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Kintyre’s Roads and Mail Coach Services

For practically the whole of its existence the Campbeltown company would fly the flag of The Royal Mail. The Post
Office authorities did not immediately grasp the opportunity presented to them for improving the mail service,
transferring at least some of the mail to the new-fangled steamers.

The practice of sending letters privately by steamer was to change The Post Office’s thinking for the roads were little
better than tracks, many still are !

An Act of 1669 “for repairing Highways and Bridges” had led to “all tennents and coaters and their servants . . . to
have in readiness horses, carts, sleds, spades, shovels, picks, mattocks and such other instruments as shall be required
for repairing the saids highways” and “Statute Labour”, with fines for neglect of the Act’s requirements and options of
payments, e.g. in 1760 one could pay eight pence instead of doing two days labour, came into effect.

At best, the roads were little better than tracks which forded streams or crossed burns over flimsy wooden bridges.
Such proper stone bridges as there were had been constructed in the early 1700’s, most likely by one Mathew Frew, a
Kilwinning coal engineer, who was in the area around 1702.

In the minutes of the Commissioners of Supply, on June 22, 1749, it was noted “that the inhabitants of the parish of
Kilcheynich, north of Clenghart to Crubasdil Water, with the inhabitants of Barr Glen, work upon the road leading
from Barrbridge towards Ronadil in Carradill . . . Lachlan McNeill in Kilmaluag, Archibald McTavish in Achadadourie
and Neill McGill in Amod to be the overseers And, as there is a New Road leading thorow a Mountain, the meeting
recommends it to Mr Thomson, Minister there, Neal McNeal of Ugadil and the Baillie of Kintyre and others of the
Neighbouring Surveyors to view the said Moor and Stake out the Most proper Lines before the people begin to work.”
Two and a half centuries later that road, a natural trans-Kintyre crossing route, is still to be completed !

In 1756 it became possible for ‘statute labour’ to be compounded monetarily thus allowing others, ‘contractors’ from
other areas, to repair and build the roads and an Act of 1755 provided for the preferential treatment of certain main
roads, one being the ‘Post Road’, down the west side of Kintyre, from Inveraray to Campbeltown - The new road
through Muasdale appears to have been constructed sometime around 1776 - 1777, the ‘pack-horse’ bridge possibly
being built around twenty years later

Previously the roads had been ordered to be at least nine feet wide, now the special ‘Post Roads’ were to be a full
twenty feet in width. Where the ground was boggy, the surface was to be covered with a three-foot deep layer of
bundles of branches or heather; over this was to be a two-foot later of crushed stones and that topped with an
eighteen-inch layer of gravel, all raised in the centre and with ditches on each side.

Some local landowners and their tenants were not co-operative. On May 1, 1761 the tenants of Kilmorie and Killean
were reported for ploughing through the route of the approved ‘Post Road’ and a year later the tenants of land at
Southend were forbidden to plough across the line of the new road being laid out to Southend Kirk

The Royal Mail

Previous to the advent of the steamer service, the gig - not the coach - kept Campbeltown in touch with the outside

The ‘changing house’ at Drumore, just north of Bellochantuy, was built about 1733, at the same time and by the same
architect who built the tacksman’s house on Cara Island, off Gigha. The need for the ‘changing house’ was the
Tarbert mail gig which arrived in Campbeltown at 10 o’clock every weekday except Tuesday. The gig, again every
weekday except Tuesday, left Campbeltown at 3 o’clock in the afternoon for Tarbert.

Tayinloan was the main post office for Gigha and Saddell and mail from Carradale was franked first “Glencardale”,
then over-stamped “Tayinloan”. A mail-rider left Tayinloan on horse-back, collected mail at Muasdale ‘receiving
house’ and then rode via Glen Barr to Carradale. Next day he returned from Spearsaig, at Cour, returning back via
Ballochroy Glen and Rhunahaorine to Tayinloan. The inn at Sunadale was built around the 1800’s and remained in
business, particularly for the thirsty inhabitants of nearby Carradale, until the 1950’s when Carradale Hotel was

In these days too were the ‘badge porters’ who delivered letters and small parcels, collected from the mail gig and the
masters of vessels arriving in the harbour, the charge being a half-penny for each item delivered in Campbeltown and a
full penny each for delivery in Dalintober.

In Glasgow, letters were delivered on the Broomielaw side of the Cross for a penny, two-pence each if beyond. This
was a remarkably cheap arrangement for ‘The Penny Post’ was not introduced until 1840.

Following The Post Office Act of 1711, the post offices of Scotland and England were united under one Postmaster-
General and a Deputy Postmaster-General was appointed for Scotland and ever since that 1711 Act successive
governments have looked on the postal service as a valuable source of revenue. Postal rates were ever pushed upwards
and so too rates of evasion rose and by 1835, despite an increase of one-third in the size of the country’s population,
Post Office revenue was actually less than in 1815 when a new Post Office Act had come into effect, something had to
be done.

The Post Office Act of 1815 was certainly intended to stop ships carrying letters on which postage had not been paid
and customs officers were empowered to search ships for any ‘irregular mail’. Under the Act, the ship’s master paid a
3/- (15p) deposit when the ship’s letter bag was lifted from The Post Office and this was refunded when the bag was
handed over at its destination, the ship’s master then also received a further 2d (1p) per letter carried.

Although credit for the introduction of ‘The Penny Post’ is generally given to one Rowland Hill, the idea came from
Robert Wallace, the first Greenock M.P., elected following the 1832 Reform Act, whose father had built Kelly House
at Wemyss Bay and, immediately following his election, Wallace, in 1833, became a strong critic of The Post Office’s
unwillingness to improve its services and, two years later, in 1835, his campaign saw to the appointment of a
commission “to inquire into the management of The Post Office Department”. It was Wallace who was instrumental
in moving ‘The Penny Post’ in Roland Hill’s “Post Office Reform Bill” published in 1837 and then, later around 1848,
successfully promoted the book-post, money order and packet services !

Roland Hill regularly visited the Wallace family at Wemyss Bay in the 1830’s and 1840’s and Hill’s protégé, a certain
Anthony Trollope, the novelist was also amongst the house-guests on a number of occasions as were members of the
Burns family, founders of various shipping companies and the Cunard Line.

Anthony Trollope, largely now forgotten for ‘inventing’ - actually a French innovation - the postal pillar-box, the
first examples appearing on the island of Jersey on November 23, 1852, had become a junior clerk in the General Post
Office in 1834 and was promoted to the post of surveyor of the postal service in northern Ireland in 1841, most likely
as a result of his socialising with Hill and Wallace at Kelly House in Wemyss Bay. Trollope’s promotion, as events
suppose, was indeed to the advantage of the Burns family and his ‘insider knowledge’ of the postal service’s ‘high
command’ most likely added to the Burns fortunes !

George and James Burns had set up G. & J. Burns & Co. in the 1820’s and were soon running the mails between
Greenock, Londonderry, Belfast and Liverpool. In the 1830’s, Samuel Cunard, a Boston merchant, was looking for
funding for ships to carry mail from Liverpool to America. Cunard visited the Burns family after being turned down by
Wall Street and London financiers.

Within weeks, Burns founded a consortium investing £270,000 in Cunard’s venture and by 1839 George Burns had
become the first chairman of The Cunard Steam Packet Company. By late 1845, Burns was moving to buy-out the
Cunard consortium and when his funding, from the ‘cash-cow’ Irish mail contracts, was suddenly threatened by the
appearance of a would-be competitor backed by the Glasgow and South Western Railway Company.

A Parliamentary Bill had been proposed to incorporate the time-tabling of railway services and shipping services for
faster transit of passengers and mails to Ireland.

Burns had to sink the Bill and he invited Trollope to stay with him so that he could get advice on wooing Trollope’s
Post Office bosses and fight the Bill on all fronts. Burns won, the Bill failing to get through Committee in Parliament
and Burns later took over the rival Ardrossan Line too.

Burns also took over the company which Alexander Laird, along with his partner Lewis M’Lellan, had developed as a
result of their success beginning with the “Britannia” on the Glasgow - Campbeltown - Londonderry run in 1816,
Burns & Laird Ltd..

M’Lellan & Laird’s ‘Derry steamers made regular calls at Campbeltown and both companies were on friendly terms,
‘reciprocating’ each others freight and passenger charges. Burns and Laird too were friendly, eventually joining together.
These personal friendships undoubtedly smoothed the way for the new Campbeltown company to approach The Post
Office about a mail contract, which they did in December 1829. An agreement to such an end was duly made in
February 1830 and, on the introduction of the ‘Postal Reform Bill’, a new contract, for the carriage of sealed mail bags,
followed in 1840.

The Campbeltown - Tarbert Mail Coach

Though the coming of the railways had sounded the death knell for the stage coach - the last ran between London and
Norwich in 1846, Campbeltown’s own mail coach did not enter service until 1871 when John Stewart, Chamberlain of
Argyll and the Laird of Largie, at Tayinloan, decided that the days of the post-gig should be ended and a proper coach
put into service.

To this end, the gentlemen approached William Young, born in Beith and son of a farmer, to instigate a new coach
service. Young was already a contractor and would become tenant of the Drum Farm and, later, Glencraigs.

The coach, carrying passengers inside and out, was, throughout its service, most usually driven by Young himself, he
only latterly allowing his assistant Jim McPhee the reins. Every morning too, Young had to ride the 4½ miles in to
Campbeltown from the Drum Farm and then, in the evening, had to ride out home again after the day’s run was
finished, a long hard day.

The coach left Campbeltown every weekday at 6 a.m. and made the first change of horses at Bellochantuy. Further
changes were made at Tayinloan, Clachan and then Tarbert, the coach returning to Campbeltown for 6 p.m..

At each change of horses, the driver took his mail bag to the village post office thus giving the passengers a few
moments to refresh themselves at the adjacent inn, Young himself was never known to accept a drink from

The inns, the “Tippling Houses at Stages on the Main Road”, had been established over a century before in the days
of the old post gig and that at Bellochantuy, just to the north of the present hotel, was built about 1733, the same
architect building the house on Cara Island - Bellochantuy’s post office and church were demolished in the early
1980’s to make way for a new alignment of the main road.

While only two horses were needed to take the coach north to Tayinloan, a third was then added to power the coach
over the hills at Ronachan and Clachan. The three horses were harnessed “French Fashion”, abreast - Had the third
horse been added to lead the other two, the leader would have been known as ‘the Unicorn’ !

Little time was wasted at the inns and the coach would not stop or slow down on the approach to hills. Anyone
wanting to put a letter on to the coach between the inns would place the communication in a cleft stick to be held out
towards the coach driver as the vehicle approached, the same principal as was adopted for mail trains picking up mail
at speed at intermediate stations.

The coach also picked up lists for farm and household goods and dropped these off on the return trips, eventually The
Post Office instituted a parcel service and the mail contractor then awarded an increase in his contract fees.

Though most coach passengers preferred the comfort and warmth of the inside, the seat of honour was on the box
beside the coach driver and many famous men, famous in politics, the church and business, sat beside the driver. On
one occasion, a schoolgirl was ordered to vacate the comfort of the inside and sit on the box beside the driver to allow
a calf to be put inside, a far more valuable passenger indeed !

Only once was it reported that anyone had got the better of coach driver William Young. “What is the fare ?” asked an
attractive young lady. “A kiss from you, my bonnie lassie,” replied Young. She quickly kissed him and as quickly made
off, leaving him breathless - and fareless ! The return fare between Campbeltown and Tarbert was £1.00 in the final
years of the service.

The first motor car appeared in Campbeltown in 1898 and the mail-coach, said to ‘circumnavigate The World’ once- a-
year, gave way to the age of the motor-bus in 1913 when it made its last run on Saturday, August 30, 1913.

The Southend Mail
Up until around the time of World War I, a twice-weekly “brake”, drawn by two horses, took passengers on the 1½
hour trip to Campbeltown on Mondays and Saturdays. To lighten the load for the horses, the passengers got out to
walk up the braes at Killellan on the outward journey and at Oatfield on the inward return.

The Southend mail was carried in a one-horse wagonette driven by postman Charles Black - later by his son-in-law,
James Greenlees. It left at 4.45 a.m. to catch the steamer leaving Campbeltown about 8 a.m. and, depending on the
arrival time of the inward bound steamer at Campbeltown, returned to Southend later in the afternoon, the mail,
having been sorted in Campbeltown, being delivered around the village that evening and, as happened too on the
route into the village, a sharp whistle from the postman would bring the children running out to collect the mail so as
the postman would not need to stop unnecessarily. Just as the mail was delivered, the same day’s “Glasgow Herald”,
price one penny, would arrive and without any extra charge for delivery for postage.