Tag Archives: blunderbuss

Blunderbuss fixation

4 Apr

The discovery that Thomas KINGHORN (4x great grandfather) was a mail coach guard and carried out his duties armed with two pistols and a blunderbuss has re-awakened a dormant fascination with the word BLUNDERBUSS.

It sparked a memory of a book I once read as a child, I am not sure of the title, but from what I can find it was probably The Three Robbers by Tomi Ungerer (the cover image looks familiar). One of the three robbers had a blunderbuss, but I don’t remember anything else about the story.

The word blunderbuss stuck in my mind, probably because I found it such an absurd word, especially for something so deadly. So imagine my delight when I found out that my ancestor actually handled one of these weapons, and may even have used it in anger.

The British Postal Museum and Archive have a couple of blunderbusses in their collection and more details on their Weapons page. I particularly like the quote:

In 1786, a highwayman attempted to hold up the mails and was shot dead on the spot. No further attempts at robberies were ever reportedly made on mail coaches.

I would be very surprised if that was in fact true, but a blunderbuss would certainly have been a good deterrent.


Thomas KINGHORN: mail coach guard

2 Apr

I was quite excited by the discovery that my 4x great grandfather Thomas KINGHORN’s occupation was the of a guard on a mail coach, this is certainly the most exotic occupation I have come across in my research.

The truth is that I know very little about Thomas KINGHORN aside from the fact he was a mail coach guard. He married (by licence) Margaret SEWELL on the 5th May 1803 in Carlisle, Cumberland, England and they had six children (all baptised in Carlisle) of which Thomas (my 3x great grandfather) is the only one I have researched so far.

The family appear to have lived across the border in Moffat for a few years, but still came back to Carlisle to have their children baptised. Thomas had died before 1850, and it looks to me like he died before the 1841 census (although the fact that I haven’t found it is not conclusive). I think I have found his wife living on her own in Carlisle in 1841 (in King Street, Botchergate, Carlisle).

I once visited Carlisle, about ten years ago, and didn’t think much of it at the time, admittedly I probably spent less than two hours there, waiting for a train connection. Now I find myself wanting to go back and have another look around, and a visit to the record office.

Thomas and Margaret KINGHORN have now officially become my third main project, and there are so many questions to be answered apart from the obvious: who were their parents? Hopefully of the coming months I can answer some of them.

I made a start today (well actually a couple of days ago when I requested it) by borrowing a book from my local library entitled “The Mail-Coach Men of the Late Eighteenth Century” by Edmund Vale. I have already learnt that Moffat was on the route between Carlisle and Glasgow, and that the London to Carlisle mail coach took 50 hours to cover 309 miles!

Aside from going to Carlisle at some stage, there are also the resources of the British Postal Museum and Archive that may hold some clues to his life. I am especially delighted by the thought that he was armed with a blunderbuss (and two pistols). I have always liked the word ‘blunderbuss’ since I was a small boy and read it in a children’s book. Now I have an excuse to use the word more often!

My brain is buzzing with the excitement of a new challenge, I have so much to read, searches to do, information to compile and a visit to Carlisle to plan, I can’t wait to get started…

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