|Picture credit extra-minty|
Something I've always been interested in is small islands with disproportionately large and grandiose houses on them. At 1,100 acres (450ha), the island of Shuna, 15 miles (25km) south of Oban, is relatively big compared to its house in the spectrum I'm thinking about but Shuna House is the only example of the genre I've ever had afternoon tea in.
|Mapping from National Libraries of Scotland|
|The north end of Shuna before the "castle" was built as seen on the OS 6 inch map of 1880|
|Mr Speaker Gully as cariacatured in Vanity Fair in 1896|
Said to have cost £300,000 (about £30 million in today's prices), the architect of Shuna House, according to the Buildings at Risk Register, was a local, Neil Gillies from Lochgilphead. He is said to have died on the Titanic - more about him here where it's interesting to note his connection to the nearby Crinan Hotel.
|Picture credit Andy Holmfirth|
An attractive, vivacious lady in her mid 30s, a native of Iona, Fiona wasn't Viscountess Selby. Her husband was the younger brother of the then Viscount. I don't know what internal family arrangements had led to this "cadet branch" of the Gullys living on Shuna while the Viscount Selby of the day lived nearby on mainland Argyll. It doesn't matter because the Hon. Mrs James Gully (to give her her formal title) welcomed us into Shuna House irrespective of the details of her tenure.
We were given cups of tea in a cluttered but homely room. It obviously wasn't "the drawing room" and Fiona made no bones about the fact that the deteriorating condition of the house which her family were having increasing difficulty maintaining obliged them to retreat progressively into an ever smaller number of habitable rooms. I vividly recall a toddler trundling round the room on a tricycle ramming the furniture. Fiona interrupted the conversation to admonish the child: "Darling, please don't do that!" before turning back to her guests and saying, in a tone of charming self deprecation "It's Queen Anne, you know!"
|Shuna House on Google Earth - the fact the road runs to the farm buildings but doesn't continue to the house suggests nobody's at home anymore.|
According to this website, it's the fact that Shuna House was flat roofed that had a lot to do with it being such a nightmare to maintain. In the course of googling information for this blog, I discovered an article in the Glasgow Herald in 1987. It reports that Edward Gully was being challenged by the Council for not having planning permission for the caravan he kept on the adjacent mainland to sleep in on the nights when he couldn't get over to Shuna (no public ferry) and it was too long a drive back round home to Seil. The point of mentioning this is the horrid irony that the article is next to an advert for "A permanent answer to leaking flat roofs":-
Too late for Shuna House, alas!
I was prompted to write this blog post by having chanced on this set of photos on Flickr showing the empty Shuna House in an advanced state of decay. Of these, the most arrestingly sad was the one below of the bathroom furniture clinging precariously to the walls after the floor beneath them had collapsed:-
|Photo credit extra minty|
Also in the course of googling the "research" for this post, I was sorry to find that Fiona Gully died in May 2012, far too young at 68. Another rather sad little coda to the tale was to learn of the death in a car crash in 2001 of Fiona's husband's nephew, Edward, the 5th Viscount Selby at the even younger age of 33. Noting that he was living on Mull at the time while his mother occupied the "family seat" at Ardfern, on mainland Argyll close to Shuna, Lord Selby's obituary in the Glasgow Herald also recorded that, having been a financier, he had been working latterly as a check out operator in the Tobermory and Oban branches of the Co-op.
|Shuna House - photo credit rosyb|
So far as I know, Fiona Gully's husband still owns Shuna and farms it in partnership with their sons. You can hire a holiday cottage there - see the island's website.
|Photo credit extra-minty|