Sunday, 5 July 2009

Sh-Shh Shangri-La

Reading my wife's magazine, "The Lady", I saw a small ad for a security-caretaker. Hmm, sounded interesting. Showed it to my wife.

"What do you think?" I asked. She wasn't sure. Not enough detail in the advert. Well, faint heart never won ... whatever, so a letter was sent off. Brief CV included. Reply received a few days later, asking me to telephone to arrange an interview.

Phoned the writer that day. "When can you come for interview?" she asked. "Any time you like." I said. "We'll get back to you soon ... goodbye for now."

Few days later, letter arrives: Please attend for interview at 11 a.m. on Monday next. Oops ... cannot make that day! School summer holidays were on but on that one day I'd been asked to complete the budget reconciliation with Lincoln County Education staff. I could not let them down.

Telephoned the lady who'd given me the interview date. I was pretty sure she would not think well of me having said "Any time you like..." Well, I was wrong. When my explanation was given she said she would consult the Earl to see if he could see me some other time.

Yes, the job was to look after the home of the 13th Earl of Haddington and his family in the Scottish Borders. A week later another phone call: "The Earl will be available to see you next Wednesday. Can you make it then?" I could, and did.

We drove up to Scotland from Lincoln on the Tuesday, stayed in a B&B overnight. Next morning we found Mellerstain House, situated twixt Kelso and Melrose in the Borders.

Fabulous looking place. Acres of parkland at the front and lovely acres of gardens at the rear. Large castellated central building and east and west wings either side.

My wife and I would live in the east wing quarters with the earl and family living in the west wing. The central part was now open to the public for part of the year and was no longer occupied.

The interview was in the curator's office. Present were Flora T,(curator), John H(factor) and John George Baillie Hamilton, 13th Earl of Haddington.

Wife and I were greeted and we sat down to be grilled. It was a friendly enough grilling. Interviews have never really bothered me. Relaxed and just happy to see this wonderful place.

Towards the end of the interview the Earl asked me if I had any family in Scotland or any friends or relatives. No, none at all I said. In fact, Scotland was about the only place in the UK that I'd never even been to!

He seemed a bit puzzled and said: "Well, tell me why I you want to come and live here?"

"To be perfectly frank" I replied, "I've always dreamed of living in a place such as this - but I've never had enough money. So, I thought why not join somebody who already has one."

My wife looked horrified. The Earl laughed. We were thanked for coming and the curator said: "We'll let you know..." The usual brush off line; or was it?

9 comments: said...

Wonderful story.

PhilipH said...

Hello again Ivan. Thanks for the comment. Regards, Phil.

the walking man said...

Yes wonderfully told story...good luck. But if you fail let the Earl know my grandfather was a Stewart born and raised in Edinburgh and I'd be pleased to come back to the ancestral lands.

The Bug said...

I know the end of the story! Or do I?

PhilipH said...

Mark, Thanks. Have you ever heard of Traquair House, the oldest inhabited stately home in Scotland? There is a pair of iron gates there (the Bear Gates) and they have been kept locked from 1744 and the Earl of Traquair vowed they would never be opened again until a Stuart was crowned king in London. OK, I know the spelling is Stewart in your case but it's a nice legend, don't you think. Traquair house website is

PhilipH said...

Hi Lovely Bug ... You know the end of the story eh? Well, keep mum for a while will you. ;-)

the walking man said...

Phillip...I reluctantly accept the crown...oil the hinges.

PhilipH said...

Welcome, your Majesty. (Can you lend me some WD40 please.)

Barry said...

Well you came back with a wonderful story and your first trip to Scotland.

All sounds good to me.