THE writer and recipient of a letter that lay nestled and out of sight behind a radiator at Blair Castle for nearly 70 years have been found following a media appeal that prompted their niece to get in touch.
The letter, originally thought to be written by a little boy to his friend during World War Two, was discovered during winter conservation works at Blair Castle.
It was written by Archie Findlay to his brother, Bill Findlay, who resided at Blair Castle between 1942 and 1946 when his Winchester boarding school, West Downs School, was evacuated as part of the war efforts.
“The short letter, which has been in hiding since 1945 behind a radiator in the castle’s grand ballroom, was found alongside a collection of keepsakes including dominos, cigarette cards and an unusual golf game involving a dice.
“Emma Scott, Bill and Archie’s niece, heard the appeal on BBC Radio Scotland and called Blair Castle shortly thereafter. Putting the castle in touch with uncle Bill and uncle Archie, the castle spoke to both brothers later in the day and they were extremely amused that their correspondence had caused such a stir.”
The almost perfectly-preserved letter, featuring the unmistakably innocent scribblings of Archie begins by asking after Bill, then comments on how quiet it is without him and goes on to tell him of another friend, Jackie who is “going away for good”.
The heading on the letter indicates Archie was staying at Boturich Castle in Balloch, Dunbartonshire and, going by the location of the letter, Bill was a resident at Blair Castle.
Bill Findlay (82) was 12 years-old at the time the letter was written. He said: “This is just amazing. I’m just so tickled you’ve found it after all this time. We used to sit on the window ledges in the Grand Ballroom and it’s entirely possible that I dropped it down the back of the radiator, but it was such a long time ago. I had a tremendous time living at Blair Castle, and I have such dear memories of those years. It was a real adventure.”
Archie Findlay (77), Bill’s brother who wrote the letter, aged 7, from his family home in Boturich Castle, said: “Wow – this brings back memories indeed. I was told to write that letter by my mother! I guess I wrote about Jackie, Boturich Castle’s under gardener’s son going away because it would have been the first thing that came to mind. I’m just so amused it’s been found so many years on! Who’d have thought…”
Bill also wondered if Blair Castle knew where his bicycle clips were: “We used to throw them up in the air to play a game called ‘shakes’ and my bicycle clips got caught on one of the banners, a big yellow one, hanging in Blair Castle’s ballroom. Do you have them by chance?”
Stuart Letford, marketing and communications officer at Blair Castle, said:“It is incredible to think that Archie’s letter to Bill has been lying hidden for such a long, long time and yet we were able to find them within 24 hours of the news getting out. It’s truly amazing.
“We’ve agreed with Bill and Archie that their letter and keepsakes will be put on display to the public at the castle and we have invited them up at a time that is convenient for them to see their correspondence again. It’s 70 years since the end of the Second World War this year, so it seems fitting that we commemorate this with Bill and Archie’s story – yet another remarkable tale to add to our 700 years of history.”
Blair Castle, one of Scotland’s most popular tourist destinations, will officially open to the public for the summer season on April 1st 2015 with tours of the grounds available as well as a restaurant and gift shop for visitors to enjoy.
The castle are also offering special season passes for £12 that allow people to visit the castle and gardens as many times as they like during the season.
Blair Castle is introducing four exhibitions for visitors to experience throughout 2015. One is to celebrate Scotland’s Year of Food & Drink, displaying castle memorabilia including recipe books featuring authentic recipes prepared for the Atholl family over a hundred years ago.
Three further exhibitions are to commemorate the centenaries of three battles in history: a Gallipoli exhibition to mark 100 years since the Dardanelles Campaign in the First World War, a Battle of Waterloo exhibition as it is 200 years since that famous conflict and also, to mark its 300th anniversary, an exhibition remembering the 1715 Jacobite Rising.
To find out more about visiting Blair Castle, go to www.blair-castle.co.uk