Please title this page. DavDinw





 (This is an excerpt from the autobiography of David Dinwoodie which he wrote to his brother

Alexander.  It includes the portion up to the time he left England and boarded ship for India.)

I N T R 0 D U C T I 0 N

--------------- ---------

In the year 1818 in the village of Penpont, Dumfriesehire,

there was born David Dinwiddie who was the writer of the letter, in

this volume. The father, Robert, was a farmer at Woodhead In Penpont

and later an estate manager. In the old parochial register of Pen-

nont the name Is spelt DINWODDY, but by the middle of the 19th century

it had become DINWIDDIE; this latter spelling appears to have been

ueed by David as far back as 1837 when he enlisted.

According to his own accounts, David proved himself equally un-

suited to Scottish farm life, and to making progress in the local

school. He was attracted to a military career and at an early age

reached India as a private in the Honorable East Indian Company's


He was never to cee Scotland again. In India David soon found a

need for some formal education and learned to read, write, and count

with great proficiency. David was a poor correspondent with his

relatives at home until the occasion of his second marriage in

March 1864.

From this date onwards to his death, there Is a steady stream of

letters, all of which David copied, or had copied, into letter books

which survive today.

Altogether David left us three foolscap books containing copies

of some 120 letters to his relatives; a printed foolscap, sized copy

of his memorials and prayers for promotion; and a single printed

foolscap sheet showing the genealogies of his two wives. David also

produced an octavo sized, printed, and bound, letter to his brother


This is a lengthy letter of 64 pages which forms an autobiography.

It was started in 1864 but not completed till 1878 some time after

the death of his brother, Alexander. David had the letter printed

by the American Mission Press, Lucknow, and bound in a thin green

cover with a dust jacket of the same material. Neither dust jacket

nor cover show any title or Inscription. David sent copies of this

letter to many of his relatives and several copies still exist.

The numbers to be found in brackets throughout the text indicate

the page numbers of the original.



Near Madras,

My dear Brother Alexander, 4th February, 1864.

The Dinwiddies are not exempt you see from the consequences

Of the disobedience of our first parents; troubles in the flesh and

spirit grow up with us from our cradle; and as we pass on from

youth to manhood, Prime Of life,to old age, we are hourly admonished

that "time shall be no more" that "the longest life is but a span,"

and all, even temporary joy, is vanity and vexation of spirit in

this transitory world.

On the 4th of August 1818, your humble servant was found

amongst the'cabbages'in the kitchen garden, exactly In the centre

of the renowned'clachan'of Penpont; the Turnpike road to Glasgow

and the'We Burnie'ran together close by the west gable-end of the

dwelling; the barn and thrashing-mill, byre, stables, stack-yard,

and cart-shed closed in the north and east, and the high road to

Galloway led past the front of the 'Auld Biggin'- a right pleasant

place to live in, in youth, and to die in, in old age. May this

be the case with the "Soldier Laddie."

You were born sometime in 1803, at the Ecclesmains, when our

father was acting steward over the estate of the late Mr. Maitland;

consequently you must be about sixty-one years old, and saw the

(2) light fifteen years before I did. I think you and brother

James were both at home with our worthy parents on the farm in

Penpont just before we removed to Woodhead; and you both left to

join Uncle James, In Manchester, about the year 1824. If I am

wrong in my calculations, I will thank you to put me right. it

grieves me to have to record the death of so many of my own flesh

and blood In the prime of life, and at the time too, when most

required to provide for their own offspring. I cannot feel suffi-

ciently thankful to Providence for His goodness to me from my

youth. I have been an "unprofitable servant," and have done

nothing for the kingdom of Christ; but I am still enjoying the

comforts of life, and have enjoyed them more, much more than the

majority of my fellowmen. How thankful ought I to be, and how

earnest in prayer to God for forgiveness, for the day will soon

come when I will know the value of a Redeemer and the consequence

of having neglected His admonitions. it Is a hard struggle to

overcome the evil one, but I know well, in spite of the doctrine

of Predestination that we can all go to heaven if we only try

(believe). Prayer, earnest prayer, is the only remedy to keep

us from the "broad path;""the flesh Is continually warring against

the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh." This world and

its cares are always ready to step in and tempt us to offend our

Creator. 0! how long-suffering God Is to let sinners such as I

am to live so long on the face of this beautiful world; the longer

I live the more I feel how unprofitable I have been, how little I

have done for God, myself, and my fellow-creatures.

(3) 1 believe it Is nothing else but a cold, careless heart, in

the Interests of others, that makes myself, for one, so backward

in keeping up a constant correspondence. It is not for the want

of time, but a something which I know will be shewn to me some day,

when my concience lays bare all the sins of "omission and commission.

Much good may be done by letter-writing. I have not forgotten

the kind and sisterly advice of sister Margaret in her letters to

me during the first few years of my exile in India, the good effects

of which ara still fresh in my memory. This may be my last letter:

what a shame it is only my 'second,' so I shall begin at the beginning

and give you an outline of my life.

Until I was about fifteen years old, I never was absent one

day from home. To Sanquhar for a cart load or coals, to the mile

end Dumfries with the same for the use of grandmother, and once as

far as New Galloway, were the furthest points reached, but always

at home the same evening. Shortly before I left my home and "my

country for my country's good," I had a few narrow escapes. One

winter morning at break of day I was jogging along the road to

Sanquhar in charge of father's two cart horses, when suddenly they

took fright at something on the side of the road, which led acrosst the.

face of a mountain through a deep cutting In the hard rock, which

hung high overhead. In a'few seconds the horses with the carts

were rolling and crashing, over and down the precipice on the other

side of the road, to the rocky, foaming river below. I had just

time to save myself. The story Is a long one, (4) the driver lived

to go the same road again another day, but not down the precipice.

About this time of "home life" I had occasion to cut daily a

few stones of hay from the bottom part of a stack, which rose high

overhead; while cutting away one day with the large two-handled

hay-knife I heard a rustling, then I saw the stack slowly move.

Before I could run clear of the great, solid mountain of hay above

and on both sides of me I was caught and knocked down; my head and

hands only could be seen. Half a second later, in running for my

life, would have been fatal, as I would have been smothered. I

could breathe; that was enough Providence saved me.

In 1834 (I was then about sixteen years old), you had me with

you as an apprentice In the "Scotch Trade," and you know best how

I did my duty. Previous to my leaving Penpont I saw some soldiers

at one of the fairs on recruiting service, and one of them seeing

me rather interested about their gay dress and ribbons, observed

that I would be a soldier someday. This, with the stories told

by old John Ross,Mr. Maitland's game-keeper, about the Peninsular

War, Waterloo, &c., became Impressed on my mind, and from that time

I thought of doing mighty deeds some day in the "deadly breach,"

"playing Shaw," the "life Guardsman," or bearing away the colors

of some regiment, like Ewart of the Scotch Greys at Waterloo.

From the above you can gather how likely I was to be successful

In the peaceful pursuits of trade. I did believe that if you had

ventured to set me up in business, after asking you to do so that

(5) morning at breakfast In the "Bulls-Head" Burslem, in 1838, I

should have carried all before me and made a fortune; but after a

second trial with Anderson at Stony-Stratford and Robert Fergusson

at Manchester again, I lost all hope of doing well as a tradesman,

and I had already proved my inability for handling the plough,

scythe, or reaping-hook. On looking at the fingers of my left

hand this moment, I can see the cuts and scars of the reaping-hook,

which I must carry to my grave; with the scythe I could not keep

abreast with my brother Robert, and it was always blunt; the pain

in my back Invariably being sharper than the edge of my working

tools, and a straight furrow with the plough was out of the question.

You must remember I was a weak, delicate boy. My mother told me

I was the genteelest of the family; and so I was, and am still. I

measured five feet ten and a quarter when I enlisted; I seldom

weighed above eleven stone; and it Is only lately I weigh thirteen

stone. If I had waited until you were able to set me up in business,

it would have been much more satisfactory to have had the power and

pleasure of helping those of my own kin who may have been in need

from time to time; but such was not to be, and many a heavy sigh has

it cost me. There was, Is, and shall be, a mixture of good, bad,

and indifferent qualities comprising my nature - a something I cannot

explain, a sort of willing spirit; but the flesh generally got the

upper hand. A strong resolution to do right in thought, word, and

deed, but a stronger one would have the mastery, and make me act

contrary to my good resolutions: when I would do good, evil Is ever

present; (6) a melancholy foreboding used to possess me of what was

to be gone through in 'this' life and 'that' which is to come, a

peculiarity I have often heard more common to the Scotch than any

other nation. This I believe is the consequence of the Scotch

method of instilling into the minds of youth the awful punishment

of sin; even whistling a hymn on a Sunday was a "breaking of the Law',

and guilty of one sin guilty of all.

You will remember when I left Manchester in 1838, you kindly

filled my box with all sorts of clothing for the use of our family

at Woodhead. The box arrived safe at home with its contents, but

I sailed over to Dublin. You are well aware how I returned to

Manchester so soon afterwards a Heavy Dragoon, instead of going

home to Woodhead. How hardened must have been my heart then, and

how obdurate It is still; how little mercy I had for the feelings

of others, even those near and dear to me,, then let me reflect how

merciful God has been,through a life of frequent danger, by flood

and field, In war and in peace.

From Manchester the 2nd Dragoon Guards or "Queen's Bays," were

ordered to Glasgow in the beginning of 1839. I enjoyed the march

very much, as I always loved to see life (as I called it). Even

to this day I should like nothing better than to wander over the

world, both by sea and land. Mountains, vallies, lakes, rivers,

ravines, cascades, caves, dense jungles and sandy deserts, different

tribes of the human race, beasts of the earth, the fish of the sea,

the fowls of the air (wild and tame); in fact the wonderful and

beautiful works of creation, in such an endless variety, have a

peculiar charm for me, a Scotch man, who they say "is never at home,

but when (7) abroad." I love a storm when "awfully grand" on sea

or on shore, but at sea I always felt there was no 'back door" to

run out of should the sails and masts be blown away, the ship be on

fire or drifting towards a Lee Shore; These dangers I have been in

my day exposed to, but let me go back to Glasgow and continue my

story from there. One cold, wet morning found me walking "Sentry

go" in Hamilton Barracks, the depot for recruits and young horses

of the head quarters of the regiment which was then doing garrison

duty near the Brooinlaw, Glasgow, eleven miles distant. Here I

was taking care of the Glasgow "Weaver bodies." It was on the

11th May 1839, and strange to say, a few inches of snow had fallen

a day or two previously, And was now melting away with the rain.

Wet feet and neglecting to change my shoes and socks brought on a

severe cold, followed by rheumatic pains, which commenced at MY

thumb, and travelling through every Joint of my body, left me by

making Its exit at my extremities. For six weeks I suffered with

this complaint, and then went home to Penpont on sick furlough.

I had then been five long years away from the place of my nativity,

and on the first sight of the valley of the Nith my heart fainted

within me, for instead of the mountains of Queens-Berry, Tynrondoon,

Galloway, Closeburn, and Keirhills being high and steep, the rivers

Nith and Bear being broad and deep, they all seemed to my Imagination

just the reverse: mere pigmies of mountains and rivers when compared

with the Wicklow Hills in Ireland, and the mountains of Westmoreland

In England, the Liffey at Dublin, and the Mersy at Liverpool. This,

with the change of neighbours, my school-fellows grown up to be

men and women, and my old sweethearts married, took all the conceit

out of me, and made me feel as "a stranger in a strange land."

However, a few weeks living on porridge and peas-brose at Woodhead,

and in the company of brother James and sister Ann at Dumfries,

brought me round, and I returned to my Regiment well and hearty,

with 30 pounds sterling in my pocket to purchase my discharge. This done

I returned on foot, (from Glasgow, via Douglass-Mill Crawford-John,

and Sanquhar, paying my father's relation, Mr. Thorburn, a visit in

Douglass-Dale) to Penpont, I tried Farming again,for I was now in

good humour for another change of life, and had dreams or settling

down, and being an honest "citizen of the world." When in hospital

at Hamilton I recollect making all sorts of good resolutions about

this world and the next, but all vanished in due course of time.

Brother Robert, and sisters Jane and Nancy were at home on my return.

I think brother John was then in Manchester, and all went on well

for about a year, when one evening, while I was mowing (cutting)

barley In the Eccles-Wood, with my brother Robert, a letter came

from Mr. Anderson, of Stoney-Stratford Buckinghamshire, offering

me another chance to "push my fortune" in Merry England. The sun

was setting when this letter came. I laid the scythe quietly on

the ground, straightened my aching back, looked south over the

Portrack Hills like a true Scot, and said "well I will! I shall

try my fortune again;" and in a few days I bid my dear father

farewell, the tears streaming down his furrowed cheeks as he shook

me by the hand saying "Davy, I fear we shall never meet again in

this world." This was just after dinner, I p.m.; he then went off

to the harvest field with his band of reapers, while my dear mother

accompanied me a little distance towards Burnhead, where I was

bound (as I purposed within myself) for a moral character, from

the Minister, Mr. Smith); my mother, seemed to have better hopes

of me than my father, and left me pretty cheerful. Mr. Smith

gave me a good character; he could not do otherwise as far as my

outward walk In life went, for no one could ever accuse me of being

what we commonly call "a wild scamp and a rake" In Scotland. I

walked to Uncle Jame's that night., 11 miles; he was then, with his

wife Aunt Mary, at Kill-Craft, three or four miles north of Dumfries.

Next day I continued my journey southward, via Glencaple Quay,

Liverpool, Birmingham, and Peeping-Tom of Coventry. I found my

way to Stony-Stratford, and commenced business.

After giving Mr. Anderson and the round of customers a fair

trial, I saw that I could not succeed because I had not the will.

I could not,and would not take the advice given by my father many

years previously, viz., "set a stout heart to a steep hill and you

will get to the top of it." So down to smoky Manchester I felt

my way, where I was kindly invited to try my luck a third time.

After a turn or two to Runcorn on Robert Fergusson's account,melan-

choly forebodings, hypochondria, or some thing worse took possession

of me not for the first time In my life, and giving way to the

peculiar bent of my nature, I quietly went down to Liverpool by the

Railway on the 14th December 1840, and the following day (after

breakfast at a hotel, where I also slept) I (10) took the shilling

as an Artilleryman in the Honorable East Indian Company's Service,

perfectly sober, for I seldom went to excess in liquor, and am a

teetotaler for a number of years past. I soon found myself under

some control and in my proper element; but soon went a "sight-seeing"

viz., to the docks, shipping, buildings, churches, theatres, &c,

the churches from without, and theatres from within; In one of the

latter Vanamburgh was then sporting his lions. All these "Past-

times" were gone through with a wonderfully cheerful heart which

I cannot account for. About Christmas I found myself seated in a

Railway carriage with a free passage to London. It was a bitter

cold day; the second class carriages being open, every one of the

passengers (I recollect we had an assortment, viz., recruits and

their wives, sailors rogues and vagabonds,) felt the cold in propor-

tion to the rate the engine forced us along over the Iron rails

and the depth of clothing which covered the body; some of them were,

in spite of the cold, in the highest glee, and others just the

reverse. Your brother David played his part between the two extremes.

At Stony-Stratford station, within a mile of Mr. Anderson's house a

few minutes were spent in taking In coal, water &c., when I ventured

from my seat, and spent a shilling, in the purchase of a shallow

plate of weak English broth; it was hot enough, the skin came off

the roof of my mouth, which, however, did not give me the least

concern having felt so cold, although I had on a warm suit of clothes,

viz., a pair of thick Kersey trowsers, drab waistcoat, a green,

swallow-tail coat, and a Four-and-nine hat. The train arrived in

London half an hour after dark. (11) Under the guidance of an

experienced veteran Sergeant, who took charge of us, recruits from

Liverpool, we found our way to the "City-road Inn," where we received

our billets for the night, my lot (with a Canny Cumberland lad) was

at some distance from the rendezvous, there not being sufficient

accommodation for all the recruits and their wive's. So off we

trudged, (but not before we had witnessed a fight with half a dozen

Lancashire men at the Inn in true Lancashire fashion) to our billet,

a public house, which was then undergoing repair. With all the

snare beds engaged, we,had the choice of sleeping on the floor or

of receiving a shilling to go somewhere else for the night; this

was no sooner said than a handsome young girl jumped up and kindly

offered me a part of her bed. Very respectfully declining her

kind offer, off went again myself and comrade to look for another

billet, and after several unsuccessful attempts at several public

houses, on account of Christmas, we had at last the good fortune of

an offer of a good bed at a respectable hotel, 'provided' we agreed

to sleep two In one bed, and pay half a crown for it.


The account then goes on for 65 pages (I believe) to outline his voyage

to India, his adventures there, his marraiges and family, the campaigns

to China and Burma, etc. He never did return, and died in either India

or Burma.