“I guess we had better wait till tomorrow to give him a call back, I presume that you have his number to the Earl’s home” Mum said to me, “Yes Mum and his home is called…” “Balcarres House, it is just north of Edinburgh, on the other side of the harbour,” Aunty Bea said finishing my sentence, and I nodded yes.
With just a week left before the end of first term in mid April, I wondered what it would be like in Scotland at this time of the year. “Tell me Aunty, what is Balcarres like?” I asked, “Well, the house is spread over three levels, and it was built in the 16th Century, and the gardens out the back of the house are absolutely spectacular.
There is a small village along the central southern boundary, and it is just 3 ½ kilometres from the coast,” Aunty Bea replied. “Do you know anything about the island?” I asked, “No sorry Laddie, I did not know about that story until you just mentioned it,” Aunty Bea replied.
Straight after school the following day, Mum and Aunty Bea were sitting in the lounge room waiting for me, and they suggested that we call the Earl right away, so I sat down between them on the lounge with my mobile, and I dialled the number, before pressing the speaker button.
The phone rang for a long time, and I nearly hung up when it was answered, with a lot of puffing in the background. Balcarres House… the Earl speaking,” we heard him say, between gasps for air. “Ral, is that you?” Aunty Bea asked, and the Earl chuckled, “there is only one person that calls me that, hello Cousin Beatrice, how are you?” the Earl asked.
“I am doing fairly well for an old maid,” Aunty Bea replied. “My goodness it is great to hear your voice again, after such a long time. Are Edwin and his mother with you?” the Earl asked, “Yes sir, we are both here, on speaker, so we can all hear,” I responded. “That is good to hear, now I would like to hear all about the place that you live in, Edwin said it is in Northern Tasmania, I believe that is the island to the south east of mainland Australia,” the Earl said.
“That is correct Sir, we live in the Launceston suburb of Mowbray, on the banks of the River Tamar,” Mum replied. “Sounds nice, now, I would like to know Edwin, when are your next school holidays, and for how long?” the Earl asked, “Err at the end of next week Sir, and for two weeks,” I replied, sounding a little confused.
“Excellent, expect to receive an email from me in a day or two, as I am going to arrange for you all to come and visit me here in Scotland,” the Earl announced, “But Sir that is a little extravagant, and I no longer have a valid passport,” Mum expressed. “That goes for me too Ral, plus I am too long in the tooth to be travelling such long distances,” Aunty Bea added.
“I see, what about you Edwin, do you have a valid passport?” the Earl asked, and I swallowed before answering, “I do actually, I went on a school trip to New Zealand, this time two years ago,” I replied.
“Excellent, now with your mother’s permission, I would like to fly you to Scotland, to come and see where I live and work, just say yes and I will make all the arrangements,” the Earl said.
I looked over to Mum awaiting her response, which felt like was taking a long time, before she smiled and nodded her head. “Yes, I am coming to Scotland Sir,” I said, “Excellent news, just tell me the dates that you start holidays and the day that you are due back, and pack a bag for a northern Summer, which is cool temperatures and don’t forget you passport,” the Earl announced.
I decided to keep the news of my approaching trip to Scotland from my friends at school, and Mum was busy sorting my clothes and making sure that I had enough of everything for the trip.
We had received an email from the Earl, with the itinerary for my trip, with departure from Launceston to Melbourne on the Friday morning, departing at 10.20 am, followed by a flight from Melbourne to Heathrow near London, departing at 3.15 pm, with a 1 ½ hour layover in Perth. We would be arriving in London at 5.05 am on Saturday, followed by a train journey from London, departing at 8.30 am on the same morning, and arriving in Edinburgh at 1.15 pm.
On the Wednesday afternoon, the following week, I had just one more day remaining before the holidays begun; and I was really looking forward to my trip, as I was watching the clock in class, waiting for 3.20 pm to arrive, when the PA came on.
“Can I have your attention, Mr Edwin Crawford, please report to the administration building when the bell sounds, that is all,” the deputy headmaster announced. “What have you done now?” one of my classmates asked, and I shrugged my shoulders just as the bell sounded.
Packing away my books into my backpack, I headed for the administration building. “Edwin Crawford reporting as requested Sir,” I said as I entered the admin reception area, and a tall middle aged man dressed in a expensive suit was standing near the front counter, and he turned and smiled.
“This gentleman says he knows you, is this correct?” the deputy Headmaster said to me, and I almost said no, but closed my mouth and frowned, which made the man laugh, “Hello Cousin, it is good to meet you at last,” the man said with a Scottish accent.
“Cousin Robert?” I asked sounding surprised, “Yes it is me, nice to put a face to the voice, I thought I might surprise you first before we surprise your mother and Cousin Beatrice,” the Earl responded, “So you know this man?” the deputy headmaster asked me.
“Yes sir, although this is the first time meeting face to face, but we have spoken on the telephone,” I replied, “Hello, my name is deputy headmaster James Harrison, and you are?” the deputy asked, as he walked around the counter for the introductions.
“Sir, may I present my second cousin, the Right Honourable James Alexander Lindsay, 29th Earl of Crawford, Scotland,” I said making the introductions, and my cousin smiled to me before meeting the deputy headmaster. “Sir, it is an honour to meet nobility from the UK,” the deputy headmaster said bowing his head slightly before shaking my cousin’s hand.
“Sir, you should address him as, My Lord or Lord Crawford,” I said to the deputy headmaster, and the Earl nodded his head to say that I was correct. “My apologies My Lord,” the deputy headmaster said to correct himself, “That is fine, my cousin is correct with the way to address me, but I am not fussed on the first meeting,” Cousin Robert said.
Once out of the building, I stopped, “What are you doing so far away from home Cousin?” I asked, and Robert laughed, “I came to escort you to Scotland, I didn’t want to get your mother worried about you travelling on your own,” Robert replied, and this is when I noticed the limousine parked in the front car park of the school.
“You came in this? When did you arrive, and where are you staying?” I asked, and Robert laughed again as we walked towards the Limo. “I arrived two nights ago, and I am staying at the Grand Chancellor Launceston, now what is the address to your place?” Robert replied.
I actually live a few doors down from the back entrance to the school, but if we are going in this, take the second turn left once out of the school grounds, then the second turn left onto Joffre Street, and the road turns right at the end, and it is the third house on the left,” I said after climbing into the back.
“Did you get all of that driver?” Robert asked, “Yes sir I did, so it is Banks Street we are heading too?” the driver replied, “Yes, that is right, number five,” I replied, and a few minutes later, we pulled up on the street outside our modest fairly modern three bedroom home.
“Mum, Aunty, I am home, look who I bumped into at school,” I called out as we entered the front of the house, and Aunty Bea was the first to appear. “Oh my, you are here, what a wonderful surprise and you have hardly changed at all in the past fifteen years,” Aunty Bea said, and Robert leaned down to accept a hug from her.
“Who is this man… and why is he hugging Aunty Bea?” Mum asked when she appeared, and Robert burst out laughing, while Aunty Bea blushed.
“Mum, this is Cousin Robert, the Earl of Crawford ,” I announced, “Oh my gosh, you could have warned me, I am a mess,” Mum said as she adjusted her dress and her hair, “Stop fussing women, he is family,” Aunty Bea said, which made Robert laugh more.
Over afternoon tea, Robert explained that he had decided when he made the offer for me to travel, that he would come down to meet the family before flying back to the UK. “Surely that is too expensive and you must be a very busy man to come all this way,” Mum exclaimed.
“I have plenty of people who work for me, to keep everything running smoothly, and money is not important, compared to meeting long lost family. To celebrate, I am taking you all out to dinner tonight, so be ready to be collected at 7 pm,” Robert replied.
With just three hours before that time, Mum and Aunty went to get organised, while I went to my room to do my homework, as I only had to have a quick shower and change into a dinner jacket and dress pants and I am ready.
Once both women had finished in the bathroom, I got ready and I was already in the lounge room waiting when Mum and Aunty Bea finally appeared just before 7 pm, and I answered the door when the bell rang, smiling to Robert as he stood there in a tuxedo.
“Wow, I don’t have one of those sorry,” I said to my cousin, “the dinner jacket you have on is perfect, we are dining at the hotel restaurant.
During dinner, Robert explained what our journey would be like, with a 6 hour break between arriving in Melbourne and boarding our International flight. Once we arrive in Edinburgh a car will meet us there, to take us the family estate, which is a one hour journey.
“Don’t forget to do your school assignment while you are away,” Mum reminded me unnecessarily, “Oh what assignment is that?’ Robert asked, “I have to write a 3500 word assignment about a past member of the family, and that is how I found out about you being related to me, and I have been researching Edwin, the younger brother of the 25th Earl,” I replied to Robert.
“I see, well we will have to have a few sit down sessions, so you can get all the facts, that is a very interesting bit of our family history. Do you know how to ride horses?” Robert replied smiling.
“Just a little bit, I have a school friend who loves horses and I have ridden a horse when I go to stay at his place,” I replied. “That is good, as I have plenty of horses, so you can ride as much as you like,” Robert replied.
When we arrived back at the house, I showed Robert all of the documents that were stored away in the box, which Aunty Bea had kept. “Well that is all the proof you need lad, you are indeed the owner of Fair Island, although I am not sure if anything has been to the island since Edwin the brother of the 25th Earl was last there,” Robert said after carefully looking at all of the documents.
Copyright Preston Wigglesworth All Rights Reserved July 2020