How Finlaystone House changed the course of my life…

18 Jun

Finlaystone

Finlaystone House, Langbank, Scotland. Home of the Chief of Clan MacMillan…

Unsure of what to do when I left school, Mother saw an advertisement, Lady MacMillan, Finlaystone House, Langbank, looking for a gardener…went for an interview but she had already employed Benedict Thierrie, to work alongside Hugh Sweeny, head gardener. She asked if I could cook, and I said no, but was willing to learn.

 

I arrived at Finlaystone on my 18th Birthday, 25th October 1977.

 

Caroline Lucken taught me cookery and I quickly managed, with team work & Mrs Beaton’s Cook Book and Finlaystone’s wonderful cooker and Victorian kitchen, also garden work, bees and floristry.

 

Lady MacMillan wrote the menu out for the week on a little chalk board. Lady “M” had us making seasonal jams, marmalade, chutney, bottled fruits and honey. Lots of baking and fresh made bread. Little balls of butter made with butter pats and served in shell shaped dishes, cream skimmed from a big bowl of milk.

 

I met Richard Birch, Ranger at Finlaystone, and we kept in contact, enjoying some excellent botanising, bird watching and fossil hunting trips over the years. He is now Dr Richard Birch, Senior Ecologist.

 

One day in the news paper in the dining room I saw an advertisement for B.A. Degree Home Economics, my WORST subject at school, but exactly what I was learning at Finlaystone…applied & got accepted, so after a wonderful year with the MacMillans I left for Queen Margaret College, Edinburgh.

 

In the summer holidays, twice running, I went to Virginia USA to live, visit and work with & through Finlaystone friends of the family…Kay & John Pollard, the Oliva family, Laura MacMillan, Frances Ehrlich, Jane Baskerville, Lelani and Andrew MacMillan NYC.

 

Met my life long Virginian sweetheart and penfriend Wardell Carter.

 

Did not want to teach Home Economics, and on a trip back to Finlaystone, just before graduation, Judy Hutton asked me if I was interested in becoming a Preparatory School Matron, as her daughter Alice had had a job offer she did not need…I took the position and worked 10 wonderful years, 9 as House Matron, at the school Robin and Judy Hutton’s son and cousins had attended, Horris Hill.

 

Later, when I had my son James, I saw an advertisement for Horticulturist, and with my Finlaystone garden experience, I applied; 10 years Horticulturist in a lovely garden with Mrs Newton, who taught me so much, & I was able to take my son to work pre-school, and in school holidays.

 

As my walking deteriorated, as I was born with a dislocated right hip, James’ father David trained as a Tree Surgeon and I supported his business, my horticultural experience invaluable.

 

David, James and I visited Finlaystone with grandmother Doreen from New Zealand, and were greeted by Chief George and Jane MacMillan.

 

I still have so many dear friends connected with my year at Finlaystone, and keep in contact with the MacMillans every Christmas

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One Response to “How Finlaystone House changed the course of my life…”

  1. Moss Piglet June 18, 2018 at 10:01 pm #

    The gardens at Finlaystone were and are spectacular, and I lived as one of the family, cooking and eating breakfast with Sir Gordon and Lady MacMillan, then all of us off to work in the gardens, often picking fresh veg. for lunch, cooking lunch, then off to the gardens again, Afternoon Tea, fresh baked scones and cakes 5pm, with tea poured by Lady “M” from a silver tea pot…preparation for supper, a fresh cooked soup every day, dress for supper and Sir Gordon poured us all a Gin and Tonic…I was invited if I wished, to join Sir Gordon and Lady “M” in their Drawing Room after supper, and often took sewing projects with me to do as we sat by a lovely fire…was a magical year of my life!

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