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Darwin Correspondence Project

From William Kemp   4 December 1843


4th Decr. 1843


I have received your letter this morning for further information regarding the discovery of the seed.1 From the first I was aware of the necessity of ascertaining if there was no deception in the case, and the following is a true statement regarding it.

There were only two person present when it was discovered, viz, Mr. John Bell “the actual owner of the sand-pit,” and Thomas Welsh, a Galashiels carter. Much sand was being driven from the pit at that time, which was dug from a breast about 10 or 12 feet high, Welsh was driving sand to Galashiels for a Plasterer, and as it required to be the finest which was best at bottom, he was digging it out from the unbroken beds, and rather undermining the bank when he discovered the seed, upon observing it he said to Mr. Bell (who was standing near by) what is that amongst the sand? They both examined it, and saw it was seed of a kind they knew nothing off, Welsh had it upon his shovel and was going to throw it upon the Cart, When it occurred to Mr. Bell that possibly I would be curious to see it: accordingly he carefully collected it, and sent it direct by Welsh to me. I questioned him very minutely about it, and went directly to Mr. Bell who told me the same tale exactly in every circumstance, they are both middle aged men. Welsh is rather the oldest being upwards of 50. They are both men of strict integrety, who would by no means be parties in countenancing any trick in the matter, In place of expecting any reward, they did not think the discovery of any interest whatever, The second time I questioned Welsh about it he rather became indignant, and replied, “What! do you think I would tell a lee about that, its just as true as I am a living Sinner, and have death to meet with.— I have enclosed certificates respecting those men, and could obtain 100 as good— Mr Pringle has known Bell from Infancy. And Mr. Haldane our Brewer and Elder can place every confidance in Welshs testimony.— I visited the Pit immediately after the discovery with Mr. Bell, but nothing more was to be got.— Independent of the above, the seed had every appearance of being very old, had it been Whea⁠⟨⁠t⁠⟩⁠ or any common seed there would have been mor⁠⟨⁠e⁠⟩⁠ reason to doubte it truth, but where was seed of that kind to be found in the spring?.—

I am Sir | Your Very Humble Ser⁠⟨⁠vant⁠⟩⁠ | William Kemp Charles Darwin Esqre | &c


I hereby Certify that I have been acquainted with Mr William Kemp Manager of the Gas works here, and Mr John Bell Stocking maker in Melrose, and that in my opinion they are persons of undoubted veracity and respectability.—

John Pringle | Writer2 in Galashiels | and Agent for Edinr & Leith Bank.—


See Correspondence vol. 18, Supplement, letter to William Kemp, 1 December [1843].
In Scotland, an attorney or law-agent; an ordinary legal practitioner in country towns (OED).


OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.


Describes circumstances surrounding discovery of seed in sand-pit. Encloses certificates testifying to the good character of the men involved.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Kemp
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 50: A19–20
Physical description
ALS 2pp encl

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 720,” accessed on 30 September 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 2