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14 Sept 2021

The Duke of Rothesay encounters Scotland’s rural past

Prince Charles and some other smartly dressed officials stand in a courtyard beside some stone steps. Prince Charles stands beside a plaque covered by a red sheet.
His Royal Highness The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay formally opens the Dr Sheila Bain Courtyard at House of Dun. | Image: Rob McDougall
Our Patron, His Royal Highness The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay was greeted by over 100 guests at House of Dun near Montrose earlier today.

The occasion was the formal opening of the Dr Sheila Bain Courtyard and new multi-sensory installations housing the Angus Folk Collection, which together tell the stories of hundreds of years of rural life in the county of Angus.

The Duke was welcomed on arrival by the Lord-Lieutenant of Angus, Patricia Sawers; the Provost of Angus Council, Ronnie Proctor MBE; and the Council’s Chief Executive, Margo Williamson; before being escorted on a tour of the House of Dun by the National Trust for Scotland’s Chairman, Sir Mark Jones FRSE and our Chief Executive, Phil Long OBE FRSE.

The William Adam-designed House of Dun was built for the Erskine family in 1743 to replace a medieval tower house. It was acquired by the National Trust for Scotland in 1980 and opened to the public in 1989.

The £714,000 project to convert under-utilised space in the House of Dun’s courtyard to house the Angus Folk Collection was made possible thanks to the legacy of Dr Sheila Bain, members of the National Trust for Scotland’s Patrons’ Club, the Angus Members’ Centre, the Northwood Charitable Trust and other generous donors.

Iain Hawkins (the National Trust for Scotland’s General Manager, North East) and Jason Robertson (Visitor Services Manager) introduced The Duke to Louisa Smillie, playing the part of Violet Jacob, a renowned poet born as Violet Augusta Mary Frederica Kennedy-Erskine at House of Dun in 1863.

Louisa is one of the Trust’s three costumed tour guides representing real people who lived at the house and she used the opportunity to tell The Duke about the Erskines’ family background and the historic exterior and interior of the property.

A lady dressed in an Edwardian costume stands in a grand Saloon, pointing out some features to Prince Charles and a small group of people. The room has elaborate plasterwork on the walls.
Our costumed guide in the Saloon | Image: Rob McDougall

Leaving the house, The Duke went into the property’s garden and viewed a stone unveiled by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother on 12 May 1989 to formally open House of Dun to the public.

The Duke continued his tour of the new courtyard installations including:

  • ‘The Potting Shed’ – in which display items include a whale harpoon, cruise lamps, a spinning wheel and whalebone knitting needles in order to tell the stories of the Angus handloom weavers and the fishing and whaling industries.
  • ‘The Angus Collection’ – this was assembled by Jean, Lady Maitland of Burnside between the 1920s and 50s. She had a great interest in nature and folk history which led her to acquire (often from ‘scrappies’ and rag and bone men) the ephemera of hundreds of years of a rural lifestyle that was quickly disappearing in the face of 20th-century technology and social change. This display includes a farmhouse chair, an open pot, a cradle, a penny farthing and images from The Dundee Courier 1950.
  • ‘The Coach House’ – the key exhibit here is a magnificent hearse built in 1896 by Thomas Swinton & Sons, Dundee, for the Parish Council of Glenisla. It attracted much comment, some wondering at the appropriateness of something so solemn being ‘fitted with all modern conveniences and improvements’.
  • ‘The Stables’ – objects on display include a horse harness, a horse collar, horseshoes, blacksmiths’ tools, a carriage wheel former, an anvil and furnace bellows. The displays explain how much agriculture relied on horsepower, with as many as 140,000 horses in Scotland’s fields in 1880.
Prince Charles stands in a converted courtyard room that houses an old-fashioned hearse carriage. Two men are talking with him.
An exhibit in the Dr Sheila Bain Courtyard | Image: Rob McDougall

On concluding his tour, The Duke unveiled an inscribed stone to mark the formal opening of the Dr Sheila Bain Courtyard and the new displays, before mingling with guests who included executors of Dr Bain’s estate and donors who had supported the project, as well as the volunteers and staff responsible for the House of Dun and its collections.

The National Trust for Scotland’s Chief Executive, Phil Long said:

‘His Royal Highness honoured us twice today by formally opening these wonderful new installations at the House of Dun shortly after confirming that he would remain as Patron of the National Trust for Scotland.

‘Knowing our Patron’s deep connections with the countryside, I could see that he was fascinated with the various display items that have been carefully selected from the Angus Collection. It is a tribute to the foresight of Lady Jean Maitland that she collected things that were becoming obsolete and being disregarded, but which now give us an insight into a lost world of Scottish and Angus rural life that shaped our ancestors’ lives and the society we live in today.

‘That the objects from the collection are so well and informatively displayed is testament to the care and professionalism of our Collections staff and the architects and contractors who made the buildings ready to house them, as well as the project management skills of Iain Hawkins and his team.’

“This is the Trust’s 90th year and it could not exist without the support of generous donors. We were delighted and honoured that The Duke was able to meet and thank many of them in person today.”
Phil Long
Chief Executive of the National Trust for Scotland
Prince Charles and another smartly dressed man walk down some stone steps outside a grand country house. Prince Charles is wearing a kilt.
His Royal Highness The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay and Iain Hawkins, General Manager | Image: Rob McDougall

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