Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Kinloch Castle

Kinloch Castle is an extraordinary summer palace on the remote, sparsely populated, Hebridean island of Rum. It was built between 1897 and 1900 for George Bullough, a very rich English industrialist.


George, handsome, and educated at Harrow was brought up to take his place in the highest echelons of British society.

On inheriting his fortune George Bullough traveled the world on the Rhouma, the yacht he bought in 1895, collecting many of the objects d'art on display in the castle. George Bullough had inherited the island of Rum from his father, industrialist John Bullough of Accrington. The family fortune had been made by John's father James Bullough who invented improvements in textile machinery and became the owner of a number of highly profitable mills in Lancashire.


George Bullough commissioned architects Leeming and Leeming to build a castle fit for a laird (who was soon to be knighted.)


They designed a square mansion on two floors with an arcaded verandha on three sides that provided cover for the ladies to walk in the inclement weather, as so often happens on Rum. A water turbine generated electricity; coal fired the boiler for central heating and hot water, double glazing was installed in most rooms and air conditioning replaced the air in the smoking and billiard rooms. From 1901 the castle had an external telephone system, one of the first in Scotland.


It took 300 men nearly three years to fulfill George Bullough's dream. According to local legend they were paid an extra shilling a week to wear Bullough tweed kilts. Smokers were paid an extra tuppence a day to keep away the midges. (Those nasty natives have a reputation for being among the most vicious of the species). It has also been said that George was wont to linger underneath his workers labouring up ladders, all the better to observe their assets.


No expense was spared, even down to importing shiploads of Ayrshire topsoil for the garden. This was the basis for extensive lawns and formal gardens. A bowling green was laid out and a nine hole golf course. There were a network of avenues, paths and roads. There was a Japanese garden, a fernery and a formal garden. Hot houses were built om the south facing wall for growing grapes, peaches, nectarines and figs. Others houses camellias and tropical ferns. These were famously home to free flying hummingbirds, while tanks housed turtles and alligators. This on a desolate mountainous island off the west coast of Scotland.


The outbreak of the Second Anglo-Boer War in 1899  prompted George Bullough to refit the Rhouma as a hospital ship and he sailed to Cape Town where he recruited doctors and nurses. In November 1900 Rhouma sailed back to Rum, bringing a few convalescents on board. They became the first guests at Kinloch Castle. On 11 December 1901 King Edward VII knighted George Bullough on behalf of a grateful nation, in recognition of his 'patriotic devotion'.

For the staff on the island, the arrival of sir George and his guests for the season was the climax of many months of preparation.  The island's roads were repaired, ponies broken in, boats carried to the lochs stocked with fish. The gardens were manicured to perfection Chauffeur-driven Albion motor cars met guests at the end of the pier. Those who came by ferry stepped into a horse drawn carriage, tide permitting. Otherwise ladies were carried ashore by estate workers.


The heart of Kinloch Castle is the great hall which remains almost as it was in the Bullough's heyday. Only they and their guests have gone. Many of the objects that Sir George acquired on his voyages around the world on the Rhouma are displayed in the room. Indian brass- topped tables, triangular bobbin-turned chairs, brocaded sofas and a concert grand piano, made by Steinway in 1900.


There are two enormous Japanese incense burners, crowned by an eagle fighting a dragon.

In pride of place, a bronze Japanese monkey-eating eagle.


Along the gallery are a series of Rum landscape paintings commissioned by Sir George from Byron Cooper.

Portraits of Sir George and Lady Bullough admire their hall.


Perhaps the most extraordinary feature of the hall is hidden away under the stairs. This is the Orchestrion, an electronically driven machine that uses rolls of perforated card and paper-thin brass to simulate a 40-piece orchestra. This incredible machine is one of only three such machines manufactured in Germany by Imhof and Mukle. This one had been intended for installation at Balmoral until the death of Prince Albert caused the Queen to loose interest in such frivolous amusements. Sir George seized the oppertunity to buy it for himself.

The Dining Room was where the Bullough's and their guests dined on salmon, trout, venison, blackcock, grouse, beef and lamb that all came from Rum. The walls are lined with mahogany panelling and were once hung with 17th century tapestries. The chairs came from the Rhouma.




Kinloch Castle was built for Sir George's personal pleasure, and that of his, mostly male, guests. At the heart of this masculine preserve, the Smoking and Billiard Rooms. While the panelled walls evoke the luxury of a bygone age, the room was fitted with the latest technology. Vents behind the paneling extracted the cigar smoke, and that of other combustibles, while fresh air was pumped in through a grill in the floor underneath the table. It has been suggested that Sir George Bullough enjoyed opium; well, in his day there was no stigma...if you could afford it.


Sir George Bullough was an owner of racehorses, paintings of some of which adorn the walls of the Smoking Room. His interest spanned both the National Hunt and Flat worlds. His Ballymacad won the Grand National in 1917. His Irish bred colt Golden Myth won the Ascot Gold Cup and the Eclipse Stakes in 1922. In 1934 his filly Campanula won the 1 000 Guineas.

The ballroom was designed for privacy. The windows are disproportionately small and placed at such a height to prevent anyone (the servants) in the courtyard from looking in. The orchestra, from the Rhouma, played in the gallery, screened from the ballroom by a heavy curtain that was never drawn. Drinks, cigars any any other requirements were delivered behind a screen and through a dumb waiter with a door on each side. A door was only opened when its opposite on the other side was closed. Whatever went on in the ballroom could only be heard not seen.

Above the sprung floor the ceiling twinkled with star lights. Against the walls the sofas are still covered in their original gold silk damask. The room is really small for a ballroom because the only guests would have been those staying at the castle.


In the back hall is a large relief map of Rum, Sir George's private playground. On the wall are a brace of masks caught by the Ledbury Hunt of which Sir George was a master from 1908 until 1927. After the season on Rum Sir George moved down to Herefordshire for the hunting. Sir George lived in grand style at the Down House, Redmarley and at that time the Hunt was the biggest employer in Ledbury with forty full time staff.


In 1903, Sir George married noted society beauty Monique Lily, nee de la Pasture at Kinloch Castle. They had one child, Hermione, born in 1906. Lady Bullough's family had reputedly fled France during the Revolution and she was born in New Zealand. The Bulloughs brought sophisticated metropolitan glamour to the Inner Hebrides. Lady Bullough introduced a feminine elegance to Kinloch Castle which had originally been conceived as a male preserve. One of her first acts as chatelaine of Kinloch Castle was to take over  the sunny Drawing Room and redecorate it to her own taste.


Lady Bullough claimed descent from one of Napoleon's sisters and used this dubious connection in naming the Empire Room. Originally Sir George's library, Lady Bullough requisitioned the room and redecorated it in red, white and gold, the wall paper emblazoned with Napoleonic wreaths.


Lady Monica chose for her bedroom, the room on the first floor above her sitting room, with its views across Loch Scresort.


The bathrooms in the castle are equipped with the most luxurious bath cum shower cabinets made by Shanks of Barhead.. These provided no less than seven functions controlled by two taps and four dials. Bathers could choose a shower, a douche which flooded water down , a wave which shot water out at face level or a spray which produced needles of water around the sides. if these were not quite what you wanted then there was the plunge where water poured in at knee height, the sitz, an upside down shower, or the jet where a fountain erupted from a waste outlet. It is a wonder anyone ever went down for dinner.


Adding to the speculation about the sexual shenanigans in the castle, Sir George had his own bedroom, on the opposite side of the castle to his wife.


Sir George Bullough died in 1939 on the golf course in France leaving Kinloch Castle and Rum in trust to his wife, Lady Bullough. He was buried alongside his father in the mausoleum at Harris on the west coast of Rum.


Monica, Lady Bullough visited the castle on and off until she passed it to the Nature Conservancy Council (NCC) in 1957, for £26,000, roughly £1 per acre. Rum then became a National Nature Reserve, that was later subsumed into Scottish National Heritage. Lady Bullough died at her House Warren Hill in Newmarket in 1967 aged 98 and is buried alongside her husband in the mausoleum at Harris.


Sir John Betjamen in an article for Scotland's Magazine, 1959 wrote that, ...

"There will be few examples surviving in Great Britain of Edwardian splendour equal to the interior of Kinloch Castle......in time to come the castle will become a place of pilgrimage for all those who want to see how people lived in good King Edward's days, that is, if Kinloch Castle survives."