Sunday, October 6, 2013

Lochrosque - Part 2

Part 1 here

Looking over Achnasheen, west along Loch a' Chroisg
It's September 1914 and World War I has been underway for just a few weeks. Sir Arthur Bignold is at dinner at Lochrosque Lodge when his butler is summoned to the door. He is surprised to be confronted by an armed raiding party led by no less than the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill!

It sounds like something out of "Monarch of the Glen" but it's true. Driving past Lochrosque en route to inspect the Royal Navy base at Loch Ewe, Churchill had noticed the searchlight at the top of the tower:-

Picture by kind permission of Helen Murchison,
On arrival at Loch Ewe, he was informed of an unidentified aeroplane seen in the area (a very rare occurrence in 1914) and began to suspect the searchlight could be part of a plot to guide enemy aircraft (Zeppelins, perhaps) to the fleet in Loch Ewe. Hence the armed interruption to Sir Arthur's dinner. In fact, the searchlight was for spotting deer on the surrounding hillsides at night by the reflections of their eyes to make it the easier to hunt them the next day - unsporting, perhaps, but hardly treasonable. Unconvinced, the First Lord had the light disabled and, upon his return to London, ordered the Intelligence Services to investigate Bignold, his guests, friends and servants.

Sir Arthur Bignold died in 1918 (or 1915 in other accounts), his reputation as a patriot intact. Lochrosque Estate passed to his only child, his daughter, Mary. In 1888, whilst on holiday in Tenerife with her parents, she had met and married a local Spanish nobleman, Alberto Cologan y Cologan (the double surname betraying that both his parents were of Irish ancestry), the Marques de Torrehermosa.

At this point, the history (so far as I can discover it from online sources) becomes rather elusive but it seems from the website I got that picture of Mary Bignold from (here) that she was divorced from the Marques and had remarried by the time she inherited Lochrosque from her father. According to this website (in Spanish) about the Tenerife Irish, Torrehermosa returned to his native island but his two children with Mary - Arthur and Consuelo - remained in Britain. The former, who adopted the surname "de Cologan", eventually succeeded his father as Marques de Torrehermosa.

Meanwhile, according to the Achnasheen and Garve News and Views website (which is where I got the picture of Cabuie Lodge which originally piqued my interest in all this but which I hadn't read carefully enough when I was writing Part 1 of this article: note also the scans of the illustrated pages of the Lochrosque gamebook), it seems the western part of Lochrosque Estate, with the Lodge, was sold around 1920 to a Harley Street dentist, John MacKenzie.

He died in the 1940s following which the Lodge is said to have been sold to an American who dismantled it stone by stone and transported it to the USA. The Tenerife Irish website linked to above speaks of Lochrosque being demolished during WW2 and I must say the transporting it to be rebuilt in America has a whiff of apocryphality about it - is it not more likely it just suffered the same fate as so many similar late Victorian and Edwardian houses of simply being demolished as having become an expensive liability in changed times?

Looking east along Strath Bran - Loch a' Chroisg bottom left
In any event, Arthur de Cologan, Marques de Torrehermosa, Sir Arthur Bignold's grandson, inherited the eastern part of the estate centred on Strathbran Lodge and died in 1968. He was survived for a number of years by his widow, Irene, and I can remember in the 1980s tales of the rather eccentric and colourful "Marquesa" of Strathbran. After her death, the estate passed to cousins, the Seligman family who still own it at the present day.

Strathbran Lodge - picture credit John Allan


  1. I enjoyed your Lochrosque tales, Neil

  2. Neil,

    I have stumbled across your articles on Lochrosque, Cabuie and all the other fascinating bits of West Highland history. You have done an amazing job and have picked up a few things that I did not even know about my ancestors!

    If you would like I may have some information that could further flesh out your articles.

    Is there a way to contact you privately?

    Kind regards,

    Jocelyn Seligman

  3. Thanks for the comment Jos, glad you enjoyed it - I've written you an e-mail which look out for. If you don't get it, then you can contact me at neilking84 at hotmail dot kom

  4. Very interesting indeed, i remember seeing the late marquesa driving her red Alvis with a spider on the radiator cap, this would be perhaps around 30 - 40 years ago. i still fish in the area, it is a beautiful part of he world. AJ Urquhart

  5. Being born in achanalt station house in 1947.i remember his lordship & her ladyship very well a nicer couple would be hard to find anywhere.Her choice of car was always Alvis,(colour is another story).His lordships at my memory a Ford Pilot.
    Ronnie Couper. Ullapool.

  6. Hello there, I came about this extremely interesting article after awaking in the early hours and suddenly wondering about the Marques de Torrehermosa Arthur de Colagan, nick-named C Squared, (personally I think I was dreaming about Downton Abbey!!) married to Irene...or Aunt Rene as I knew her. She was the aunt to my first husband and I spent many a glorious time at Strathbran Lodge with my then husband and our two children. It is a beautiful part of the world and I wished I had had the opportunity to mature into the family on Aunt Rene's side more so that I could have had more splendid visits to Ross and Cromarty and seen more of the astounding raw beauty of that part of the world. Aunt Rene did indeed have an Alvis but the one I remember was black and my husband as was would never let us sit in the front when she was driving and would certainly never get in it with the children!!!! She was a wonderful person and I'm only sorry I never met the Marquis who died only a few years before I entered the Carlebach family, which was Aunt Rene's maiden name. I was very young and unaccustomed to the style of life in the family and not sure I ever fitted in but I do feel privileged to have been able to spend holidays there and wallow in such a bygone era of Scottish nobility and wish too I had been more worthy of the Marquesa's generosity and warm welcome always given.

  7. I don't know how I come to be sat up in bed at 5.30am typing this to your blog but have a feeling it is due in a very roundabout way to subconsciously dreaming of Downton Abbey, the whole series of which I have recently gorged myself on!!! I couldn't get back to sleep and so I decided to do a search for the Marquesa de Torrehermosa in the oblique hope that something may come up and what do you I am.

    Well who am I...I'm the ex niece-in-law of Irene the Marquesa de Torrehermosa, as was...or Aunt Rene as I knew her. I spent many a glorious holiday at Strathburn Lodge and have happy, funny and nostalgic memories of my time in the highlands, although please don't expect me to recount all the things we did and places we went. I was a very young and socially uneducated young lady when I was connected to the family and would doubt that anyone would remember the wife of Aunt Rene's favourite nephew. I wish I'd had the opportunity to mature into the family to be able to wallow more in the raw beauty of Ross and Cromarty.

    I never knew the Marquis, CSquared as he was nick-named, he died just a few years before I joined Aunt Rene's family, but I feel it a privilege to have been a part of Scottish nobility or a few years, even as loosely as I was connected.

    Mr Couper, I'm not sure if I would have ever come across you, but we certainly paid visits to Ullapool and other surrounding areas for either scenic reasons or social events, in-between stalking stags on the damp and golden hills at the back of the Lodge, viewing Loch Fannich from on high and motoring to the top of Applecross and watching a golden eagle soar above, in addition to many other things.

    Aunt Rene did indeed drive an Alvis - it was a black one as I recall, but she could quite easily have had any other colour - my husband as was then would never let us sit in the front and would most certainly never let the children in the car at all when Aunt Rene was driving and would always desperately endeavour to do the driving to anywhere we had to go in a futile effort to prevent the Marquesa doing the driving!! She was notorious at not giving way to anyone if they happened to be coming in the opposite direction when it came to the passing places on the narrow and winding roads up that way. Not really out of a lack of politeness but more to her failing eye-sight, which she would never quite bend to admitting.

    What a wonderfully interesting lady she was though, I had great admiration and respect for her as she carried out her duties as the Lady of the Manor, so to speak. It was a hard task to carry on the upkeep of the running of the estate and I know a lot of the 15,000 acres of land the estate consisted of was sold off to the Forestry Commission over the years but she upheld the title and responsibility of the estate with a humble dedication to the loving memories of the Marquis and an evident respect for the people who lived and worked on the estate and in the surrounding areas.

    There is probably a lot more I could recount, but I really must get some sleep!!

  8. PS: Sincere apologies for any errors in facts or figures due to a lack of a healthy's 40 years ago since I was part of this bygone age...and also I think my comment would perhaps be better off in Part 1 of the history of Strathbran...kind regards :)

    1. Dear Christine, I'm not sure if it's possible to move a comment to a different post but I think it does just as well here and thanks for your contribution with personal memories of life at Strathbran. It's remarkable how much interest these Lochrosque/Strathbran posts have attracted.

  9. Very interesting! Jos (above) is my elder brother. Our mother in fact inherited with her brother (her maiden name was de zulueta) but her brother sold his part to my fathers brother. My paternal side being seligman!

  10. Hello Iona, what a strange coincidence that I should receive your remark, I was talking recently to my daughter about Strathburn, she's great niece to CSquared and Aunt Rene, we wondered what had become of the place... Has it really been dismantled and moved to America?!!