Tuesday 19 January 2016

The Castle in 1954

Many thanks to friend of Balintore, Gavin, for supplying a scan of a colour slide, featuring the castle, dating from 1954. I have seen nothing from this era before.  Hitherto, there had been a window from 1923 to 1968, with no photographic record. I have asked Gavin if he can scan the castle itself in greater resolution, as this will give a clue as to the condition. I understand dry rot was first noticed in the 1950's.

Gavin has his own Facebook page dedicated to vintage colour photographs. These make for absolutely fascinating viewing. It is quite magical and strangely transporting to see the past in colour when one expects to see it in black and white. Gavin's website is here; his blog is here and he has even had a couple of books published: Vintage London: The Capital in Colour 1910-60 and London's Big Day: The Coronation 60 Years On .

The trees in the wood behind the castle are bigger than they are now, which indicates there has been a felling at some stage. By zooming in, I spotted the ball finial is still on the low square turret in 1954. This tallies with the approximate date of the dramatic story which details its removal, which I have yet to relate on this blog. A friend pointed out that the shutters on the entire south side of the building look to be closed. Was this an attempt to stop the furnishings fading or was the building shut-up out of season?

Can anyone identify the make of the rather fine automobile from which the picture was taken by its hood ornament?

Balintore castle in 1954

Here is the best match I can find on the Internet for the bonnet ornament. Thus was used by Jaguar in the 1950's, so the date tallies as well. Interestingly, it is not as strongly stylised as usual. 

candidate matching bonnet ornament from the Internet


  1. Year I was born...this is great!!

  2. Check this out: http://www.pbase.com/mgrove/hood_ornaments
    I'd say it's a 30s dodge or ford or maybe 50s jaguar, though the animal in the pic does not seem to be crouching as the jaguar hood ornament does.
    The castle is spectacular! I'd love to see it before and after restoration

    1. Hi Alice, thanks for the link! I added an extra photo to the article which shows my own best guess at the ornament. Why not come to see the castle during the restoration? :-)

  3. Hi David, Just as you said, I can't resist a google search :D. Going with your thought of Jaguar as the car (hadn't thought of American) I found that none of the early '50s Mark VIIs seemed to have a hood mascot, but the slightly later Mark VIIIs did. Jaguar's "leapers" *are* more stylized than the example, and of course the photo is focused on the castle. I found a video that looks through the windscreen of a Mark VIII- at about the 1:00 mark it is clearest. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgExfnWup6s .It looks a good possibility..? That being said, it wasn't terribly uncommon for people to add their own mascot.

    I'm so glad you are restoring the castle! I visited it in 2004 (I think). My friends used to own the Royal Jubilee Arms and I was up in the glens 2-3 times a year from 1998-2004. I have a dozen or so photos, one was taken in the same spot as your photo above. It was said you could buy the castle (and three feet of land around it) for next to nothing, provided you at least did something with it. At the time, it hadn't suffered noticeable vandalism or the indignity of graffiti. I had even thought the kitchen wing was almost livable! I seem to recall a garden outside the wing and wondering if there were any antique or heirloom varieties of plant gone wild there.

    Funny thing-it was a google search that found you. I was going over some photos and couldn't remember Balintore's name- so I searched "castles near Kirrimuir" , and there you were. I truly wish you all the best in the restoration and bringing her back to life!

    1. Thanks Dana for the URL. I had a look at the video - though to my eye the jaguar mascot here is too high style to match the (admittedly) blurry leaping creature in the photo. And the Mark VIII came out after the photo was taken. Sherlock Holmes needs to do some more sleuthing! :-) I am pleased to hear you visited the castle in 2004. At that date I hadn't bought the castle, but was deep in legal work to try to purchase it. The purchase price wasn't "next to nothing" - if only! Though in the 70's, someone was offered the castle with a reasonable amount of land for £100. The kitchen wing is definitely the place to start reclaiming accommodation - and this work is going on at the moment. The rhubarb patches in the old gardens do very well each year - I try to remove the nettles to give them a good chance. The old box hedge is doing very well, though in one section the land drainage has broken down and the hedge has died here. Many thanks for your good wishes, David