Dear Ann Gloag

So you've just bought a laird's family seat. Nae bad for the daughter of a Scots bus conductor. Just don't let the odd bitchy comment or a wee family curse put you off
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The Independent Online
Well, congratulations. The Scottish electorate may have taken a dim view of Margaret Thatcher, but you offer living proof that Thatcherism works and can pay off, even in Scotland. Fourteen years ago, you and your wee brother started off with two second-hand buses. Now you've got more than 6,000, employ more than 20,000 people, and your company, Stagecoach, is the biggest bus firm in Britain. Nae bad, eh?

Now, to cap it all, you've bought Beaufort Castle, former home of the war hero and chief of Clan Fraser, Lord Lovat, beating off competition from would-be buyers in America, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden. If I was wearing a hat, I would take it off to you.

Other home-bred millionaires, such as David Murray, Wallace Mercer and the Scots-Canadian Fergus McCann, have gone out and bought football clubs, but you have learnt, perhaps from Wallace Mercer's less-than-happy experience with Hearts, that there is more pain than pleasure to be expected from that. In any case, there would be no great kudos to be got from owning your unfashionable local club, St Johnstone. Beaufort Castle is a far smarter buy.

All the same, you know our fellow Scots well enough to be ready for some dismissive and hostile comment. If you ever go to the football, you'll have heard the cry directed at any stylish player: "ca the legs aff o him". And you know, too, our great perennial put-down - "kent his/her father", with the implication, "who does he think he is - canna be ony guid". And your father was a bus conductor, I think? That'll certainly provoke the suggestion that you have ideas above your station.

But I don't suppose that will worry you. You are obviously a tough cookie. And you haven't, I see, lumbered yourself with a lot of land - only 800 acres, besides the castle and a few cottages. I dare say the buses can pay nicely for the upkeep.

I see your grandmother was a Fraser. So you are really keeping it all in the family. Of course, the new Lord Lovat will still be your neighbour, and that could be embarrassing. On the other hand, he's nobbut a wee laddie, and maybe you can give him a helping hand - a directorship of Stagecoach, perhaps - when he finishes at the Uni. He'll need a job, poor boy, in consequence of his own father's mismanagement of things. The poor chap, you will remember, even lost money on his own brand of mineral water, which one would have thought impossible. At least you will be able to give the new Lord Lovat some good business advice.

There is, of course, the Fraser family curse, of which you'll have heard. But I can't imagine it'll worry you. Family curses belong to the old feudal Scotland; and your purchase of Beaufort Castle shows how that is vanishing.

So, good luck (which I doubt if you'll need) and enjoy what our Auld Allies call la vie de chateau.

ALLAN MASSIE

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