Eleanor Munro of Foulis
Attribution: Photo copyright S. Fraser
Eleanor M Munro of Foulis, MBE
Although not a native of Kiltearn, “Timmy” Munro had lived in the parish for over 70 years. She had, in fact, been born in County Roscommon in Eire where she had enjoyed a rural childhood, much of which she recalled fondly on many occasions.
Schooling was sporadic with a series of governesses and five different convent schools. She and her sisters were often taken out of school in order to travel and Timmy maintained she learnt far more on these sojourns than she ever did in a classroom.
In 1943 Timmy went to stay with an aunt in Aberdeenshire in order to join the WRNS and was posted to HMS Owl, at Fearn, where she learned to pack parachutes and inflatable dinghies for the Fleet Air Arm. During her time there she got to know many of the local farming community and members of the Munro family at Foulis Castle and Ardullie Lodge, and it was not uncommon for she and fellow WRNS to cycle the 40-mile round trip on their days off for a meal and some home comforts. Through her visits to the Munro family she would have learned of the two sons who were prisoners of war, having been captured during the fall of France in June 1940.
After one of the sons, Captain Patrick Munro of Foulis, was repatriated in May 1945 they met and were married in January 1946 when they moved into Ardullie Lodge.
The effects of two world wars and lack of proper management had resulted in the estate being in poor shape, so it was necessary to dispose of two-thirds of the estate, retaining Ardullie and Foulis farms, to be run as P & E M Munro, and, when more land became available, as Foulis Farms.
Her energies when thrown into farming, running the household, bringing up four children and, for a time, a nephew whose mother was terminally ill. She reared chickens and turkeys, maintained a productive vegetable garden, had no qualms about dressing chickens and game, or cutting up whole sheep carcasses, usually on the kitchen table.
In practical terms she was adept at mending furniture, painting watercolours, and undertook the mammoth task of making 50 pairs of fully-lined curtains when in 1978 she and her husband moved to Foulis Castle following its extensive renovation. As they embarked on renovation of the Foulis farm cottages Timmy’s practical sense also came into play when architectural drawings were produced, particularly regarding internal adaptations.
In what most people would regard as spare time, she was involved with running the local Girl Guides, Highland Home Industries, King George V Fund for Sailors, the National Trust for Scotland, and instituted the annual Daffodil Tea in Foulis Castle when chariities were able to have stalls of various kinds within and outwith the castle, serve teas in the diningroom, and allow patrons to pick daffodils from the extensive and varied blooms in the grounds. For her services to charity Timmy was awarded the MBE in 2013.
Timmy’s faith meant a great deal to her and she attended St Lawrence’s RC Church in Dingwall for more than 70 years.
After WW2, when the government realised that many of Britain’s stately homes were being lost due to the ravages of conflicts, time and taxes, they set up The Historic Buildings Council for Scotland (now Historic Environment Scotland) and, in 1958, Foulis Castle was the first building in Ross-shire to receive a grant to repair its roof, which was in a perilous state. Three further phases of work were undertaken, supervised by Pat and Timmy, who, on the death of Pat’s mother, sold Ardullie Lodge and used the proceeds of sale to bring the Castle up to a moder modern standard. The couple worked tirelessly on improving the grounds while Timmy’s pet project was the creation of a flower garden within the courtyard at the rear of the Castle.
Pat’s death in 1995 was a great blow to Timmy but she picked herself up and continued with her selfless work.
Both at Ardullie Lodge and Foulis Castle the door was warmly open to all-comers, from every background, including the travelling people who visited each summer in the 1950s 60s and 70s, to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother who lunched at both houses each year from 1958 to the year before her death in 2003 as she journeyed from Birkhall, Aberdeenshire, to the Castle of Mey in Caithness.
Clan Munro Gatherings were hosted at regular intervals and each year hundreds of Munros from all over the world made visits to Foulis, to be welcomed and given a very informative and amusing tour by Timmy. To be in her company was a pleasure as she would entertain with a wealth of stories and an Irish sense of humour: she had time for everyone but especially her large family.
She could be exasperating and opinionated but possessed good commonsense, which she passed on to her four children: Charlotte, in Balfron near Stirling; Hector who succeeded his father as Chief of Clan Munro; Harry, in Nova Scotia, Canada; John, in Denmark; their spouses; 15 grandchildren; 21 great-grandchildren; and many nephews, nieces and friends.
[Adapted from an obituary in The Ross-shire Journal of 2 November 2018.]
And a final impression of “Timmy” Munro? Conversations with her were interesting, informative, but above all never dull.