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The death of a Kintyre professional soldier in a wartime sinking when survivors resorted to cannibalism is a part of Mary Gladstone’s latest non-fiction work.
On March 2 it will be 75 years since Major C Angus MacDonald died when the SS Roosboom sank, in 1942, after being torpedoed by the Japanese following the fall of Singapore.
There was just one survivor and Angus’ death cast a shadow on the MacDonald family for a generation.
Largie Castle – A Rifled Nest by short story writer, playwright, and literary critic Gladstone, is a rewrite of a book of his short life first published in 2014.
The book has been described as a Scottish Downton Abbey. The first 130 pages do not dispel this description, dealing with Angus’ privileged upbringing in a Kintyre castle near Tayinloan, which was really a Victorian mansion house, built in 1859 and pulled down 99 years later.
Angus’ parents mixed with many luminaries of the interwar period, including Cosmo Lang the Archbishop of Canterbury, during the abdication crisis.
Angus was sent away to boarding school, and attended Oxford University, where he learned to fly with the air squadron.
Gladstone tells of his first solo flight when he borrowed an Avro 504K biplane and returned to Kintyre landing near Clachan.
Largie Castle is not just a biography it is also a journey of discovery for Gladstone. She researches the most minute clues and recalls incidents from her own life when her mother took her to Kintyre as a child.
By this time the ancestral home was a ruin and her granny had moved to Ballure House near Rhunahaorine, where, the still employed former butler, Robert McKinven became a cook to allow him to remain with the family.
In the process the British Empire was collapsing and Gladstone gains full understanding of her own family history and its part in the changes.
There is plenty of Kintyre history mixed up in the narrative about a layer of society which has all but vanished.
Largie Castle is published on March 2 by Californian firm Firefall, priced £14.25.