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Thursday, 14 June 2012

The Sutherland Family at Sandside



I've mentioned before that my house has a lot of family history attached to it - but not MY family.  The house was built around 1860 but the Sutherland family who lived here for over 100 years had moved here from the neighbouring island of Flotta around 1830. There were two brothers living in this house Alexander, his wife and 11 children (though maybe not all at the same time!) and Samuel and his wife and their 12 children. Alexander left Sandside in the early 1900s and Samuel took over the whole house and farm. Above is Samual and Mary with their family.

Each year I get visitors knocking on the door as they have some connection with the house and family. I always love meeting them and working out where they fit in the, by now, large family tree which goes on for several generations.  I was particularly delighted last week to meet the two folk who were actually born at Sandside and lived here for many years.  Stuart Sutherland and his wife Gillian had visited a few years ago, but this time they came with his sister Margaret, her son, Kenneth, and daughter Elizabeth and their respective families. Stuart and Margaret are the children of John Daniel Sutherland, Danny in the photo above.

I'd offered to meet them all at the pier and give them a lift to the house, but they wanted to take their time walking up the road so Margaret and Stuart could relive memories with their family. It's many, many years since Margaret had set foot on Graemsay and the first time she'd seen the house since it was renovated. This was how it looked on her last visit.......(Um.... not it didn't have a white tower growing out of it - that's the lighthouse!).



As you can see from the picture at the top of my blog, the house looks a little happier now after being renovated.

We stood outside a while chatting and taking photos (and I managed NOT to have MY camera handy!) and then I offered to show them around the house.  The family were very tactful and said the "younger generation" could stay outside, but I was happy for them all to come in. The grand-children wanted to see the house they had heard stories about and seen photos of, so of course they *had* to come in.

The interior of the house has changed considerably as it was renovated shortly after I bought it. But that made no difference to the memories that came flooding back. Margaret and Stuart were sparking off each other, reminding themselves of where pieces of furniture stood - a grand-mother clock on the lower landing, a chest with birds eggs in on the upper landing.  The names of the rooms - the "pink room".  The room that was only ever kept for guests, or would be a cosy retreat for a sick child with the fire lit to keep the room warm.

Then into the downstairs - the conservatory is a new addition and the rooms off it are now small bedrooms. But the remodelling was stripped back in memory and behind the doors they became the old bathroom, the wash-house, the dairy.



 Stuart pointed to the old outbuildings which are now in ruins and explained how he and his father had been trying to repair them to house sheep during the lambing season. But sadly his father, John Daniel Sutherland, died suddenly of a heart attack in 1951 and all work stopped and not long afterwards, I believe, the family left the farm.




Stuart was also telling me how the front door of the house was blown open in the Hurricane in the early 1950s. I'm now slightly anxious that the current lock isn't sturdy enough to withstand a hurricane!!

We went into the walled garden and I was delighted that Margaret could tell me how it had been in her time.  In fact very much as it is now in that vegetables were along the south facing side, and also a rose (I'd just planted a rose in a similar position with wonderful synchronicity!).  The clothes line and "drying green" (where your clothes can blow in the wind) is the same as during their time. Stuart was impressed that it was the same old iron posts. But they are sturdy and have stood for many years so I had no wish to replace them. Margaret remembered pulling up the line on those old posts many a time.



Sadly their time with me was soon over as they wanted to go over to the old Kirkyard and visit the family graves, and then go up to see Ethel, as they all grew up together.

I went down to the pier at boat time to bid them farewell. They'd all had a lovely time on the island, the older folk reliving memories and the younger ones enjoying the stories and exploring the island and making their own memories of Graemsay.  I do hope the family come back again soon!




18 comments:

  1. What a wonderful experience for all concerned! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. I had such a lovely time and it seems the family did too.

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  2. A trip down memory lane; one of the most wonderful journeys any family can undertake. Thankyou for the post.

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    1. I loved hearing all the stories too!

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  3. What a wonderful "win-win" visit ! I love your conservatory.

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    1. Yes the conservatory is my favourite room! It gets "mothballed" in winter as it's too expensive to heat. But on these long summer nights it's a wonderful place to sit and watch the sunset.

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  4. Thank you once again for your hospitality. It was much appreciated and we had such a happy day. We were amazed at the colour of the egg yolks:)

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    1. It was so lovely to meet you all again. Hope you can come back soon! And yes the egg yolks are a wonderful colour - the hens really benefit from being completely free range AND able to go to the shore too.

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  5. Such a fabulous thing to do, to show the "old" family around your home. Houses with living history are such a treat for the current owners. Hope the lock holds.. :-)

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    1. I often ponder the stories this old stone house could tell! And thanks for the reminder re the lock..... MUST do something about that!!

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  6. Great read, history at your door.

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  7. Oh what fun for all concerned, Sian. I'm glad you had such an enjoyable visit and I'm sure they must be pleased to see their old family home so loved and cared for. :-)

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    1. I think everyone enjoyed the visit. Obviously there have been lots of changes, but I'm sure they were pleased to see the house lived in once again.

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  8. As always, I have a glimpse into a world I might never have witnessed, and lives I might never have felt. For you make us FEEL your life in your beautiful part of the world. I always feel a wind when I visit your islands. And I want to simply BE in your conservatory... with my paints, that is.

    To live in a place with such history as well as beauty. Thank you so much for sharing this, as always.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the visit too :-) You'd love the conservatory - it has a 180 degree view, with shelter from the ever present breeze/wind! And lots of glorious sunsets and sunrises to paint too in the summer!

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