Tales of a Guisachan Adventure Part III
Saturday, July 20
Reflecting on the Guisachan landscape, I am saddened that the mansion has been left to fall into total decay In addition, much of the mountainside above Guisachan House has been clear cut for timber leaving an unsightly scar on the landscape. But it seems cutting timber and renting out grazing land is an important source of income for locals including the owner of Guisachan.
We got a late start today but eventually we drove to Beauly, 17 kilometers away arriving at noon. Taking advantage of the cell phone signal, we were able to give both of our husbands an early morning phone call.
We did some shopping in Beauly, a charming town with hanging flower pots on every lamp post and window boxes filled with flowers on every building in town.
We had lunch at the Old School on the recommendation of Joyce, the Tomich Postmistress. I had a platter of local Scottish cheeses that was big enough to serve for a week. I ended up taking a “doggie bag” with me even though I had no doggies to feed! There is an ancient priory in Beauly which we never got to visit so we resolved that would be for a “next time” visit. On the restaurant’s wall was a brief history of the town that read: “The village’s origins can be traced back to 1230 A.D. with the founding of a priory which was described in French as “beau lieu” or beautiful place, hence the name “Beauly.”
Again, on the recommendation of Joyce, I went to Campbell’s, a traditional department store for fine Scottish woolens and tartans. The ambiance of the store was a step-back in time – wooden floors that creaked, high shelves with ladders to reach hidden treasures, each clerk with a tape measure hanging around his or her neck, glass counters that had been used for decades by customers inspecting this or that sweater, vest, sports jacket or hat.
We discussed the Guisachan Tweed, two clerks looked it up in the book on Estate Tweeds, and they noted that they couldn’t carry it because a firm, Johnson’s, had exclusive rights to the design and fabric. They were very interested in Guisachan’s history as the ancestral home of the Golden and interested to here than the 150th anniversary would be coming up in five years and all those Golden tourists would be roaming the streets of Beauly.
One of the clerks spoke of a photograph her grandfather had of all the Guisachan staff lined up in front of the house during its prime. I left her my card saying I’d be very interested in that photo for our Friends of Guisachan website, if she could find it in her attic. Later we browsed through an antique shop, and there again, I left my card, indicating I’d be interested in Guisachan memorabilia. One never knows when someone might walk in and say I found this old stuff among my grandfather’s possessions when cleaning out a room. I think I should put a notice on the UK Ebay. Who knows what might show up!
We returned to the hotel and Sue set about photographing all of the Guisachan House floor plans which hung, framed, in the pub. During more conversations with David Stirling, David mentioned that when his parents bought the old kennel building about 11 years ago, he thought he recalled seeing a photograph of the old kennel building as it had looked originally – with two stories. That was before a fire took out the top floor. I don’t think the “two-story” story is well known.
I called Donald Fraser to say goodbye, but he Wasn’t home so I asked his daughter-in- law if she would ask Donald to find us a solicitor (lawyer) to write up the legal agreement necessary to place a Golden Retriever statue along side the memorial to Lord Tweedmouth. (Since my return home, a solicitor in Inverness has contacted me and I am working to gather the information he requires. It also seems that we will need to see a permit from the Highland Council in Inverness and maybe the local Cannich Council as well.)
Sue and I then set about packing up and eventually I went over to the pub for a cup of soup, some bread and my lunch-time cheese. Then we drove to Guisachan and in the quiet light of dusk, under the nearly 150 year-old Sequoia, we said goodbye to Guisachan. We then realized that we never got to the Home Falls on the estate, so I guess that’s another adventure for “next time.”. We then drove up the road to Hilton Lodge, once the home of Lady Islington who bought Guisachan House in 1930 and then had the roof removed. That,was, of course, the beginning of the demise of the mansion, but it seems one doesn’t pay taxes on a house if there is no roof!
Later that evening we drove the length of Glen Cannich. It was surreal being 9 o’clock at night driving this one-car track road back and back into the Highlands until we were into the moorlands with few trees and just the heather and sedges. We were looking for the Red Deer stags that supposedly frequent the area, but we never found them. Sue kept saying, just one more curve… and then just one more curse… well one more and on and on we went until nearly 11 p.m. – and it was still just dusk. We did see a flock of Greylag Geese, but no deer. But having the entire Glen to ourselves was just magnificent.
When we came back to the hotel, we went through all the materials and photos Donnie Stirling had shared with us and were stunned at the treasure trove of information. I think maybe we should get something in the local newspapers that we are looking for Guisachan memorabilia. You never know who has what stashed away!
Sunday, July 21
We decided to get up early at 6 a.m. and hit the road at 7, skip breakfast (which wasn’t being served until 8) and we subsequently had breakfast in Ft. William. It was very foggy when we started out, but by 9 o’clock, the skies cleared and the sun came out. We stopped several places to take pictures and stopped at a delightful place called the Drover’s Inn (1705) for coffee. We got to Glasgow at 3 and someone the drive seemed much easier maybe because we now felt comfortable driving on the left side of the road.
The journey home had one most interesting adventure. When we got to Dublin airport they asked that everyone in rows 1-10 stay seated. When released, Sue and I had trouble getting my carry-on down from the overhead compartment. A very handsome man in the row ahead of us got it down for me. We noted a limo and two police cars as well as a state trooper standing at the bottom of the steps. Later we learned that my handsome helper was Michael Higgins, the President of Ireland!
We spent the next day sightseeing in Dublin during which time I saw a Swarovski Crystal Golden Retriever in the window of a shop. Kismet! It was meant to be my souvenir. We then learned that while sightseeing, Princess Kate and Prince William’s royal son, George, had been born.
Later that night, while resting at our hotel room, Sue was pursuing a little booklet she bought at the dog show and she discovered that a direct relative of Lord Tweedmouth, Angela Georgina Coutts, was responsible for the memorial erected in Edinburgh, Scotland for Greyfriar’s Bobby. She then read that Angela’s father sponsored the Martin Act of 1824 which made cruelty to animals an offence. He was also a founder of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. What an amazing family! And what an amazing journey we were blessed to have. Will we ever go back? Well, first we have to raise money to erect a statue to commemorate our breed and then, who knows. Maybe?