Cavorting in Kinloch Castle, an Isle of Rum Tradition

Built in 1897 as his summer residence on his father’s shooting estate by the owner of one of Lancashire’s satanic textile mills, this example of grotesque late Victorian excess is positioned similarly to Kinloch, Lake Taupo – just off the beach at the head of a sweeping bay.

But that’s where the similarity ends. Kinloch castle on the Isle of Rum is a museum of almost freakish proportions displaying George Bullough’s collected art and hunting trophies throughout the labyrinth of rooms that include of all things, a personal dental surgery.

In an effort to spend the fortune his father had left him, Bullough had the castle built in just 3 years, employed 300 workmen and 40 master carpenters. The gardening staff were paid extra if they wore kilts by this Englishmen who desired to be more Scottish than any Scot, But because the midges played havoc with their upper legs, the kilt-clad workers were issued free rations of tobacco to smoke and keep the midges at bay.

On their once-per-year visit to the castle George and his wife ordered up a train carriage of gaiety girls and prostitutes into Oban and then had them ferried across to the island. The Steinway piano in the main reception area still bears the scratches from a lady’s heels as she entertained atop its lid. But the musical pièce de résistance is undoubtedly the Imhof & Mukle mechanical Orchestration installed under the stairs that piped music down the hallways. Comprising a 45 note piano, 12 bells, mandolin rail, bass & snare drum, cymbal and 27 violin pipes this monster could fair pump sound through the place. There is so much behind its gold leafed & stained glass façade that it strectes the imagination how this precursor to the phonograph ever actually worked. But mechanical barrel organs were the standard of the late 1800s.

The population of the Isle of Rum is now just 20, mainly employed by the Scottish Heritage people to maintain this slice of historical excess. Curious

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