Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My Scottish forebear who defied Queen Victoria

It feels a good evening to honour my great great grandmother's brother Sandy Campbell, who is described in Robert Smith's book A Queen's Country:
Sandy Campbell sported a magnificent beard. Queen Victoria didn't like it and asked him to remove it. She said she liked all her stalkers and ghillies to be clean-shaven. But Sandy refused to part with his beard, saying he had never shaved all his life and didn't intend to start now. He told the Queen that he would rather go back where he came from. The matter was quietly dropped and Sandy and his beard stayed at Balmoral ... 
Sandy Campbell was a favourite with Queen Victoria. In his years at Loch Muick he met many members of the Royal Family and their VIP guests, but he was probably known as much for his hobbies as he was for his skill as a stalker. He dabbled in taxidermy in an age when "stuffers" were much in demand. The animals and birds he stuffed were put on display, along with other curios, in the Glassallt Shiel's coach-house - "the Loch Muick Museum", Princess Alexandra called it. 
Stones found in the hills, cairngorms, quartz, pieces of rock-crystal and rock-salt, deer antlers and the horns of sheep and goats, foxes' masks and brushes - they all found their way into the museum. I never discovered what happened to Sandy's collection in the Loch Muick Museum. If it had survived the years it might have found a place in the visitors' centre at the Spittal. 
"He was a bit of an eccentric," said John Robertson. He planted honeysuckle away out towards the Dubh Loch, halfway between in and the Glass-alt, beside a cairn of stones. He also planted holly trees along the lochside. John thought that only two of them had survived. 
Today, the museum has gone and everything in it, but if things had been different Sandy might have been remembered by one of the cairns he would put up at the drop of a hat. "If he parted company with somebody," said John, with a grin, "he would build a cairn." He erected one at the lochside and called it Campbell's Cairn, but his self-made monument was demolished by an avalanche about 1957.
The illustration shows the ballroom at Balmoral, which today houses an exhibition of royal artefacts. Among them is a silver figure of a Highland games athlete by Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm.

It is labelled "S. Campbell," and I like to think my forebear was the model for it.

1 comment: said...

Well I've heard of resting on one's forefather's laurels. Is this a case of nesting in one's forefather's beard? Edward Lear wrote - There was an old man with a beard, who said it is just as I feared, two larks and a wren .... Have all made their nests in my beard. Could Lear have had your grandfather in mind?