FINLAYSTONE country estate, which lies just a few miles from Paisley town centre, is a horticultural heaven.
Delightful daffodil drifts dapple woodland glades, manicured lawns, burnsides, pathways and tree-canopied avenues.
Majestic Finlaystone House, dating from the 14th century, is embowered by yew and cedar trees. It was visited by Scottish religious reformer John Knox in 1556 and national bard Robert Burns in 1789.
The sweeping lawns, sculptured hedges, laurel banks, rhododendron roundels, flower-festooned walled garden, water-gushing fountain and panoramic vistas across the Firth of Clyde are truly awesome.
Architecturally-evocative is the rubble-built laundry, with rustic chimneys and crow-stepped gables among woodland trees.
Last laundress, Mrs McVeagh, used old-fashioned ironing boards, copper boilers, mangles and trolleys to ‘get up the linen’ for the MacMillan family, who still own Finlaystone today.
I walked this week along tree-lined trails in the footsteps of Knox and Burns, as well as previous owners such as the Earls of Glencairn; George Kidston, who was chairman of the Clyde Shipping Company; and Robert Bentine Cunninghame Grahame, who had the unique distinction of being first president of both the Scottish Labour Party (1888) and the Scottish National Party (1934).
I remembered dedicated domestic staff who worked on the estate and in the mansion.
Around 1910, servants included scullery maid Susan, aged 15, who’d been at Finlaystone since she was 12.
Susan’s chores started at 5.30am and ended with dinner around 9pm. She scrubbed floors and tables, peeled vegetables, mashed potatoes, washed dishes, polished cutlery and silverware, rubbed brasses, dusted furniture and boiled copper pans of washing water for guests.
She ate well, with cook Mrs Moffatt’s home-made fruit cakes her favourite delicacy.
Every day, Mrs Moffatt oven-baked bread, rolls, scones and muffins. She cooked eggs, sausages, kidneys and fish for breakfast; stewed pigeons, boiled chicken and roasted lamb for dinner; and used freezers, chippers and copper moulds for delicious ice cream, jelly and meringue desserts.
Around 20 servants worked at Edwardian Finlaystone, including Mr Tarrant, the butler, with his high white-winged collar and black tailcoat; Mrs Pink, the housekeeper; housemaids Sarah, Hilda and Violet, with their white aprons and caps; kitchen maid Maggie; hall boy David; footman Robert; gardener Jim; handyman Tom; and stable boy John.
These humble heroes of the ‘downstairs’ team fulfilled indispensable roles in Finlaystone’s proud story.
Their memories are enshrined today in the golden daffodils whose floral ancestors illuminated their daily lives 100 years ago.