foot post. My book, The Immeasurable Wilds, highlights some of these characters, including 'Little Duncan, a bit of kilted india rubber' who was employed by Sir Hector Mackenzie, and Ian Moram Posda ('Big John the Post), who were required to make regular treks across some of Scotland's wildest terrain in all weathers.

"Highland Foot Post", from McIan's "Gaelic Gatherings, or The Highlanders at Home...."

With the roads came the regular coach services, however humble, and with them, the regular mail deliveries, putting the foot postmen out of a job. Big John the Post, for example emigrated to Australia once his services were no longer required.

"Bound for the Moors", a cartoon from The Graphic, 1875, showing the Lairg to Laxford to Scourie mail coach. It provided space for a small number of passengers.

By the time the NLS map had been published (1892), the railway had been completed up to Thurso, and more roads had been added.

Their map has been coloured, and the indications "Thrice a week" and "Twice a week" no longer required. The era of full mail delivery had arrived.

As a postscript to this page, I add two images, the front and back of an envelope posted in August 1860. They might be of interest to anyone who is captivated by the Highlands Controversy.

The envelope bears the arms of the Geological Survey of Great britain on the back. It was sent by its Director General, Sir Roderick Impey Murchison, who was indeed in the Highlands at that time with Archibald Geikie. Oldroyd, in his book The Highlands Controversy suggests that by this time, Murchison was as keen on researching his ancestry, as he was on researching the geology. This, I suspect, is a small piece of evidence confirming that suggestion: it is addressed to Dr. K. Murchison Corbet, and although I do not have the contents of the envelope, I suspect it contained questions about the Murchison lineage. Dr. Corbet is mentioned in Geikie's biography of Murchison in a note: "For these particulars I am indebted to Dr. Corbet of Beauly....who has made the family genealogy a matter of investigation" (page 7).

As for the postal details, the envelope has a Lochalsh stamp dated clearly AU28 1860, and another at its destination, Beauly, dated indistinctly.