Last week I spotted online that Mary Stewart’s home, House of Letterawe in Lochawe, is up for sale. My first reaction was one of sadness that there is no family wishing to keep the house on but then I couldn’t resist taking a peek at the photos. This made me sadder still as the photographs are of a furnished house. Given that Mary Stewart was so often described as a private person, it felt intrusive to be looking through her home. In case anyone thinks I am trying to claim some sort of moral high ground, I have to confess that my discomfort didn’t stop me from squinting at the pictures on the walls (I know that she had been a keen artist from childhood. No, I have no idea whether any of the paintings were by her).
My initial feeling was that I would not mention the house sale on this blog: I didn’t want to make anyone else feel like an intrusive voyeur of Mary Stewart’s home. But, since then, I keep thinking about Stormy Petrel, a major plot strand of which is to do with conserving places of natural beauty and protecting them from unsympathetic developers. Mary Stewart also explores these ideas in her essay ‘The Loch’, and mentions conservation matters in a television interview – you can watch this interview and read my transcription of it here.
Which leads me to think that perhaps we are best to publicise the sale as much as possible among Mary Stewart admirers, to increase the chance of House of Letterawe being bought by someone sympathetic to her views, rather than by a Hartley Bagshaw-type developer!
So here is the link to the property sale by Glasgow-based Robb Residential *- if you know any wealthy Mary Stewart fans looking to buy property in a remote part of Scotland, please pass on the details of the sale!
[*The house is long sold but you can still see the cached page , last viewed by me in February 2018]
From Stormy Petrel, set on the fictional island of Moila:
‘I doubt if the house matters; he’d want something a good deal bigger, but of course there’s plenty of room to build. It’s the beach and the island that are the attractions; you know the sort of thing, a marina and what he calls a big “leisure centre” and a “luxury apartment block” with a golf course–‘
‘Along the machair?’ asked Megan, almost in a whisper. (chapter 18)
And of course the machair decided it. It looked… exactly like the most idyllic picture postcard of an island view. There was the long, gentle curve of milk-white sand, backed by a sea of turquoise and pale jade and indigo. There were the far cliffs, violet-shadowed as any classical landscape. And for the four miles of the flat coastline, between the white beach and the green slope of the moor, stretched the wild-flower meadow that in Gaelic is the machair. The turf is barely visible, starred with the tiny yellow and white flowers of tormentil and daisy and silverweed. Then comes the next layer, at a few inches high, eyebright and bugle and yellow rattle, and over these, in soft motion always in the breezes, the dog-daisies and ragwort and knapweed and brilliant hawkears and the lace of pignut and wild chervil, and the sweet delicate harebells that are the bluebells of Scotland.
They may not all have been flowering at once, but that is the impression the machair gives you, and the scent, mingled somehow with the smell of the sea and the tangle at the tide’s edge, is the unforgettable, unforgotten smell of the summer isles.
Mr Bagshaw, predictably, was in ecstasies. The bathing, the sun-beaches, the pictures in the brochures, the water-sports, and yes, he supposed there were wet days, but he had been assured in the village that the television reception was OK, and in fact had watched it last night, and of course there would be the nightlife, the leisure centre, discos. (chapter 20)