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When Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks aka Lord Tweedmouth bought the 20,000 hectare Guisachan Estate In 1854 he had the idea of breeding a specific dog that could hunt at his side while also being housebroken enough to stay in his Villa when the couple weren’t roaming the Scottish Highlands.
“What Lord Tweedmouth wanted was a dog that was a hunter, but he wanted a dog that was unusually friendly and whose coat could withstand the Scottish weather, which is very cold and rainy,” historian Curt DiCamillo told The Washington Post in an interview.
Tweedmouth, a Scottish businessman, began experimenting with several breeds, keeping detailed handwritten records in a leather-bound litter book until the first three Golden Retriever puppies were born in 1868.
“He was a very meticulous record holder,” said Christine Miele, a senior member of the Golden Retriever Club of America. Cowslip, Crocus and Primrose were the ones names of Offspring of Nous, a golden retriever with a wavy coat, and Belle, a tweed water spaniel.
Today’s Golden Retrievers no longer fetch prey as Tweedmouth once instructed them. Instead, this bouncy, long-haired dog, who incessantly tosses and wags its tail, fetches sticks and toys more frequently. However, Tweedmouth’s other goal of creating a lovable companion has remained. Golden Retrievers are often referred to as “velcro dogs” because they follow their owners everywhere.
‘Guisachan House’ – believed to be the ancestral home of the Golden Retriever – was once a lavish, self-sufficient estate comprising a 15 bedroom manor house, working farm, dairy, laundry, mill, stables and of course kennels for the dogs of Tweedmouth. Most of what remains today is in ruins, but the site still pays tribute to the breed’s roots with a summer festival that brings together hundreds of golden retrievers and their owners about every five years. This year’s Guisachan Gathering marked the 155th anniversary of the breed.
After buying the estate from the Fraser clan for £60,000, Tweedmouth embarked on an extensive demolition and building program to make the site fit for a lord. He used the core of an old house on the property and converted the hunting lodge into his primary residence, DiCamillo said. He also built a school that served as a church, meeting house, and deer skinner’s hut.
After Tweedmouth’s death, his son inherited the estate but later sold the estate amid tragedy such as the death of his wife in Guisachan, heavy financial losses and poor health.
“That was the beginning of the end of the house,” DiCamillo told The Post.
The property was used as a recreational area for 27 years, but its maintenance has been neglected. It quickly fell into disrepair and was re-launched, but this time no one wanted to buy it. The property was eventually divided into plots for sale with some plots rented out.
Later the once magnificent Guisachan Estate was sold to private owners and to the Forest Service. The dairy and homestead have been converted into residences called Tomich Holidays, a series of pet-friendly cottages available for rent, but the Guisachan House itself is still a skeleton.
Even in this neglected state, hundreds of Golden Retrievers and their owners continue to travel to their ancestral territories to take part in ‘Guisachan’, the summer festival organized about every five years by the Golden Retriever Club of Scotland.
Some people take the ashes of their golden retrievers and scatter them on the grounds to be returned to their homes, said Miele, who herself traveled to Guisachan with life-size pictures of her golden retrievers to be there in spirit.
“There is a tie that is difficult to describe,” said Miele. “It’s the birthplace of the breed.”
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