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3 Jun 2022

Beloved pets of the Brodie family

Written by Jamie Barron, Collections Care Assistant, Brodie Castle
Sandy the dog, one of the Brodie family's canine companions
The Brodie family have always loved animals, and many of them even had pets included in their portraits – a touching way of immortalising their favourite furry friends. Here are a few of the animal companions you can see pictures of or hear stories about at Brodie Castle.
Alexander, 20th Laird of Brodie as a boy, with a fluffy but fierce-looking friend

This charming portrait of Alexander, later 20th Laird of Brodie (1741–1759), was probably painted by Charles Phillips (1708–1747) at about the time of the 1745 Jacobite Rising. Had Alexander, aged four or five here, looked out of the windows of Brodie, he would have seen the fires of the Duke of Cumberland’s troops glowing in the distance, where they were camping on a field by Brodie Mains on their way to fight at Culloden. Alexander clearly had a devoted canine companion even at this young age. Although he looks like a little ball of fluff snuggled into the frock (during this period young boys wore dresses until they were considered old enough to wear trousers), something in his expression suggests he would attack anyone who imperilled his young master.

William, later 22nd Laird (1799–1873), his siblings and Pozie the Newfoundland

Sometime in the first few years of the 19th Century, John Opie (1761–1807) painted William, later 22nd Laird (1799–1873), and his siblings against a dramatic rural backdrop. Having not long arrived from India, perhaps the Newfoundland dog was a present welcoming them to their native shores? He was clearly a beloved pet to the extent that they wanted him to be included in their group portrait. What a hero Opie was for painting seven young children and a dog – imagine trying to keep them still long enough to paint them! Writing to George (the youngest child in this group, on the dog’s back) a few years later, his stepfather mentions that Pozie the dog has become so fond of their cook that he will hardly leave her side, even to go walking with the family. He was clearly a very affectionate animal.

Driver the deerhound

Elizabeth Brodie (1794–1864) married George, 5th Duke of Gordon, and although Driver the deerhound was mostly there to work, he was evidently beloved enough for George to have him painted by one of the most famous and accomplished painters of the period: Edwin Landseer (1802–1873), renowned for his dramatic and emotive depictions of animals, such as the ‘Monarch of the Glen’ painting on display at the National Gallery of Scotland. What you can see today in the library at Brodie is a reduced version of the original landscape, which showed Driver having succeeded at what he was trained to do – hunt deer. At some point in the 20th century, Violet Brodie – a great animal lover – took exception to the graphic depiction of a dead deer, so had the charming head of Driver cut out and framed separately.

Hugh Brodie, 23rd Laird (1840–1889), was a lover of nature in all its forms; he enjoyed walking in the countryside to appreciate the beauties around him, and often had a faithful hound at his side. In the first painting of him aged about five with his brother George, they are depicted by James Currie in a rugged landscape reminiscent of Macbeth’s blasted heath, accompanied by a cheerful-looking cairn terrier. Hugh’s love of animals continued into adulthood as well, as can be seen in the portrait of him by John Maclaren Barclay RSA (1811–1886), where in pride of place you can see his prize collie, Arran.

Violet Brodie (1878–1958), who had Driver the deerhound’s portrait reframed, was a life-long lover of all kinds of animals and loved taking photographs of them: she was devoted as a young woman to her carriage ponies, Runa and Lady Harriet; she spent a lot of time with her beloved Siamese cat Thomas; and she kept various toads as pets, giving them grand names such as Cleopatra and Volumnia. At this time the family also always had a dog or two around. They are always popping up in photographs from this period and were clearly beloved members of the family, maintaining the fondness of the Brodie family through the generations for our best furry friend.

The Brodie family with Sandy the dog

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