In a special article for the Scottish Gamekeepers Association website, SGA Vice Chairman Peter Fraser reviews the fascinating new book, Langwell, authored by Calum Campbell. Only 500 copies of this book are available and, according to the reviewer, will become a treasure for collectors.
Review By Peter Fraser.
Over the years there have been many interesting and both fascinating books written on the subject of Scotland's deer forests that describes epic stalks, wildlife incidents and a way of life long since disappeared..
A new book written by Calum Campbell, titled Langwell, gives an insight into this once well known sporting estate in Ross- shire. Langwell was once part of Balnagown Estate which was owned by Sir Charles Ross who died in America in 1942. It was about this time that the widow of Sir Charles started to sell off parts of Balnagown which included Langwell.
The introduction tells the interesting story how by chance, the author acquired the old photograph albums of Langwell that date from 1928-35 and how again, by chance, he met the son of one of the stalker/keepers who lived and worked on the estate at that time.
As a stalker/keeper himself, the author knew there was a lot of history attached to these photographs so decided to publish a book with some of the better quality pictures from these albums. First, he had to learn to scan, then restore photographs on his computer. The first photograph he restored took him 1.5 hours.
The book contains over a hundred good quality black and white photographs of the Debenham family, stalking scenes, grouse and ptarmigan walked up days, salmon fishing and a picture of Langwell lodge in 1935 and for comparison, a photograph taken in 2010.
Also, there's interesting photographs of Kylesku Ferry taken in 1934, a car with a type of handbrake no longer seen today, refuelling at the petrol pump at Oykel bridge and photographs along with the history of Corriehallie in Glen Orrin, Muir of Ord, which was rented by the Debenham family for the sporting rights.
As well as a map of Langwell and Scotland, the history of Langwell and the Debenham family is well documented within the book.
The author relates the incident in February 2009 when Jonathan Hampton, owner of Langwell Farm, had a contractor working in fields with a JCB digger when he disturbed and discovered a Bronze Age stone burial cist with skeleton remains of a young woman in her late 20's inside.
He also touches on a mysterious fire in the Balnagown estate office during the 1960s when unfortunately the game records and accounts for Langwell were reduced to a pile of ashes.
Also, there is an interesting account of an incident that occurred during the Highland Clearances in Glen Calvie at Croick Church in 1845 where the local minister gave shelter to locals who were forcibly removed from their homes which were then burnt to the ground.
Unlike many other books written on the history of Scotland's deer forests, this book is unique, in being that part of Langwell's history was recorded through the lens of a camera.
The immense, and time consuming task researching the history of Langwell, coupled with restoring and scanning over a hundred photographs for this book, Calum Campbell must be commended for his dedication and hard work in returning one of Scotland's forgotten Highland Sporting Estates to life.
Langwell, by Calum Campbell, is limited to 500 copies and was printed by Wm Anderson & Sons Ltd Glasgow.
For me, the book is a collectors item. It comes in a lovely deep red hard back cover, it is steeped in history, is full of interesting stories and, priced at £48 (including postage), is exceptionally good value for money.
Fifteen copies of this book are available in a beautiful leather bound cover and can be purchased at £118 (including postage).
With Christmas just around the corner, this book would make an ideal Christmas or birthday gift to a loved one or friend.
So go on; treat yourself; you won't regret it.
If you would like to buy a copy of Langwell, email langwell2012@ gmail.com or telephone 01358 720393.