Lonely heart letters

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LETTERS dating back nearly 200 years tell the tale of a broken-hearted local man who vanished in America, after apparently being jilted by his wife.

Between 1834 and 1836, Methilhill-based solicitor’s clerk Michael Thomson wrote to his wife back home after moving to Boston to find work.

The letters have been handed down the family of St Monans man William Webster, Michael’s great-great-grandson, and offer a fascinating insight into his life in the early 19th century.

They speak of Michael’s relationship with his bosses, or ‘masters’ as he calls them, and his gruelling shifts - sometimes starting at 11pm and not finishing until 3pm the next afternoon.

Although Mr Webster was unable to confirm the name of his relative’s wife, the names Catherine and ‘Kathy’ appear regularly, while he also often mentions his efforts to send money back home.

However, the story ended in tragedy and confusion, as Mr Webster explained.

“He went to Boston with the intention of his wife and family moving out later.

“But after a while she said she wanted to stay at home to look after her sick mother.

“It seems after that, he simply vanished.

“There are two theories in the family; one that he had a broken heart, changed his name and moved west, and another that he tried to come back and got lost crossing the Atlantic.”

Such was the poor literary standard at the time, Michael’s letters were addressed simply to a ‘David Beatson, Methilhill, by Leven’.

They found their way across from the States to a local man, who would read mail to residents.