I'd been living in the east wing of Mellerstain House for about a year or so. The mother of the 13th Earl of Haddington was living in a private nursing home at Nenthorn. She was almost 100 years of age.
Her sister,who had never married, about 2 years older than old Lady Haddington, also lived in this same nursing home.
A third elderly lady also lived in the Nenthorn nursing home. This was Chrissie Crombie, old Lady Haddington's personal maid.
At the top of the east tower there is "the Crombie flat". This was once the home of Chrissie Crombie; it is still called the Crombie flat even though it has not been occupied for a good few years now.
My wife and I used to visit the nursing home on Sundays. We used to see the three old ladies. Two of them were always asleep in a chair when we called in. Chrissie was always awake and she loved to talk about her days "in service".
Chrissie was now wheelchair bound. She laughingly blamed her clapped out knees on old Lady Haddington! Traipsing up and down the many stairs to and from her flat at the top of the east tower had been the cause of her knee problem.
She laughed as she told us this. In fact, it was really a fall she'd had that had caused the damage. Chrissie was a cheerful soul. She said she'd loved her job as the lady's maid and she meant it.
We never did get to speak with old Lady Sarah Haddington, nor to her sister. They were always having a nap when we called. They both died before Chrissie.
The Nenthorn House home was closed down soon after the two old ladies died. Chrissie was moved to another home, much to her dismay. She too died soon after the move. She was about 95.
Chrissie's reminiscences about her 'lady's maid' days made the tv series "Upstairs, Downstairs" seem so true to life in those long gone Edwardian days. In Chrissie's case she was the 'upstairs' one; in the tv series all the staff were the 'downstairs' ones.
A totally different world now though. Fewer servants, butlers and even gardeners compared to only 60 or so years ago. Apart from the Royals that is; though I think perhaps the Queen is cutting back to some degree!