This is a transcription of a BBC Radio Orkney programme, recorded on May 27th 1987, in which presenter Kath Gourlay visited both Westness House and Trumland House in Rousay. Her guide was Mrs Helen Firth, who related the history of the two houses.
[Mrs Firth spoke first] – “Well, the mansion house of Westness was formerly the home of a member of the Traill family and we think that the Traills came to Orkney with Earl Patrick Stewart when he came to take up his Earldom of Orkney given to him by his sister, Mary Queen of Scots, and the Traills were given houses in many of the islands and in Rousay it was Westness which became his mansion house. They lived here, I don’t know very much about that intervening period, until about 1745 when the Traill of the day was accused of being a Jacobite supporter by Moody of Melsetter who was his sworn enemy. The Hanoverians sent out a gunboat from Kirkwall to sack and burn the house. He fled and took refuge in the Gentleman’s Cave in Westray. We think his wife stayed in Rousay, but we have no information on that, but we do know that the servants were ordered to take out the furniture and burn it. Any servant who disobeyed was taken prisoner. After the Jacobite rising was over this Traill was cleared of complicity in it, and was given compensation, with which he rebuilt his house. Now, we think it was built on the same site, though there was some little discussion about this formerly, but when we had new floors put in we found blackened steps going down into the earth so we think it was probably the same site because of course houses were just built on the earth in those days, there were no deep foundations as we found out at that time. Well, after that members of the Traill family continued to live in the house. In 1863 the estate came into the possession of General Traill Burroughs, who was then serving with the army in India. He was a small man but evidently a very brave soldier. He was reputed to be the first to enter the city at the Relief of Lucknow. He was always disappointed because it was the second man who entered the breach who was awarded the V.C. and we are told from the Rousay folk that General Burroughs nursed this disappointment all his life.
►[Kath Gourlay started] Well, he would do, for that was such a famous….
….One fully understands and sympathises with that. Well, he came back and he bought Westness House from his cousin, the Traill who lived at Woodwick, to give him a mansion house, and to complete the estate…..
►This is Woodwick in Evie?
Yes, Woodwick in Evie, yes, and soon after that he married Eliza D’Oyley Geddes and they came, both of them, to live here in Westness, and they came with their butler and quite a big staff I understand from the Rousay folk. Well it soon became evident that it wasn’t large enough for all the entertaining they wished to do, so General Burroughs, as you will have read, did raise the rents and start to build Trumland House. But then the Crofters Commission came on the scene and he was prevented from raising the rents further, and so Trumland House is not quite finished according to the architect’s plan. However, they went to Trumland House, with their butler who had served them here, and who was one John Logie, whose relations still live here in Rousay, and after he left Westness it was let to various tenants, mainly as a shooting lodge. Among these tenants was a gentleman named Middlemore who came on a long tenancy to Westness at the end of the 19th Century, and while he was here he invited the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood to visit the house. This was a group formed at Oxford to bring art into the home, so that your wallpaper or other household furnishings could have art, as well as utilities. Among them was William Morris, a famous designer of wallpapers, one of which is here in Westness House, fabrics and furniture. Another was William De Morgan who was an artist and produced the most beautiful tiles – we have De Morgan tiles here. Another was Sir John Millais who is a world-famous artist. There is a letter which talks about him being at Westness, and we think Burne-Jones, Sir Edward Burne-Jones, was here, because one of the windows is very much in his style, and he did lots of things for churches and cathedrals.
►I would love to see some of this. Can we go and see some of this now then?
Yes; shall we start in the dining room, where the original wallpaper is?
► Right, we’ll make our way there then. And this is the dining room, there’s still a dining table there, and this must be the wallpaper then, the Morris wallpaper.
Yes, this is the original Morris wallpaper which has been on for well over a hundred years, and was helped to be put on by a senior member of George Bain’s firm in Kirkwall. It is Morris’s very first wallpaper design, and it is called ‘The Daisy’, and though the exterior walls have been damp and it has come off a little part of the wall, the rest of the room is in extremely good condition and the colours I think are delightful.
► Yes they are, they’re a sort of pale, what colour blue would you call it, not a turquoisy blue is it?
Well, it is a bit on the grey side of turquoise, but it is in that range, and then it has those delightful dull pinks and creams. Very, very pretty we think.
► It’s kind of like what a modern Laura Ashley would be…..
Yes, I think so. Most of his designs were taken straight from nature; they’re nearly all flowers, fruits, as you’ll see with the next wallpaper I shall be able to show you. The De Morgan tiles in the fireplace which they put in, into the surrounding Georgian wood panelling are the iridescent type, and I have been researching De Morgan tiles and have looked at quite a lot recently, and there are very few of them in any other house, so we feel they must have been very early too.
► They’ve got a lovely rich sort of dark red, red burgundy colour.
And every one is different. Some are very similar, but of course they were all hand-painted before they were fired by De Morgan, we think.
► You’ve got to be very careful here – making up your fire…..[laughter].
Yes, yes. You treat it all very gently. Shall we stay on the Pre-Raphaelite theme and go into the hall?
► What are we going to see up there?
Well, you’re going to see another William Morris wallpaper, slightly later, and more tiles, and this blue and green paper, once again with fruit and leaves, lines the hall and the whole of the staircase, that’s several rooms and staircase, and the De Morgan tiles here have been designed to match it in blue and green and have been inserted into the original Georgian fireplace again.
► Yes, again they are very subtle colours, there’s nothing sort of loud and roary about them.
No, no, they are very quiet colours, wonderful to live with. You know one feels so happy in the surroundings.
► So the people of the time, they would have been very modern.
Very modern, yes; it was just at the beginning of this movement of bringing art into the home.
► There’s some nice old watercolours on the walls.
Yes, these paintings have been done by Lady Burroughs herself, and also by John Logie, the butler, whom she taught, either herself or sent to art school, I really don’t know, to paint, and in fact we think John Logie’s are almost better than Lady Burroughs’ because there is more colour in them, but they are the original watercolours, of the house, and Eynhallow and the sea, and here is one of Trumland Farm which they must have painted after they went to Trumland, and more views of Westness House. John Logie, the butler’s paintings.
► So John Logie did these ones here, the interiors of the house?
► Yes, they are better than hers [laughter]. Was she an artist then?
Evidently she was artistic, but of course so many, um…..
► Of course, ladies had to do all these accomplished things in those days, didn’t they. Now, we’re going through, and down the steps into – Oh!, is it a bedroom?
Well, it is now, but when we first came we were told it was a smoke room. We thought, because it was Victorian times, that the gentlemen had to come in here to smoke their after-dinner cigar, but later we were told that there used to be great big hooks hanging from the ceiling, and they smoked the meat and the fish and the pig meat there, and that this ceiling was only put in in 1922. So I have never seen the actual hooks, but that is why it is called the smoke room. There are other De Morgan tiles in here, different ones, but very pretty too.
► Yes, there’s brown and green this time. So, when was this turned into a bedroom then?
Well, it was a bedroom when we came here in 1952, so I suppose it had been used then by the Grants, who were then the owners, as a bedroom. After General Burroughs’ death, the house and Trumland House and the estate remained in the charge of trustees, but it was sold in 1922 to Walter Grant of the Highland Park Distillery. He and his wife went to live in Trumland and his sisters came to live here at Westness.
► There’s a lovely old bed, it’s like a half-four-poster. It’s got a canopy, a wooden canopy over the top, with drapes on it.
It’s called a half-tester, and it has the curtains down, to protect you from the draughts [laughter].
► There’s a wooden cradle there too.
► Did you use that for your children?
Well no, I didn’t use this one for my children, but it’s been used for my grandchildren.
► Now, we’re moving out through the corridor, and round the corner, and…..
To the nursery, and we certainly think it was the nursery, because the fireplace which has mid-18th Century Delft tiles, depicts games such as swinging, and conkers, and kite-flying, and animals and birds. And they have been in there, we think, since 1750.
► Yes, there is blue and white, China blue and white too. It seems the kind of thing you would put in a child’s room.
Yes, and the little iron fireplaces are original too. That’s the right date for that.
► Tiny wee fireplaces, about nine inches wide.
Yes, I think the children mustn’t have been very warm up here, but children were expected to be hardy in those days, weren’t they?!
► For their safety too, I suppose.
Yes, and for safety too, but it works. That’s the nursery, and across here we think there must have been another room, but it is now a bathroom.
► So there have been two nurseries, but of course they would have had a big family.
Well, they had big families, and of course there was a big staff here. I have photographs, which I’d be delighted to show you, of the staff. There were sometimes five women servants, three gardeners and handymen, and it was quite a big establishment evidently at one time.
► This room would have been big enough to have a small bed in it.
Yes, oh yes.
► Are we going down the stairs again?
► So, we’ve found our way back in the hallway again, with the William Morris wallpaper. Where are we off to now then?
We’re going up to the drawing room, and the bedroom.
► We’re going up a different flight of stairs. Was that the servant’s stairs that we went up?
No, there’s still a servant’s wing to be found, and another staircase.
► This is a bigger staircase than the last one.
Yes, this is the main staircase, and here we are in the drawing room. Once again rather beautiful De Morgan tiles, and the ceiling wallpaper is William Morris. This originally was one room, it’s an L-shaped room now, and the wall was turned into a beautiful archway, so that the drawing room could be made bigger, but we think that was at the end of the last century after General Burroughs had left.
► That’s lovely wallpaper on the ceiling. It’s gold!
It was very difficult really to find a modern wallpaper to compliment it, and after a long search good Mr Bain produced a Regency stripe for me.
► You can’t go wrong with a Regency stripe.
[Laughter] No! When we came here in 1952 the furniture had all been sold and the house was completely empty, so we had the job of refurnishing it, and as near to the period as we possibly could. And then, one day, we were given a piece of the original furniture, which was here in Rousay times. It consists of a beautiful sideboard, tables and chairs and side table, so it came back to its own home again. I was also told where to find a Georgian sofa, which we managed to buy back again and so that the house has got some of its original furniture in it, but not very much. Wish it were more.
► So that was lucky to get the dining table and sideboard.
Yes, it was bought at the sale by Dr Hugh Marwick, who himself was a Rousay man and whose uncle had been a gardener here in General Burroughs’ time. He is depicted in one of Lady Burroughs’ watercolours. Dr Hugh Marwick was a frequent visitor here to Rousay. He was very fond of the house, and he left me in his will the sideboard and the Georgian furniture.
► Oh, that was nice, so it came back to its original…..
Yes, he said he wanted it to come back to its original home.
► Are these the original floorboards?
Yes, these are. When we had to have them taken up by the Rentokil men to see if there was any rot in them, we found that the spaces between the boards were all stuffed with dried heather, and we think that this is insulation of a very early kind.
► That would have been a lot cheaper than glass fibre!
And safer, I think, yes.
► We’re going up another flight of stairs.
Another flight of stairs. This is the central block of the house which is three storeys high. The two wings which were added a little later, though I don’t know exactly when, are just two storeys high.
► Would these have been the servant’s quarters?
No, these are the gentry quarters. And there are two bedrooms adjoining. We think they were only made to adjoin fairly recently in Walter Grant’s time. They are now within a lovely archway, and we wondered why this was, and an old Rousay resident told us she thought there were two box beds in the adjacent rooms back to back, but of course there are no box beds now. But they have been turned into fairly modern rooms, with Edwardian plumbing and once again you can see the De Morgan tiles in the fireplace. These are a beautiful brightish blue, which is surrounded by a plain red.
► Every one is different. Every tile is different.
Yes, well some of the bedrooms are the same, but quite different from the sitting room and the drawing room. The windows are interesting. They were rotten when we came and we had to have them replaced, but they had to be done exactly according to the original, which was rather difficult. They had no sash cords which dates them to prove Queen Anne. We go now through the second one, which is very similar to that one we’ve just been in and we go out again to see the bedroom where there was a suicide.
► Oh, horrors!
One of the tenants of the Traill family was Captain Craigie, who lived here with his wife, a Balfour from Shapinsay, Mary Balfour from Shapinsay, whose mother was a Traill. And poor Captain Craigie was deeply in debt and he saw no way out of his troubles, so he hanged himself in this very room. There was no ceiling then, and the couples were open. He first of all cut his throat, but he didn’t die from that, so he hung himself from the rafters.
He’s said to haunt the house. I’ve never seen him myself, but a friend who slept in the bedroom had a vivid dream of a man hanging from the couples and swaying round and round. I asked he how he was dressed, and he was dressed in 18th Century clothes, knee britches, thick white stockings, buckled shoes, and his hair in a little thing at the back as they wore them in those days.
► And had she heard the story before?
No, she hadn’t. So, whether it’s just coincidence, or Captain Craigie is still around I’m still hoping to find out.
► I don’t think I’d like to be your guest in this bedroom thanks very much!
Well, I’m certainly going to sleep here before I leave.
► So, we’re away back down the stairs again.
We’re now entering the servant’s wing. This is the room where the maid servant slept, and another room there for the maid servant, and now we’ll now go down the servant’s hall staircase.
► Oh yes, it’s much smaller, much less important.
Yes, and into the butler’s pantry. I was amazed when I first came to find I had a butler’s pantry, but it was so, and this is where the butler washed all the grand dishes and the silver, and the sink is still here, with a lead lining. I’ve never heard of a lead sink anywhere else, but there it is.
► Oh, yes. It is lead too, a dark grey thick lead sink.
And very useful too!
►It won’t need cleaning either.
No, it needs very little cleaning, one just has to be careful to clean it out after use every time, and it keeps perfect condition.
► That’ll last forever.
Yes! We’re now going into the kitchen, which is flag floors, lovely flag floor, and beamed roof which I’m told came from the wrecks of ships around Rousay, of which there were many.
► Lots of houses in Orkney would have the same kind of ceiling I would think.
Now we go through the kitchen, into the servant’s hall. Now this was originally two rooms; the first part that we’re in now was the servant’s sitting room, and there was a partition there, just a partition, for the cook and the maid to sleep, and this was their recreation room.
► It’s totally wood-lined, the walls, the ceiling, the floor.
Everything is lined with wood, yes, and still in very good condition, the workmanship must have been amazingly good. This end of the room was all the servant’s sitting room, but the far end room was for women servants only, and the men servants had their bedrooms and washing quarters on the other end of the house, where the nursery is, in a rather beautiful little courtyard.
► So they weren’t allowed to mix at all?
That was the idea. Whether it was followed I don’t know!
► So, we’re going out the door here, out of the servant’s quarters, out into the gardens.
And we’re walking on a terrace at the front of the house, facing the sea, and going right down to the sea where there’s a little pier, where the Burroughs, the General and his Lady, used to come in with their yacht, called the Otter. It was later bought by the Bank of Scotland and called the Otterbank, and did the rounds of the North Isles.
[The Otter was in fact built in 1926 for Walter G Grant whilst in residence at Trumland House]
► Oh yes, Willie Groat, with the Royal Bank of Scotland.
Royal Bank of Scotland, yes, indeed. So here we are, looking out to sea. There’s a pond down in the garden. I don’t know when that was put in. And there are lovely trees – sycamores, witch elm, ash, laburnum, one oak, but I think it has been blown down in the hurricane, and underneath the ground is almost covered with bluebells.
► Was that the hurricane in 1952?
No, that was a later one. We’ve had some since then, not quite so severe, but the oak came down recently. Of course the trees are very old, they’ve been here for more than a century some of them, some of them of course are younger, so they do tend to be blown down if the wind is too severe.
► We’re moving up to an arched gate with a bell on it. Where does that lead?
Yes, this is leading into this garden, and also this courtyard, of which I spoke, where the men servant’s rooms are. Also leads into the woodland, and we think this is part of the original house, because the stonework is very old, and the archway is very old, and you’ll see in a moment the old piece of the house which has never been restored.
Now this is the front of the house, facing up into the hill, and here is what was originally the front door, and is now a window, but you see here is the circular part where the carriages used to draw up here at the front door, and as we walk along here we’ll see a block which was the stable block, where there’s room for the carriage and three horses. Also in grounds there’s a small byre, they always had a house-cow, of course, or two, and dog kennels, because they were sporting dogs they kept here at the time.
► Now we’re walking down through a lovely wooded grove full of bluebells and trees. Where are we going?
We’re going down to the chapel, which we think was built at the same time as the house. It was left to become derelict at some time, I don’t know when, but Archdeacon Craven visited it, and the accounts in his book say he took away some of the things, so that we know indeed it is old. We hadn’t before realised it wasn’t an old chapel or a new chapel, but then it was used as a boiler house for a glass house, which was built onto the wall adjacent to it, and when the Grants came they turned it back into a chapel and it was re-consecrated and now the chapel is in use again.
► Lovely smell of bluebells.
Yes, aren’t they beautiful, and they spread so well, if you don’t disturb them.
► Ah, here it is!
Yes, here it is, you see it is stone-built, just like the house itself, so the house is harled and you can’t see the stones, but I had the harling taken off the chapel when it was so bad, and found this beautiful stone and the lovely gothic windows at the end.
► Just built into the high stone garden wall.
Here we are inside the little chapel. As you say it is tiny, but we have managed to cram forty people into it for a wedding once, for a Rousay girl. We found it very beautiful.
► Who did the lovely wee stained glass windows?
The Grants had the same stained glass windows put in, in the 1920s. We wondered when we came if it were Burne-Jones. He was a great stained glass window artist, but no, they are more modern than that.
► There’s a small altar piece and there’s not even room for pews, it’s just tiny wee wooden chairs. In times gone by was this used every Sunday, just for the family then?
It is a family chapel, yes, but I have no information as to who took the services at that time.
► Now, we’re outside. We’ve left the chapel and we’re going to move on to Trumland House, and find out what happened to General Burroughs himself when he left here.
► Well, we’ve made our way up to Trumland, on a sort of whistle-stop tour, and this is where General Burroughs moved after he left Westness. Before we go and look at the house I see you’ve got some old photographs that include General Burroughs there.
Yes, yes I think this was while they were still at Westness, because in them there is a lovely view of Westness House itself. But here he is and he really is a little man, only rather like a small lady in height, and he’s not in uniform, but he’s got one of those beautiful old-fashioned bowler hats, and they’re all assembled ready to go, perhaps, shooting or fishing. In one picture they’ve even got people sitting on the slab roof of an outhouse plying mandolins, which seems as if he was quite a jolly man.
► I think that it is a bit of a set-up by the look of the photo.
Yes, yes, but a very jovial smile, hasn’t he?
► He sort of looks like…..Edward VII.
Edward VII, he does indeed, a small and short version of him, very much so.
► Here’s a picture of Trumland House.
Yes, just surrounded by fields you see. They must have taken it just as it was finished, and the flag flying from the flagpole, but rough ground, and we’ve got a slightly later one, and the gardens have begun to be laid out.
► Trumland House, looking at it from a distance, looks a wee bit like Balfour Castle, without the turrets and everything.
Yes, it certainly does. We’re in the hall of Trumland House, having passed through a beautiful archway, in which the initials F.W.B., Frederick William Burroughs, and E.G., Eliza D’Oyley Geddes, are entwined with the date of the building, which was 1872 when it was built for him to come here to, and left Westness.
► It’s much bigger than Westness.
Oh, it’s huge. It’s got four storeys, whereas Westness is only three in its middle bit, and it has very big domestic quarters for the staff and most beautiful central part of the house for the family. Yes, very much bigger.
► So was it because he felt he was becoming more important or was it that his family was growing?
Well I don’t think it could be his family was growing, because they had no children as far as I know. I think he felt as he was a retired general, and was married and the owner of a very bonny estate, because of course Wyre and Egilsay were included into it, that his position demanded it.
► Well, you have to be seen in the right type of environment.
Yes, indeed, to do your entertaining in a proper sphere. Off the dining room is a small kitchen, in the corner of which is a service lift, which used to take the food up and down to the large kitchen below. There’s also a speaking tube, so that one could give orders or speak to the cook and the servants below. I forgot to tell you there was a speaking tube at Westness, from the house out to the garage and stable, but anyway, here’s another one, and there’s also the old-fashioned bells on a panel. Now these bells are part of the whole system for summoning the servants, and in the passageway leading to the servant’s hall there is actually a panel with twenty-two bells on it, so one can imagine how the servants had to run about to answer the bells.
► Wouldn’t have had many fat servants in this place!
I don’t think there were, no. Though they were well fed, evidently. They had no grumbles on that score.
► I must have a look at this service lift. I always thought them as ‘dumb waiters’. They’re the kind of things you used to see in these period plays.
Yes, here’s the rope for pulling, and you would speak down the speaking tube and say “would you send up some more mint sauce for the lamb” or something, and up would come the shelf with the mint sauce on it.
► That’s the way to live, eh?! Now, where are we heading to?
We’re heading now into the inner hall, where there’s a beautiful marble fireplace, and up the main staircase, a beautiful staircase, with a window overlooking the parkland and the hill.
► Oh, lovely view!
Yes, isn’t it wonderful. On to the first floor, and straight ahead of us is the entrance to the dining room, another beautiful room, with a black marble fireplace, and huge windows looking out over the Wyre Sound, and Wyre and towards the mainland of Orkney.
► Tremendous light in this building.
Yes, isn’t it wonderful, the windows are very magnificent.
► It’s certainly quite unusual, there’s a window going around the corner at the side of the room.
Yes, there’s that in this, and there’s a window like that to match in the adjacent drawing room where we shall now be going. Here we are in this wonderful room, with windows on two sides and a corner, to match the dining room, and it looks over the Wyre Sound too, and I was told by Mrs Grant that she could see eleven islands from the window, where she loved to sit.
► Oh, I must have a peep out of the window.
You can see Egilsay, and the Green Holms I think sometimes, when the trees aren’t too high. Wyre is just in front of us, to the right just in front of us is Gairsay, with Sweyn Holm and Boray, I think that’s right, I’m not sure. Go round further you come to the mainland of Orkney, and in the far distance you come to…..
► You won’t see Shapinsay!
Yes, we can see Shapinsay. It’s a bit misty today, and then over there we come to the other north isles.
► Yes, you could actually see eleven, she was quite right.
► Apart from that the view itself is tremendous.
It really is, isn’t it. One of the best in Orkney. Probably in the whole of Britain. Now we go through, from the drawing room into the library, once again beautiful windows and lined with bookshelves. A country house, a gentleman’s country house had a library, and of course the architect was a very famous architect from Edinburgh and he would automatically have included a library in a gentleman’s mansion.
► Yes, you’d have your library and conservatory, and all sorts of things a gentleman had to have, whether you read books or not that’s irrelevant.
Greatly, I think. I don’t think he was disinterested anyway. We now proceed further up the staircase, all wooden with beautiful banisters.
► This is the third floor we’re going up to isn’t it?
Yes, we’re going up to the third floor, where the principal bedrooms are. Much of the furniture in the bedrooms was made by John Logie and his family, the butler. They were expert joiners, and they made the bedroom furniture and put the initials of the general and his wife into plaques either on the dressing table or on the wall over the dressing table, something like that. It was individually made to fit the house.
► Was it the same Mr Logie that you said was the painter at Westness?
Yes, he was the most talented man. Mind you, I don’t think he was able to do everything with his own hands, but his family, his nephews were joiners too, and I’m sure they had a lot to do with it all.
► Mrs Burroughs had taught him to paint and to be an artist – and then he went into woodcarving.
Yes, possibly! There are three bedrooms on this storey, and very lovely rooms as you see.
► It’s the space in this house, there’s so much space.
Yes, it’s lovely isn’t it?
► On the third floor here, these were still all family bedrooms then?
Oh yes, very much so, and these three that we see here were joined by two more leading towards the servant’s staircase, but they weren’t servant’s bedrooms, which were in fact a storey higher, up a staircase with, I think the owner said, were sixty-four steps. The bedrooms were all named after the various islands that one could see. If there were more than eleven bedrooms I don’t know what they used after that – [laughter] – but I can’t really remember how many servant’s rooms there were.
► What a lovely idea. You could say you were going to sleep in the Egilsay room.
Yes, that’s it, indeed. Through the window can you see an archway there in the garden?
► Oh, yes, just through those trees, yes.
It was constructed by stones brought from St Magnus Cathedral. I’m sorry I can’t tell you when it was, but obviously it was when repairs or reconstruction was going on at the cathedral, and was brought here and is now a beautiful archway.
► So, is it called after St Magnus Cathedral?
Yes, it’s called the St Magnus Arch, yes.
► So that’s original sandstone from St Magnus then, in Rousay.
► Quite fitting, because St Magnus was martyred in Egilsay, so that’s near enough.
Oh yes, yes, he’s really the parish saint you know!
► I can’t get over the size of this huge window; it’s absolutely massive.
I know, it’s really enormous isn’t it. Of course it lets in a lot of light, but as a housewife I wonder how they cleaned it.
► Yes, I was just thinking that from a woman’s viewpoint. I wondered how they got to the top and got that cleaned, but of course they would have had no problem then.
No. There was a small boy who seemed to do all the odd jobs. They may have sent him up on a rickety ladder. One of his other jobs of course was to put up the flag in the morning, and take the Union Jack flag down at night. The general insisted on this every day. He had done it at Westness, so I’ve no doubt he did it here at Trumland too.
► Oh, the old army tradition. Did he have reveille and bugle calls?
Well, I don’t know about reveille, it could be quite possible, but the bugle call I know about, because at the funeral of his horse he is reported to have had the bugle sounded. The horse, of course, that he had in his army days was here. There were extensive stables. I suppose he had many horses, but when the horse died he was buried with great ceremony in the grounds of the farm, which of course then belonged to General Burroughs, and a gravestone was put up and the bugle was sounded over the horse’s grave. Sadly, a succeeding owner of Trumland Farm took the stones away to use as flagstones over a burn, but I’m delighted to say the stone has now been restored and it is here in the gardens of Trumland House.
► How would anybody take some animal’s gravestone and use it?
Absolutely extraordinary. The whole of Rousay was up in arms, and I think the man almost went into hiding for a bit, until the restoration of the stone took place.
► I’ve heard some stories about General Burroughs that weren’t so very complementary, but he must have had a kind heart if he was so fond of his horse.
Yes, and all his staff were very fond of him indeed. He was a good master. They were happy and felt treated. The only people who weren’t quite happy were his tenants, who had to suffer increases of rent until the Crofters Commission came in. Oh no, he was a kindly and good domestic master anyway.
After he died the estate was in the charge of trustees, and that continued until 1922 when the estate, including the two houses, was bought by Walter Grant of Highland Park Distillery. He and Mrs Grant lived here at Trumland, and his sisters lived at Westness House, where they continued to live, they all continued to live here, until Mr Grant died, I think it was in 1949, and the two elderly ladies from Westness were taken ill and went to Edinburgh, and we took it over in 1952.”
[closing music ‘Whaal’s Rost’ by Jimmy Craigie of Rousay]
The original tapes are available at Orkney Library & Archive.
Reference numbers: OSA/RO7/235, 236.
Thanks to the Archive, and to BBC Radio Orkney’s Dave Gray
for allowing this transcription.