Dr Walter Ross
Dr Walter Ross (1793-1832) was the son of Walter Ross, tacksman of Kincraig (parish of Rosskeen), and Christian Wallace. After spending some time in London, he went to Georgetown, Demerara, in 1819 from where he wrote, shortly after arriving, to his uncle, John Wallace at Nonkiln (Ross-shire):
Doctors do very well here, many of them have £3,000 a year and I hope in a few years I shall have a very handsome income . . . Great Fortunes have been made here of late by the rise of the price of Negroes; a good negro costs £300 and two or three years ago they were only worth £80 . . . morals here are very bad. Every quite [white] man almost has his Mistress and a swarm of Mulatto children. This is a system I detest and which please God I am determined to avoid. You will be surprised to hear that I am accused of being over religious. I hope the country will soon improve in this respect.
The original of this letter is in the Highland Council Archive HCA/D415/1 Letter from Dr Walter Ross to his uncle JohnWallace, tacksman at Nonekiln.
Dr Ross was said to have ‘amassed a considerable fortune’ by the time of his death in 1832. [British Columbia Historical Quarterly April 1943 ‘Five Letters of Charles Ross, 1842-44’]
Full transcript of letter:
HCA/D415/1Letter from Dr Walter Ross to his uncle JohnWallace, tacksman at Nonekiln.
Georgetown, Demerara, 10 March 1819
My dear John,
I think I promised to write to you after my arrival in South America but let that be as it may. I feel at the moment such a strong desire to hear of my friends in Rossshire that I must write and know of none to whom I have a greater pleasure in writing than to yourself. I never will forget the many happy moments I spent at Nonekiln. I had a very stormy and tedious passage across the Atlantic. I left London in the end of October and arrived he about the end of December. I wrote to London and Liverpool immediately on my arrival but I have heard nothing yet from Britain. This is a most delightful country for the last 10 or 12 years there have been no serious diseases and it is at this moment as healthy as Rosskeen. I never enjoyed better health than I do at this moment. Newcomers have almost always a fever shortly after their arrival but these fevers which formerly proved so fatal are for some years so very mild as to create no apprehension whatever. My friend Mr Brown was stricken with it yesterday week and he is now quite recovered and about to preach on Sunday. The manners and habits of this country are altogether new to me. I wish I had you here for a week! Nothing would surprise you so much as their profusion of money. There is no copper used at all. Buy an egg and you pay a bit (/5 Ster) for it. When I arrived I employed a Negro to carry a trunk a distance of about [1/2?] of a mile and he charged 5/!! Everything else is in proportion. Mr Brown's Precentor has £100 Stg a year and the Kirk Officer £50. Doctors do very well here, many of them have £3000 a year and I hope in a few years I shall have a very handsome income. I had letters to many of the most respectable inhabitants in the Colony. I dine out almost every day since I arrived tho experience of their dinners here is most enormous, they have 5 or 6 varieties of wine every day, they drink Champagne for which they pay £8 per dozen bottles like small beer. I shall find horses the most expensive thing. A Doctor in good practices must keep four and they cost nearly £100 each. Great Fortunes have been made here of late by the rise of the price of Negroes; a good negro costs £300 and two or three years ago they were only worth £80. The hire of a slave is 5/ a day and white man will work a much as 3 of them but they can endure the heat of the sun better. Mr. Brown is in better circumstances than any clergyman in Rossshire. A house and garden were bought for him last week for nearly £2000. He will be able to save £400 a year. His Church is quite a grand one and the congregation respectable. The morals here are very bad. Every quite [sic] man almost has his Mistress and a swarm of mulatto children. This is a system I detest and which please God I am determined to avoid. You will be surprised to hear that I am accused of being over religious. I hope the country will soon improve in this respect. I feel quite happy and I am confident if I [torn] well here but I shall be able [torn] more particular in my next. I gasp [torn] from Britain. This is my first letter to Scotland and I hope you will not lose a day in answering it and be particular in your intelligences. Give my warmest remembrances to your honest spouse, give her a kiss from me. How is my esteemed uncle George & his family. I will surprise him with a letter some of these days. You will mention me to Lachlin & & & without mentioning individuals. Call upon my Friend the minister of Kiltearn and tell him I will write to him soon. Who is schoolmaster there! Give my compliments at Bridgend. Is my Flame Miss Munro married or about to be married! I would desire you to go to Strathpeffer but John would acquaint Mr McKenzie with my welfare. I have not met many acquaintances here from Rossshire. I saw a son of Benjamin Ross the other day. Young men having no progression have great hardships to endure here for many years after their arrival and after all unless they have good friends it is very precarious whether they can realise a fortune until they are so reduced by effects of climate as to be unable to enjoy it. My excellent friends the Robertsons are well & I see them daily. I regret putting you to the expense of postage but I cannot pay it here otherwise I would do it at once for I hope never to feel the want of money more. Address "Dr Ross Georgetown Demarara". I hope your Farm goes on well. Have you settled with Rose? I hope to see you at Nonekiln some 10 years hence. I shall always wish you my dear John long life and happiness. Be not over anxious about this world but learn to be content & believe me ever to be
Your ever affectionate nephew
I am going on Wednesday to a great ball given my the Sons of St Patrick which is calculated will cost £1000. I wish you had the sum.