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Scottish Gardens
Balcarres, Fife


HE annals of the house of Lindsay contain inexhaustible material for the I' weaver of magazine literature; yet when Robert Chambers, some seventy years ago, wrote for his Edinburgh Journal a paper entitled "A Pilgrimage to Balcarres," he had but little to tell about the great historic family to which that fine estate belongs. For him Balcarres owed its chief attraction to association with the memory of a very charming and accomplished woman, Lady Anne Lindsay, [Daughter of James, fifth Earl of Balearres, and thirtieth Lord Lindsay of Crawford. Lady Anne married Andrew Barnard and died in 1825. Her oldest brother, great-grandfather of the present Earl of Crawford and Balcarres, succeeded as twenty-third Earl of Crawford in addition to the other titles.] a memory whereof, it must be admitted, the modern architect and landscape gardener between them have succeeded in obliterating most of the physical landmarks. The old castle has been so completely masked by recent additions, as to divest it, externally at least, of all venerable suggestion; while the grassy slopes where gentle Anne Lindsay tended her flowers have been buried under tons of terraces, stone-built, and scaled by exorbitant stairways, severing us for ever from the footprints of bygone generations.

A garden has been created in the grandiose style of the early Victorian era—the age when Wyatt and Paxton designed parks and palaces, and Disraeli and Buiwer-Lytton peopled them with appropriate characters. The centuries will touch and retouch these terraces into charm; as yet, the elaborate stone-work has weathered too few winters —gathered too little moss—to gratify the eye; while shadeless gravel walks, wide enough to admit a battalion of grenadiers in column of half-companies, make one sigh for

Les sentiers ombreux
Ou s'egarent les amoureux.

A little group of blue hyacinths have had the temerity to establish themselves at the foot of one of the great terrace stairs—pretty wildings, seeming to dread detection and expulsion, yet giving one the same agreeable thrill that is conveyed by a nod of recognition in a crowded assembly of strangers.

Where the masonry ceases, clipped yew hedges begin—hundreds of yards of them, with far-spread, intricate designs in clipped box. Altogether the leafage submitted to the shears in each season must be measured in acres. One is thankful that a noble arbutus near the range of vine-houses, has escaped the tonsure. It is about 22 feet in height

and measures 125 feet round the circumference of its branches. An inspiring point of brilliancy was furnished by the finest clump of Adonis vernalis I ever saw, whereon were blazing between thirty and forty satellites to the glorious May sun, testifying to what soil and climate in the East Neuk are capable of producing for spring display, were they but given a fair chance. According to present arrangements, all effort is focussed upon autumnal splendour, when, as shown in Miss Wilson's study, there is no lack of colour on walls and in parterres.

My visit to Balcarres was ill-timed for garden effect; outside there was ample beauty to compensate for flowerless borders, for it would be hard to find a more glorious bit of park scenery. Wych elm and sycamore, trees which must turn the century before attaining majesty, abound here of great size; there is also much fine ash timber, and some well-grown modern conifers, not scattered as specimens, but crowded as they should be in close forest. The Californian Pines mon icola, which is but a glorified form of the Weymouth pine, luxuriates here, and shows as yet no liability to the disease which has proved so fatal to this fine tree at Murthly. Dominating the whole demesne is Balcarres Craig, a lofty precipitous rock, from the summit of which a soul-stirring prospect spreads around. Beyond the rich woods and fertile plain lies the blue Firth of Forth, bearing on its bosom the massive Bass Rock. The smooth outline of the Lammermuir forms the southern horizon, within which Auld Reekie rears her dusky canopy.

A word about Lady Anne Lindsay, whose best years had sped before she changed her name in marrying Mr. Barnard. "Her hand," says her nephew, Colonel Lindsay, "was sought in marriage by several of the first men of the land, and her friendship and confidence by the most distinguished women; but indecision was her failing; hesitation and doubt upset her judgment ; her heart had never been captured, and she remained single till late in life, when she married an accomplished, but not wealthy, gentleman, younger than herself, whom she accompanied to the Cape of Good Hope when appointed Colonial Secretary under Lord Macartney."

Upon Scottish hearts this lady has founded an undying claim as the author of Auld Robin Gray, whereof Sir 'Palter Scott wrote as " that real pastoral which is worth all the dialogues which Corydon and Phyllis have had together, from the days of Theocritus downwards." The real authorship of this ballad, which from its first appearance in 1771 captured and retained the fancy of people of all ranks and many nationalities, was disputed for many years as hotly as that of Waverley. Strange to say it was the author of Waverley himself who first revealed the author of Auld Robin Gray, by comparing the lot of Minna in The Pirate to that of Jeanie Gray, "the village heroine in Lady Anne Lindsay's beautiful ballad."

Nae langer she wept; her tears were a' spent;
Despair it was come, and she thought it content;
She thought it content, but her cheek it grew pale,
And she drooped like a snowdrop broke down by the hail.

For more than fifty years the secret had been kept, and when at last it was thus laid bare in 1823, Lady Anne disdained to disown the offspring of her Muse. Less than two years before her death, she wrote a full confession to Sir Walter, explaining how she had composed the verses to suit an old Scottish air of which she was "passionately fond," and had borrowed from the old herdsman of Balcarres the ruame of Robin Gray. Her letter, and Sir Walter's reply (both of which well repay perusal) are too long to print here. They are given in full in Lord Lindsay's delightful work, The Lives of the Lindsays (vol. ii. pp. 391-399).

"I have sometimes wondered," wrote Sir Walter in a later letter, "how many of our best songs have been written by Scotchwomen of rank and condition. The Hon. Mrs. Murray (Miss Baillie Jerviswood born) wrote the very pretty Scots song

'An't were not my heart's light I wad die,'

Miss Elliot of Minto, the verses of the Flowers o' the Forest which begin

`I've heard a lilting,' etc.

Mrs. Cockburn composed other verses to the same tune,

'I have seen the smiling of fortune's beguiling,' etc.—

Lady Wardlaw wrote the glorious old ballad of Hardykute. Place Auld Robin at the head of this list, and I question if we masculine wretches can claim five or six songs equal in elegance and pathos out of the long list of Scottish minstrelsy."


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