Keppoch House at last!

The next day Mike and I flew to Glasgow airport and hired a car to take us on the last leg of our journey travelling in Georgiana’s footsteps. The last time Jennifer and I were in Scotland we had to leave without being able to visit Keppoch House, where G was living with the Dunlop family when she married John Molloy in 1829.

This time, Mike and I were on our way to see the house, thanks to the eagle eye of Mairi Gallagher who came across our question on the website, ‘Does anyone know who owns Keppoch House? ‘ Mairi alerted Loretta Brodie who got in touch and generously invited us, even though she would not be at home on the day of our visit. Loretta’s mother Cath was the thoughtful host who not only gave us the full tour but also provided tea and home made scones and the best carrot cake I’ve EVER tasted. Even the dogs gave us a warm welcome.

I had imagined driving up to the house for the last three years since I began researching G’s life for JAG Films. When we finally arrived at the gate to the driveway I was smiling with anticipation at being in the place that held such special memories for Georgiana.

The house is beautiful and, like Crosby Lodge, situated in a stunning position. Behind the house are the hills and in front of it is the southernmost edge of the Gareloch, the loch that G sketched in pencil on the flyleaf of her 1829 diary held at the Battye Library in Perth WA. Perhaps she wanted to keep it in her memory when she left for the new colony.

The building has changed only a little since 1829, with bay windows being added on each side in Victorian times and the ceilings raised on the top floor, but the main rooms inside are the same as they were. Marti Pellow, the singer with the 80’s pop group ‘Wet Wet Wet’ lived in the house for a while and the décor he chose is a bold turn on Scottish traditional but the main internal features are still there.

I almost didn’t want to go into the house! I’d waited so long to be there and read so many, many times what G had written while she was there. I knew that she would be all around me and I was about to see what she saw, walk where she walked and touch what she touched. I knew that I would love the place just as she had and I knew how much she had wanted to go back to see her friends there – but never did.

I could see in my mind’s eye the guests arriving for G and J’s wedding in the large hallway with its huge fireplace and when I realised that the stairway is almost certainly the original one, I took off my 21st century watch and put my hand just where G’s hand would have rested each evening on the bottom curve of the banister rail as she went upstairs to her room.

It was just as when I touched the WA flower samples at Kew Herbarium, that she had sent to Mangles. There is something very moving about touching something that has been touched by another, however many years separate the two actions – something to do with the closeness of the same simple action that doesn’t change with fashion or decades passing. It wasn’t the first time or the last that I felt Georgiana Molloy close, at my side.

It wasn’t hard to imagine what life was like in the house, with the servants’ floor upstairs, the kitchens below and a large stables block nearby for the carriages and horses, but it was a little frustrating not to know every detail I wanted to find out! G could only have been given one of the main bedrooms on the first floor but I had no idea which one.

Not the master bedroom and probably not one of the other front rooms – they were probably the bedrooms of the Dunlop sisters. So I spent a while standing quietly on my own in a side bedroom and took a photograph of the door. I wondered if this was the room where G had spent her last night as Georgiana Kennedy and had written the words in the diary that I read in Perth more than a hundred years later.

The place where Robert Story married the couple was easier to guess as the choices were limited. One of the two main and interconnecting reception rooms, the large hallway itself or the impressive dining room on the front of the house. G writes in her diary, on the morning of the wedding, that she put her bridal flowers ‘in their rooms’ so I think that one room was used for the ceremony and another for the wedding breakfast perhaps. The dining room would have had the right air of formality and the most obvious position is the place where a large sideboard now stands. The place between the windows on the long wall is the obvious position for the buffet that would have held breakfast, luncheon and dinner dishes in 1829 so the same kind of piece of furniture would have stood there.

I felt sure that this is where the wedding took place and I stood quietly again with my thoughts, feeling glad for myself to be there at last and so glad for Georgiana that her marriage with John became such a loving and happy one.
A big thank you to Loretta and Cath who gave up their time to talk with us about the house and its history. You both helped to make it a special day for me.

But I haven’t told you yet about the wonderful surprises that were still waiting for me when I went outside. I was about to get closer to Georgiana than ever before. More next time!
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