Brigadier SIR BERNARD
FERGUSSON, Auchairne, Ballantrae,
Saturday 17 April 1971
My dear Bill
What a splendid letter to find awaiting me on my return
from a few days away! And I started answering it first five minutes before
supper, because it was so much more interesting than all the others. I’ll
have to postpone finishing it until tomorrow morning.
To begin with, you mustn’t dream of reproaching
yourself for ‘repelling boarders’ when I rang you up at short notice that
morning last month. I would have made contact with you earlier if I had
known how my programme was going to work out. You certainly got your
priorities right and you would never have forgiven yourself if you hadn’t
seen your former Beadle in those last days of his life. Another chance
will surely crop up.
I’ll answer the last parts of your letter first. You
mention our son George Duncan. He is a very good boy, doing well at
school, enormously tall though I hope he is at last slowing down in the
matter of growth (he is taller than I am already), and the very best of
good company to his mother and me. Duncan’ is an old Fergusson name: in
fact, the last ‘Bernard’ in the family (who was a bit of a blackguard in
the 16th century) was the son of a Duncan, but I don’t think my
wife and I would have resurrected it but for Duncan Menzies, and our
‘Geordie’ has Duncan for his middle name in memory of him. And is aware
of it. Now for the others you ask about.
Jack Monteith. He married a
beautiful and absolutely delightful English girl, who was adored by
everybody in the Regiment. Then four years ago she died a prolonged and
gallant death from cancer, an end which had been hanging over both of them
for years, and which both of them faced with great courage. They had
twins, a boy and a girl, both terribly nice, now 17; and the boy is almost
certainly coming into the Regiment. Jack himself retired to Blairgowrie
last year, after commanding Highland Area, as a Brigadier, CBE, MC.
Angus Irwin CBE, DSO, MC also
retired as a Brigadier last year, in his case to Comrie, also on Perthshi.
His son joined the Regiment through St. Andrews University last year, and
is getting married next year. When I was over last month, he was
commanding the detachment in Pomeroy.
David Rose’s son Hugh came
into the Regiment through Cambridge about three years ago, having spent a
year in New Zealand in the deer-culling service between school and
Cambridge. A very amusing boy. David himself retired as a
lieutenant-colonel about ten years ago, and is living two mile out in
David Arbuthnott is a
lieutenant-colonel, and for the last 18 months has been commanding the 51st
Highland Volunteers, the infantry unit which represents all the old T.A.
battalions and all the Highland Regiments: living in Perth: eldest boy
just gone to his public school, Fettes, where David also was. David came
out to Nigeria with me in 1968, when I was the British Observer on the
International Team watching that horrible war. 2
boys, 1 girl
Michael Wingate Gray is a
Brigadier, and for the last three years has been Fortress Commander at
Gibraltar. He gave that up in December, and goes to Paris next month as
Freddy Burnaby-Atkins was my
Comptroller of the Household for three of my five years in New Zealand,
then went as Military Attaché to Morocco, from which he retired last
year. Since December he has been Private Secretary to Princess Margaret.
My wife and I were dining at Windsor Castle the night before last, and she
was telling me how lucky she thought she was to have him – and so she is!
Three daughters. Aged 12 – 17 and boy of 10.
We see a lot of Frances Campbell-Preston. Robert the son is
unfortunately totally deaf in one ear, so he couldn’t come into the
Regiment. He is at present in Denmark studying Fish-farming, which he
hopes to start up in his native Argyll. He got married to a very nice
girl in January. Frances spends most of her time in Argyll, but is also
the lady-in-waiting to the Queen Mother, which involves being on duty with
her for two weeks in every two months. That is enough to keep her
interested without taking up too much of her time.
Bill Bradford’s eldest boy
out of 3, and 1 daughter has just started at St Andrews, and should be
joining the Regiment in 1974, and Andy Watson’s elder boy at about the
same time. Andy give up command in August, on promotion to Colonel, and
will be relieved by Bob Tweedie, whose brother was killed in Crete with
the 2nd Bn. Denys Rowan-Hamilton lives in Killyleagh
Castle. ‘Ruskie’ goes on exactly the same as ever. He lives fifteen miles
west of Perth but runs our Museum. He is now 78 but hasn’t changed an
atom since I first knew him in 1927! He retired as a full Colonel in
1946. Hewie Dalrymple lives in Ballantrae here: he owns a good bit
of it, which he inherited from his father, including an hotel and a farm
just outside: he hasn’t changed an atom either. George Green died
about ten years ago. John Fanshawe is still serving, as a full
Colonel, commanding the Records Office in York.
Richard Boyle’s father is
still alive, aged 87, the last of eight brothers and sisters, of whom my
mother was one. I will be seeing him tomorrow. He lives in Portpatrick,
so you could almost signal each other.
Time for the Kirk, and I’ll pop this into the Post Office
while I’m down there. I make no comment on the Northern Ireland
problems. I called on both Cardinal Conway and the Church of Ireland
Primate when I was in Armagh, and tried to call on Principal Haire, but
could not find a time to suit us both.
Grand to be in touch
Fergusson Bernard (signature)