The mystery of Miss Riggs

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In January 1869, exactly 150 years ago, Miss Riggs joined Thomas Cook’s very first tour to Egypt and the Holy Land. Travelling overland, the journey would take three months, there and back. Miss Riggs kept a diary of her adventure and I am going to be posting from it over the coming weeks. This is day ten.

Wednesday, 3 February
On deck by 8 – rough night, getting more to the open sea in sight of Cerigo – sea the deepest indigo. In the afternoon passed Candia – immense island, seemed almost like the main land; passed Cape Matapan – all queer and very quiet all morning = after dinner brightened up – discussions going on – Dr. Lorn on bishops. All agreed that we were a very harmonious party. At Brindisi all our party were assembled, Mr. Margetts being the last who joined us from Naples. I will insert our list which is now complete. Expected to land at Alexandria tomorrow morning – 850 miles from Brindisi to Alexandria. Arranged this evening that we should all give 3 fr. for servants.

The list of her fellow passengers is inserted on the front pages of her diary.

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It reads as follows:

  1. Mr. Dennett | Hotel de Londres, 8 rue St Hyacinthe, Paris
  2. Mrs. Dennett | – –
  3. Henry Newman | Leominster, England
  4. Mrs. H. Newman | – –
  5. Mrs. Rose | Peterbro Villas, Fulham, London, England
  6. Miss Crichton | unknown
  7. Miss Lines | Shillington, Herts., England
  8. Miss Riggs | Hampstead, London, England
  9. J. Dickson, Esq. | Cleethorpes, Grimsby, England
  10. Mrs. Dickson | – –
  11. W.A. Backhouse | Darlington, England
  12. R. Crichton | Skene House, Aberdeen, Scotland
  13. J. Crichton | – –
  14. J. Frith, Esq. | Sheffield, England
  15. J. Luckie | Springfield, Haddington, England
  16. A.E. Webb | Bath, England
  17. John Lorn, M.D. | Darlington, England
  18. B.H. Margetts | Huntingdon, England
  19. D. Samuels | 16 Warrington Terrace, Maida Vale, London
  20. Mrs. Samuels |  – –
  21. J.H. MacDonald | Rock Mansion, Brighton
  22. Mrs. MacDonald  | – –
  23. W. Brewin | Cirencester, England
  24. Mr. D. Witt Hay | Paris
  25. Mrs. Hay | – –
  26. G.P. Beeley | Rochdale, England
  27. Miss Porter | Palace Clogher, Northern Ireland
  28. J. Chalmers | 37 Albyn Place, Aberdeen, Scotland
  29. J. Cookson | 35 Great Avenham Street, Preston, England

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When it comes to geography, Miss Riggs uses names that were antiquated even in 1868, so Cerigo is Kythria and Candia is Crete. But who is Miss Riggs? The list of names she supplies in today’s entry offers almost all the information we have on her, which is that she lives in Hampstead, north London. The only clue to knowing more about her comes from Thomas Cook’s own notes on the trip, which were published in the company newsletter later that year. In these he talks about the composition of the tour party, mentioning seven ladies traveling with their husbands, none of which are the unmarried “Miss” Riggs, one lady in the company of her parents, which would be Miss Crichton, and one “attendant upon a lady of the party”—was Miss Riggs a ladies’ maid? Perhaps for Miss Porter with whom she shares a cabin? Or was Miss Porter the maid and Miss Riggs the lady? We don’t know.

One thing to remember, anyone signed up to this first tour to Egypt and Palestine would have to be fairly wealthy. Travel was extremely expensive, not to mention time-consuming. In general, a trip like this was something that could only be undertaken by those who did not need to work year-round to earn money.

Tomorrow our privileged party arrives in Alexandria.

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