As mentioned in my previous post, Donald Alexander Smith (1820-1914), 1st Baron Strathcona, was famously known for having created, at its own expense, the most illustrious military regiment, the Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians).
Born on Scotland’s northeast coast, in the small town of Forres, Morayshire, in Scotland, he really had simple personal taste.
Sleeping no more than six hours a day, preferring soda water to whisky and citing porridge as his favourite dish, his endurance was remarkable.
He had unusual courteous manners, was never rude but always managed by his evasiveness to subtly get out of all kinds of situation.
Donald Alexander Smith had always been interested in Scotland’s most popular glen, Glencoe, that was owned by the McDonalds of Glencoe until 1894, when Archibald Burns McDonald put the land up for sale.
He probably heard about the sale of the Glencoe Estate while working at the Hudson Bay Company in Canada from the mouth of a colleague who happened to be the son of Archibald McDonald of Glencoe.
Upon taking possession of the Glencoe Estate in 1895, he moved from Canada to Scotland with his wife Isabella Sophia Hardisty and built a very imposing house, the Glencoe House.
Even though he planted a Canadian-like tree forest on the Estate to resemble his wife’s native land’s environment, she could not overcome home sickness. They consequently moved back to Canada and a portion of the land was transformed into a beautiful park offering three different walking trails, known as the Glencoe Lochan Walks.
The Glencoe House was subsequently transformed in a hospital for elderly people. In 2009 , the Glencoe Hospital last three patients were transferred to a nearby nursing home as the building is in the process of being sold.
When news leaked out that he had chosen the title Lord Glencoe, after a glen where Scottish chieftains had been slaughtered in 1692, a glen he had only recently acquired, colleagues prevailed on him to reconsider. He created the name Strathcona, a Gaelic variant on Glencoe.
Lobbying by Tupper and Chamberlain allowed his first peerage to be superseded by a second, created on 26 June 1900, permitting the title to pass to the male heirs of his daughter. Smith delivered his maiden speech in the House of Lords in the summer of 1898.
He was named a fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1904, when he was given the Albert Medal for his services to railways. He was made a GCVO in 1908 and a knight of grace of the Order of St John of Jerusalem in 1910.
“In 1935, the Strathcona family sold most of the estate to a number of buyers, retaining a portion for themselves. In 2001 the last remaining part of the Glencoe Estate was put up for sale by the descendants of Lord Strathcona.
The land comprised of about 130 acres, including the largest stretch of the River Coe; a half share of the historic Eilean Munde (traditional burial place of the McDonalds of Glencoe); The ruined Old Mill of Glencoe; the Crofters Common Grazings; the last remaining Ancient Woodlands of Glencoe; Fishing rights on Loch Triachtan; plus 8 miles of Salmon netting rights on Loch Leven”
“Owing to the historic nature of the land, the sale generated much interest, and was complex. Alistair MacDonald, a descendant of the McDonalds of Glencoe, realized that the only way to save this land was by raising private funds, as government support was highly unlikely.
At the eleventh hour, Alistair secured the sum of £105,000 from family & friends by way of unsecured loans, and after careful consideration by the sellers, his bid was accepted; he immediately formed The Glencoe Heritage Trust, who own the land.
A worldwide appeal was immediately set up to repay the six donors, and to date £49,000 is required to ensure that these historic lands never come up for sale again.”
No wonder the MacDonalds were eager to buy back the ancestral land!
The Guide to Glencoe & Loch Leven qualifies the walking trails of Glencoe Lochan as “the most idyllic settings one can come across”.
Do not hesitate to tour the site if you happen to be near. We had the pleasure of doing so in 2007 and brought back wonderful memories.
I personally appreciated the “Canadian” look of the trail as it reminded me of lakes from my native country.