Out of the Blue

Since I wrote Mirabile dictu we’ve enjoyed some news, quite remarkable for both timing and content. Our postie, Donald, brought, together with our mail, a very unusual present - from himself.

We unwrapped it in his presence wondering what it could be. We would never have guessed. It was a hefty old, leather bound, book - a compilation of articles over the months July to December of the Strand Magazine of 1895. Still in the dark, we watched open-mouthed as he, like a conjuror, opened it at page 548, and there was a picture of Amat showing Mr and Mrs Markham in the foreground picking gooseberries.

We compared it to the one we have which was taken from the same position but nevertheless is different. Ours has nobody picking fruit but there is, just discernible, a lady sitting on a seat outside the old bow window of the West sitting room.

The Markhams at Amat

The Markhams at Amat

The heading of Piece No. XLIV Illustrated Interviews, written by William G. Fitzgerald concerns Rear Admiral A. H. Markham RN FRGS who gave his name to one of the salmon pools just down from the Glencalvie Falls.

The piece begins:

"It is by no means an easy task to find the subject of this interview when you want him. Mayhap an extremely close acquaintance with the North Pole has imparted to the gallant Admiral something of the retiring —not to say receding — nature of that apocryphal entity. Be that as it may, I met Admiral Markham after much correspondence and an appalling railway journey, in the extreme North of Scotland.

I think I was the only passenger that alighted at Bonar Bridge (now correctly called Ardgay Ed.). A smart dog-cart awaited me and I was presently bowling along the winding strath towards Amat lodge, an ideal shooting-box wholly buried in three thousand acres of deer forest and grouse moor.”

The Admiral had married one of Gervers daughters and 1895, I understand, is the year Francis Gervers bought the place from the Ross family who had owned it for some 300 years. Markham’s father had been in the navy, his grandfather was secretary to Warren Hastings and his great grandfather, the Archbishop of York.

He, himself, joined the navy with a first posting to Nelson’s flagship, Victory, still in commission. He had an exciting service thereafter, chasing Chinese pirates and capturing Peking.

Then Disraeli’s government put up £100,000 for Arctic exploration by two ships which sailed in 1875 and included Markham and his favourite dog, Nellie, who slept in an armchair in her master’s bedroom with a special set of four flannel moccasins to wear on the ice. The Union flag was duly planted at the highest northern latitude ever reached by that time.

JGS, Amat, 2021

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