Papers of Reverend Patrick Bell (c 1799 - 1869)

Scope and Content

Journals of the Reverend Patrick Bell (c 1799 - 1869) kept during his visit to Canada, 1833 - 1837.

GB 231 MS 2317/1 - 2 Journal of travels between Great Britain and the province of Upper Canada, 1833-4.

GB 231 MS 2317/1 contains an itinerary of the journey from Great Britain to the Province of Upper Canada, describing his route through Dundee, Cupar (Fife), Glasgow, Isle of Man, Manchester and Liverpool; his passage to New York on board the Eagle, continuing up the River Hudson to Albany, and by Erie Canal to Queenstown, Canada, passing through Saratoga, Little Falls, Utica, Syracuse, Auburn, Lockport and Louisville, Jun 1833 - 1834. The volume is fully indexed and accompanied by a tabular record of daily temperature and weather conditions, Nov 1833 - Feb 1835; an account of a journey from Niagra Falls to the city of Fergus, township of Nichol, Apr 1834; and outline plans for his second volume, to include an account of agricultural practices in Upper Canada, notes on the natural history of the region and hints to emigrants, Jul 1835.

GB 231 MS 2317/2 is a fair (and slightly expanded) version of the first part of GB 231 MS 2137/1, and of another volume (or volumes) which has not survived. It begins in 1833 and ends 6 Mar 1834. The last page is inscribed Drummondvill Niagra Falls U.C. - Patrick Bell.

GB 231 MS 2318 Journal or rather observations made in Upper Canada during the years 1834, 35, 36 and 37.This is a continuation of Bell's journal for the period 1834 - 1837; also containing weather observations, Jan 1835 - Apr 1837; thermometer readings at Quebec, 1832 - 1833; and temperature statistics for Montreal taken from a Montreal newspaper, 1826 - 1835.

Each volume described above is illustrated with sketches and diagrams of farm steadings, houses, agricultural implements, and detailed pencil drawings of plants and animals observed. His observations of people and places encountered are detailed, often amusing, and full of social and political comment (see in particular his account of the Campaign against the Swine in New York which terminated shamefully for those in power , GB 231 MS2317/1 p 50 - 52)

Administrative / Biographical History

Patrick Bell was born at Mid-Leoch farm, Auchterhouse, Dundee, c 1799, son of George Bell, tenant farmer there. He studied divinity at St Andrews University, and was ordained and appointed minister to the parish of Carmylie, Arbroath in 1843, where he remained until his death in 1869. He was for many years credited as inventor of the reaping machine, though the title now rests with John Common of Denwick, who invented a machine based upon the essential principals of the modern reaper in 1812, some 15 years ahead of Bell. The machine which Bell developed in 1827, whilst still a student at St Andrews, remained in regular use until c 1868, when it was purchased for the museum of the Patent Office. In recognition of his services to agriculture, he received a presentation from the Highland Society, subscribed for by the farmers of Scotland and others, and was awarded the degree of LL.D. by the University of St Andrews.

From 1833 - 1837 he travelled in Canada, where he seems to have found work as a private tutor. During this time he kept a detailed journal of his travels, making particular note of the geography, natural history, and agriculture observed.

For further details see DNB.



Access Information

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

Acquisition Information

Gifted to the University in 1945, by James Hendrick (d 1949), Emeritus Professor of Agriculture, Aberdeen University.

Other Finding Aids

Descriptive list available in the Reading Room, Special Libraries and Archives (e-mail:

Very brief collection level description available on Aberdeen University Library Catalogue, accessible online

Alternative Form Available

No copies known

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: ) 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


No accruals expected

Related Material

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For a short description of GB 231 MS 2137 - 2138, in the context of other diaries and journals deposited in the University, see Colin McLaren, Reports and surveys of archives in northern Scotland, Northern Scotland, 1 (1) (1972), 123.

Transcripts of the journals were being prepared for publication by a Canadian author in 1997, but it is not known if they have yet been published. No further details available.

Additional Information

This material is original.