My previous post featured Auntie’s journal of her holiday in Cornwall with her close friend and cousin, Kitty Fry. When I got to the end I realised that the journal contained records of more trips, as it had been re-used by starting at the other end and working backwards with this account of their trip to Scotland in September 1935 (or possibly 1933; the writing isn’t clear). Again, the journal is illustrated with Kitty’s beautiful photographs. The two women are over 50 by this time but clearly fit and strong, as this is mostly a walking holiday. There are many vivid descriptions of stunning scenery and lovely views, but for me the best thing about this journal is the detail it reveals of the relationship between these two lifelong friends. A passage written by Kitty provides a glimpse of her personality, and they mock each other with gentle affection. I also discovered that Kitty called her friend “Mary” – one of the many alternative names by which our “Auntie” (born Mabel Zoe Watson) was known.
They don’t drive this time, but set off from Churt driven by “Stride” (a chauffeur?) to Farnham, where they get the train to London, and then the Euston train to Glasgow. On arrival at Central Station there is a huge crowd: “We asked the porter what was happening, ‘Oh, it was a trip just in’ – but why so many people watching (we thought it must be the P.M. at least, they expected) ‘Oh – it’s wet!’ ” They stay at the Central Hotel and do some sightseeing: “Had a little walk about the city, terribly murky by the river where we saw a steamboat loading up with passengers, though looking so foggy downstream. Got a taxi early to the station & Kitty waited with the luggage whilst I walked to Sauchiehall St, & got a light lunch at the picture house café – a nice place.” (I can’t help wondering if my Dad, a young man in Glasgow at this time, ever went there. He certainly took trips “doon the watter” on those steamboats). The next day they take a trip to “charming” Invershin on the Dornoch Firth, and are entertained over high tea at the station hotel by a waitress “who told us they had had 5 months of bright weather, with no rain, & had to fetch water for tea from a ¼ mile away. Invershin is just within the borders of Sutherland, & perched on a promontory on the opposite side of the Kyles of Sutherland is Carvisdale [sic] castle, which, she informed us, was built by the Duchess of Sutherland. I do not remember hearing anything of the scandals but she said that the 1st Duchess poisoned herself, because of the Duke’s infatuation for Mrs Blair, whom he apparently afterwards married, & after his death, his heir turned her out of Dunrobin Castle & wouldn’t allow her within the Sutherland borders, so she built this castle, but died before it was ready for her use.”
The following day they take another train to Inverness where they stay at Huntley Lodge hotel: “Sat in the drawing room for a little while after dinner. Kitty said she got a shock, when a not so very young woman got up to offer the ‘old ladies’ her seat by the fire! This old ’un accepted in anyhow, & even then didn’t get very warm, & we were both glad of hot water bottles.” From there they explore the surrounding countryside on day trips and long walks. On a trip to Strathpeffer, Mabel(Mary) writes:
“I essayed to look at some dress displayed in a shop window, but was told ‘you can look at clothes in England’. Our efforts to discover a nice walk seemed like being fruitless, until I, luckily remembering a bit in the guide book, asked a girl about a footpath beside Ben Wyvis Hotel, & she said it was to Knockfarrel, & we found it was a lovely walk, gradually ascending & giving splendid views of the village & mountains & afterwards turning into a wood, where after a bit, we saw a sign with Lochussie – so of course Kitty was like a dog scenting a bone, & she followed the scent until we could see the loch below – & very pretty it looked, with several be-treed islands on it. On the way back she worried some cows by taking a photo of them, & later we sat in the sun, & did a crossword; reached the village in time to get a cup of tea, (which didn’t taste nice – we think it was the water) & catch the 4.45 train back when we had some pretty peeps at Beauly Firth”. They also take a trip by charabanc to Loch Ness, where the above photograph was taken:
“we were delighted with the scenery; the first peep of the loch was lovely, as the sun was not really shining and there was a pale silvery light. Some distance down the loch (or so, I think) we turned away from its shores & went by a very rough road through the Pass of Inverfarigaig, very wild & beautiful, & were allowed ½ hour to visit the Foyers Falls , down a precipitous path – so steep that Kitty pretended she didn’t wish to visit the Falls, but would rather stay at the top, & take photos”.
This assertion is hotly contested by Kitty herself, who writes the next passage, which brims with verve and humour:
“I have been requested to carry on for a bit as the official Diarist is tired – or lazy – probably the latter – after the visit to the Falls which, by the way, I did not visit as I preferred to stay on higher ground & see more of the views & take photos of the Loch, we went back again down the hairpin bend at the edge of Foyers and retraced our steps, or wheels, over part of the Pass of Inverfarigaig and then turned up a steep road which took us on to the high moorland, where we had some glorious views of the mountains on all sides …I think our eminent journalist has forgotten to mention that the reason this diary is not illustrated like the others is because she was so disagreeable when asked to leave spaces for the photos, and still more disagreeable if the spaces which were left were not filled up owing to the photos being a failure.
Well, to come back to Inverness – after our drive we got some tea in the town, then Mary of course had to go & look at a hat & buy a pair of rubber boots – I never can get her away from the shops – coming back up the hill to the hotel we turned in at the Castle grounds to see the view – the river looked charming in the evening light.
We were nearly deafened on the way back by the piercing whistle used by the milkman, on his rounds, at every house at which he stopped.”
Kitty goes on to recount an incident which occurred back at their hotel:
“On going into the dining room this evening I noticed one of the old ladies, who sits at a table near the door, turn round to gaze at Mary as she sailed down the room in front of me – I thought she was admiring her dress which is rather nice, but when I got a view of Mary’s behind I nearly fainted – the back of her dress was tucked up at her waist leaving a big piece of petticoat showing thus:
– I was rather thankful that the people at the table next to the old ladies (not us) had left today as there was a man in the party”. Heaven forbid!
Kitty’s entry concludes “well, I think I have done my bit so I’ll leave Mary to get on with her job now – after all I do the photos & even if not in the book they will be on view if required”. She needn’t have worried, as her photographs are carefully stuck into the middle pages of the notebook.
Before leaving Inverness they spend a day visiting Skye, with which they are both enchanted. As they wait at Kyleakin for their return ferry, Mabel/Mary writes: “Kitty hung about the harbour taking photos, & I watched a car with a caravan attached being taken by ferry. There is only room for one car on the special boat, & after much talk, they got the car on, & we were anxious to know how they managed about the caravan, but I missed seeing it put on to the other ferry boat as I went into a little shop to buy some pc’s. Our ferry boat filled up, but we had to wait until some of the men returned after landing said caravan at Lochalsh”. And here is “said caravan”:
They travel on to Aviemore where they spend the rest of their holiday hiking about the spectacular local countryside. They are especially taken with Loch an Eilann “with which we were charmed…spent a long time there enjoying the blueness of the water, & the comparative privacy.”
When they visit Loch Morlich they find it “a beautiful outing, although we neither of us admire it as much as our first love here – Loch an Eilann”:
A walk up the Lairig Ghru Pass results in another embarrassing incident for the ladies:
“we found a lovely spot to rest & have lunch; we were quarrelling loudly because I, in taking up my scone & jam, remarked that it was huge, but nevertheless took a large bite, whereupon Kitty discovered that I had her scone too! & Whilst we were exclaiming, 2 youths in kilts came upon us suddenly & I was lying in a very ungainly attitude, with my shoes off!”
They return to Inverness for a day to watch the Highland Games, where “a wire-haired terrier who joined in the racing caused a great deal of amusement.” They are given a lift back to their hotel by a fellow resident in her Daimler, and “She told us McWhirter often painted the trees at Loch an Eilann.” The mention of McWhirter recalls my first post about Auntie on this blog.
On one of their final walks, up Craigellachie, they encounter some hostility:
“we began to ascend & found ourselves going up quite a steep path at the far end: Kitty ordered me to stay behind whilst she took a photo of the ascent, & then found a man with a gun coming along, who was rather rude, & said we had no business to be there. However, we continued on an upward path fairly placidly, & had lunch sitting on a craggy little mound, from which we got a beautiful view all round.”
It takes more than a rude man with a gun to discourage these two spirited ladies!
The Scottish journal ends with a tender moment on the train homewards:
“Kitty looked wistfully at the highest point we reached – 1482 ft – & longed to stay at various places high up in the Grampians, but the train took her on inexorably to Perth” – and thence home to Surrey, where this adventure for “Kitty and Mary” comes to an end. More to follow in due course!