Papers of Isabel Duncan (fl 1878 - 1893)

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Collection of 3 diaries and 81 letters, written by Mrs Isabel Duncan, whilst accompanying her husband, William Duncan, master of the barque, Scotia, of Banff, on voyages to the West Indies, some eastern ports of North and South America, South Africa, Mauritius and Ceylon, as well as various European and British ports, 1878 - 1893.

The diaries, 1878 - 1882, may have been intended as accounts of voyages to be read by members of her own and her husband's family, one of whom, James Duncan, was in charge of the movements of the vessel from his office in London. Captain Duncan's father or brother, John Duncan, lived at Kensington, near Garmouth in Morayshire, where Captain and Mrs Duncan stayed during 1892 - 1893, allowing the Scotia to sail under another master while deciding whether to retire from the sea altogether. A transcript of a portion of the earliest diary, made by John A. Robertson (donor), covering the period Aug - Sept, is also included with the collection.

The letters fall into 2 groups. Those for the earlier period (MS 2526/ 5/ 1 - 38), from 1880 - 1886, are all addressed by Mrs Duncan to sisters, sisters-in-law, or nieces, from various ports, and give accounts of events during voyages, activities at, and descriptions of places visited, foreign customs, comment on home letters received, etc. Unfortunately, the majority give no clue as to the surname of the recipient and members of families are referred to by Christian names only: one of Mrs Duncan's sisters, Miss Nellie Harper, was a schoolmistress in Leith, and apparently Mrs Duncan had also been a teacher before marriage, and attended training college (MS 2526/ 5/ 26). Other sisters appear to be married to farmers, one living near Balgaveny, by Huntly, Aberdeenshire, while a sister-in-law, Miss Ann Duncan, lived latterly at Kingston, Garmouth.

The second group of letters (MS 2526/ 6/ 1 - 46) are addressed to a friend, Mrs Gooderidge, 21 Aire St., Goole, Yorkshire, and were written during voyages until 1892, and then from Garmouth during residence there. The correspondence breaks off abruptly with the intimation of the serious illness of Captain Duncan when staying with Mrs Gooderidge while attending to ship's business in Goole, in 1893.

For a fuller account of the collection see Colin MacLaren and Margaret A. Stephen, Reports and Surveys of Archives in Northern Scotland, Northern Scotland, I, (1973), 231 - 232

Administrative / Biographical History

Isabel (familiarly, Tibbie) Duncan was the wife of merchant, William Duncan, master of the barque, Scotia, of Banff. During the period 1878 - 1893 she accompanied her husband on voyages to the West Indies, some eastern ports of North and South America, South Africa, Mauritius and Ceylon, as well as various European and British ports. For further biographical details see Scope and Content, below.

Arrangement

By record type and chronologically therein

Conditions Governing Access

Open, subject to signature accepting conditions of use at reader registration sheet

Acquisition Information

Gifted to the University c 1940, by John A. Robertson, of Aberdeen. Accessioned in 1966.

Other Finding Aids

Descriptive list available in the Reading Room, Historic Collections, University of Aberdeen (e-mail: speclib@abdn.ac.uk).

Very brief collection level description available on Aberdeen University Library Catalogue, accessible online http://www.abdn.ac.uk/diss/library/

Alternative Form Available

Copies of some papers in this collection are held at Mystic Seaport Museum, Connecticut, United States of America

Conditions Governing Use

Subject to the condition of the original, copies may be supplied for private research use only on receipt of a signed undertaking to comply with current copyright legislation.

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Head of Special Libraries and Archives (e-mail: speclib@abdn.ac.uk) and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. Where possible, assistance will be given in identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with normal procedures

Custodial History

The collection was gifted to the University c 1940, by John A. Robertson, or his widow, Mrs Robertson, who are believed to have been related to Mrs Duncan. The gift was made on the suggestion of Professor Henry Hamilton. It remained in the custody of W. D. Simpson (1896-1968), University librarian, until his retirement in 1966, when it was formally accessioned to the University.

Accruals

No accruals expected

Related Material

No related material identified in this repository

Bibliography

Extracts from the collection are cited in Joan Druett, Hen Frigates: wives of merchant captains under sail (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998)

See also Colin MacLaren and Margaret A. Stephen, Reports and Surveys of Archives in Northern Scotland, Northern Scotland, I, (1973), 231 - 232

Additional Information

This material is original