“Ok boys, your assignment for this term, I want a detailed history of one side of your family. Go back as far as possible in history, listing their achievements and anything else that you can find. It is a 3500 word assignment, to be handed in on the first class of next term, without fail,” our history master announced to our class, who groaned in displeasure of the task ahead.
A few hours later, I entered my home, which I share with my widowed mother and her spinster Aunt Beatrice, “I’m home,” I called out, as I entered the back door and slammed it shut to keep out the cold winds that are blowing from the south.
“Hello dear, did you have a good day at school?” I was asked by my great aunt, “Yes aunty, it was same as usual, lots of studies to do, and now I have an enormous assignment to do before the start of next term,” I replied, as I headed to my bedroom, upstairs at the back of the tiny stone cottage, to dump my school bag and get changed out of the Grammar School uniform.
When I returned downstairs, Mum was in the kitchen chatting to Aunty as she pulled out a cake from the oven, “Smells nice Mum,” I said to her as I kissed her on the cheek. “You can have some once it has cooled, and not before young man,” Mum said in response.
“Yes, I know; do your homework then you will get something as a reward, as usual,” I grumbled. “Aunty Bea tells me that you said that you have a big assignment to do?” Mum asked me. “Yes our history teacher has assigned us a 3500 word assignment on the subject of one side of our family history,” I replied.
“I see, well I am afraid there isn’t much on my side of the family but…” Mum said as she glanced over to Aunty Beatrice. “We might as well tell him dear, everyone else has passed and long gone, so it won’t make any difference,” Aunty Bea announced, which had me confused.
“You had better tell the story Aunty, as you know it far better than I do,” Mum replied, “Be a dear and get the small oak box out of my chest at the foot of my bed please,” Aunty Bea said to my Mum, and now I was wondering what the hell has happened in the past to our family.
Mum returned a few minutes later from the back bedroom on the ground floor where Aunty Bea’s bedroom is located, and in her hands was an oak colour box that looked worn and old, which she placed on Aunty Bea’s lap before taking a seat next to me on the lounge.
“Now this story my dear starts in the early1830’s, when an British Indian Army Officer by the name of Edwin Lindsay was declared insane, after he refused to fight in the war. In disgrace, he was sent to a very remote island off the north coast of Scotland, where he remained until 1835, when a female Quaker preacher arranged for his release.
There is a spring in the south of the island, which was named after him, where he was permitted to bathe. His name was Edwin Lindsay, and he was the brother of James Lindsay, the 7th Earl of Balcarres and 24th Earl of Crawford,” Aunty Bea stated. “So am I related to this Earl?” I asked in shock.
“Yes, you are a direct descendent and Great Grandson of the 26th Earl of Crawford, who was the son of Alexander, the 25th Earl and Edwin Lindsay and three other siblings, and you are 1st cousin of the 28th Earl and 2nd cousin of the current 29th Earl.
When Edwin Lindsay was released from the remote island, there was a law case in London, in regards to his illegal detention, and for compensation, he was awarded quite a large sum in those days. He was also granted full ownership of a nearby remote island, called Fair Isle, which I believe to be around 1,900 acres in area. Which they stopped at briefly for some repairs, on the sail down to Aberdeen with the preacher, and has since been handed down to the youngest or second youngest male down the line,” Aunty Bea said, before she opened the box.
“I have some diaries and documents in here, which I have kept for safe keeping, as I believe that you my dear boy are the current heir to that island,” Aunty Bea added, as she looked up at me, and gave a slight smile, before holding out the box to me.
That would explain why I have so many middle names. Where exactly is this island where my ancestor was detained?” I asked, “It is called Papa Stour, and it is on the central west coast of the Shetland Islands in far northern Scotland, but Fair Isle that you have inherited is 88 kilometres to the south,” I was informed.
“Wow, this indeed quite a discovery, let me get my laptop, so I can do a search of this island,” I suggested, as I stood again and carefully place the box on the coffee table, before setting off upstairs. Over the next two hours, I searched the family history and came up with heaps of information, including when my grandfather – James Edwin Lindsay changed his name by deed poll to James Edwin Crawford, just after immigrating to Australia and secretly marrying his wife Eliza at a quiet country church wedding here in Australia.
Looking through the documents that were in the box, I found the original documents of the Granting of all the land of Fair Isle, located 36 kilometres south of the Shetland Islands, 41 kilometres north-east of the Orkney Islands, and 124 kilometres north-east of mainland Scotland.
The box also contains my grandfather’s birth certificate, the deed poll name change of my grandfather, my grandparents wedding certificate, as well as the birth certificates of my father, marriage certificate of my parents, and my own birth certificate.
“We need to get these properly covered to protect them from further decay, I am going down to the newsagency down the road, to see if I can find a suitable folder to keep all of these documents in,” I announced as I stood up and headed for my room, to get my mobile phone and wallet, which contained a small amount of money and my bank key-card, with a small amount of savings, from the odd jobs I do on weekends.
I had scribbled down some notes while I was researching, and that included a phone number for the International Directories, as I wanted to make an enquiry while out of the house, and checking my watch, I worked out that it is just after 10 am in the UK.
“Hello, I would like to find a number for Balcarres House, in Colinsburgh, Scotland please,” I asked when the call was answered, and after waiting for a few moments, I heard a number being dialled and being answered, with the lady I spoke too, asking for the number of the place that I had requested.
“Balcarres House, the home of the Earl of Crawford, is that correct,” I heard an English voice ask, and I said yes that is correct, and I heard the phone number being read out, to the Australian operator, who relayed the number to me.
Sitting in a quiet area of town, I dialled the number, feeling a little uncertain on how they will respond to my call. “Balcarres House,” a man said in a soft Scottish accent, and I swallowed, and was thinking of hanging up. “Hello, my name is Edwin James Lindsay Crawford, I believe that I am a 2nd cousin to the current Earl of Crawford,” I said nervously.
“Is that so; what was the name of your grandfather then?’ the man on the other end of the line asked, “His name was James Edward Lindsay before he changed his last name to Crawford, soon after arriving in Australia, and marrying my grandmother, Eliza,” I replied.
“Well the name definitely fits, do you know the name of your grandfather’s father?” the man asked me, “Yes, my Great Grandfather was Major Robert Lindsay, 3rd son of the 26th Earl of Crawford,” I replied without hesitation as I had memorised that information during my research.
“That name is correct too, and you said your name is Edwin James Lindsay Crawford?” the man asked, “Yes sir, that is correct,” I replied, realising now that I was most likely speaking to the Earl himself, “Well Edwin, how old are you and where in Australia do you live?” I was asked.
“I am 16 sir, in my second last year of grammar school, in Northern Tasmania,” I replied, “Do your parents know that you are calling an overseas number?” I was asked, “No sir, I am calling from my mobile phone, and my father passed away of cancer six years ago, so I live with my mother – Alexandria, and Aunty Beatrice,” I replied.
“Did you say Beatrice? Is that Beatrice Petworth, you are referring too?” I was asked, “Yes sir, that is correct, she is a spinster and has lived with our family for as long as I can remember,” I replied, “Well I be, I haven’t heard from her in such a long time, I thought maybe she had passed away by now. I guess you have worked out that it is the Earl you are speaking too?” he asked.
“Yes sir, I had assumed that,” I replied, and I heard him chuckle, “I want you to pass on a message to Cousin Beatrice for me. Tell her that Ral, sends his regards, that was her pet name for me when I was a child, she used to babysit me for more years than I can remember, and once you have discussed this conversation with your mother, I would like you to contact me in a day or two, so I can speak to your mother, Beatrice and also you,” the Earl asked.
“Yes sir, I will do that, and thankyou for taking the time to speak to me sir,” I responded, “That is not a problem, it is good to hear from you cousin, speak to you soon, goodbye,” the Earl said before the line went dead.
I stared at my mobile for a few minutes, hardly believing that I had just had that conversation, with a cousin that I didn’t know I had until a few hours ago, and I wondered what lay ahead for the future. After buying a few folders in the newsagency, I headed for home, uncertain if I should tell Mum and Aunt Bea about the telephone conversation that I just had.
When I walked into the house, I found Mum and Aunt Bea in deep conversation, which stopped as soon as they realised that I had returned. “I have something I need to tell you,” I said as I sat down on the lounge next to Mum, and both of them looked at me with a frown.
“Ok son, spit it out, what have you done?” Mum asked me, “I spoke to him just now on my mobile?” I admitted, “Spoke to whom? Dear,” Aunty Bea asked me, “I spoke to the current Earl of Crawford, even though I wasn’t expecting him to answer the phone,” I said after a short space of silence.
“You did what?” Mum said loudly in shock and annoyance, and I nodded my head yes, before I turned to look at Aunty Bea, “He said to tell you that Ral sends his regards to you,” I said directly to Aunty Bea, who frowned then smiled as the memory came back, “Oh my, little Ral is now the Earl? Yes of course he would be, silly old me, fancy him remembering that,” Aunty Bea said and she chuckled softly at the memories of minding that well mannered little boy.
Mum was frowning, wondering what on earth she was talking about. “I used to baby sit young Ral, which was my pet name for him, when he was a baby, toddler and young boy, always had very nice manners, I had lost track of the family a decade or two ago, so I had forgotten that he was next in line for the Earldom, and their house is absolutely enormous.
If he wanted to hide from me, he had plenty of space to do it, inside and out, and I had to recruit the other staff to try and help find him, it was his favourite game playing hide and seek from all the staff,” Aunty Bea explained.
“So what else did the Earl say to you?” Mum asked, “He asked me to inform you both of our conversation, and he would like to speak to all of us sometime soon,” I responded. “What is the time difference over there now?” Aunty Bea asked, “It is almost 11 am in Edinburgh, Aunty,” I replied.
Copyright Preston Wigglesworth All Rights Reserved July 2020