John Lindsay

As an ‘Ordinary Director based in London’ of The Standard Life Assurance Company (‘one of the oldest and most successful of the Scottish Life Offices’ established in Edinburgh in 1825), John Lindsay travelled extensively throughout Britain and internationally. He maintained his London house (26 Laurence Pountney Lane) and a house – Woodend – on his Perthshire estate where he resided in the summer months. For many years Lindsay kept a (handwritten) diary which offers a valuable insight into Victorian social history and events of the day both at home and abroad. The diary includes commentary on famous Victorians (such as Charles Dickens), cholera epidemics and the Crimean War (1853-6).

The diary was acquired by Valerie Smith in 2015. She has set up a Facebook page to provide access to the diaries and their absorbing and interesting entries, a sample of which is provided below. The website can be accessed here: LINK.

Of the diary, Valerie writes: 

The diary is incredibly eloquently written and detailed and falls into a fascinating year which encompassed The Crimean War, the upsurge and investigations into the cholera pandemic East India Company and numerous art and literary events, one of which was the publication of Charles Dickens’ Hard Times. There are masses of London details as well as Scottish references to buildings, places and people, many of whom are well known. He mentions a few trips to art galleries and books and poetry he is reading. John Lindsay frequently punctuates his diary entries with references from the press, both local and National including Perthshire newspapers, Illustrated London News articles and The Times. His mentions of (and commentary on) the Crimean war and cholera are taken from press reports.’

Sample Entry

On 1 September 1854 John Lindsay has been at his Scottish residence in Woodend, Perthshire since July 18. He writes:

Sept. 1. Friday. Fine morning. Feel abominably unwell. My bowels uncontrollable, no use fighting on fighting on in these times of diarrhoea & cholera, so sent Thomas for Dr Butchart. Breakfast with young Frank. Butchart came soon after ten & prescribed Castor Oil & Laudanum, which I took & felt very queer & uncomfortable all day. Wrote Cousin Heriot a note by Frank & sent her a brace of Glenalmond Grouse & bid her not take Frank tomorrow if inconvenient. Kind note this morning from Sir Peter Murray Threipland, asking me to Fingask Castle on Saturday the 9th to remain till the Monday. Accepted. Balanced my Cash for August, & wrote. Sent a line to George Turnbull. See the Perth sails from Dundee on Wednesday at 2pm & shall take Frank to see my aunt before he goes. To P.O. Perth Courier to George Lindsay & Henrietta. Young Frank from Huntingtower. Dined with him here at 6 & he left with his parcel for Huntingtower to sleep & go to Dunkeld with them in the morning. Read at 8¾. Hot footbath. Bed by 10.