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Letters of John Cockburn of Ormistoun to his Gardner (1727-1733)

[Note.—The letters folio, as far as possible, the order of fating. As Old Style still prevailed, it was usual to double date an event falling within the first three months of the year, as 1733 for 1734. The manuscript has been scrupulously followed even to the extent of retaining a few repeats of single words. Notice has been taken in the footnotes of obvious slips or omissions, but these are singularly few. The letters have been numbered for reference.]


Charles,—It is some time since I heard from you. We 4 Dec. 1727. have had a very drie season. This last fortnight we have had it soft and foggy without ane air of wind or once seeing the sun, but since yesterday morning we have a great deal of rain from the N. East wch is the first rain they have had here since you went away, which went into the Ground 3 inches. I wrote to my Bror telling him that Willm the Gardener was gone from hence before I received your Letter desiring the Seeds he was to get from Mr. Colebrool^s Gardener, and the best way I can think of for your getting of them was by writing to your Cousin John who is still in this neighbourhood, and you know he is acquainted with the peoplo.at Mr. Colebrooks. A Cook Maid who is going by Sea to my Brother goes from hence in some days, and I shall send by her a little of some seeds I have got since you went away. I believe you carried with you some of each kind I had before. As for a Carrot hough—Sure you can direct the making of one, it being only a very small one the shape of a common paring hough with a handle in proportion. I hope the planting and the Tennents ditchen has gone well on in this open weather and that the Nurserys are put into some order. I found Alexr Wight and some others fond of a border w* a hedge in the middle and Willows of each side, such as he made before his House behind Willm Cokburne and the Colliers houses, but I fear they will find themselves deceiv'd if they expect to make a good fence of it against Cattle, it not having the advantage of a ditch, for cattle will go through any hedge that is not very old when it is upon a Levell with them, and they can lay their breasts to it. Tell them that this is my opinion. I know it is cheaper made, but the best hedge, even upon a height above cattle, has enough to doe and fear the willows will prove a small help to keeping of them in or out, till the hedge grows so strong as to resist them upon a flatt. I wish I may be in the wrong and not they. You know that I have advis'd the strengthening of our fences by the way I propos'd of covering the whole face of the Bank w* white and black thorn, even to make stronger fences than we made formerly, which is just contrary to this practice; and I believe in time they will wish they had follow'd the methode I desir'd you to show them, rather than this of theirs, tho' theirs costs much less trouble at first. Tom: fell from the Copper this day se'night when a brewing, and broke his Legg, but Mr. Evans says he will doe well.

I have sent a good quantity of Melon Seeds which my Brother or you may make presents of or Exchange for other Seeds. All that are my own I can answer for being from good fruit, and I never sent any of them down to Scotland before.

They will be better some years hence. The other seeds I had directly from the places in ffrance I have nam'd upon ye papers.

My own Cabbage Seed of wch you know I had a great deal, was mostly let Shake as was all the Turnep Seed and most of the onion and Leeks. The Cabbage that was sav'd was all mix'd, but as it was from good Cabbage of all kinds, I have sent you some of it. I have put up also Savoys Seed, but I don't know wch is White and which is Green. I don't know if the Onion Seed is of the Strasburgh or Spanish or mix'd, for I found all neglected when I came home, few Seeds of any kind sav'd, and little left of the Seeds of the former year. Toff,14th Deer. 1727.


Charles,—I wrote to you of 5th and also to Alexr Wight 17 Jany. 173I. before I received yours. I have now yours of 7th. I can recollect little about planting which I did not mention to you in my last or in some letters I wrot to Alexr Wight before I received any from you. I would have you prune up the hollys and Yews in the Haining as you doe other trees, to see how high we can carry them. I told you in my last my opinion about Alexr Wight's Wood. There has been weather which allowed of little other work. I hope good use has been made of itt that way. A Wood to be cutt 3 or 4 years hence will be much the better for having the good for little trees cutt out now and the bodys of the trees which are to stand being all good a great way up. If this is done carefully now the bodies will grow a good deal in bigness in that time, and they will also putt out larger tops high up. They will cure of the Wounds and in 3 or 4 years be tall well body'd trees, so I am not for sparing in pruning up high espicially what is not to be cutt till summer come 4 years. Don't all the trees in the little Wood by east the Town of Orm: want being prun'd up, to make them clean body'd and to encourage them in running high. Chizells with long handles must be us'd both in the old Wood and in that by east the Town. I don't know who are employed in the Woods or about the other plantations, neither doe I know what any of the people's business is who are my Servts there and my advices or directions have not been comply'd with being thought bad, so I won't order any thing. What I write is only my opinion to you, but doe you follow the orders you receive from my Brother, whether agreeable to what I write or not. I don't know at all upon what foot Ch: Cokburne is at the Town and how far he is or not my Servc, and if he is my Servc in what he has been employ'd for I have not heard of his having been Imploy'd about the planting. If he is my Servc and working about the planting his business, I believe it will dispatch business best that you go with him, when any are to be planted by him that you go down and work with him and keep him to itt and see that he does right, and the like when he has such a piece of Work as the sneding of the Wood by east the Town or such other things, and of the other hand when you have any thing to doe bring him up to assist you, for when he is alone I fear he will doe little and not well. I would also have you sometimes be wfc Alexr Cokburne to assist him, espicially when he has a Piece of Work which requires dispatch, and when you have some jobb in Garden, Nursery or otherwise, that you call him and his man to make up for the time you have helpM him. By this way more bussines will be done and you '1 see to all being done right, for if things are not done right money and time is lost, and sometimes they had better be lett alone. Alexr Cokb: his man, Ch: Cokburne, you and your man if you have one would quickly go through two years cutting of Alexr Wight's Wood, and then you altogether would soon go through the Wood at the east end of the Town, and you would be sure all was well done. The like in sneding or supplying hedge row trees or pruning any of the other Woods, and so many of you would soon putt a piece of Nursery ground or Garden ground in order. Don't neglect what I wrote to Alexr Wight of making Nursery ground good, as far as you can this year but for certain against next. Plant the tall Horse Chesnutts and Yews as you propose or in any other place you shall be order'd. You know the Horse Chesnutts must not be too much expos'd to winds. If you plant Walnutts the ground must be well wrought for a good depth and also a large hole for them. Their roots are tender and if they have not open earth for shooting their roots down in and also round, they will sitt. Ashes mix'd with the mould will help them much as it will keep it open. I expect to hear frequently from you and I desire you will lett me know every time who have been employ'd about planting in the Wood, Garden or Nursery from your Writing before. I design'd to have had 1000 or two of young Elms gather'd from Ditches and sent down, but this hard frost has not allowed of itt, and there is now no Ship in the River for Leith in case the frost should brake. You can't plant the Walnutts too young, if they are well fenc'd from Cattle. They if young may be taken up wi the earth about them carefully and not a root . . . taking care to putt the spade deep down to take up the top root without cutting or braking of itt or any other. I desir'd you last year to speak to Mr. Mathie about firr seed, his father gott me some Norway and also some Swedish firr seed, and he will oblige me if he can gett me some of each. Lay ffilberts and Cobb nutts for propagating.

17 Jany. 173¾


Charles,—I had yours of 31st Jany. when I went on 12 Feby. 1731. Saturday to Hampstead. I had left a letter that morning to be putt into the post for Alexr Wight, a part of which I desir'd him to communicate to you. As I dont know the post Master of Haddington and how far he may take care of my letters, I have of late directed to be left at my father's house in Eden. Lett me know if they have come safe to hand or by what other direction you think he and you may have them left for the future. You should gett better Ink for the very direction of yours was so pale it could scarce be read.

I have sent down into Hertfordshire to see to get me 1500 or 2000 more Elms out of the hedges, in order to send them by Captn Man, who assures me he will sail the 22d of this month. I wrote to Alexr Wight to tell you about the getting ground ready, and also of my having sent a small vial wi some hundreds of Crab-Apple Seed. Itt was so late before I knew of your coming to Orm : that I could get no more. I hope you sent some of your Asparagus to my ffather.

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