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

From Michael Lloyd, 1940-43

Melbury: Boy scout cooking tests – herring roe rolled in ash and slightly charred, but eaten with gusto.

Glenapp: playing in the rhododendrons each side of the drive and finding a cannon ball. It props a door open still.

Blair: The night train from Blair would stop at Bletchley at 6 am in the morning, and then take twelve hours to get to London. Till late middle age I always thought Bletchley must be in the North of England.

Walking sticks: That long passage – the south wing was it?- had arrays of walking sticks hung on the walls, many of them with knobs that unscrewed. Some of them would be sword sticks and others had flasks hidden down the centre. But the whiskey had all long since gone. Evaporated perhaps.

Bishop of Dunblaine and Dunkeld: The confirmation candidates all had lunch in the hall at Blair Castle, and the delightful old man with a grey beard who was the Bishop of Dunblaine and Dunkeld sat with us among an armoury of muskets, claymores and the double handed executioner’s sword. Lest there should be the slightest chance of losing, one claymore had a pistol concealed in the blade.

Rugger on Sundays: Memorable for the disapproving stares of the locals who felt that Sunday was no day for games.

The Duke’s funeral: The Duke died and the clans gathered for the funeral procession. Even during the war the private army collected from the hills and provided a welcome alternative to third declension nouns.

Measles under the rococo fireplace of a marble trophy of the spoils of war – breastplates – drums – banners. Chicken pox in a small turret room with a Cecil Aldin print of a hunt breakfast.

The stag that stayed still however close you stalked it. On closer inspection it had a hole through its heart where endless bullets had worn away the iron target. It must have given some appalling ricochets.

Mungo: He found himself with the job of cleaning all the shoes. How did this inhabitant of a Scottish Ducal Estate cope with the unexpected arrival of unruly and outspoken small boys? With boyish lack of feeling he was accused of being none too clean. He must have found it hard to take.

David Howell Griffith’s good humoured teaching – “If you’d been as sleepy as that where I grew up the dingoes would have got you in the night.”

The Red Duchess visited us and said what a good thing it was that we mixed with the evacuees. Of course we were never allowed near each other. More’s the pity, really.

Kenneth Basset Tindall being grilled by his most intelligent pupil ever on why Basset Kendall’s plays always seemed to get chosen for the school plays.

In reply to a question from Mark Hichens

Thanks for your letter. I thought Bassett Kendall’s most intelligent pupil ever was probably Jeremy Morse, said to have been the cleverest man to have come out of Winchester for 50 years. He’s now chairman of Lloyds Bank. How’s your overdraft looking?

I don’t know which duke the Red Duchess was married to. Exposure to excessive riches sometimes makes people bounce off and go the opposite direction. Perhaps that is what happened to Patty Hearst. The duchess was said to fly aeroplanes but maybe whoever told me got her muddled up with the better known Red Duchess who was the Duchess of Bedford. Either way, the Tindalls weren’t going to have their precious charges mixing with any evacuees. I read about her later in some newspaper article, but I’ve forgotten where. Perhaps the factor at Blair would have something on her.

Outside games I remember as being rugger and soccer, with a match against the young of the Leys School who were also evacuated nearby. I suppose there must have been cricket. I do remember long walks into the hills – seven miles the rumour went – led by Harry Ricardo, with the boys trailing in, like the retreat from Moscow.

Harry Ricardo had some illness which meant taking pills regularly. But he used to miss out and take double the dose to make up. Unfortunately when he did this they went to his head, or wherever else these things go to.

Indoor games were L’Attaque, Battleships, monopoly, draughts, chess, and I remember doing semaphore and knots for scout tests.

Michael Lloyd