Tuesday, 10 August 2021

My Darling Boy

On his last visit, friend of Balintore, Duncan, generously gifted me a book entitled "Miss Savidge Moves Her House" about a misguided but well-intentioned restoration. Was he trying to tell me something? :-)

"There is another little gift in the book for you.", he confided. Between the pages was a old letter dating from 1913, written to an H.R.H. Kennard at Eton College by his mother. I love old letters, so bravely set about deciphering the idiosyncratic copperplate. Isn't it odd, that handwriting is such a non-deterministic medium? The contrast is stark against modern digital communication, where we no longer puzzle about what is written, but puzzle instead about the state of mind of the author.

the envelope

As I was working out the contents, my eyes ran over the printed letter head "Balintore Castle.N.B." and a huge smile crossed my face and interrupted play. How had Duncan got hold of this? How marvellous to have in my hands an historical letter written inside this very building!

"N.B." in this context means Scotland (i.e. North Briton). This was often used for addressing postal communication in the 19th Century, but was archaic by the early 20th Century.

My transcription of the text of the letter is appended with informative hyperlinks. There were two spelling errors which I have highlighted in red. The use of the term "Remove" indicates that the darling boy was in a particular year at Eton, and would have been around 15 years old. This is less a letter from a mother than an edict from the British Empire instilling the need to work hard, but more importantly steadily, and for God and natural leadership to run their course. Swedish Drill is some kind of "physical jerks" of the day that were sensibly left behind on the playing fields of Eton. Summer Fields is a private school in Oxford, so darling boy frequented the Oxford/Windsor area.

In 1921 Lieutenant H.R.H. Kennard appears in the London Gazette. The combination of initials is surely rare enough for a confident identification outside of royal circles. He would be around 23, and presumably would have seen some action in the officer classes during WWI.

The shooting tenant at Balintore in 1913 was J.G. Peel Esquire. So the Kennard family were presumably good friends of his. The author of the letter is moving on to Glendaruel. This is most likely to be Glendaruel House (ravaged by fire in 1970) as this also had shooting. There is a small chance it was the nearby Dunans Castle (ravaged by fire in 2001) which is well known in restoration circles.

pages 1 and 4 of the letter

pages 2 and 3 of the letter

Many thanks to friend of Balintore, Katherine, for identifying darling boy as the gloriously fecund Henry Rowland Heyworth Kennard, and for identifying the writer of the letter as the formidable Winifred Dagmar Kennard (nee Heyworth).

genealogy and identification of darling boy

Transcription of Letter

H.R.H. Kennard Esquire

Wootton(sp?) House

Eton College




Balintore Castle


Oct 4th


My darling Boy,

We are leaving here today 

& going on to Glendaruel

thank you very much for

your interesting letters, I am 

glad you find you can cope 

with Remove work, the thing

is, to work on steadily

un-ostentatiously & so quietly 

leave the slackers behind, they

are boys who have no 

doubt great difficulty,

owing to idleness, or want of 

capacity, in reaching even 

as far as Remove. You 

are working with the object 

of waking the best of the 

intelligence that God has 

given you & so becoming 

a leader & not merely one 

of the following flock of sheep. 

Good work will always tell in 

the end and as I always reminded 

you at Summer Fields, you 

are now reaping a few of 

the results of a steady time 

there which is making things 

easier where you are, so too in 

the world, if you work on 

steadily nothing will be 

beyond your power when 

you really want to attain it. 

The Swedish drill sounds rather 

fun, I saw lots of Norwegian 

soldiers doing it, some years 

ago & they looked so funny! 

Have you started “footer” yet or 

perhaps you have some strange 

name for it? Daphne is here 

having a long holiday but two

of the boys have long since re-

turned to school. Send me the 

school list as soon as you can. 

Much love my darling from Father 

& your ever loving mother.

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