One of the few female correspondents in the Piobaireachd Society collection, and one of my favourites, is Elspeth Campbell.
Elspeth Campbell was a member of the society and most of her letters date to its early years, from 1903 till about 1910 and are addressed to Capt. William Stewart, the Secretary of the society until 1908. She seems to be a very active member who takes an interest in aspects like the medal designs, the society booklet and she also recruits new members from amongst her friends.
Elspeth’s letters are colourful, warm, friendly, and very chatty and I can almost picture her through them. For me, they add a very human touch to the files of letters.
One of the letters tells of her encounter with a Mr MacDonald who appears to have designed a badge for the society. She relates her conversation with the man:
“I let him see that the pipes did look like a bird with a long neck walking along on four legs and that people were inclined to laugh.” (DC80/359)
In another letter from 1905, she describes her actions when recruiting new rich members of the society. She says that her uncle Henry Callander joined, less for his love for the pipes and more because she asked him to! She talks of her strategy of making friends with people who may be able to help support the society:
“I suppose you would call this feminine and un-businesslike but sometimes it is a help and people are nicer to ladies they know than absolute strangers” (DC80/360)
She then goes on to talk of the French designing firms she knows, that would design the best medals cheaply.
As well as her great enthusiasm for the Society, Elspeth’s character comes through strongly in her letters. They give an insight into the life of one of the members of the society, the things she did to help the society and how she interacted with other members.
If you would like to read Elspeth’s letters for yourself, please do come and visit us.
Stay tuned for the next (and final!) instalment in the Piobaireachd blog-posts!
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