Glass Remembered … The Kennels

Louise Mangles (nee Nicol) kindly sent us this wee insight to life at the Kennels Edinglassie.

The Kennels

As the daughters of a gamekeeper in Glass in Aberdeenshire in the early Fifties my sister and I lived at Edinglassie Kennels. We thought nothing of it as we knew other keeper’s children whose address on other shooting estates was also The Kennels. It was only later in life when people asked if I’d been brought up in the dog house did I realise it must have seemed strange to them!

We always had lots of working dogs at home and they lived in a row of stone built kennels right beside our house. The kennels had concrete runs in front of them with wooden benches for the dogs to lie on sunny days. Each kennel was surrounded by metal railings which my father painted green while the rest of the inside of the kennels were regularly whitewashed and kept scrupulously clean. The dogs often barked when people arrived and also during the night presumably when passing cats or other wildlife disturbed them. When we had visitors staying overnight they often appeared tired and weary at the breakfast table concerned as to what had caused the dogs to bark ‘all night’. We were so used to the barking we no longer heard it!

We usually had black Labradors for working dogs. They were trained to put up game and to pick up and retrieve game and they had always had short names that could be easily shouted and heard across a windy grouse moor. However my favourite dog was a golden Labrador called Bruce. He was extremely intelligent and a dedicated retriever.

During the shooting season my father once left him on ‘sit’ by his game bag as he went off out of Bruce’s sight to quietly inspect the number of grouse on another part of the moor. The game bag contained a few straggler dead grouse they had just picked up from the previous days shoot. Bruce decided that the grouse should actually be taken to the Land Rover that was parked at the bottom of the hill. When my father returned he found Bruce still on `sit’ by a now empty game bag and the grouse nowhere to be seen. Bruce had made several journeys carrying the grouse back to the Land Rover and had left the birds laid out on the heather as he would have seen them on the day of a shoot. He would probably have put them into the game hamper as well had he been able to open the back door of the Land Rover!

We usually had a fox terrier and the terriers got to stay in the house. They divided their lives between being household pets and going down dens and facing up to ferocious foxes. We had a Jack Russell terrier who specialised in starting dog fights on the morning of shoots when visiting keepers arrived with their dogs. Once he had got the fight going he would retire to sit under a nearby Land Rover all innocence as if to say “Who me? It’s nothing to do with me!” Well-behaved visiting dogs were always welcome at grouse shoots but on more than one occasion my father asked if ‘Sir wouldn’t mind shutting his bloody dog in the Land Rover ’til the drive is over!’

Our luckiest lab once dived into the river against the command to ‘leave’ in order to retrieve a fallen pheasant during a shoot. The river was in spate and he was quickly swept away. My father searched the riverbanks expecting to fmd a body but none was found. A few weeks later he was retelling the story of his sad loss when someone told him of a wet, bedraggled black Labrador who had wandered in to a farm kitchen some way further down the valley. From there he had then been taken to a nearby police station. When my father went to see the dog he was delighted to find it was his dog and more even delighted when told the dog would have been destroyed the following day had he not been claimed.

When I look back and remember how hard these dogs worked day after day during the grouse and the pheasant shoots and how much they obviously enjoyed it I feel a bit sorry for the city bound pets who may only have one short walk on a lead in a park each day — if they’re lucky! Father always had the dogs ‘work out’ on the moors in the build up to the Glorious Twelfth in order to harden them up and to toughen up their pads. Oatmeal, the Scottish staple, was still a common part of keepers ‘wages’ during my childhood and the dogs were also fed on a diet of oatmeal porridge that was made in a huge boiler about two feet across with a fire under it. The boiler was built into ‘the boiler house’ that was situated at the end of the line of kennels. There was a similar boiler built into the kitchen of our house for boiling up clothes. The porridge was then poured into a wooden trough and cold slabs were cut off for the dogs feed. Along with the porridge there was always rabbit or hare stew that was then cooked up in the boiler after the porridge was made. Occasionally the odd pheasant or grouse that was too badly shot up to go to the game dealer was added to the stew. In those days there wasn’t the ‘luxury’ of tinned dog food or dog biscuits but in those days we never, ever saw a fat lab in our kennels!