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The History by Innes Miller
Dale House - The History
- Part Two
The Estate had been inherited by twelve year old William Scott Kerr in 1882 - his aunt had been the last Murray Threipland wife and he was distantly related to the Murray Threipland and took on the family name with the estate. He went into the Scots Guards and married a Welsh Heiress and they decided that they would enjoy living for part of the year in Caithness in particular for the shooting season. Anew farmhouse was built and the Gunns moved there. Then the low-set building that had contained the offices of the house was demolished and the North Wing added in between the original house and a separate old bothy. During this work the old cesspit and the well was filled in, perhaps the last remnant of the Broch. The water supply was brought two miles through pipes from a well high on Achinarras hill but still struggled to reach the tanks in the loft. Central heating was installed and the bathrooms so essential to a shooting Lodge were added. The large bow-windowed room was panelled with cedar from a tree that was blown over at Dryborough the home of Lady Orr Ewing, William Murray Threiplands mother-in-law. It is almost an exact replica of a room at Dryborough. The castle of Fingask was sold in 1917 and much of the historic contents and furnishings found their way to Dale. One room was set-aside as a museum where many of the relics of the family’s Jacobite loyalties were on display. Another improvement was electricity from the turbine installed in 1934 by Finlayson of Wick after the old mill laid was deepened and the cables ploughed under ground to the house. This produced DC current and could do some alarming things, not unlike and electric welding, in the house as the system got older.
In 1935 the South wing was added, Sinclair MacDonald of Thurso were the architects and D M Geddes, tenants of the estate, the principal contractors, this gave three further bedrooms and bathrooms and below a large dining-room and butlers pantry. The new addition blended in well with the existing building while style and wood work of the interior reflected thirties taste and craftsmanship. Also at this time an ensuite bathroom to the main bedroom was secretly built as a surprise present to Mrs Murray Threipland out of part of the old Bothy.
In 1940 the house was requisitioned by the army and became Brigade head quarters for the force prepared to resist a possible raid in strength on Caithness. The army occupied only some of the house, nearly set it on fire once, built Nissen huts along the back drive and air raid shelters in a circle around the grounds. The officers were mainly drawn from the Ayrshire Yeomanry and pined so much for a golf course that they designed, if only in their imagination, the “Royal Mid Caithness Golf Course” around the house and farm fields.
William Murray Theipland died in 1942 and it was his son Peter and grand children who returned for summers after the war. At other times a gardener and housekeeper looked after the house. A tragedy occurred in the cottage on the drive. It caught fire and the old retired gardener and his wife were burnt to death. Peter Murray Threipland died suddenly as a comparatively young man and the house became the property of his son Mark who lived there with his wife and son until he bought back their old heritage of Fingask in 1968.
Mark Murray Threipland sold Dale House in the early 1980's having been rented to various tenants. One of the tenants replaced the worn sandstone stairs from the kitchen with Caithness flagstone and he also renewed the outside steps to the front door, which had been treacherous to go up and lethal to go down. It was bought in 2000 by Sara and George Campbell, who are the current owners.
In its walls there is much of the history of Caithness, from enigmatic Pict to powerful and pragmatic Moddan. The free land holdings of the Viking descent disputing kings rule and bishops rule, and paying for heir anger with their limbs and their lands. The quiet time under the church organising their ships and their cargoes, chiding the dilatory and answerable to Mr Coutts in Edinburgh. They built the house with the best materials and the best craftsmen and it is a memorial to them and their age. The Gunns, soaring success turning to despair at the end of their time. Then the change and the house for sportsmen and grouse moors, dinners and conversation, enjoyment of place. Dale House has gathered them all in its history.
Four four years up to 2005 Dale House was used as a conference centre run by Mr and Mrs Campbell. Since then the house has reverted to being private home under new ownership.