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Elphinstone Kist   Folk History

Frien Mair than Servant     by: Munro, Mary

A weel-faured Heilan lad stood afore his Queen ae October day in 1851. He’d been giein a haun in the stables, fan the summons cam by ane o the lackeys tae present himsel at the Castle for an audience wi Victoria. He hid jist time tae gie his face an hauns a sweel, gie his stewy beets a dicht an pull ane o the horse-kaims through his tangled hair, afore he wis hustled intae the room far Voctoria waited.

John wis ane o nine loons born tae James an Margaret Brown frae Bridgend o Bush, a gey hill-run place on the braes abeen the Castle. As a loon frae the school he hid worked the fairm o Crathienaird nearhaun, an then he took service at the Castle as a stable loon. John wis a strong, hard-workin chiel an there wis somethin aboot him that brocht him tae the notice o baith Albert an Victoria fan he wis jist a ghillie. He wis aye a chiel o worth on mony o their treks tae the mountains an lochs. Fan Victoria needed a chief ghillie tae lead her pony, John Brown sprang tae mind.

The Queen sat near the big fireplace an the ‘hingers on’ o the Court stood stiffly roon aboot, lookin doon their noses at this coarse-lookin Heilan lad, an fan the Queen put forward her request for Brown tae act as her personal attendant an ghillie the lot o them gaped open-mooed like gowks. John Brown stood stracht as a rush an fixed the Queen wi his dark, prood een.
‘I’d be a gweed servant tae ye, Ma’am, bit I’m naebody’s slave!’
His wirds rang strong an clear through the hushed room o the Castle. Ane or twa o the gowks gasped, their hauns fleein tae their moos an some o the wifies lookit fit tae faa doon in a dwaum. Victoria’s een opened a bit
wider an she stared hard at this roch Heilander, then a smile jist touched her moo an she nodded in approval. ‘Well said, Brown! From now on you will be in attendance to myself and Prince Albert.’

So the fairm loon frae the steeny grun o the Bush wis ushered in tae the Victorian household an cam tae be as weel-kent in history as the Queen hersel! He wis tae prove loyal tae the death an efter Albert’s death he wis the Queen’s richt-hand man as weel as a trusted frien. She valued his wit an directness an there wis nae faunin oer her like some ithers did. He spoke his mind wi respect an she grew tae value his thochts an dry Scottish humour.

As weel as duties tae the Queen at Balmoral, Brown travelled Sooth tae Windsor an Osborne takin wi him her favourite Heilan pony ‘Lochnagar’. Aifter Albert’s early death she longed for her beloved Balmoral wi the murmur o the Dee an the corries o Lochnagar. Brown, wi his Heilan dress an pithy Scottish accent wis a breath o life tae her fan exiled frae Balmoral. She could near feel the tang o the pines in Ballochbuie forest as Brown stood strong an firm like a lonely Scots pine amun the safter wids o the Sooth. He wis a strength tae her in her grief an fine she kent that he had a gweed ‘drooth’ an likit his dram, bit she wid turn a blin ee mair aften than nae tae his weakness. Aa this made Brown nae favourite at Court an he wis hated by mony as a jumped-up arrogant servant wi ideas abeen his station! Nae that Brown cared a docken, for he curried favour wi naebody. His allegiance wis tae his Queen an he wid think naethin o tellin aff even ane o the politician mannies if he saw the Queen wis getting wearied wi the words!

Awa frae the brisk caller air o the North, he maun hae saftened a bit for ae day in March 1883, he caught a chill an deid at Windsor, aged only fifty-six. The Queen wis beside hersel wi grief. First beloved Albert an then her loyal John Brown. His body wis brocht back tae Deeside an lies in Crathie kirkyard amun the hills far he first drew breath. His granite steen bears the words frae Victoria,

‘That friend on whose fidelity you count, that friend given you by circumstances over which you have no control, is God’s own gift.’

A far cry, then., frae the hill-fairm loon tae a monarch’s steadfast frien. There were a few, then as nooadays, that smirked an sniggered ahin their hauns an hinted at aa sorts o goin’s on- There aye will be that kin fa canna conceive that twa fowk, whether they be high or low can jist be ‘kindred sprits’ fa enjoy ane anither’s company an value a strong frienship. John Brown wis Deeside tae the Queen an made her think o the carefree days amun the heather braes o her weel-loed Balmoral awa frae the mony cares o state.

Fit better memorial for a man for his Queen tae think o him as a frien as weel as a servant.



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