Home > literature, Uncategorized > Walking with ghosts

Walking with ghosts

September 10th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments


Reading Bruce Chatwin’s wonderful letters recentlysee my review for the Independent – I came across a detail that brought me up short:  that Chatwin, while a mature student  at Edinburgh, used to go to Glen, the country house of the Tennant family near Innerleithen. He writes to the deeply eccentric recluse Stephen Tennant about it. 

So what?  Well I went there myself a great deal as a teenager, as the son of the household, Henry Tennant, was my closest friend.  It was a special place for me, about the only place I knew in Scotland, with its crazy Victorian Gothic castle and romantic glen leading up to a loch and trout stream where we used, ineffectually, to fish.


So the discovery that Chatwin used to go there as well had a special resonance.  Not least because the place has been in my thoughts as its then owner, Colin Tennant (Lord Glenconner), another eccentric member of the family, has just died – see Phillip Hoare’s obituary.  As a teenage boy, I found him a frightening but fascinating mixture of playboy charm and occasional irrascability;  he was a nightmare to partner at tennis.

It was not a happy time for Chatwin – he found academic archaeology stultifying, as I often do – and he left a cold Edinburgh flat prematurely, with little money left.  Glen was clearly a place of refuge for him; as it was for me.

Why do we like to think of our heroes as having trodden the same ground as we have?  Do they leave some footfall that we can pick up?  Walking with ghosts is something I increasingly find I do on my travels.

I sometimes go back to Glen as I know the current chatelaine, Tessa Tennant;  and the next time I do, I will be thinking of Chatwin as I walk up to the loch and the glen.

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.