IN THE LEAGUE of evocative and enchanting medieval castles, Cawdor, near Nairn, on the shores of the Moray Firth, must rank with Leeds Castle, in Kent, and a very few others in the Premier Division. Tens of thousands of visitors each year find Cawdor exquisite; it has the advantage of continuous habitation going back into the mists of time of the Norsemen and doubtless beyond.
That Cawdor appears so well cared- for is to the credit of the fifth Earl of Cawdor, his son, Hugh, the sixth Earl, and 24th Thane, and his Czechoslovakian wife, Angelika. With considerable personal talent as an artist, Hugh Cawdor was an excellent custodian in a line of caring and competent Campbells.
Viscount Emlyn, as he then was, achieved overnight fame at Eton in 1946. The first important school production that year was Shakespeare's Macbeth. The role of Lady Macbeth was played by the shrilly talented Keith Waterhouse, that of Duncan by Mark Thomson McCausland, and the Scottish king by an incredibly confident schoolboy by the name of John Barton - later Fellow of King's, and heavyweight of the Royal Shakespeare Company. The producer was the Eton master EP Headley, just back from the war. In Early School - the 40 minutes, 7.30am to 8.10am, before breakfast - up piped this voice in Hedley's class at the appropriate moment. 'Shakespeare and his Witches got it wrong, Sir] The Macbeths were a junior branch of the Campbells and never were Thanes of Cawdor.' Artlessly, it came out. The class were agog. Hedley looked at this voice through his horn-rimmed spectacles, and asked the diminutive boy how he was so certain. 'Because, Sir,' the voice squeaked, 'my Dad is the Thane of Cawdor.' To his credit, Hedley, the great impresario, was tickled pink, and dined out on the story, which spread like wildfire, doubtless being improved with the telling.
After National Service in the Guards, Magdalen College, Oxford, which he loved, and a proper agricultural training at Cirencester, Emlyn applied himself to the task of enlightened land ownership. He studied to become a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. While his father was alive, he concentrated on the family lands in Wales, and was accorded in token of the respect with which he came to be held, remarkable for a Scot, the position of High Sheriff of Carmarthenshire.
On the death of his father, with whom, he told me earlier this year, he had had an excellent father-son relationship, unusual in the Scottish high-aristocracy, he returned to his Moray Firth lands.
Highland landlords, these days, can often be unpopular and absent, and resented. But Cawdor, on account of his competence, decent treatment of people, whomsoever they were, and delicate sense of humour - he could be very funny indeed - gained the respect and affection of even those who were not enamoured of the 24th Thane. It also helped that he was one of the most dextrous and knowledgeable highland dancers of his generation.
All of us who saw him, during his last illness, watched over by Angelika, could not but be impressed at the casual, matter-of-fact courage with which he faced cancer and its concomitant treatment. Typical of the dignity with which he conducted his life.