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Scottish Mysteries (Bluejacket)

1 July 2022
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Bluejacket Boy.


This touching mystery has the distinction of having finally been solved. In 1949, a woman living in Kirkwall, a town on the Orkney Islands, found a letter behind her fireplace. She had no idea how it had ended up there, but it looked very old and was addressed to Wales. When she opened it, she saw that it was dated 1916. The author had signed simply as “Bluejacket Boy.”

The letter seemed to be a general update on family life. The author wrote about a toddler named Ethel, and the description suggests she was his niece. Bluejacket Boy also referenced a sister named Hannah. The addressee was a man named John Phillips. In November 2013, historians from the Orkney Archive made a public request for help in the Welsh town the letter was intended to reach.

Benedetto Luti (Italian, Florence 1666–1724 Rome) Study of a Boy in a Blue Jacket, 1717 Pastel and chalk on blue laid paper, laid down on paste paper; 16 x 13 in. (40.6 x 33 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gwynne Andrews Fund, 2007 (2007.360) http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/439272

Internet sleuths were able to track down a woman named Mary Hodge, who turned out to be the granddaughter of the Bluejacket Boy. His name was David John Phillips, and he’d been stationed on Orkney with the navy during World War I. He married a local woman, whose family lived on the street where the letter was found, before the two of them moved to Wales to start a family. In 2014, 98 years later, the letter was finally delivered.

Alan hopes that we’ll find a series of books around Iona that reveal the language of the Picts and that the stones explain what happened to the Ninth Legion. He recommends visiting Edinburgh around Christmas.

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