Our story starts in Africa almost two hundred years ago. David Livingstone was born at Blantyre in 1813. Whilst working from an early age in the cotton mills, he also studied medicine and theology. In 1841 as a missionary doctor David Livingstone was posted to South Africa. His dedication to missionary work and zeal for stamping out the slave trade inspired him. His initial explorations took him across the Kalahari Desert and his sighting of the upper Zambezi encouraged him to trace the route to the coast. He discovered immense waterfalls, naming them Victoria Falls in honour of the Queen. He returned to Britain, a hero. Livingstone's second tour of duty was on behalf of the British Government and lasted from 1858 until 1864. He explored eastern and central Africa. During this time his wife of 17 years, Mary, died of malaria and Livingstone was recalled to Britain.
Having secured private funding for his third tour, David Livingstone returned to Africa in 1866 intent on finding the source of the Nile and continuing his Christian mission against slavery. Rumours of his death circulated and as a consequence the journalist, Henry Stanley, was tasked by the New York Herald with finding Livingstone and restocking his supplies. Despite ill health, Livingstone was obsessive in his quest to discover the source of the Nile but died in May 1873 without fulfilling this ambition. David Livingstone's lesser known legacy is his family and his great, great, great, granddaughter is known to many Scottish Castle Association members... Vanessa Harryhausen.
Vanessa's mother, Diana Livingstone, married Ray Harryhausen, so the tale continues. Los Angeles born Ray Harryhausen is the world's greatest living "stop-motion animator". Over a thirty year period he single-handedly wrote, directed, filmed, modelled and then animated frame by frame some of the most remarkable special effects the film industry has ever seen. He developed the technique of exposing film twice, once with real life characters and once superimposed with his models, a technique that many SCA members have inadvertently used in the past! For a lifetime of extraordinary achievements, Ray Harryhausen received an Oscar in 1992, presented by Tom Hanks, who lauded the director by praising "Jason and the Argonauts" as the greatest motion picture of all time. Ray Harryhausen voyaged 'One Million Years B.C.' with 'Sinbad', clashed with 'The Titans' and travelled through the 'Valley of Gwangi' in his long and illustrious film career. What an amazingly diverse and talented background…. bestowing a love of history, the drive to seek out the elusive, a belief that all ghosts are merely special effects... exactly the attributes required to become an enthusiastic member of the Scottish Castles Association.
Vanessa was introduced to the Association by present chairman, John Buchanan Smith, while they were both visiting Kelly (Kellie) Castle in Angus. Vanessa was looking to acquire a historic Scottish home. Finding the right property seemed as elusive as the source of the Nile but after some five years of searching Vanessa settled on Urrard Estate at Killiecrankie. By chance Vanessa had bought a book in Dunkeld and lo and behold, as if in a movie, a newspaper cutting on the sale of Urrard House fell out. The Urrard Estate was perfect, with records dating back to 1500; Victorian greenhouses which will be restored to their former glory; a well where Bonnie Dundee "Claverhouse" died in the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689; picturesque outbuildings and ample room for her 600 sheep, highland cattle, horses, ducks, hens, peacocks and visiting deer. To round this off, Vanessa married husband Kenny in 2006 and together they are developing the estate for sport and leisure pursuits.
Vanessa has been a supportive and enthusiastic member of the Scottish Castles Association since she joined with her good friend, Avril Lamont. Both ladies accompanied us on a tour of Fife on 17th and 18th February 2001. The itinerary included a seminar at Dairsie Castle where the objectives of the SCA were discussed. The aim of creating an information centre and a photographic database of all Scottish "castles" was agreed.
A further project was to create an educational CD for all Scottish primary school children encouraging them to take an interest in their built heritage. Exactly six years later an inspiring pilot CD has been produced (See related article in The Journal Issue 13). The enthusiasm for these projects was infectious and resulted in a very generous offer from Vanessa of financial assistance from The Harryhausen Trust. This assistance has enabled the SCA to kick start these projects and the continuing support of The Harryhausen Trust has made a significant impact.
We hope the inquisitiveness of children to explore their rich heritage and surroundings, albeit from the comfort of a classroom, and to appreciate the interactive graphics of our educational CD, would be dear to the hearts of Vanessa's illustrious ancestor and talented family.
Many thanks to The Harryhausen Trust.
Taken from The Journal Issue 13
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View our extensive collection of castle postcards (circa 1900).