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Goodbye to the Buchans

The Paintins stuck it out, however, and did not move away. They lived there until Ruth married and Mrs Paintin died. Mrs Lane, being a kind and generous woman, appears to have ignored Miss Taylor’s advice, and had the stable block adapted so her maids could sleep there.

There were similar insecurities about employment. There are several letters from Alfred and Frances Sumner at Beckley. Alf was working as a woodsman for the Tweedsmuirs, looking after Noke Wood, and Lord Tweedsmuir (the second Lord Tweedsmuir, eldest son of John Buchan) more or less gives Alf carte blanche to shoot in the wood and cut any timber he needs. Alf angles for more work from Lord Tweedsmuir, as he has only £2 a week from the Army, but his lordship replies that he is sorry he cannot afford to employ him more than he already is doing. The final letter, when Alf is 79 and Frances 78, says that they now attend the Over 60s Club in Beckley and are the oldest people to do so. Their grandson has learnt to drive and is doing his A levels. They are very proud of him and love him very much. The Sumners seem to have held no sort of grudge against the Tweedsmuirs, and in fact probably did quite well from the association, given that Alf had the free run of Noke Wood.

Harry Adams and family in the Manor grounds
Harry Adams and family in the Manor grounds

This was not the case with Harry Adams, the head gardener, however. In a letter dated 20th September 1953, Harry Adams tries to find out what his position will be when the new owner takes possession. He has been told that the new owner will probably bring her own gardener and wonders if that means he will have to be an under-gardener. That, he says, will not suit him at all and he asks for a clear explanation of the position, pointing out that after all these years as head gardener he cannot work for someone else. He will have to look for another position. Lord Tweedsmuir says he will press the new owner in the strongest possible terms to employ him and says his job is secure until the Manor actually passes into the hands of the new owner.

In The Rags of Time, William Buchan describes a conversation he had with Harry Adams.  "I had to make a round of farewells, explaining once again how necessity had forced us to sell the property, and how I was sure that the new owner would wish to keep on good and experienced staff. Adams shook my hand, his face expressionless, and then turned his back on me and looked out over Pond Close towards his fruit garden. Feeling miserable enough, I felt also a kind of guilt. That thin, stiff back seemed to say, quite plainly, ‘You couldn’t hold on, could you? And what’s to become of me?’ He said no word. A few months later, turning into the heavy traffic on the Oxford by-pass, a mile away, his bicycle was struck by a car and he was killed instantly".

William Buchan is actually misremembering here since Harry was very much alive in 1956 when he writes to thank Lord Tweedsmuir for his Christmas present. It was perhaps guilt that made William attribute in some part Harry Adams’ death to the way he had been treated, not so much by the Buchans as by the system. Presents from the Tweedsmuirs continued to pass from them to the various people they had once employed and letters of thanks continued to be posted from Elsfield to the Tweedsmuirs, but it was the end of an era, a sad winding up of affairs.


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