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Scottish Gardens
Kellie Castle, Fife

NDOUBTEDLY there is more difficulty in fixing upon representative gardens from the east of Scotland than from the west, arising, not from paucity of good subjects, but from their greater frequency. Not that the horticulture of the west is inferior to that of the east ; but, as a rule, families resident in the eastern counties have shown more constancy for old walls, and a more conservative sentiment in adapting old houses to modern requirements, than those in the west have done. This was owing partly to the better building material in Lothian, Fife and Aberdeen, and partly to the superior affluence of those districts as compared with the western shires previous to the development of mineral resources. There are notable exceptions, of course, some of which, such as Kelburne and Dalzell, have been assigned a place in this collection; but, on the whole, domestic architecture in the west has suffered far more sweeping changes than it has in the eastward counties.

In no place that I have visited does the fleeting present, represented by dainty flowers, appear more closely interwoven with an enduring past, embodied in venerable building, than at Kellie Castle. Standing in the midst of that fertile champaign known as the East Neuk o' Fife, this impressive fortalice—so smiling on its sunward side—so grim and boding on its northern—presents externally much the same aspect as it did before Scotland and England became one realm. Its very environment speaks of a simpler, less affluent age than ours. Here is no far-reaching park, ambitiously planned to yield its lord the impression that the sun and stars circle in the heavens for his sole behoof. Only a narrow belt of aged trees girdles the modest "policies," with cultivated farm-land coming up to the very garden wall, as you may see around many substantial chateaux in France. Nor does the venerable grove contain any of those modern conifers whereof the indiscriminate use has done so much to mar many a pretty pleasure ground. One solitary larch seems almost to apologise for its alien presence among lofty beech and ash trees, massive sycamores, and wych elms.

Before explaining the felicitous circumstance which has preserved the true character of this fine old house, a few notes upon its past may enable the visitor to appreciate the intelligent taste of its present occupants. Originally the principal messuage of the family of Seward or Siward, it passed in 1360 to Sir Walter Oliphant of Gask, who married Elizabeth, natural daughter of Robert the Bruce. The fifth Lord Oliphant, succeeding to the great estates in 1593, so squandered his means by extravagant living that his cousin Patrick, succeeding about 1613, sold the property to Erskine Viscount Fenton, who became Earl of Kellie in 1619. He and his descendants greatly impoverished themselves by their enthusiasm for the Stuart cause, Alexander, the sixth Earl, being among the very few persons of position who went "out" in the '45. An old tree in the garden of Kellie is shown as his temporary hiding place at that time. He paid the penalty of three years' imprisonment, and finally received a free pardon. His son, the seventh Earl, who earned by his musical gifts the sobriquet of "Fiddler Tam," sold his whole estate, except the castle, and two or three hundred acres adjoining, to Sir John Anstruther. In 1875 the fourteenth Earl of Kellie was declared heir to the earldom of Mar in the creation of 1565, and the two earldoms are now united in the person of the twelfth Earl of Mar and fifteenth Earl of Kellie, who rightly sets great store by the beautiful old house which he has inherited, bereft though it be of all but a fragment of the broad lands which once supported it.

By a stroke of rare good fortune, both for the proprietor and all others interested in ancient dwellings, the late Professor James Lorimer took a fancy to the place in 1878. Roofless, floorless, ruinous as was the castle, he obtained a long lease of it and proceeded to reconstruct the fallen work, repair the rest, and re-create the whole grounds and garden in the spirit of the seventeenth century. Admirably did he succeed, and, although he has passed away, his widow and his son, Mr. R. S. Lorimer, A.R.S.A., most faithfully and tenderly carry on his plan and purpose, which is explained and commemorated by an inscription graven over the entrance:

1 "This dwelling, having been cleared of crows and owls, has been devoted to honourable repose from labour." The legend was written by the late Principal Sir Alexander Grant.

"To me, as an architect," writes Mr. R. S. Lorimer, "the interesting point about the house is that the plan has not been interfered with or modernised, and the exterior of the house is practically untouched. So many of the fine old Scotch houses were ruined by Bryce and others fifty or sixty years ago, the old portion being entirely surrounded by modern work; whereas, when it is necessary to add to an old Scotch house, the old portion ought to be allowed to stand up and tell its own story, and the new portion should be joined on to it by some narrow neck so that there never can be any question as to which is the old and which is the new.

"One of the characteristics of Kellic is the fact that the walled garden enters direct out of the house, and that the flowers, and fruit, and vegetables are all mixed up together.

"I always think the ideal plan is to have the park, with the sheep or beasts grazing in it, coming right under the windows at one side of the house, and the gardens attached to the house at another side. We could not quite manage this at Kellie but put as light a fence as possible between the lawn and the park."

The castle garth, with its sunny grey walls, archway of clipped yew, trellised roses, and thick box edging a couple of feet high, has been kept much as it must have been when "Fiddler Tam" made it resound with the strains of his violin. The charm of eld, so difficult of attainment by any accelerating process, hallows every bush and border. Little is grown here except the common old favourites of our great-grandmothers ; some fine plants of Piptanthus nepalensis, flowering luxuriantly at the time of my visit, seemed scarcely at home among their eighteenth century neighbours. A modern garden house, with stone roof and shadowy eaves, at the north-east corner of the garth, has been so deftly brought into harmony with a distant past, as to cheat one into believing it to be part of the original design.

And over all this tranquil scene presides the time-worn fortalice, with its crow-stepped gables and clustered tourelles, prompting the inevitable, invariable wish—"Ah, could these walks but speak!" "Futile!" say you. Nay, but they do speak, and have much to tell to understanding hearers.

"All pain, all passion, all regret,
All love and longing come
To swell the strain whose burden yet
Imploreth `Home, sweet home.'"

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