Monday, January 12, 2009

The Lady's Secret Garden

My Hogmanay trip to Scotland has been quite an interesting venture .. I am staying at my mother’s house, with this fabulous view of the highest town hall tower in the UK and a stunning view over the River Clyde ..

Additionally, I have been doing a bit of research on the family history and visiting the site of the castle I once lived in .. unfortunately it was torn down in the mid-eighties due to disrepair and squatters having moved in, only to be replaced by rather bland apartments .. However, as the entire area was once owned by a gentleman named Robert Wallace, the street still carries reminders of an era of the landed gentry of ancestry ..

I am fascinated by the local history, and the man who once ruled over these lands was a devoted husband who lost his wife too soon .. In life she refused to enter the magnificent castle he had built, instead preferring to live and receive guests in the smaller, but still grand manor house perched precariously on the edge of the cliff ..

Following her death her husband had a series of elevated landscaped gardens built between the house she refused to leave and her crypt high on the hillside above .. Although even then overgrown with brambles and briars, I had played in the woods behind the house when I was a child ..

Returning recently, I investigated the story behind the final resting place of this obviously important individual by first trying to re-locate the ancient tomb .. However I met with no success, and so visited the regional planning department for a discussion on the development of the area which is now becoming an overflow suburb for wealthy commuters ..

One of the town planners who himself lived in the seaside community assured me no such mausoleum existed on the plans and they had not seen it during the many preparatory excavations .. There had been several ‘holes in the wall’ although they had been filled in when the area was developed for residential zoning, so I was told .. I visited the local library to research the property deeds and after several dead ends and cul-de-sacs encountered an intriguing story of broken hearts, lost loves and secret gardens ..

Along with my young friends, we ‘discovered’ the tomb by crawling through a hole in the wall along a small dirt path that was built to shelter the area from curiosity-seekers and retain the boundaries of the hunting grounds. At that time we had no idea who was buried in the mossy grave, however it was a place which I often wondered about while I spent many years abroad ..

Once again, I returned to the windswept cliffs and this time found the old dirt track .. I made my way into the forest that remained untouched and searched for the elusive tomb .. Imagine my delight when I stepped into a shady clearing in the thick woods high above the stormy bay to be surprised by the sight of the extraordinary hidden tomb tucked away in this magical playground of my youth ..

Having kept itself hidden from observation by diggers, builders, surveyors and residents, the geometrically perfect crypt was revealed to me as though awaiting my return all these years later .. Interestingly, the smaller and less significant tomb he had made for himself alongside hers was designed in the shape of the central piece of the ‘Darwin meets Noah’ sculpture I originally created about 10 years later, which you can see on this page ..

After a survey of the archetypal form and its wondrous façade, a lingering gaze out to sea from the heights of the hilltop and a couple quick snaps of the tomb for posterity, I took my place in the nearby tree, with it’s curved seat shaped as a swing for those who would share a moment in contemplation with the lady of the manor ..

Although the elegantly walled structure has seen its share of vandalism and impropriety, the woman who gave her time in life to the locals is resting peacefully within to this day ..

And her memory lives on with me, while my own spirit still wanders among these magnificent wave-battered boulders .. the place where I skipped stones and climbed along the seafront .. as a young lad growing up in such magnificent surroundings I was gifted with a sense of the quest for history and adventure that has stayed with me ..