Old West Downs Society – Memories of the Tindall Era, 1922-1954

From HDY Faulkner, 1942-44

I went to West Downs (Blair Atholl) in Jan 1942 having had to move from West Hall Park which closed down in Dec ’41 for the remainder of the War. I left in December 1944 to join the Royal Navy. I have many happy recollections of Blair Castle, which are now rather misty, but I do remember being sent for soon after I arrived by my Patrol Leader, who told me to sit down and read a book aloud to him whilst he practised his Boy Scout knots – the Patrol Leader was Staveley (1937) who became First Sea Lord (Admiral Sir William Staveley), and, believe it or not, the book was The Life of Nelson!! Other memories are being taken out for a Sunday by my mother, and I took Pigot with me. After lunch we went swimming in the Garry. It was cold! Also the funeral of the Duke of Atholl in 1942 (?). He was put on a farm cart, suitably decorated, and escorted by his Atholl Highlanders. He was taken by farm cart down to the family burial grave. We saw a bit of the Duchess known as “Red Katie.” But we never met any of the Glasgow evacuees, who were living in the basement of the Castle!! The “wide games” we played in the woods surrounding the Castle were a highlight. Mr. Griffith was i/c Scouts and invented some really most imaginative games. One I remember well: one patrol had to get two of those wooden tuck boxes we all had, from A to B, and the opposition, in the form of one of the other patrols had to try to stop us. During these games we were privileged to see a great selection of wild life, pine marten, wildcat, capercaillie, grouse, and of course lots of red deer. All very spoiling, when looking back on it.

The War seemed very remote to us boys. It really consisted of Mrs. Tindall moving some pins and a bit of white tape on a map to show us the front line!! And then of course sadly the names of OWDs like your brother being added to the War Memorial Roll. I don’t recall a lot about the academic side!! But we had of course some wonderful characters as Masters etc – Mr. Ledgard, Mr. Griffith, Mr. Rose and the Art Master, Harry Ricardo, together with Madame de Coutely and Mr. Pyper are those I remember best.

I remember being given a part in a French play in French by Madame de C. I had a miserable holiday trying to learn my lines, and eventually got my mother to write and give some excuse why I should be excused the part – it succeeded, and I was let off. I ended up as Patrol Leader, Hounds, I think, and Captain of the Soccer Team!! My only other clear recollection was acting in one of KBT’s Shakespeare Plays, The Tempest, where he was quite brilliant as Caliban, and in As You Like It. I have never acted since.

All in all they were very, very happy days. I have been back to Blair Castle a couple of times since, and happy memories come flowing back I was very lucky to be there, and by some miracle they even managed to get me to pass Common Entrance into Dartmouth!! I note with interest you were also in the R.N. for a while.

H.D.Y. Faulkner