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Friday, 12 July 2013

So Brin Croft is up for sale

Brin Croft and Brin Rock beyond

On Monday 22 July my mum's house, which Lin and I are clearing next week, will be officially for sale. Once Brin Croft is gone I'll probably not go to the Highlands again.
The Farnack runs below Brin Croft

I've been visiting since 1950.
Christmas at Fasnakyle

What an evening! I was so delighted to find this record of the Christmas party held at Fasnakyle House by my aunt and uncle in about 1950. Victorian aristocracy including Queen Victoria embraced the Scottish landscape. Dr Johnson was more critical. But he and Boswell travelled to the Hebrides before Romanticism trained the lowland eye to delight in highland scenery and railways made them easy to visit from the cities of the south. It was depicted as a wild heather-strewn wilderness.
In fact it's an enormous park, stocked with ornamental fauna to shoot, paint or photograph; and now every track that doesn't pass under Forestry Commission plantations can be viewed from the air via Google maps. Does this make me love it less? I'm not an explorer here, more a traveller, even a life-long tourist, inheriting the safety of the land's long habitation by people who made roads and place markers for centuries before the Victorians, let alone me, coming first to the Highlands in 1949 on the sleeper from King's Cross to spend Easter with my aunt Margot at Fasnakyle, her home beyond Cannich, in Glen Affric, and later to celebrate a magical Christmas (in this photo I found at Am Baile, Bay and I are in the middle row, left and right of the tree - Bay just in front of Father Christmas). My aunt had hired a film projector and we all sat down to watch Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy. We and the rest of the children were laughing so loud and so continuously, one or two little ones had to disappear to be sick before rejoining the general hilarity. (It's so good to have help identifying the others in the picture and hoping they also remember all that laughing at slapstick custard pies and silly walks from so long ago). Then Father Christmas - the estate's head ghillie (I believe), I was told years later when I no longer entirely believed in Santa Claus, arrived - and presents were handed out to all after which my aunt organised us to have a group photo with many calls to settle down and look serious just for the camera. This is why we show little signs of the excitement and joy that suffused us. In fact I know I was fit to burst - needing one titter to set me off again. The human past is part of the area's character - kingdoms, invasions, depravity and civilisation, even where the rigour of the landscape suggests wilderness, anyone with a little thought can see there's more wilderness in the blighted estates of our population-diminished cities than in this sublimely landscaped garden for the enjoyment of those with time to spare, good raincoats and midge repellent.
It's true that in the depth of raw winter you're sensible, if stuck somewhere on a drifted road, to have a care to stay in your car and phone the rescue services Quote from Am Baile: This is a Christmas party held at Fasnakyle House in the early 1950s for the children of employees on the Fasnakyle estate, Strathglass. The estate was owned at the time by Captain Clark. Four members of the Mitchell family have recently been identified in the photograph - Marcelle Mitchell and three of her daughters, Monique, Christine, and Lesley. Marcelle is the lady kneeling beside the little boy on the right hand side of the photograph. Monique is standing near the back, next to Father Christmas. Christine is in the second row. (She has a ribbon in her hair and her face is half hidden by the girl in front.) Lesley is the small blond girl in the front row, holding a present. The girls' father, Mr. William Mitchell B.E.M., was the General Foreman for Messrs John Cochrane & Sons, Ltd, the company who built the Hydro Electric dam in Glen Affric. A fourth sister, Lyn, was born in 1952. A letter received 19 Oct 09: “Also in this picture are Margaret and Kenneth MacLennan, family of John MacLennan, (Johnny to guests, Jock to natives), who was head stalker at Fasnakyle. He succeeded his father, also John, to this position in l941. Kenny is the little boy (2nd, front row, left, holding his present), he still lives nearby on estate with his wife and family. Margaret (1st back row, left) has married and moved away. Their mother Mary was caretaker for Fasnakyle Lodge. Beside Margaret is Lily Henderson whose sister Cathy is (2nd row right, kneeling, nearly out of picture). Their father, James Henderson, also a stalker, worked and lived on Fasnakyle Estate.
 On 31 Oct 2011 I received this very interesting letter: Dear Mr.Baddeley. I can identify two more people in the Christmas at Fasnakyle house photo. I loved the photo and was very touched to see the innocent faces that I shared a portion of my young life with. The little girl center right with the mask is Frances I think her mother is behind her to the right. I also knew Kenny Mclennan, the young boy to the left.We were all playmates at the time, living on the Fasnakyle estate. My parents were German immigrants who emigrated to Scotland in 1950 to work on the estate. I was allowed to join them in 1952 and experienced one of those wonderful Christmas' at the Fasnakyle house, one year later than the photo. My father was the chauffeur for Captain Clarke. The two men met during the British occupation in Northern Germany where my father acted as an interpreter for the British officers. The two men must have hit it off. A small reason may have been that they had something in common. My name was also Margot. My mother was the cook at the house. Frances and I went to school together in Cannich, she was a close friend and I have a school picture of her. What wonderful years they were. I think about them often...My life in the Fasnakyle House was a major event in my life and I am planning to take a trip there next year. I have not been back since 1955. Best wishes, Margot Luedke (Ludke)
Walking in Strathnairn

Last page of the estate agent's brochure
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Amy came round with Oliver on her way to work. We're babysitting while she's on duty.
"It'll be the hottest day of the year so far"
"Maybe we'll go to the park"
Linda, Oliver and Amy in the garden at Handsworth

I've just finished clearing yet more ivy intertwined with a climbing rose and honeysuckle and replaced the collapsed and rotting frame that supported this exuberant mingling of shrubs, using a few plastic ties to guide the disentangled branches.

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Simon Baddeley