18940406 See an image of this letter, http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/pthm-sg36


Barbados,      6th April 1894


My dear Mother,

You must have had fivepence to pay on my last letter, which I sent on by New York, but you can set that against the sixpence you would have given me on my birthday if I had been at home, & can forward one penny to my credit.

Thanks to Miss Dora Sinton for her affectionate greeting which I reciprocate.[1] If she wants a courier for a tour round South America I am ready. She has about done Europe & must be sighing for fresh worlds to conquer.

I have had a pleasant stay here in a quiet way, but not such a gay time as previously, owing chiefly to the absence of the Da Costas who were very kind to me on former occasions.[2] They return from Europe by next mail.

Last night I was at a chess-gathering at Mr Alex Laurie’s house & was fitted against a champion who metaphorically wiped the floor with me.[3]

There is not much change in the place or people since I was here last. The old black “nurse” beamed on me when I arrived “How is you Mr Lowentall? I’se very glad to see you, sah! How’s your health, sah!”

She had not the proper kind of cotton to darn my socks, but she remembered that I used to carry some in my housewife, & asked for it.[4] She comes in the morning to settle the room & puts her head in at the door “Good morning, sah! Is you dressed yet sah? Did you sleep good, sah?”  And Thomas, the black boss-waiter, who orders the under waiters about with an authority that admits of no dispute, comes to the breakfast table, salutes respectfully with his forefinger, “Good morning, sah! You eats very little, sah. Your appetite is very delicate, sah. Try a little fried flying fish & sweet potato, sah.” No doubt he thinks I am flattered to hear that my appetite is very “delicate”, & so I shall tip him the more generously for his observing thoughtfulness. But he unblushingly makes this assertion daily after I have eaten a large plateful of porridge, some bacon & three boiled eggs, & he looks sympathetically sorry when I say “No thank you. I am not very hungry this morning, I will have some marmalade & bread & butter now, nothing more.” I must say that the eggs are not very large here, & that, further, it would be difficult for Thomas to blush under that dusky skin of his.

7th April.      Last night a musical & tea-sical evg. at Mr Rickford’s.[5] He made me stay over-night & this morning we had a swim, walking down into the water from the house – very delightful it was.

This morning I went off to the Roy. Mail S.S. “Dee” to congratulate my old friend Tyndall who has lately been promoted from “Chief” to Captain.[6] He was very glad to see me & when I would not stay to breakfast made me promise to go back to-morrow. He dines with me to-night. To-morrow night I dine with some people called Challenor.[7] Mr Austin also asked me for dinner to-morrow but I had to refuse.[8]

I am just finishing my mail. The steamer just in from Pará brought one Dundee letter, but nothing from Belfast. The direct mail from England comes the day after to-morrow. I am still short two letters of yours before the last two. I don’t understand it. They ought to have come up by this last boat from Brazil.

Two days hence I leave for Trinidad. A week later, or by first opportunity, I shall go on to Curaçao.

Best love.


  1. Dora Sinton  is related to the Quaker linen and flax family. https://www.genealogy.com/forum/surnames/topics/sinton/14/ She is likely to have been Dorothy Hesilridge Sinton (b 29th June 1863), daughter of Thomas Sinton who married Elizabeth Hesilridge Buckby in 1859: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Sinton? If so, Dora never married and died on 5th October 1949 at Laurelvale. See Index to People.
  2. JMcC mentions them in his letter to Jane in December 1889. He probably visited Darley and Ellen who were both born around 1844 and were part of the Da Costa Family of Barbados: http://freepages.rootsweb.com/~wheelwright/genealogy/dacosta.htm. See Index to People
  3. Possibly Archibald Laurie (b 1854 Barbados, m 21st August 1877 in Barbados to Frances Ann Lawrance).
  4. A "housewife" (and its derivatives) is a sewing kit. While women certainly carried and used them, housewifes are most associated with sailors and soldiers. Soldiers on both sides of the conflict brought their own kits in the American Civil War. An 1855 investigation into the poor performance of the British army in the Crimean war pointed out that the Russian soldiers all carried hussifs, and that if the English army had done the same, English soldiers would not have been in rags at Sevastapol. In WW I and WW II they were popular items for women’s sewing groups to make to include in care packages: https://thedreamstress.com/2015/11/a-lucky-sixpence-hussuf-and-what-are-hussuf-or-housewives/
  5. The name pops up in Barbados records – likely to be an established family of English settlers.
  6. Andrew Tyndall (b ~1853). See Index to People.
  7. Like Rickford, the name Challenor pops up in Barbados records – likely to be another family of English settlers.
  8. The Austins are mentioned at length in JMcC's letter of 14th December 1889: “And now I will tell you who these Austins are. Mrs A. is a sister of Mrs John Taylor of Drum, & I don’t know what relation to Dr Jack Brown – the Fergusson’s Dr Brown. Mr Braithwaite is also related to the Austins & Taylors by marriage I think. I am not very clear about the whole connection, but possibly you may know more about it. Mrs Austin & also her son & daughter have been in Belfast at different times staying with the Taylors at Windsor.” The only other mention of Austin in Barbados relates to the Tucknisses of Pernambuco – where Richard Austin (clergyman and slave owner) of a Barbados family was the maternal grandfather of Howard Tuckniss (who married the governess) Richard Austin’s brothers were William and Thomas Austin – both British Guiana slave-owners. His sons were William Paul and Charles Adye.


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John McCaldin Loewenthal: Letters Home from a Victorian Commercial Traveller, 1889 - 1895 Copyright © 2022 by Michelle Fink, Robert Boyd, Sarah Watkinson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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