Berriedale and the Fresh Air Fortnight Scheme

Dear blog reader

So far I have discovered that 2 mansions at Shandon were donated for philanthropic schemes – Ardgare and Berriedale. Below is a vivid description of a visit to Berriedale.







The month of May is rich in promise, but as a rule, poor in performance; so, with only faint hints of green in the hedgerows, the magic word ‘Berry’ conjured up visions of sunny afternoons and glowing fruit. We therefore were tempted to go in search of ‘Berriedale’ in the keen May morning sunshine, and when we arrived at Helensburgh we found that there was a large company going on the same quest. Several omnibuses and brakes were rapidly filled with many of Glasgow’s best (in the best sense of the word) citizens; and then we all drove merrily away, with the fresh sea breeze blowing on our jaded city faces, and a ripple on the shining firth that seemed to bring hope and gladness to the shores. Rosneath Castle looked over at us from its awakening bowers of greenwood, and Ferniegair and Cairndhu, with many other men’s homes, were bright spots on our journey. Row Bay and the tiny park at ‘Neddy’s Point’, the Empress training ship, and some other craft, large and small, altogether made parts of a perfect sun-picture. Then past the quaint Church and village of Row; and admiring as we went each coy cottage and lordly mansion, we come at last to a modest gate, where our vehicle stopped, and our journey was over.

Down a sloping walk we trooped, children and old folks alike eager to see all that was to be seen; and lo! a pretty cottage, with all sorts of irregular roofs and walls and windows – a very paradise of picturesqueness. And this was Berriedale – otherwise ‘Ballikinrain Seaside House’, the gift of Sir Archibald Orr Ewing to the Fresh Air Fortnight Scheme, to be formally opened to-day.

The boys of the Empress were blowing and bugling on the lawn; the water was lying bright and clear at our feet. The green shores of the Gareloch opposite seemed very near, and the banks about us were speckled with primroses and violets; while the bluebells were seen shooting up, but not yet shedding their fragrance around. At the door stood Mr Mackeith and some other friends to welcome all comers; and once inside the hall we felt that indeed it was a ‘home’ to which we had come. For cups and saucers were laid out hospitably, and sandwiches and cake kept them company. So, after the pleasant drive a cup of tea or coffee was a real ‘refreshment’, especially as Mrs Mackeith herself acted as ‘Phyllis’, and was unwearied in supplying the wants of all.

Then the rooms had to be inspected one by one, and what bright, pleasant bed-chambers they were; just like the one in the ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’, where ‘Christian’ slept till break of day – ‘the large upper chamber whose name was Peace’. Each little bed had a cheery-coloured coverlet – not the snowy shroud-like white that seems too cold for young limbs; and the fresh air coursed through the open windows like a thousand tonics all to be taken at once. Little side stairs led into unexpected places, and we thought what a grand game of hide-and-seek could be played in the dusk if the kindly lady in charge sees fit.We are all delighted with this young lady, who expects to have great pleasure in her responsible and interesting work; and we trust she will meet with every encouragement from all who visit or hear of Berriedale.

By-and-bye we gather in the handsome dining-room to join in the dedication of the Home, and begin by singing the 100th Psalm, after which Rev Mr Webster reads without comment the Scripture about the separation of the sheep and the goats. It sounds sublime when no human words are added; and we all feel that true religion is in feeding the hungry and clothing the naked more than in ‘shibboleths’. Sir J N Cuthbertson gives a resume of the ‘fresh air’ work, which is stimulating and earnest, and Mr Campbell of Tilliechewan follows with warm-hearted Christian words. Mr Watson begs, in his own inimitable bachelor way, for toys and tennis-balls, and Mr J C Robertson advocates the advisability of children working for their more needful little brothers and sisters. He bids us all remember our own happy memories of childish holidays, and bids us give these tiny city bairns a sight of the ‘real country’. Rev Mr Miller, of Shandon, concludes with prayer, and our meeting is over.

It has been a strange and delightful hour; praise, prayer, and addresses in this ‘cottage by the sea’. And we feel as if this old home with its associations will have a future worthy of its past. For Sir Archibald Orr Ewing got his first wife here; and for them both these banks and braes must be full of ‘departed joys’. But they have taken the best way of hallowing what is dear in the past by giving it to others. And therefore this ‘Ballikinrain Seaside House’ will bless both him that gives and them that take. Many a little child from the slums of St Mungo’s will remember, when he grows a man, the happy fortnight when he ‘pu’d the gowans fine’ and ‘ran aboot the braes’ at Berriedale, through the kindness of Sir A Orr Ewing, and the Fresh Air Fortnight’s noble work.

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