KMR206

LADY LEITH-BUCHANAN

(Barbara Deane Leshure)

When Barbara Lady Leith-Buchanan’s home, Drumakill, was destroyed by fire in 1999 the era of the Buchanans of Ross drew to a close. The 95-year-old widow died in the fire and many of the family treasures and papers were lost, including family portraits by Sir Henry Raeburn, copies of which still remain at Ross Priory today.

She is commemorated on this memorial stone, with her adopted daughter, Helen. The Buchanans had lived at the Ross on the shores of Loch Lomond for many centuries. In 1699 Archibald Buchanan of Drumakill (a property just east of Drymen) married his cousin, Jean Buchanan of Ross. The Reverend Thomas Leckie, Minister of Kilmaronock, makes frequent reference to Drumakill and the Buchanans, and he baptised their son Robert in 1718.

After the second Jacobite Rising in 1746 the Marquess of Tullibardine sought shelter at the Ross while trying to flee the country after the Battle of Culloden. He was admitted by the family, who then sent word to King George’s men in Dumbarton. He was turned in and cursed the family as he was taken away saying “There’ll be Murrays on the braes of Atholl when there’s ne’er a Buchanan at the Ross.”. As a fulfilment of this curse the male line of the family ended several times in the subsequent 200 or so years, as we will see below. The Leith-Buchanans finally vacated Ross Priory in 1925 after the death of Sir Alexander Wellesley Leith-Buchanan.

In 1793, a descendent of Jean Buchanan married Hector Macdonald. They adopted the name Macdonald Buchanan and bought back many of the former lands of Ross. They were also responsible for the substantial enlargement of the house, which then became known as Ross Priory. They owned the lands of Tullochan, Portnellan, Wards, Blairlinnans, Limehill, The Ring of Aber and the Camerons. They established the Buchanan Graveyard at Ross Priory, where there is a memorial plaque to the family. All the sons of this marriage died before their father.

A daughter, Jemima Jean, married Sir Alexander Wellesley Leith from Norfolk in 1833 and they adopted the name Leith-Buchanan. Their son Sir George Hector Leith-Buchanan had a large family, commemorated on the marble plaque at the back of Kilmaronock Old Kirk balcony. Their eldest son, Sir Alexander Wellesley Leith-Buchanan, inherited the estate. However, on his death in 1925, his widow and family moved out of Ross Priory to Gartocraggan.  Ross Priory was lived in as a private house by Major George Christie from 1927 until the early 1970s when it was bought by the University of Strathclyde. It is now run as a private members club for staff members, with a golf course and boat launching facilities. Take a look round the back of the house and you get some idea of what the old house would have looked like.

The sixth baronet, Sir George Hector Macdonald Leith-Buchanan, married American-born Barbara Deane Leshure in 1933. She was the daughter of a New England manufacturer. She was an accomplished musician, who performed in the many concerts that she held for charity.

Sir George and Lady Barbara moved to Drumakill, next the war memorial on the A811, around 1938. As a wedding gift for Barbara, Sir George bought a cottage from the 1938 Empire Exhibition at Bellahouston Park. It was a New England style villa made entirely of wood, apart from the chimney, which was moved from the exhibition and re-erected outside Gartocharn. Sir George Leith-Buchanan died in 1973 at the age of 84, but Lady Barbara lived on in the cottage until her death.

 

Fiona Wyllie , who was her home help for many years, supplied some more information: She ran a Girls Club for local girls when she had them clean and do things for her to help them with their 'housewifery' skills. Helen and Lady Barbara were both leap year babies and that was one of the deciding factors when the baby was adopted, that and the fact that she fitted in to her 'ample bosom' when held in her arms. They also adopted a girl as they thought a boy might cause controversy with other relatives over the title. A distant relative in America has the title now. 

 

Fiona helped her fill in her form for the Poll Tax, one question was employment or if retired, last job. Barbara put "chorus line on stage in New York with Al Jolson", a career her mother in law did not approve of. She didn't get on very well with her mother in law as she thought her very cruel to 'Hector ' with his disability.  They were looking forward to freedom when Maude died but unfortunately, Hector had a stroke just a few months after she died. 

 

She also told Fiona that her maternal grandparents, the Deanes, had a farm in Washington DC. Her grandfather had slaves and when he gave them all their freedom he gave them an acre of land. This is now the black area of Washington. If you google Deanwood, Washington. You'll get a lot about it. When Fiona was checking it out the dates and the Deanwood History Society seem to have a different story. 

 

She was a bit of an eccentric and used to drive about with the pet goat in the car. She was ahead of her time as far as saving the planet and threw nothing out and recycled or upcycled. 

 

As her sight was very bad she once asked Fiona to check a roast of silverside for her. Fiona told her it was green and had a couple of maggots on it and to bin it. A week later she asked Fiona to join her for lunch. Just a wee sandwich she had prepared. She asked me how she liked it and Fiona said it was delicious. The meat just melted in your mouth. She then informed me that during the war you couldn't just get rid of good meat and it was the bit of meat Fiona had told her to get rid of. She had rubbed it with salt then soaked it in vinegar then cooked it. Fiona had to admit it was the best she ever tasted. 

 

The photo shows Sir George (Hector) and Lady Barbara with their adopted baby Helen.