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12 Dec 2022

12 Days of a Brodie Castle Christmas

Written by Jamie Barron, Visitor Services Supervisor at Brodie Castle
A view of Brodie Castle after heavy snowfall. The lawns and trees are blanketed with snow. The sky is a pale blue.
On the twelfth day of Brodie my true love gave to me…

12 pointed antlers

What a magnificent pair of antlers! This makes me think of archetypal Scottish baronial halls and houses – there used to be lots of stag’s heads mounted on the walls at Brodie, but they can be a bit much don’t you think? But these antlers are splendid.

What do you call a 12-pointed stag? A Royal! Well isn’t that splendid? I wonder if this one came from the Brodie estate? It will look marvellous in the back corridor where there’s plenty of space. In a way it’s a shame to think of how it got here, but in another way, now that it’s here we should pay respect to it and enjoy its beauty.

11 moulds for jelly

Are you trying to hint at something, darling? I know you’re fond of jelly for pudding, but wouldn’t 11 of them be a bit much even for you? But then I suppose it is Christmas…

I love the way the copper has been moulded into such fantastic shapes – but what do you suppose that one at the front is meant to be? It looks almost like a leg of mutton but that would seem an odd shape for jelly! The turreted castles remind me of Brodie. I wonder how often cooks laboured over these, sometimes for them to flop out misshapen I dare say? Oh well, I suppose it would have been an odd-looking but very tasty treat for the kitchen staff!

10 sailors chilling

What a charming lithograph, darling, did you make it yourself? No, of course you didn’t – this was made in 1819, but what a treasure! Good to see it wasn’t all hard work for sailors back in the day – but they haven’t strayed far from the sea, and what a splendid lighthouse in the background! I wonder where in the world they are? Some look cold, huddled with their jackets on, whereas some are barefoot and in their shirt sleeves, and seem quite warm. How funny to see them in such an assortment of clothes of varying levels of fashion – different styles of hat and coat, different lengths and styles of trousers, all in the days before sailors uniforms. The orator in the centre is even sporting a cravat and pince-nez spectacles – very dashing!

9 slots for posting

Thank goodness I’ve got a castle here at Brodie otherwise I’d be running out of room for all these presents! You really are very generous, darling – what a splendid desk! And what are these little letterboxes for on the top? Oh, I see – so back in the day, the tenants would put their rent money into the slots that corresponded to the first letter of their surname. It’s certainly much more elegant than online banking, but it takes up a lot more space, doesn’t it! I think this will fit into that corner of the library rather well, don’t you?

8 bowls for bowling

How thoughtful of you to remember, darling: ‘The “bungalow” set of lawn bowls’! I haven’t played bowls for years, but I used to love it! I used to be quite a fiend on the bowling green, so maybe I’ll take it up again as one of my New Year’s resolutions.

Did you know, the word ‘bungalow’ came from a Gujarati word meaning a Bengal-style house – usually one-storeyed, thatched and often with a veranda – very swish. I love imagining someone playing bowls outside such a house, in the heat of the Indian sun – like many of the Brodies who lived and worked in India might have done.

7 choir boys singing

Do you know, darling, I actually can’t quite tell if these lads are singing or looking astonished. Do you think there’s something breathtaking in that book? Much more likely they’re singing – maybe even singing Christmas carols. Perhaps they’re following the old tradition of wassailing, travelling about in the winter snow to bring good cheer to their neighbours (and who knows, maybe get up to some high jinks whilst they’re at it!). I think this little moulded clay plaque will look perfect on the wall of the night nursery, it’s such a sweet little object.

6 jaunty baubles

Well, I must say that after the gold-coloured Buddhas and sundials and unicorns and so on, a scuffed cardboard box of broken baubles is a bit of a come-down… But I suppose they have a certain charm of their own, don’t they? It looks like there was originally 12 of them, but only 6 of them have bravely weathered the years of being unpacked and repacked again. They look rather snug nestled in their cardboard box, they must have adorned a few different Christmas trees here at Brodie and been hung by many different hands – children and adults alike taking them out after eleven months’ storage to see how many have made it through whole. Do you know, I even rather like the broken fragments – an unusual present, darling, but I think they’re growing on me!

5 gold Buddhas

Haha, a bit of poetic license there, darling – a lovely white metal shine they have, but they’re far from gold! What a charming set of Buddha statuettes they are – and, I must say, much easier to find space for than the sundials and unicorns! The core of these statues is wood, but they’re wrapped in thin metal to show the significance of the Buddha seated there in the lotus position. Don’t they look serene? Just looking at them makes me forget about all the Christmas shopping I still have to do…

4 posing Poms

Oh, how sweet! You know how much I love animals! Just like Violet Brodie, who was a tremendous animal lover, so it’s likely this was a treasure of hers. She had a huge number of pets throughout her life, from dogs and cats to snakes and toads. Every living creature whether fluffy or scaly was welcomed and loved by her! This early 20th century painting by Helena Maguire depicts four sweet young Pomeranian dogs in a variety of attitudes – two seated, one strutting its stuff, and one looks like it’s posing for the artist in a remarkably well-trained manner!

3 sundials

Well, what an unusual present! Better than birds I suppose. We’ll have them scattered around the estate I think, as elegant focal points to lead the eye along the avenues or nestled in the shrubbery. And just to be on the safe side, we’ll have 1 attached to the building – up there by the entrance, with a dual aspect so it gets the sun in the morning and the afternoon, so we always know what time it is. Unlike the 2 free-standing ones, which are predominantly for decorative purposes, the much older one on the castle wall would have been the principal way of telling the time for everyone on the estate.

2 unicorns

What a fine pair! They look quite ethereal out there in the Playful Garden, especially when they’re lit up so beautifully. I love the way they reflect the unicorn on the dining room ceiling – not only is the unicorn the national animal of Scotland, it’s also a symbol of chivalry and purity, values the Brodie family clearly prized if they chose to have them represented on their 17th-century ceiling. This pair have a wonderful modern twist – and I’m awfully glad they’re not real, as otherwise I wouldn’t know what to feed them!

Two white woven unicorn statues stand outside, with woodland in the background.

And a chair made for crinolines

Goodness me, darling! Thank you of course, but what is it? Oh, well, you know I’ve never worn a crinoline actually – they went out of fashion well over 100 years ago. Crinolines were one of the most extraordinary fashion inventions – it must have saved on a huge amount of laundry when they replaced all those petticoats. It’s amazing that this chair has survived all that time – with those spindly arms, if anyone put any weight on them they’d break, wouldn’t they? How long did it take you to wrap this?

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