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Sir John Inglis, who twice held the position of Deputy Postmaster General for Scotland (portrait by Allan Ramsay)

The Postmaster General for Scotland, based in Edinburgh, was responsible for the postal service in the Kingdom of Scotland from approximately 1616 until the Act of Union unified Scotland and England in 1707; creating a new state called the Kingdom of Great Britain. From 1711, the posts in Scotland were the responsibility of the Deputy Postmaster General for Scotland, until in 1831 that position was subsumed into the duties of the Postmaster General of the United Kingdom.


The Union of the Crowns took place in 1603 and on 5 May a public postal system was approved by the Parliament of Scotland's Act William III c.31, to be set up between Berwick, just south of the Scottish border, and Edinburgh.[1] At some time after 1603 the post of Postmaster General for Scotland was established by the Privy Council of Scotland with the first appointment mentioned in 1616 as Sir William Seton.[2]:12 From Privy Council records, Seton appears to have held the position until 1631, or 1633, though a 1641 Act of the Scottish Parliament ratifies his appointment for life as "His Majesty's cheefe post maister of all his Hienes postmaisteres ..." at a salary of £500 per annum. No new appointment was made until 1649 when the Commonwealth took over the post in Scotland.[2]:22

Following the 1660 restoration of the monarchy, one Patrick Grahame became Postmaster General for Scotland under the Privy Seal of King Charles II from 14 September 1662 for his lifetime at the same salary of £500 per annum: officium precipui magistri cursoris lie Postmaster-Generall et Censoris omnium cursorum dicti regni Scotie.[3]:4–5 Grahame's son John obtained the position after his father's death in 1674 at a new salary of £1,000 per annum and held the office until 1689.[2]:22

In August 1695 an Act of William III again established a General Post Office in Scotland to be set up in Edinburgh:

The Post Office Act of Anne, 1710, repealed the 1695 Act of William and united the Post Offices of England and Scotland under one Postmaster-General as the Postmaster-General of Great Britain;[4]:347 from 1711 in Scotland the office was managed by a deputy postmaster general.[3]:9 The first Deputy Postmaster General for Scotland was George Main who held the office of Postmaster General for Scotland until 1707 and between then and his appointment as deputy he was the Post Office Manager for Scotland[2]:34 During his tenure between May and September 1707 he is described as the Postmaster of North Britain.[5]

Curiously, some early 19th century Edinburgh Post Office directories were published under the patronage of the Postmaster General of Scotland by Robert Trotter,[6]:1 Francis Gray,[7]:1 Earl of Caithness[8]:1:370 and Sir David Wedderburn[9]:i:191 even though that post no longer officially existed.

The Scottish postmaster generalship, as with the same office in Ireland,[4]:347 was finally abolished, not at the time of the Act of Union in 1800 but in 1831.[10] The 1831 published Post Office Annual Directory was issued under the patronage of Sir Edward Smith Lees, Secretary to the General Post Office for Edinburgh[11]:1 who had been moved to Scotland when he swopped his Irish secretaryship with his counterpart Augustus Godby during the reforms of the Irish Post Office in 1831.[12]

Postmasters-General in ScotlandEdit

Year Officeholder
1616–1633 (1641)?[2]:22 Sir William Seton
1662–1674 Patrick Grahame[3]:4[2]:22
1674–1689 John Grahame[2]:22
1689–1696 John Blair
1696–? Sir Robert Sinclair
1 May 1701–11 November 1707[5] George Main

Deputy Postmasters-General in ScotlandEdit

Cover from Alnwick addressed to Robert Trotter in 1805
Year Officeholder
1710–1715 George Main[3]:9
1715–1717 James Anderson[13]:154[3]:12
1717–1725 Sir John Inglis, 2nd Baronet[13]:154[14]
1725–1740 Archibald Douglas[15]
1740–1742 James Colhoun (sic)
1742–1745 Sir John Inglis, 2nd Baronet[14]
1745–1764 Alexander Hamilton (of Ballincrieff) and Innerwick[16]
1764–(d 1795) Robert Oliphant of Rossie
1795–(d 1799) Thomas Elder[17]
c.1800–1802 William Robertson
1802–1807 Robert Trotter of Castlelaw[18]
1807–1810 Francis Gray, later 14th Lord Gray of Kinfauns[19]
1811–1823 James Sinclair, 12th Earl of Caithness[20]
1823–1831 Sir David Wedderburn, 1st Baronet[21]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Notable Dates in History". Archived from the original on 9 October 2014. Retrieved 10 October 2014. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Haldane, A.R.B. (1971). Three Centuries of Scottish Posts. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 0-85224-148-8.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Lang, T.B. (1856). An Historical Summary of the Post Office in Scotland. Edinburgh: W.H. Lizars.
  4. ^ a b Chambers's Encyclopaedia: A Dictionary of Universal Knowledge: Vol. VIII. London: W. & R. Chambers, Ltd. 1901.
  5. ^ a b William A. Shaw (editor) (1952). "Warrant Books: Volumn 22: March 1708, 21–25". Queen's Warrant Book XXIII. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 9 October 2014.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  6. ^ The Post Office Annual Directory. Edinburgh. 1806.
  7. ^ The Post Office Annual Directory. Edinburgh. 1810.
  8. ^ The Post Office Annual Directory. Edinburgh. 1815.
  9. ^ The Post Office Annual Directory. Edinburgh. 1829.
  10. ^ Barrow, John Henry (1839). Mirror of Parliament, Volume 4. London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green & Longmans. p. 2613.
  11. ^ The Post Office Annual Directory. Edinburgh. 1831.
  12. ^ Ferguson, Stephen (2014). The GPO: 200 Years of History. Dublin: Mercier Press. p. 66. ISBN 978-1-78117-277-3.
  13. ^ a b Chalmers, George (1794). The life of Thomas Ruddiman. London & Edinburgh: John Stockdale & William Laing.
  14. ^ a b "The Scottish Nation: Inglis". Retrieved 16 July 2014.
  15. ^ Wilkinson, David (2014). "Douglas, Archibald (c.1667–1741), of Cavers, Roxburgh". The History of Parliament Trust. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
  16. ^ Lea, R.S. (2014). "Hamilton, Alexander (1684–1763), of Innerwick and of Ballencrieff, Linlithgow". The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715–1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970. The History of Parliament Trust. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
  17. ^ Morison, William Maxwell (1803). The decisions of the Court of Session: from its first institution to the present time: digested under proper heads, in the form of a dictionary, Volume 12. Edinburgh: Bell & Bradfute. p. 10103.
  18. ^ Way, George; Squire, Romily (1994). Collins Scottish Clan & Family Encyclopedia. Glasgow: Harper Collins. pp. 464–465. ISBN 978-0-004705-47-7. OCLC 32241632.
  19. ^ Waterston, Charles D.; Macmillan, Shearer, A (July 2006). Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh: 1783–2002: Biographical Index Part One. Edinburgh: The Royal Society of Edinburgh. p. 380. ISBN 978-0-902198-84-5.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  20. ^ "James Sinclair, 12th Earl of Caithness". Am Baile/The Gaelic Village. 2014. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
  21. ^ Fisher, David R. (2013). "Wedderburn, Sir David, 1st Bt. (1775–1858), of Ballindean, Perth". The History of Parliament Trust. Retrieved 16 July 2014.

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