Solway Plain - past and present by the Holme St Cuthbert History Group

Postie Mary outside her cottage at Hailforth

For many years the letters around Mawbray were delivered by Mary Armstrong, always known as ‘Postie Mary’. Mary was born at Wigton in 1848 and married Joseph Armstrong who was a tailor and grocer in Newtown. Sometime around 1900, Mary left her family and went to live alone in a cottage at Hailforth.

Everyday she would walk across the fields to Edderside with the mail. Some say that she never missed the deliveries for a single day, despite the fact that she walked with a limp. Her descendants are less sure about her reliability and say she just delivered the letters when she felt like it! In any case, she must have worn out many pairs of clogs over the years.

The Armstrongs had nine children: Robin, Edward, William, who became a policeman, Joseph, Fred, Sarah, Bessie, Mary Ann, who emigrated to America, and Jane.

Border Regiment Badge
Border Regiment badge

Before she was married, Jane had a son, Joseph William. When he was only 16, he lied about his age and joined the 7th Battalion of the Border Regiment to fight for King and Country in the First World War.

 He was killed in France on May 4th, 1917.

War Graves
The Cemetery at Etaples

Joseph is remembered with honour in Etaples Military Cemetery, and his name is engraved on the war memorial in Holme St Cuthbert’s Church.

Holme St Cuthbert War Memorial

Postie Mary herself died in 1920 and was buried in the Quaker burial ground at Beckfoot.

World War I Recruiting at Mawbray

This picture was taken at Mawbray on May 20th, 1915 during a recruiting campaign for the Border Regiment.

The Wigton Advertiser's report on the occasion says: "At Mawbray an elderly woman, a Mrs Armstrong, came forward and stated she had three sons in the army, one of whom is at present amongst the wounded in Woolwich hospital." This must have been Mary.

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Postie Mary and her family