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4 Nov 2020

The Hill House: the Blackie family abroad

Written by Taylah Egbers, Visitor Services Supervisor, The Hill House
The reverse of a postcard, which is addressed to Miss Agnes Blackie. It says: Why is an elephant like a kettle? Because neither can climb a tree!
A postcard sent to Miss Agnes Blackie
At a time before air travel was possible for most people, wealthy Victorians and Edwardians still loved to explore the globe!

The Blackie family embarked on multiple holidays a year – from adventurous trips to Madeira and relaxing motor tours in Brussels to extravagant yacht cruises around the Isle of Skye. The family received and sent many unique and playful postcards from abroad, including the one in the main image.

The Blackie family’s happiest and most memorable holiday was in the summer of 1910. For one glorious month, Walter, Anna, their five children, two maids, Berthe and Josephine, and the beloved nanny, Janet ‘Jessie’ Stewart, rented a home in the north of France. They enjoyed bathing, bicycling and relaxation while hard-working Nana, as Janet was called, was ‘in command of the youngsters’.

Black and white photograph of three girls and a boy sitting on some stone steps in a garden.
Ruth, Alison, Walter and Agnes - the Blackie children

The family business, Blackie & Sons, not only published marvellous novels by famous authors but they also published some of their own stories. Happy Jaunts was recorded by Walter and Annie Blackie in 1947, and this wonderful book explores all the holidays taken by generations of the Blackie family from 1863 to 1938.

Dark blue book cover: Summer Quarters and Happy Jaunts 1863-1938, recorded by WWB and ACB
Happy Jaunts – which logs all the Blackie family outings and holidays

An excerpt from the book reads: ‘The old word Jaunt, now seldom heard, is a useful word to apply to a joyful or merry outing. And so this log of annual outings, from 1863–1938, is presented to the children and grandchildren of W.W.B and A.C.B in the hope that they may in their turn have many happy jaunts.’ This endearing book beautifully encapsulates family memories in a time before social media could. We’re lucky at the Hill House to be able to tell our visitors such delightful stories and keep the memories held so dear by the Blackie family alive.

We look forward to sharing many more stories with you when you visit the Hill House.

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