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Strathaven's Russian Princess
Alfred Douglas, 13 Duke of Hamilton and 10th of Brandon
In 1911, King George V and Queen Mary celebrated their Coronation.
It was a busy year for Britain's aristocracy, and not least for the Duke and
Duchess of Hamilton who officially opened the Duchess Nina Institute: their
Graces gift to
the village of Quarter to mark the enthronement of the new King and Queen.
"Duchess Nina took a foremost part in philanthropic work and was very
active and resourceful in furthering the objects of the League of Pity."
Strathaven in Old Picture Postcards, Book 2, Bob Currie, European Library, 1989. GB ISBN 90 288 4753 7 / CIP.
This former Hunting Lodge of the Dukes of
Hamilton lies about 6 and a half miles from Strathaven at the centre of what was
once a grouse moor: Dungavel Moor. The Statistical Account of the Parish (1835)
notes that "vast quantities of grouse are to be found on the moors
in the higher districts of the parish. His Grace the Duke of Hamilton has some
thousands of acres in sheep pasture and kept for grouse shooting. Perhaps few
places in the south of Scotland are more favourable for game than the Strathaven
moors. Partridges abound in the low lands. Plovers and ducks &c are to be
found everywhere." Before and more especially after the demolition of
Hamilton Palace, Dungavel House was the regular residence of the ducal family.
It was to Dungavel that Rudolf Hess, Nazi Deputy Reich Fuhrer sought to
land his Messerschmidt 101 following his ill-fated and self-styled Peace Mission
to Scotland during World War 11. Hess claimed to have met and conversed with
the Duke of Hamilton at the 1938 Olympic Games in Berlin and hoped to parley peace
terms with the British Government using Hamilton as mediator. The rest is
history. On the night of 10 May, 1941 Hess ditched at Eaglesham and was
within the Tower of London. Hess was subsequently tried at Nuremberg and incarcerated for the
remainder of his long life in Spandau Jail, in the former Soviet zone of Berlin.
Dungavel House no longer forms part of the ducal inheritance. Vacated by the
Hamilton family, it came under the ownership of the National Coal Board as a
Dungavel was subsequently designated H.M. Prison, Dungavel (an Open Prison) supervised by Mrs Agnes Curran, Scotland's first female Prison Governor and, in 2001, a further change of use re-designated Dungavel as a Government refugee detention centre (administered by Premier Prisons). On 23 December, 2003 plans were revealed by the government's Immigration Minister, Beverley Hughes for Dungavel's capacity to increase by 25% with the construction of a new 44 - bed unit on the site. The new block will cost £3 million and consist of pre-fabricated buildings with barred windows.
In June 1889, an engineer measured the amount of water available locally for the Strathaven water supply. "A report dated 8th June, 1891, prepared by Messrs. Leslie & Reid Engineers, Edinburgh, recommended that the District Committee should take powers to impound the waters of Glengavel in the Parish of Avondale and to construct a reservoir there, at a point opposite High Plewland Farm. The contract for the dam was let in March 1893 to Messrs. James Young & Sons, who had just completed the Talla Reservoir for Edinburgh Corporation. Work at Glengavel commenced forthwith. To mark the inauguration of the scheme, a marble tablet was inserted in the stone parapet of Hall's Bridge near Glengavel, bearing the inscription "Glengavel Water Scheme, near this spot the first pipe was laid on 6th September, 1893, by Colin Dunlop, Esq., of Quarter, Convener of Committee." Further details of the construction of the Glengavel Dam are to be found at chapter 28 in 'A History of Strathaven and Avondale' by William Fleming Downie (now out of print, but available from Strathaven Library).
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