Evanton oral history project

* * * * * He was often opposed at School Board

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He was often opposed at School Board meetings by Alexander Paterson, Ardullie, who sometimes insinuated that Jackson was out for his own good. Others disagreed: "As to the bridge at Alltgrade it was not taken down by Major Jackson but by the shepherd. Neither is it true that Major Jackson vetoed the young children going to Glenglass school. The gallant Major is acquainted with the sort of philanthropy which criticises much and gives nothing. And his schemes for betterment have a habit of getting through in the end. This was notably the case in regard to the Knockrash Small Holdings, the Diamond Jubilee Hall, the Soup Kitchen and many other ideas." ('Fair Play')

The initiative for a School Soup Kitchen was his own and it attracted virulent criticism in the letter's column of the Ross-shire Journal from 'Native' who maintained that "....The people of Kiltearn are and always have been of an independent spirit and object to charity in any shape or form."

Another correspondent, 'Anti Humbug', retorted that "a limited coterie of men, in very fair circumstances, are abnormally jealous of the position of Major Jackson's frank and kindly disposition has secured for him among the parishioners of Kiltearn. The whole opposition is an attempt to lessen Major Jackson's influence in the community."

'Fair Play' considered that "Men who ought to know better are devoting more time to securing the failure of the soup kitchen than they are to their lawful calling, or to their homes. Major Jackson came to Swordale affluent, open-handed, and kindly-hearted, safe and sure to run into popular favour but an insignificant clique, jealous of his popularity, have adopted to traduce his name and lessen his influence."

The Soup Kitchen survived until the 1940s.

"The 'Gallant Major', a favourite of the Unionist Ross-shire Journal, died of 'cardiac dilation' in the Policy Grounds in January 1902, having suffered over several years with cirrhosis of the liver. He was buried on Swordale Hill, at a favourite spot overlooking his estate, the Firth and Glen Glass. In this small private cemetery he was in course joined by his wife Emily and all too soon by one daughter Annie Constance, as well as other members of the family. The funeral, despite the rain and inaccessibility, was attended by about four hundred people and Revs. Watson and Macqueen of Kiltearn conducted services inside and out.

'Archer' wrote for the Unionist Ross-shire Journal, that it was Jackson's "happy mission to show that landlordism carried with it great duties and noble responsibilities". The Rev MacFarlane said Major Jackson was "a man of great energy and force of character - on most matters his views were enlightened and extensive. A true philanthropist." The Dingwall Presbytery recorded their expression of great sorrow. Major Jackson had "for many years a member of their Court and acted on several occasions as one of the Commission."

Rev L Wallace Brown, Alness, who had been chaplain to the Major's Curling Club in Swordale, preached a sermon on Major Jackson

"Known and esteemed by all. Under the brusque manner of the old soldier there beat the tender heart of the little child."

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Emily Margaret Baxter, his wife since 1882, succeeded to his position on various local bodies and continued to hold children's parties and to provide prizes for the Kiltearn Crofter's Show and the West Ross Farmer's Show. She became chairman of the School Board. Her eldest daughter, Annie Constance, took over the estate in 1914 and Mrs Jackson moved to St Andrew's. On her death on 19 March 1925, the Ross-shire Journal described her as "the gentlest of women, with a certain firmness in her decision."
Their daughters Annie Constance, dark-haired and gentle featured and Dorothy, were both fine horsewomen and rode frequently to Dingwall. It is remembered that people doffed caps and curtsied as they passed. Both were good shots and keen on wild life. Dorothy's health suffered following a riding accident; she was a good friend of Violet Munro, Foulis and was a renowned entomologist. Annie was an active ornithologist, a writer on ducks and waders. In 1915 she was made an Honorary Lady Member of the British Ornithologists' Union.
In 1921 Annie Constance married Richard Meinertzhagen, the subject of Mark Cocker's biography 'Soldier, Scientist, Spy.' He was born in 1878 and died 1967, having received the DSO in 1916 and CBE 1957. His colourful military career started with the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, followed by the King's African Rifles. He was a member of the Paris Peace delegation and chief political officer Palestine and Syria 1919-20. He listed his interests as ornithology, biology, geography, science, solitude and space. He and Annie went to Bombay, Sikkim, Tibet and Darjeeling in 1925 to study which birds were wintering there.

Meinertzhagen in the Highlands (1922)

T.E.Lawrence (of Arabia') wrote of him "This was Meinertzhagen, a student of migrating birds drifted into soldiering, whose hot immoral hatred of the enemy expressed itself as readily in trickery as in violence

Meinertzhagen knew no half measures. He was logical, an idealist of the deepest and so possessed by his convictions that he was willing to harness evil to the chariot of good. He was a strategist, a geographer, and a silent, laughing masterful man; who took as blithe a pleasure in deceiving the enemy (or his friend) by some unscrupulous jest, as in spattering the brains of a cornered mob of Germans one by one with his African Knob-kerri. His instincts were abetted by an immensely powerful body and a savage brain."

On Friday 6th July 1928, after breakfast, he and his wife went together to the revolver range and, after practising, proceeded to return to the castle. "Colonel Meinertzhagen was a short distance ahead of his wife when he heard the sound of a shot. Turning round he saw his wife fall. It seems that Mrs Meinertzhagen had been examining her weapon unaware that she had left in a live cartridge. The bullet entered her head.... death had been practically instantaneous" (R.J).

It is said that her last words were "the damned thing won't go off,

Dicky." She was 36 and "very popular in the district" wrote the Ross-shire Journal, and she "took warm and practical interest in local affairs".

Garfield (2007) writes that “there is speculation that the shooting was not an accident and that Meinertzhagen shot her out of fear that she would expose him and his fraudulent activities.” Mark Cocker (1989) writes that, "because of the unusual circumstances of the tragedy and the fact that Annie was an expert in the use of firearms, some questioned whether her death had been deliberate. However, there is no solid evidence to support such an inference, while her husband revealed in his diaries a sense of loss so complete that it took him several years to recover." A local rumour does persist, but is by no means general.

Annie Constance planted bulbs along the Swordale roadside, where flowers can sometimes be seen today.

Meinertzhagen sold Swordale to Walter Mundell in the early 30s. One son, Lieutenant D. Meinertzhagen, a Coldstream Guard, was killed in World War Two and is commemorated on the Kiltearn War memorial.

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British Ornithological Society http://elibrary.unm.edu/sora/Auk/v045n04/p0538-p0546.pdf (accessed 28.1.2010)

Cocker, Mark (1989) Richard Meinertzhagen. Soldier, Scientist and Spy. London: Secker & Warburg

Garfield, Brian (2007) The Meinertzhagen Mystery. Washington, DC: Potomac Books, Washington

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John MacDonald Bannerman 1901 - 1969, son of Roderick and Mary Bannerman, married Ray Mundell, a daughter of Walter Mundell, and took over Swordale on his father-in-law's death. A famous rugby player and supporter, he became chairman, then president of the Scottish Liberal Party. He was rector of Aberdeen University 1957 to 1960.

by Adrian Clark, March 1992

edited Jan 2010


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