We’d trekked up to Scotland to see what it was that lured Montague, his father and brothers to this remote part of the British Isles for nearly fifty years. Alas, the building they called home was long gone, replaced with a far less impressive modern building, yet the estate itself remained.
What we missed in the building was more than made up for with the discovery of a private, beautiful place that was so well hidden that we had a hard time trying to find out where it was. Ever since I’d written about it in a post during our World War One month, Ben and I had wanted to see if we could find the ‘private family burial ground’ that lay in the Braemore Estate.
This would be continued after we furiously stripped down to our pants by the roadside, almost mimicking Native Americans in attempting to do some sort of rain dance to bat the ticks off of our clothing. The insects up there have admirable persistence in trying to draw blood from your body – frankly we wanted the solace of a peaceful graveyard, where we would not be scared by the threat of having to receive a blood transfusion had we stayed there a moment longer!
After giving up on the Satnav and relying on good old fashioned ‘we’ll drive until we come across it’, I worked out it had to be down a very well hidden country lane that certainly tested the suspension of our rented Vauxhall Corsa to its maximum threshold. When we found it, we were struck by the eerie silence of the Glacial valley, Such unabounded nature is what ranks it as one of the best places I’ve ever visited for Cemetery Club.
We opened the new black gates and entered another world. Thick growth of bracken and grasses covered the ground to the point where I suspected a Velociraptor from Jurassic Park may come out and finish off where the midges had failed. A Knee high headstone to Alice Mitford was the first grave we came across, and then a celtic cross to Marjorie, followed by another cross to Alice, and then, at the top of the clearance, a massive cross to Captain John Fowler.
Subsequent research shows that this was used by the wife, children and descendants of Monty’s eldest brother, John Arthur, who should have been buried here but died in London in 1899 whilst tying up Sir John’s estate, ending up in the grave of the illustrious engineer in Brompton instead.
The following day we spent in Ullapool, utilizing the fantastic Ullapool Museum. (Thankfully no blood sucking insects seemed to be in the town, so me and Ben rested easy for the first time in several days.) There was a wealth of information on the Fowler family, from the death of Captain Sir John and his younger brother Alan, to the sale catalogue of Braemore and the revelation that Monty tried to sell it in 1920: and that it was bulldozed in the 1960’s because of dry rot.
Further research showed that Monty’s nieces and sister in law visited the same photographic studio as Lady Malcolm of Poltalloch – its nice to put a face to the memorials that commemorates them.
We popped into a bookshop afterwards and began chatting with the bookseller behind the till, seeing if any books on the family or their contribution to the area was in print. A biography written in 1900 about the career of Sir John happened to be, missing a page which had to be folded in. “We get the odd Fowler fans in here from time to time – this page is from a copy held by Sir John’s great-great granddaughter – she runs this place. Do you want to speak to her?”
We glanced at each other. For the second time, a living relative was about to communicate with us.
To be continued, obviously!