A Lucky Find?

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Bob Teevan

A Lucky Find?

Sandy McNab is surely a Scotsman appearing on this postcard in his fisherman’s jersey and a tartan tam o’shanter. Sandy’s Scottish heritage is confirmed by his red beard and while you may think he is snubbing his nose at you I think he is using snuff. Isn’t that a snuff box he holds in his right hand? While it may be a coincidence there was a brand of snuff known as Three Thimbles.

I always read the address details and messages on cards and in doing so I found my reason to buy the card. It was posted in Perth on February 25, 1904 and addressed to “The Editor”, People’s Penny Stories, Bank Street, Dundee and rather than carry a message it reads ‘William Morton, 25 Thimble Row, Perth.’ I thought that this card had been sent as a joke as the address of the sender was 25 Thimble Row.

Researching this card was revealing. First there was the addressee People’s Penny Stories. I found a link to the weekly Scottish publication The People’s Friend, a magazine in continuous publication for over 120 years. It started coming out every third Friday in 1901 with “Aunt Kate’s Penny Stories” as a monthly title. Kate’s stories ran for around 30 or so editions then in 1903, it transformed into The People’s Penny Stories, to stop readers confusing it with children’s fiction.

The title was then relaunched in 1906 when The People’s Penny Stories became a weekly publication. For those who don’t know People’s Friend, the magazine is principally aimed at older women. Each issue contains at least seven self-contained short stories and two serials, a craft project, and various articles on a particular town. Pets, family, and traditions are also common themes.

Being satisfied that I had linked my postcard to a well-known Scottish publication, I planned to learn who Sandy McNab was. Sadly, no solid connection could be found, so I gave up on McNab and started researching Thimble Row in Perth.

Thimble Row no longer stands although the city does have a Thimble Row Car Park which I presume stands near the old address. From a 1911 map, the area in which the car park now stands had a number of small streets, lanes and alleys. It could have been that Thimble Row was not the nicest place to live since it was located near the Caledonian Railway yard, a dye works, an auction mart, and several linen works. It could also have been a dangerous part of town.

The newspapers of the first ten years of the 20th century have news of assaults, fires, and robberies happening in the area, which may have been comprised of only fifty houses. I found only one reference to No. 25 Thimble Row in the newspaper and pleasingly this referred to the sender of the card. He, like some other Thimble Row residents, had committed a crime – although it was a modest one.

From the Perthshire Advertiser of August 19, 1901. CYCLISTS ON THE FOOTPATH: A WARNING. Before Sheriff Sym on Friday the following contraventions of the Roads Act were disposed of … one of which was William Morton, a joiner, 25 Thimble Row, Perth, was charged with an offence committed between Perth and Old Scone, opposite the South Walk gate leading to Scone Palace, on Thursday, August 1st. He pleaded guilty, stating that the road was in a very bad condition. It was early in the morning, and he was going to his work. He was mulcted a fine of 2s 6d.

(Today’s new word is “mulcted.” It is the past participle of mulct – to extract money from someone by fine or taxation. A penalty.)

At a point when I had linked my card to a brand of snuff, an address referencing thimbles, the People’s Friend publication, and a poor fellow fined 2s 6d for cycling on a path, that seemed to be my money’s worth from this card. Then I stumbled upon an article in the Aberdeen People’s Journal of June 30, 1906, which ran the headline SANDY MCNAB DEAD. The article continued as follows: A KINDLY SCOT GONE HOME. CUT DOWN IN THE PRIME OF LIFE. Sandy McNab is dead! The kindly Scot whose words of wit and wisdom have been enjoyed from week to week by hundreds of thousands of readers has passed to his rest. His last unfinished message appears in this week’s issue, and it is safe to say that it will sound a note of gloom and sadness wherever Scotsmen gather. To those who only knew “Sandy” as the pawky, genial critic of men and manners, it will come as a surprise that he died a comparatively young man. He was only 41 years of age, but the rare ‘Wisdom of His Weekly Letters’ would have done credit to a person of much riper experience. Sandy, whose real name was James Ralph Henderson, was a native of Perth.

… Mr. Henderson was married about 13 years ago and is survived by a widow and two sons.

… As creator of the inimitable “Sandy McNab,” Mr. Henderson will long be remembered favorably by readers of the People’s Journal.

It adds nothing to the story, but I did find the Henderson family in the census records.

I can understand the card a lot more after my researching although I don’t know why it was sent. Was it simply that William Morton, a joiner who lived in Thimble Row, saw the same humor as I did in the address and image, and thought that he would share this visual pun with the publisher responsible for Sandy McNab? I don’t know.

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It always amazes me the details Bob Teevan can glean from a postcard.. It reminds me to look a little deeper into a card and its history. Very interesting!

Thank you for your kind comments.

Nicely researched!

Thank you for your kind comments.

I’ll now be looking for an excuse to use “mulcted” in speech or writing.

I’ve tried. It’s not easy 😉

Thank you from this ex Aberdonian.There isa gentleman lives near me with a large collection of thimbles I will show him this article.Jill in Adelaide

Well done Bob,Keep going on with the quest. I also do what Bob is doing and research the subject
of my postcards. Sometimes it feels as if something is urging me to carry on doing this.

Thank you for your kind comments. Please consider joining my Facebook group where I try to post new posts / memories on a daily basis. Members are also invited to shae their cards / research.

I purchased a bunch of old postcards from the estate of Marvin Klair. He started the first automobile club in Delaware. The postcards were back and forth between himself and Thomas Marshall (started a steam museum in Yorklynn, still there, now part of a state park) and a 3rd man Mr. Cosgrove. The postcards were very funny. The fellows had pet names for each other. Klair’s cards addressed him as “Squeaky Witherspoon”. They must have all 3 been great friends, deduced from the ribbing they gave each other, pet names, funny cards, etc. Gave the cards to my son- should… Read more »

Just requested membership in your Facebook group. Love deep research dives into postcards and will definitely contribute!

Fun article!

Bob Teevan certainly did an amazing job with his detective work on this one. Easy to read his explanations and I’m happy to know more about a culture I have a tenuous relation to, since my maternal grandma was distantly related to a Scottish group who settled in Vermont in the very early days of our country.

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