Interest grows in Rum’s hidden link with imperial Japan

The replacement Japanese-style bridge that was erected by the Kinloch Castle Friends Association. Photograph: George W. Randall Research and Photographic Archive. NO F24 JAPANESE BRIDGE
The replacement Japanese-style bridge that was erected by the Kinloch Castle Friends Association. Photograph: George W Randall Research and Photographic Archive. NO F24 JAPANESE BRIDGE

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Hidden among the overgrown rhododenrons and tangled shrubbery at Kinloch Castle on Rum lie the secret remains of a long lost link to the days of imperial Japan.

The story of how textiles millionaire and Victorian playboy Sir George Bullough stocked the castle with a jaw-dropping collection of exotic artefacts from around the world is already well known.

Bullough had inherited the island of Rum on his father’s death in 1891 and proceeded to build the grand Kinloch Castle.

It was in his 221ft Clyde-built yacht Rhouma that Bullough had sailed around the world, in particular to Japan where he had forged a friendship with Emperor Meiji.

Otsu in Japan at the time of Sir George Bullough's visit in 1895. Photograph: George W Randall Research and Photographic Archive. NO F24 OTSU JAPAN
Otsu in Japan at the time of Sir George Bullough’s visit in 1895. Photograph: George W Randall Research and Photographic Archive.
NO F24 OTSU JAPAN

Evidence of this friendship can still be seen in the castle in the shape of gifts from the Japanese, such as the massive bronze Monkey Eating Eagle, incense burners  and another sculpture of an ivory eagle.

The huge bronze eagle from Japan in Kinloch Castle. Photograph: George W. Randall Research and Photographic Archive. NO F24 Japan eagle
The huge bronze eagle from Japan in Kinloch Castle. Photograph: George W. Randall Research and Photographic Archive. NO F24 Japan eagle

But there was once an even greater reminder of Bullough’s days touring Japan to be found in the grounds, where he created his own interpretation of a traditional Japanese Walkway Garden.

Rum and its castle are still both administered by Scottish Natural Heritage and it was in 1996 that Kinloch Castle Friends Association was set up as a membership organisation by Professor Ewan Macdonald OBE and George Randall.

Following the failure of its asset transfer proposal last year, the group has been in talks with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to discuss the future for the castle and still wants to purchase it.

Mr Randall is still an enthusiastic researcher concerning the castle and his  Art Treasures of Kinloch Castle Blogspot, with more than 100 articles, can be found on the KCFA website.

It was recently that Mr Randall contacted Japanese gardens expert Katie Croft to try to establish more facts about the castle’s garden.

Mr Randall told the Lochaber Times: ‘As to the Japanese garden, Ms Croft believes a series of rock grottoes, walkways, an arched (Japanese style) bridge across the mountain stream  to the south of Kinloch Castle could be based on Japanese gardens Mr Bullough – he was not Sir George at the time – experienced and photographed in 1895, during his three-year-long world tour from 1893-1896.

An archive photograph of the Japanese garden at Kinloch Castle in its heyday.Photograph: George W Randall Research and Photographic Archive. NO F24 japan garden 04
An archive photograph of the Japanese Walkway Garden at Kinloch Castle in its heyday.Photograph: George W Randall Research and Photographic Archive.
NO F24 japan garden 04

‘Sadly, today the whole area is much overgrown. Pathways have collapsed into the burn because Rum ponies were allowed to graze and required water.

‘I have supplied Ms Croft with archive pictures from circa 1910 and clearance work undertaken in the late 1990s, sadly now reclaimed by Mother Nature.’

Mr Randall is concerned that Kinloch Castle’s significance as a time capsule of late Victorian/Edwardian Scotland – albeit a rapidly deteriorating one – is still not sufficiently recognised.

‘Most newspaper reports tend to be scurrilous, concentrating on titillating stories, unproven and certainly irrelevant, and totally missing the educational value of a bygone age, which is of enormous value to the visitor and most of all to the survival of the island community.’

 

Taken in March 1998, this is the middle reach of the riverside walk below the Japanese-style bridge. Photograph: George W. Randall Research and Photographic Archive.
NO F24 Japan garden 01

Asked for her views, Ms Croft told us: ‘I was really interested to find out that a Japanese garden was built at Kinloch Castle around 1903.

‘In Europe, Japanese-style gardens of this age are incredibly rare and this could be one of the earliest examples in Scotland and the UK.

‘It would be fantastic for the garden to be reinstated as part of the eventual restoration of Kinloch Castle.’

KCFA secretary Catherine Duckworth added: ‘Kinloch Castle never fails to come up with surprises and pleasures, one of which has been to find the Japanese garden is of such interest. Sadly, little is left visible.

‘The late George Logan, using the profile of the original bridge, spearheaded the building and replacement of the bridge in wood by the Kinloch Castle Friends Association.

‘While there are as yet no specific plans for the restoration of the Japanese garden, KCFA will be maintaining the bridge and will look to how we can possibly incorporate elements of the Japanese garden in the future.

‘It will certainly form part of our interpretation of the history of the buildings and gardens if, as we hope, we are able to purchase the building and give it new life.’

 

CAPTION:

The replacement Japanese-style bridge that was erected by the Kinloch Castle Friends Association. Photograph: George W. Randall Research and Photographic Archive.

NO F24 JAPANESE BRIDGE

 

EXTRA PICS:

Photo 1 -Taken in March 1998, this is the middle reach of the riverside walk below the Japanese-style bridge. Photograph: George W. Randall Research and Photographic Archive. NO F24 Japan garden 01

Photo 2 -An archive photograph of the Japanese garden at Kinloch Castle in its heyday.Photograph: George W Randall Research and Photographic Archive. NO F24 japan garden 04

Photo 3 –

Otsu in Japan at the time of Sir George Bullough’s visit in 1895. Photograph: George W Randall Research and Photographic Archive. NO F24 OTSU JAPAN

Photo 4 – The huge bronze eagle from Japan in Kinloch Castle. Photograph: George W. Randall Research and Photographic Archive. NO F24 Japan eagle