Monday, 25 July 2016
Obituary: The 13th Earl of Haddington
This obituary in The Telegraph appeared on the 15th July. I missed it so thanks to the person who drew my attention to it.
The 13th Earl of Haddington, who has died aged 74, was a landowner, conservationist, photographer and explorer of the paranormal.
The Earls of Haddington are a great Scottish dynasty, descending from the feudal baron Walter de Hamilton, also an ancestor of the Dukes of
and Dukes of Abercorn. The family seat of Mellerstain in Berwickshire is a
lightly castellated masterpiece by Robert Adam with one of the finest views in Britain.
None of Haddington’s noble predecessors could have had more grace and originality or been held in greater affection by those who knew him, indifferent as he was to age or any sort of classification. His father, the 12th Earl, was eulogised as Chaucer’s “verray, parfit gentil knyght”. The same applied to his only son.
As a hereditary peer Haddington sat for 13 years in the House of Lords until reform deprived him of his seat in 1999. Opponents of this measure argued that it turned a uniquely varied legislature into one of mundane conformity, as if a preciously preserved bio-diverse meadow had been replaced by a pesticide-drenched mono-crop.
Haddington exemplified the loss. Among his recreations he listed beekeeping, keeping finches and “cerealogy”, by which he meant an expert knowledge of crop circles. Yet this was only the tip of the iceberg. Among his many skills were ballooning and the construction of hovercrafts, in one of which he explored an Amazonian tributary. Both activities signalled his interest in physics and mechanics.
His healing powers, assisted by the use of rock crystal, gave him a Merlin-like presence in the House. Many swore by his treatment, which he dispensed on request, at exhausting physical cost, to peers, peeresses and staff alike. When Andrew Festing painted his official group portrait of the Lords debating the 1995 Queen’s Speech, his friend Haddington jovially agreed to pose for the joke figure of “the slumbering Earl” on the government side.
John George Baillie-Hamilton was born at Mellerstain on December 21 1941. His father, a Lord Lieutenant of Berwickshire and distinguished veteran of both World Wars, was a noted horseman and forester. His mother was the Catholic Sarah Cook, who played an important part in the formation of the Edinburgh Festival. His sister, Lady Mary Russell, was a maid of honour at the Coronation.
Haddington’s marked transcendentalism first showed itself when he was two. He was terrorised by the ghost of a German pilot killed in a bomber-aircraft crash on the Mellerstain estate. His silence caused adult concern but he dared not betray its cause. At Ampleforth his japes were legend, and he broke the school record for the punishment of writing lines. Bomb-making involved one near-fatal detonation; but his release of an industrial quantity of laxatives into the school reservoir failed to achieve the desired disruption.
He survived the course thanks to Father Walter, his housemaster, a droll sympathiser with the anarchic tendencies of youth. His education was completed at the
of Tours and Trinity
both conducive to his adventurous spirit: he was a champion slalom skier and a
ferocious opening bowler for the Oakland Raiders, Trinity’s cricket team, with
whom he toured Australia.
After university he hitch-hiked the world, exercising his talent for photography, which he exploited professionally in
London on his return. A lasting achievement
was his photographic reflection on Sir William Keswick’s Henry Moores on the
moor at Glenkiln, Dumfriesshire. Sir William was the first patron to place
modern sculpture in the wild, and Moore always considered
Glenkiln, which included figures by Epstein and Rodin, the best siting of his
work. The collection has now been withdrawn due to vandals. Haddington’s book
of photographs, Glenkiln (Canongate), is its memorial. Another inspired
assignment, commissioned by Sir Jocelyn Stevens, was to instil some of the
magic and mystery of Stonehenge into English
In 1975 Haddington saved the world famous Border Bows company, providing premises at Mellerstain for its factory. It ensured he was the most knowledgeable member of
Royal Company of Archers, the monarch’s official bodyguard north of the border.
His interest in the paranormal alerted him early to the corn circle phenomenon. He was a sponsor of The Cerealogist magazine, initially edited by his friend John Michell, the radical-traditionalist author and antiquarian; and he could tell at a glance whether a circle was paranormally genuine or trodden by hoaxers.
Haddington succeeded his father in 1986 and death duties forced him to sell the family’s
East Lothian home,
Tyninghame, and part of its estate. In the best tradition of such sporting
naturalists as Lord Grey of Fallodon, Major the Hon Henry Douglas-Home (BBC
Scotland’s “Bird Man”) , and the great conservationist Sir Peter Scott,
Haddington, a first-rate shot and fly fisherman, in 1997 founded the charity
Save Our Songbirds (SOS) with its accompanying magazine The Bird Table.
SOS later merged with Songbird Survival, of which he was a director. In all these exploits he was hugely supported by his second wife, Jane Heyworth, whose father, John Heyworth, created the
at Burford. Together
they shouldered the increasingly heavy responsibilities of managing
Mellerstain, a house open to the public, and the remainder of the Tyninghame
estate, and both played a full part in Border affairs. Among several public
offices Haddington was Vice President of the Border Union Agricultural Society,
Honorary President of the East Lothian Angling Association and Patron of Kelso
Rugby Club. Cotswold Wildlife
His son, George Edmund Baldred, succeeds him as 14th Earl. Haddington married first, in 1975, Prudence Hayles (dissolved 1977); and, secondly, in 1984, Jane Heyworth, who survives him with their son and two daughters.
The 13th Earl of Haddington, born December 21 1941, died July 5 2016