Lord Moncreiff

Lt Col Lord Moncreiff, 5th Baron of Tulliebole and 15th Baronet of Moncreiff (Harry Robert Wellwood Moncreiff)

Born: 4 February, 1915, in Bridge of Allan

Died: 22 April, 2002, in Crook of Devon, aged 87

LORD Moncreiff inherited from his father in 1942 one of the oldest titles in Scotland, but it was not until the late Fifties that he returned to take up residence in a somewhat rundown Tulliebole Castle (the family later changed the spelling to Tullibole). The distinguished building had been in the family for several centuries but had, undoubtedly, seen better days.

Over the next decade, Lord Moncreiff lovingly restored the castle and gardens. With much skill (not to say resolve and sheer hard work) he created a fine building capturing the very essence of traditional Scottish design. The restored castle was much mentioned in the popular and the academic press and features in the Ancestral Castles of Scotland.

Lord Wheatley, a near neighbour, remembers with admiration Lord Moncreiff’s "great love for Tullibole and its 200 acres. He was keen to preserve its traditions and the restoration was largely thanks to him. He was an avid gardener, country sportsman and a keen curler in Kinross. For many years he was bound up with maintaining the legal documents which he had discovered in the castle."

Lieutenant Colonel Harry Robert Wellwood Moncreiff’s two titles date from the 17th and 19th centuries. The Wellwood family had married the Moncreiffs and had become baronets in 1626 through the quaint custom of affording Nova Scotia titles (which permitted inheritance through the female line). The family were granted the title of Baron of Tulliebole in 1873.

On leaving Fettes in 1933, Harry Moncreiff worked for a couple of years as an engineer with Bertrams the paper-making company in Leith. He joined the Royal Army Service Corps in 1937 and served with distinction throughout the war. He was evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk (only just: the destroyer he failed to get on to was blown up in mid-Channel) and was then seconded to the First Canadian Division to repel the expected invasion in the south of England.

His division was subsequently sent to India, where, as he was marching his men off the boat, he had the extraordinary experience of meeting both of his brothers marching their men aboard. During his time in the sub-continent he shared digs with the actor Jack Hawkins. They were both then posted to Burma, and Moncreiff ensured safe passage for his men and their vital supplies, over which the RASC was in charge, across the treacherous waters of the Irrawaddy river at Imphal. For his gallantry he was mentioned in dispatches.

After the war, Moncreiff served in Kenya, Northern Ireland and Germany before retiring, in 1957, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel.

He returned to Tullibole Castle, but locals recall that it "was in a dreadful state" and needed much attention. Moncreiff’s devotion and love of Tullibole was manifested in his desire to recapture its beauty and its place in local history. There are several such fortified towers still standing and he was keen to preserve accurately the atmosphere and style of a historic Scottish home.

Apart from working many hours on the restoration he scoured junk shops throughout Scotland to find authentic furnishings. He certainly created a most charming home for his family, balancing a certain degree of grandeur with a very "lived-in" feel.

Moncreiff was a keen and enthusiastic gardener: for a time in the Sixties he ran a market garden which sold daffodils and strawberries. He built up a considerable reputation for his specialised knowledge of trees and sold many of the saplings locally. He created the most delightful south-facing walled garden where he grew the unusual and the everyday.

In later years, when he was somewhat disabled, he built a splendid greenhouse where he grew some magnificent plants - mostly exotic tropical flowers. Undeterred by his disability, he would daily drive his car the few hundred yards from the castle to the greenhouse so that he could inspect the progress of his blooms.

The legal documents he inherited proved to be of considerable interest in the Scottish legal profession. Among the documents were found the papers of Lord Justice Clark, a forebear and distinguished judge in the 18th century. One trial in particular (that of Madelaine Smith) has always remained somewhat contentious and Moncreiff’s careful reappraisal of the papers threw fresh light on the case.

Moncreiff had been an active sportsman in his youth. He was a keen rugby player (for Dunfermline) and played tennis at the local Kinross club until quite recently. Another of his particular pleasures was the informal shoots he held during the winter. He invited a few local friends for a morning’s rough shooting over the estate.

He was proud of the family connection with the clan Moncreiffe and as head of the senior line he became patron of the Clan Moncreiffe Society of North America. Through this he maintained a keen interest in the clan’s activities and hosted a memorable clan gathering at Tullibole only two years ago.

Moncreiff seldom spoke of his war years and indeed remained a delightfully reserved and quiet man all his life. Lord Wheatley, who knew and liked him for many years, recalls: "Harry was a reticent and private man. He lived quietly and was devoted to Tullibole. He was somewhat difficult to pin down: but once you got to know him he was a total delight. I was very fond of him and shall miss him greatly."

Lord Moncreiff married Enid Locke (from a Dollar military family) in 1952. She died in 1985 and he is survived by their son, Rhoderick, to whom the titles pass.