21 July 2011

The Final Curtsey (Margaret Rhodes)

"My father, the 16th Baron Elphinstone, was born in 1869. He travelled all over the world, big game hunting and exploring. His philosophy seemed to be ‘have gun, will travel’. He potted grizzly bears in Alaska and Canada and I grew up with a stuffed 8ft-high grizzly standing on its hind legs in the hall at Carberry.

I have his game book from three big game-hunting trips in 1895 and 1896 in the foothills of the Himalayas, Bengal and Assam, in which he precisely recorded for the three visits a bag of 13 tigers, three leopards, 21 rhino, 39 buffalo, ten bison, three python and many deer, pig, quail and peacock.

When he wasn’t doing that he was shooting pheasant, partridge and grouse in Scotland and England. How the Animal Liberation Front would have loved him. After he settled down, he became Governor of the Bank of Scotland and Captain-General of the Royal Company of Archers, the Sovereign’s bodyguard north of the border.

As Captain-General he marched behind the coffin at the funeral of King George V in 1936. There was a strong wind and my father thought the long eagles’ feathers in his cap were going to blow away. He lifted his arms to secure them and his braces snapped. He had to walk four-and-a-half miles desperately holding his trousers up with his elbows."

The Final Curtsey, Margaret Rhodes (2011)