by Ian Macalpine-Leny
This is the story of one particular family and some of the more amusing families they have married into over the last 200 years: the Downies of Appin in Argyllshire, the Quantock Shuldhams of Norton in Somerset, the Halseys of Gaddesden in Hertfordshire, the Kavanaghs of Borris, County Carlow, and the Bergne-Couplands of Skellingthorpe in Lincolnshire.
Beginning in 18th-century Scotland, the story goes first to Moghul India, then 19th-century Dumfriesshire, the Boer War, Arabia, the First War, Colonial Kenya, the ill-fated British Expeditionary Force during the last war, and finally, Lincolnshire. It ends with some thoughts on fishing and game shooting, and why this has fascinated so many members of the family. While this is the story of one family it also encapsulates the characteristics of a certain class, and what they achieved, in Britain's years in the sun.
No member of these families has yet become Prime Minister or Archbishop of Canterbury, but this book is about an amazing array of characters that have got up to all sorts of fascinating things. Fighting in the Anglo-Nepal War, being caught up in the siege of Ladysmith, taking part in the great cavalry charge before the relief of Kimberley, torpedoed in the Mediterranean and appointed Comptroller and Treasurer to the Prince of Wales in the 1920s. Others have been Members of Parliament, white hunters in Kenya, pioneering engineers in China and designers of catamarans that held the world speed-sailing record for fourteen years. One of the Bergne-Coupland forbears even had a registered swan mark.
But the thing that runs through them all, apart from an incredible urge to hunt and kill things, is that they have all been great fun. To have a Macalpine-Leny round the dinner table meant that the conversation would never be dull, although the alcohol consumption might have been higher than expected.
Fortunately, despite house fires and the nomadic existence forced on military families, a large number of original records and photographs have survived to paint a very clear picture of how this family lived, and the fun they all had doing it.
Ian Macalpine-Leny was educated at Uppingham and read Biological Sciences at the University of Birmingham. After doing research in Zoology, he joined international insurance broker Willis Faber in 1972.
Seconded to Johnson & Higgins in New York as Willis' first resident representative, he became one of the strongest advocates of the resulting UNISON network, and a familiar figure throughout the network. He retired in 1999.
Married to an American with two sons, he now lives mainly in the Lincolnshire countryside.
This is his second book.
Ian Macalpine-Leny can be contacted by email at:
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