History of the House / 1930 to 1945 - Sir John Lumsden / Grand-daughter Margery Stratton - 1935-6 / 5. Earlscliffe Garden in 1935

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Remembrances of a young American Girl

Part 5 - Earlscliffe Garden in 1935

Margery L. Stratton

The following was written by Margery L. Stratton.

Margery, grand daughter of Sir John Lumsden, was born and brought up in a small town in Pennsylvania in the United States, and spent a memorable year at Earlscliffe in 1935/6. This is her story.

I must tell you more of the garden setting.  As you drive through the gates marked Earlscliff there was a wooded area to the left – part orchard I think and in Springtime there were masses of primroses in a lovely display. Apples were picked and stored from the trees.  There were gooseberry bushes – both red and white and they were delicious.

On the right was a field with a fence (Bongo, the donkey was kept there) and the rose garden was between the field and the gravel parking area. Large fuschia hedges were in bloom when I first arrived and as you approached the front door there was the stairway down to the lower level (still there in 2004). If you turned left the lawn at the bottom of those steps was spread across the width of the house and a grand view of the sea was before you.

Calendulas and other annuals were a border separating the lawn from the next lower level; (my job was to deadhead the calendulas so I remember them—a simple flower but a mass of calendulas can be a sight to see).

Lady Lumsden outside her hut
"Granny" Lumsden outside her hut

Granny’s hut was entered from the lawn but there were steps down to the next level. The hut also had a lovely view of Dublin Bay and it just contained a bed, chest of drawers, a chair or two and probably a book case. No inside plumbing – just a chamber pot under the bed. And of course, Winnie, was also the chamber-maid and breakfast was taken to Grannie each morning. Coming down the steps I was amazed to find a palm tree which still exists today.

Coming down the steps to the lawn from the driveway the path continued to a gate which opened to the Cliff Path. Bordering the path on the left was a rock garden and a tiny pool was situated and just a few steps took you to the lawn above. I remember one afternoon sitting by the little pool in which gold fish swam and saw the tadpole eggs, some of which had hatched into tadpoles and later to frogs. I heard some whispers and looking up toward the gate saw two black-robed nuns smiling at me; they were so sweet and one of them asked: “Did you see the bo-at?”

I may not remember exactly but a hedge separated that path from the hedge enclosed garden where the Maltese Cross had been installed and surrounded by annuals. Opposite that a rock garden was in place and filled with aubretia and mezzambreanthemums! Wow that was an unforgettable word and I discovered, years later that these grow in abundance in California.

Nancy’s husband, George Story, had a plane before they married and often remarked that those flowers looked like amethysts from the sky. I might add that when George asked for Nancy’s hand in marriage Grandpa had a condition – that he stop flying his plane! George agreed and went out and bought a motorcycle. (In 1939 he was on the Brittanic going to North Africa and a Nazi Stuka strafed the deck, killing three men and he was one of them.)  He was serving in the British Army as a Major – a former Guinness employee in their Advertising Department. He was a dashing young man and his death was a great loss to her. [1]

Putting on the Earlscliffe lawn 1930s
Putting on the lawn outside Earlscliffe, with people sat on a settee with a canopy for sudden showers, surrounded by a high hedge

Summer in 1935 was beautiful; every summer evening the adults sat on the lawn on a settee that was surrounded by a high hedge; it had a canopy over the seat which was protection from the sudden showers that might appear even on a sunny day.

Before dinner there was a putting green which was a great way to practice and keep score; sherry and cheese biscuits were served and photos were taken with Granny and Grandpa Lumsden,

Nora and Douglas Latta, their two children, Jennifer and Stuart, Betty Lumsden (not yet married to Christopher L’Estrange). Betty was studying in England and the Royal Conservatory of London and home for summers and holidays and only 12 years older than I and was such fun to be with.

Betty’s twin Nancy married to George Story were married at a very young age.

My Dad was there for over a month and occasional friends would come for dinner. Dinner was served around 9 PM and I was sent to bed earlier than that.

The afternoon tea at 5 was my supper and I would go into bed and read letters from Mother and my friends.

Mail was delivered morning and evening and I have every letter to me and those I mailed to Mother and Dad.

• 1. Remembrances of a young American Girl •
• 2. Invitation to Howth, Ireland •
• 3. Journey from New York to Cobh, Ireland •
• 4. Arrival at Earlscliffe •
• 5. Earlscliffe Garden in 1935 •
• 6. Trips and days out • 


  • [1] As reported in the Irish Times 2nd Aug 1941.

This page was last updated on 27-Jul-2023 .