Strathaven’s ‘Russian Princess’


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A Scottish romance between a noted Edinburgh musician and a Polish Baroness.




 The truth behind the myth



Bob Currie, B.A. (Hons)


Copyright: R.P. Currie, 2010


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, sorted in a retrieval system, transmitted or utilised in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the permission in writing from the Publisher.




My research is dedicated to the memory of the late Doctor Robert Machardy, LL.D., Scots musician and composer who, from 1910 until 1921 resided at Whitehill, near Sandford, Strathaven.


“Unfortunately for the present generation, Dr Machardy was not sufficiently a business man to make arrangements with publishers, and so much of his beautiful work still remains in manuscript.



 His works live after him, and like many geniuses who have lived before him, his name will be greater in death than in life.”

(Hamilton Advertiser, Issue, Saturday, 16th July, 1921).




Transcriptions from reports in the “Hamilton Advertiser” reproduced by kind permission of the current editor Mr John Rowbotham.


I am also grateful to the following:


Staff, Hamilton Library Reference and Local History Department, Town House, Almada Street, Hamilton for their valued co-operation


Miss Aileen Stirling, Mortonhall Crematorium, Edinburgh, for kindly providing picture of the tombstone above the grave of Polish Count (Doctor) Dionysius Wielobycki with details of inscription. 


Mr Hugh Steele, Cumbernauld, for sharing with me memories of his early work experience on Chapel Farm, and for the excellent sketch of ‘Chapel’ drawn from memory.


Mr Tom Currie, grandson of the late farmer Tom Currie and his wife Helen (nee Maider) formerly of Chapel Farm who agreed to meet me together with  farmer John Howatson of Strutherhead Farm, and Hugh Steele and share their collective memories of the ‘princess’ story as handed down by old Tom.


John Howatson, farmer in Strutherhead, for access to the site of Saint Oswald’s Well, and use of his personal copy of ‘The history of Saint Oswald’s Well’  compiled by the late Mr. Bill Whiteford, Veterinary Surgeon in Strathaven. My appreciation to Mrs Whiteford for her kind permission to reproduce that interesting piece of local history.


Ms Anna Domagala, Secretary, Polish Consulate in Edinburgh; Polish priest Father Marian Lakawe, Polish Church Committee of Glasgow; Mr Robert Ostrychaz, Renfrewshire, and Mr Michael Tobias, Genealogist as also to several members the extended family of the late farmer Tom Currie, and their mutual friend Betty Cameron for permission to reproduce pictures from the Currie family album.




     There was a time in Strathaven‘s nearer past when, in common with other communities the length and breadth of Scotland, it had its fair share of local worthies who went by nicknames derived from mannerisms and/or characteristics that singled them out from their contemporaries. With the passage of time these kenspeckle figures have moved from our midst, while the advent of political correctness has meant that use of such nomenclature is no longer acceptable. However, worthies and their nicknames cannot be erased from the folklore of our Scots communities. Around the turn of the 20th century, a local character by the name of Davie James, a negro, born 1860 in Barbados, West Indies was a familiar figure around the town. In 1901 Davie was one several navvies registered in the census that year as Railway labourers boarding at Crofthead Hut, Caldermill. While one can only hazard a guess about the primitive living conditions within that hutted dwelling, it is safe to say that living conditions there were probably little better than those of a chattel house in Barbados where Davie would have spent his formative years. Davie James was regarded with genuine affection as evinced in the testimony of the late Mrs M. Brown, Ashkirk Road, Strathaven an ‘Old Timer’ who within recent memory in a letter to the editor Hamilton Advertiser wrote: “One of the characters of the past in our wee town was Davie James, a coloured man, who slept in the Gas-Works and took char in a wheelbarrow to local bakehouses. A real old gent. Then there was ‘Tommy Herrin’ who sold fish -  a dozen herring for a few coppers. Happy days!” Another Strathaven ‘old timer’, Minnie Anderson, who died aged 92 in year 2001, age 92, recollected Tommy pushing his barrow loaded with a box of Loch Fyne herring extolling his wares as he strode around the streets, who, when customers approached would cry out “stawn back an’ let the herrin’ see the folk”. At other times his barrow was loaded up with fruit and his cry became “Seville oranges, the best o’ stuff - nane o’ yer foreign trash here“. Minnie, also told of Davie James washing his face at the drinking trough on Green Street and how, as a child she, and others, shook hands with Davie, and wondered why after this exchange their hands remained white. When Davie James came to this country is unknown. But, he obviously came to Strathaven as a railway labourer. Attempts to establish his date of death remain unsolved. Apparently he used to say “cows eat grass, and give milk, I eat grass and give no milk”. The late William Fleming Downie, B.Sc., author of ‘A History of Strathaven and Avondale’ (1979) mentions such other characters as Jimmy Campbell, who drove his cuddy ‘Maggie’ around the district calling out to her as he went: “Come oot o’ the dykeside and gang in the middle o’ the road where the big horses gang”. Others among the litany of nicknames once common around Strathaven include ‘Highland Kate’; ‘Wingie Craig’; ‘Jock the Lum’; ‘Erchie the Gaukie’; ‘Heather Jock’; ‘Teuch Bess’; ‘Old Pech Bell’ and ‘Jimmie the See-Saw’. Among them the ‘Russian Princess’ takes her rightful place. 



     Strathaven’s Russian Princess


     It was as a relatively new incomer to Strathaven (1965) that I first shared the folk-memory of the ‘Russian Princess’. When, over the years, I pressed Strathaven’s old timers to talk of her, each gave a similar account of a heavily veiled woman, invariably dressed in black, who accompanied her husband, ‘Doctor’ Robert Machardy, a noted musician, composer, and itinerant teacher of piano, who travelled around the town and district by pony and trap giving music lessons to pupils in their own homes. The collective memories of those old timers bore testimony to the fact that while the ‘Doctor’ was indoors giving those piano lessons, his Lady wife, whom the locals dubbed ‘The Russian Princess’, always remained seated outdoors aboard the couple’s two-seater wicker carriage. The fact that this reclusive female figure remained aloof from the townsfolk made her the object of local interest and excitement. Across the years her story has remained the subject of much curiosity to the extent that some less well-informed individuals considered her to have been no less a person that the unfortunate Grand Duchess Anastasia, youngest daughter of Romanov Czar Nicholas 11 whose fate, in the years following the murder of the Russian Imperial family at the hands of the Bolsheviks has only in recent years been truly established through the scientific DNA testing of the remains of the bodies found in the burial pit in the forest of Ekaterinberg in the Urals. But, Strathaven’s old timers, had they still been around, would instantly have scotched that theory on the obvious grounds that the ‘princess’ and her then husband Robert Machardy settled in Lanarkshire, at Lesmahagow, as early as year 1901 thirteen years prior to the outbreak of The First World War that gave rise to the  Russian revolution of 1917 that wiped out the Russian Imperial family. It seemed to me that the myth surrounding Strathaven's 'Russian Princess' was a story worthy of serious research, and I determined to bring to light the truth surrounding the life of the ‘princess’ and her spouse ‘Doctor’ Robert Machardy. That truth proved difficult to unravel and, like all good myths and mysteries, proved stranger than fiction.


     On the basis of reports in the press covering the death of the ‘princess’ it seems she was born at Byten, in Brest, Belarus. Its geographical coordinates are 52° 53' 0" North, 25° 30' 0" East and its original name (with diacritics) is Byten. Prior to The First World War (circa 1900) Byten was part of Poland and lay within the district of Slonim in the province of Grodno then part of the Russian Empire. The name translates as Byten’ (Russian), Byten (Polish), Biten (Yiddish), Bycien (Belarusian), Buten. (1)


     According to press reports of the period, the ‘princess’ was the daughter of a leading Polish aristocratic family in Byten and, as a Baroness in her own right, whose aristocratic appellation was namely, Lady Felice Kennedy Piaseski (sic). The youthful Baroness, who enjoyed a cultured upbringing, was educated privately by the best tutors in Byten', Vienna and Paris. However, this idyll was shattered in the 1860s when her father, who was said to have served as a Field Marshall in the Polish army under the yoke of Czarism was, with his son, killed in a Polish uprising that resulted in a Russian victory. Accordingly, Lady Felice, with other members of her family, was forced to flee her native Poland for Paris, France, from whence she subsequently moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, supposedly under the protection of a Polish Count Dionysius Wielobycki whom she subsequently married.


     Research reveals two Polish brothers named Wielobycki. Both Polish patriots who, after their escape from Poland, arrived in Britain in 1839.They were namely, Seweryn or Severin, and Dionysius Wielobycki born in the Polish province of Wolyn ((Volhynia), now part of Ukraine. These were the sons of Stanislas (in Polish) Stanislaw Wielobycki and his wife Sophie, nee Soboleska. The elder, Seweryn, born on 8th January, 1796, and the younger, Dionysius, in 1816. In 1831, both brothers were soldiers in the Polish Wars of Independence. Their part in this story began with the November Uprising in Poland  of  (1830-1831) - otherwise known as the Cadet Revolution - an armed rebellion against the Russian Empire in Poland, Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine. Following this unsuccessful uprising against the Czarist yoke, Dionysius was forced to flee Poland for Germany where he assumed a German name. He studied at Cracow, Bonn and Berlin. At the latter of these universities Dionysius obtained his degree of Doctor of Philosophy. His intention was to settle at Cracow, but was duly recognised by the authorities, arrested and imprisoned. According to his personal testimony, he suffered many hardships before making his escape, and having come through dangers of all kinds, made his way to Hamburg where he embarked for Leith. “What I sought as an asylum has become a home; and, before I purchased my present house, I obtained letters of naturalisation, so that I am now a British subject.” (2} His brother, Seweryn, who served as a Captain in a Polish Cavalry Regiment, also fled Poland after having fought thirty six battles in the war of 1831. Captain Seweryn Wielobycki delivered himself into the hands of  the Austrian authorities at Cracow, who gave him the choice of proceeding to Britain. Both brothers became naturalised British citizens. Significantly, both graduated from the University of Edinburgh as physicians. Seweryn (MD LRVS Edin. 1840) and Dionysius, (Phd Berlin 1837) the latter choosing as his dissertation ‘On Plica Polonica’ (MD LRVS Edin. 1843). Throughout his medical studies in Edinburgh, Dionysius maintained himself by teaching French. Dionysius duly ceased to use his aristocratic title of ‘Count’ in favour of the meritorious professional title of  ‘Doctor’ In the course of his distinguished career as a physician, Dionysius was Member of the Cracow Astronomical Institute, House Surgeon and Assistant at the Edinburgh Lying in Hospital, Physician to the Edinburgh Homeopathic Dispensary and the Leicester Homeopathic Dispensary, and a Member of the British Homeopathic Society and the Old Edinburgh Club. In 1848, he worked at the Edinburgh Homeopathic Dispensary which had opened all hours to treat the cholera epidemic. But despite these distinctions he was persecuted by the Edinburgh Faculty for his homeopathic practice. (3)


     Before settling in Edinburgh as homeopathic physicians where between 1858/59 they shared a practice at No. 55 Queen Street, the Wielobycki brothers were resident in Hawick. In 1851 Severin resided in London at Connaught Terrace, Hyde Park, and at 11 Russell Place, Fitzroy Square. In 1855 at 4 Denmark Hill, Camberwell along with Victor Massolby. However, the census for Edinburgh of 1861 records him in lodgings at Edinburgh, St. Cuthbert’s. That same year Severin (bachelor) aged 65 years, residing at 25 Montague Street, Edinburgh married Helen Reith (widow) aged 48 years, residing at 34 Hanover Street, Edinburgh. The marriage was conducted at Grange Road, Edinburgh, after banns according to the forms of the Church of Scotland at which the officiating minister was none other than the Rev. Andrew Jeffrey Gunion, L.L.D., of Strathaven West Church.



More than coincidence surely. One wonders what the connection was - friends?  or did Felice who settled with Robert Machardy in Strathaven in 1910 already know someone in the area? One can only speculate. Interestingly enough, Rev. Gunion who was born at Glasgow, was resident at Edinburgh in 1849 and Hawick in 1851 where he clearly must have become acquainted with the brothers Wielobycki. Civil Registration proves that Severin and his wife Helen returned to London and were, according to the census of 1871,  resident in the Parish of St. Marylebone (Ecclesiastical Parish All Saints). It is otherwise noteworthy that in 1893,The Society for the Study of Inebriety met to celebrate Severin’s 100th birthday. He died soon afterwards at 4 Eaton Villas, Acacia Road, St. John’s Wood, London, in 1893. He was followed in death by his wife, Helen, who died in 1899.


     Students interested in further research on the brothers Wielobycki should note that copies of their naturalisation papers are available from the Public Records Office, Kew quoting as follows;


Catalogue Ref: HO 1/37/1304

Title/Scope and Content:

Naturalisation Papers: Wielobycki, Dionysius, from Volhynia (Poland)

Certificate 1304 issued 2Oth March. 1851.


Catalogue Ref: HD 1/47/1501

Title/Scope and Content:

Naturalisation Papers: Wielobycki, Severin, from Russia

Certificate 1501 24th January, 1853.


     Throughout an illustrious career Severin was Vice President of the Society for the Study of Inebriety; Physician Accoucher to the Hahnemann Institute, Physician at the London Homeopathic Hospital, Member of the Botanical, Hunterian, Medical and Royal Physical Society, Edinburgh, Member of the British Homeopathic Society and the Hahnemann Medical Society. In 1851 he was a member of the Medical Council in support of the London Homeopathic Hospital, and in 1855 was present at the Congress of Homeopathic Practitioners held in London. He wrote articles on abstinence and was a member of The Vegetarian Society in 1878. Of interest to historians is the dedication in a book by Captain Rencyzynski dedicated to (his countryman) Dionysius Wielobycki (of Edinburgh) "The Last of the Anakims in the Land of Moab, an Authentic Document found in 1868 at Dhiban, the ancient Dibon .… The Moabite Stone Inscription deciphered from a photograph. . . from original stone as it is present in the Museum of Louvre, in Paris. London, Galigani's Establishment, 1880, First edition, oblong 4to [20 x 26 cm]; [iv], 28, [xx] pp, 3 large folding plates or charts, plus the last 20 pages are lithographed, frontis photo, presumably of author, mounted on heavy paper, with the subscriber's list in red, orig pictorial gilt cloth with picture of Moabite stone. There is a presentation inscription signed by Wielobycki, the dedicatee. The author spent nine years on this work, on the Moabite stone, which was later destroyed, describing the biblical era story on the stone. (4)


     Dionysius first appears in Edinburgh in 1846 when the pages of old Edinburgh directories give his address as No. 25 Montague Street, on the south side of the city. By 1849 he had risen to a New Town residence, No. 59 Queen Street, where he lived till 1851,when he removed to No.55 of which he became proprietor. He was living there in 1857 at the time of his arrest. However, in 1871 he turns up again at No, 3 George Square, an address of considerable prestige where he resumed his practice. A Medical Directory of 1878 records his practice at this address where, on 16th November, 1882, he died aged sixty-nine years. With regard to the entry in the Edinburgh Directory of 1883 (note 3) this refers to the widow of Wielobycki still residing at their home address. I checked the Edinburgh and Leith Post Office Directory [NLS Shelfmark: POE] for 1881-1882 and 1882-1883 and found that in the first volume there is an entry for “Wielobycki, D., M.D., 3 George Square” whilst in the latter publication the entry reads “Wielobycka, Baroness, 3 George Square”.



George Square - west side

Engraving from Old & New Edinburgh - published 1890

  Reproduced by kind permission of

     George Square lies to the east of the Meadows, about half a mile to the South of St Giles Cathedral. A few of the original houses remain. Most were demolished to make way for high rise buildings for Edinburgh University around the 1960s.


     The census of 1881 records the property of No. 3 George Square as a house with 8 rooms, and newspaper reports of the period record Dr. Wielobycki and Lady Felice, whom he married at Bradford in 1871 some fifteen years after the trial that brought him notoriety, lived in grand style such that, among other things, their equipage was the focus of attention on the streets of Scotland’s capital. The marriage certificate of 1871 presents the true identity of the bride whose Christian names and surnames are recorded as Henrietta Felicia Kierblewska Kennedy who, at the time of her marriage to Dionysius Wielobycki, was resident at No. 5 Eldon Place, Bradford. This certificate also provides the only available evidence of her father Stephen Kennedy (deceased) whose rank or profession is recorded as Gentleman all of which conflicts with the information concerning her as reported in the press at the time of her death in 1922 by which time her story was one of rags to riches in reverse.


 In Immigration & Emigration England, Alien Arrivals, for periods 1810-1811, 1826-1869 there is noted the arrival of one Nikodemus Kierblewski at London, England. This leaves me to wonder if there is a connection?
The rendition of the name in the female form Kierblewska suggests a Polish familial link (through marriage?) with the Kennedy family. The marriage certificate does cast doubt on her being Polish born but there may have been a close relative who was Polish. Also Henrietta and Felicia are not regular Polish first names for a girl. However, her mother's name may have been Kierblewska.  Seems to me that her father Stephen KENNEDY must have married a Polish woman whose maiden name was KIERBLEWSKA (any males in the family would be called KIERBLEWSKI). Stephen Kennedy may have been a mercenary soldier fighting in Poland where he met and married Henrietta Felicia's mother. I checked the naturalisation lists with Public Records Office, Kew, but there are no reference to Kierblewska or Keirblewska Kennedy there. In any case as the daughter of a UK national she probably did not need to naturalise.



Dramatic Days at the Old Bailey

The scandal of the Cause Celebre



     Author Charles Kingston author of “Dramatic Days at the Old Bailey” cites Dr. Wielobycki‘s trial for forgery in Edinburgh (1857) as follows:


     “Wielobycki, a Pole by birth, and an ιmigrι who had fled to Edinburgh during a period of political stress in his native country succeeded, despite lack of means and linguistic difficulties, in attaining quite a fashionable connection in the Scottish capital. But he was always in debt, therefore, when he got the opportunity to rob a patient of the name of Darling who resided at Portobello he did so to the extent of four thousand pounds. Thomas Darling, an old man who lived with his two sisters, Margaret and Isabella, had saved six thousand pounds, and when the doctor offered to invest two-thirds of his fortune at a high rate of interest the grateful patient transferred this amount to him. Wielobycki used the money to liquidate his own debts and paid Darling the agreed interest every quarter, but as he knew that the old man had not long to live, he was anxious to know how he intended to leave his money. Luck favoured the physician, Darling bequeathing all he had to his sisters, and so the thief had another breathing space. But the problem recurred almost immediately, for Margaret showed signs of decay which told the doctor she had not long to live. It was known that she wished to leave part of her fortune to a certain nephew, but as this would have led to the discovery of Wielobyski’s (sic) embezzlement, he induced Isabella, whose hand writing resembled her sister’s, to write out a will to his dictation, and this document he made the dying Margaret sign. The signatures of the “witnesses” were added by the doctor later on.


     When Margaret was dead, Isabella, who was completely under the influence of her medical attendant, was the sole heiress of the mythical six thousand pounds, and the doctor volunteered to secure probate of her sister’s will for her. This was his initial blunder because it attracted a puzzled attention to himself. The relatives and friends of the Darling’s wondered why an eminent Edinburgh physician with, presumably, a fashionable practice should devote so much of his valuable time to the affairs of a working-class family, and eventually, Margaret Darling’s nephew called on the Pole, and announced his intention to dispute the will of his aunt. Wielobycki thereupon suggested a compromise, and, by a cash payment of twelve hundred pounds, he bought the nephew’s consent to the destruction of the will. However, the young man did not maintain silence on the subject, and when the police heard of the transaction they investigated the relations between the doctor and the Darling’s, and Wielobycki’s arrest was, of course, inevitable once enquiries were made. Fashionable Edinburgh crowded the court to witness his humiliation, and, as proof of Wielobycki’s standing in the Scottish capital, it may be mentioned that the judge whose turn it was to preside at that particular session had to withdraw because he had been on terms of intimacy with the doctor. Fourteen years’ penal servitude was the sentence, after a trial full of sensational revelations.” (5)  Despite the doom pronounced against him by the unanimous judgment (sic) of the Lords of Justiciary, the Polish physician was not destined to “dree his weird” to the extent prescribed. By the courtesy of H.M. Prison Commissioners for Scotland and England respectively, I am enabled to acquaint the interested reader with the several stations of his punitory pilgrimage. Dr. Wielobycki, apprehended on 28th November 1856, registered as forty-two years of age and as a member of the Church of England, was sentenced on 14th January 1857. On 16th February of that year, by order of the Secretary of State, he was transferred to Wakefield prison. On 16th December the convict was removed to Lewes prison, where he remained until 13th July, 1859, when he was sent to Dartmoor. On 2nd February 1862 he received a full pardon. There is nothing in the prison records to indicate the grounds upon which the pardon was granted; perhaps the Home Secretary, less Rhadamanthine than the Lords of Justiciary, thought five years’ penal servitude was in the circumstances of the case a sufficient punishment. How the Knight of the Golden Cross (Virtuti Militari) employed his recovered leisure during the nine years which elapsed until he again became in 1871 a citizen of Edinburgh, I cannot tell. Only two items of his post-penal history survive: he married, according to the inscription  on his tombstone, Lady Felice, Baroness Wielobycka; (sic) he died, as his obituary notice informs us, at No. 3 George Square, Edinburgh, on 16th November 1882, at the age of sixty-nine. (6)


     Whatever good may have been done by Dionysius Wielobycki in the flesh is interred with his bones in the Grange Cemetery, the evil that he did lives after him, as I have occasion to know, in legend. Baroness Wielobycki survived to have a Requiem Mass celebrated in the Pro-Cathedral, Broughton Street, for the repose of her husband’s soul, to erect over his remains a marble monument, and to mourn his loss for a season in the connubial mansion.” (7)



     As mentioned above the doctor died 16th November, 1882 and, significantly, was declared testate. His Will or Deed of Settlement “In witness whereof I have written and subscribed with my own hand at Edinburgh the thirteenth day of September in the year one thousand eight hundred and eighty one . . . We Dionysius Wielobycki Doctor of Medicine residing at number three George Square Edinburgh and Mrs Felicia Henrietta Wielobycki spouse of the said Dionysius Wielobycki having resolved to settle our affairs in the event of our decease and for the love favour and affection we have and bear to each other do hereby Give Grant Assign and Dispone to and in favour of the survivor of us all and sundry the whole estate heritable and moveable real and personal which shall belong to us at the death of the predeceaser of us or of which we shall have the favour of disposal, and we nominate and appoint the survivor of us to be sole Executor or Executrix of the predeceaser with full power to do everything competent to that office. But declaring always that these presents are granted always under burden of payment of all the just and lawful debts deathbed funeral and executry expenses of the predeceaser ; and we each reserve our own life rent use and mutual enjoyment of our respective estates and we both consent to registration hereof for presentation . . .” (8)


     The amount of Debts plus funeral expenses on the death of Doctor Dionysius Wielobycki  per Schedule was two hundred and forty four pounds (£244) and the net Value of Personal Estate chargeable with Duty four hundred and forty seven pounds, ten shillings (£447.10s).


     Doctor Dionysius Wielobycki was interred on 21st November, 1882, in grave-plot number M-47 within Grange Cemetery, Edinburgh. The grave-plot was purchased on 17th November, 1882 by his widow Baroness Wielobycki then resident at No. 3 George Street, Edinburgh. Dionysius Wielobycki is the sole internee of this grave which is marked by a headstone inscribed as follows:




A new beginning for Lady Felice with Robert Machardy



                           Reduced from fine living in Edinburgh's New Town to life in a hut dwelling first at Lesmahagow latterly at Strathaven



                        Living conditions at George Square, Edinburgh New Town.    Living conditions in the Strathaven hut.


      According to newspaper reports of the period at some time during her life in Edinburgh as the wife of Doctor Wielobycki, Lady Felice, a devotee of the study of music, made the acquaintance of a rising young Scots musician and composer by the name of Robert Machardy with whom, following the death of Doctor Wielobycki, she subsequently married. “A native of Edinburgh, he was educated at the High School and University there, afterwards travelling very extensively. At an early age Dr Machardy showed a great love for music, especially the music of his native country, and when quite young he occupied the honorary position of organist in Edinburgh Cathedral. Impelled by an ever increasing passion, he decided to adopt music as a profession, so continued his studies under the great teachers of the continent in Paris, Vienna and elsewhere. (9) While Lady Felice Kennedy Wielobycki, nee Paseski, (sic) a Baroness in her own right who laid claim to a noble lineage, the ancestry of  Dr Robert Machardy, LL.D., is, in the eyes of Scotsmen of Jacobin sympathies, no less illustrious: “a Jacobite Scotsman on both sides of the family. His great-grandfather was a captain in Prince Charlie’s army, his mother was a descendant of the Jacobite Macdonald’s. In his boyhood he went to Australia with his parents, who had possessions in land in Victoria, and went with them on hunting expeditions in the bush. He received his first instructions in music from a resident governess, and later from Dr. Rogers and Professor Goodwin. He studied harmony, counterpoint, figure and orchestration.” (10) At some stage in their marriage the Machardy’s embarked on a grand tour of the continent where they are said to have visited many of the leading colleges of music. It was the stuff of a romantic idyll involving two people, she in her early 40s, he in his early 30s, passionate about music and each other with, no concerns for practical housekeeping. But circumstances beyond their control meant that their romantic idyll was to prove short-lived. A dramatic change in the couple’s financial standing, due to the political upheavals of the time that literally wiped out the ‘foreign possessions‘ of Lady Felice, the couple’s lavish lifestyle became a ‘Robinson Crusoe’ existence, first at Lesmahagow (11) and afterwards at Strathaven. Their financial ruin meant the loss not only of Lady Felice’s 'foreign possessions' but the inheritance that her late husband Doctor Wielobycki had bequeathed in her favour. Although the exact year when this change in circumstances occurred has not been firmly established, the evidence of the Census record for Lesmahagow (1901) proves that by then  the couple were reduced to living in a crudely constructed hut dwelling.


     According to the Census record of 1901 for the Civil Parish of Lesmahagow under the heading ‘Relation to Head of Family’ -  Robert Machardy is Head; under ‘Where Born’ - the place is  Edinburgh; under ‘Profession or Occupation’ - author and examiner, National College of Music. However, his wife holds by her aristocratic title of  Lady Felice Wielobycki whose ‘Profession or Occupation’ is given as “Foreign Possessions”.



This record gives emphasis to two things (i) that Lady Felice continued to use her aristocratic title in preference to that of Mrs Machardy as she had lately become through marriage to her new spouse Robert. This may be explained by the fact that the so called ‘blue blooded‘ never relinquish their title, and (ii) her claim to ‘foreign possessions’ indicates an obstinacy on her part to acknowledge the irrevocable loss of her inheritance at the hands of the Russian Czarist government which was succeeded by first the Bolsheviks and latterly the Soviets. Significantly, under the heading ‘Where Born’ the place given is ‘Poland’ with the added proviso of ‘British subject’. However, despite intensive research no record of naturalisation was found.


     In 1910, the Machardy‘s removed themselves to a holding on the farmland of Whitehill, by the village of Sandford, near Strathaven. Here again, Doctor Machardy constructed a hutted dwelling by his own hands. On this small-holding the couple kept dogs, hens, geese, turkeys, goats, and pigs, and were entirely self-supporting through the meagre income of Robert’s efforts as a struggling musician, composer and teacher of music. However, this strangely independent way of life could only be guaranteed for as long as the health and strength of this by now elderly couple, held good. Mr Machardy was already aged 61 years, and Mrs Machardy, 71 years of age. In that context, their future was hardly promising.


     The couple’s crude dwelling on the holding at Whitehill close by Chapel Farm was reputedly forty feet in length. Significantly, the census for Parish of Avondale (1901) records several hutted dwellings in the vicinity of Strathaven as follows. At District 1: Braehead Hut (unoccupied), while Bonanhill Huts, (Waterworks) housed 18 occupants; Hareshaw Head Huts housed 36 navvies, 1 joiner and 1 timekeeper and cashier. At District 4: two Wooden Huts are recorded as uninhabited. At District 5: Crofthead Hut, Caldermill housed 15 occupants, including 9 Railway Labourers. Another hut, also named Crofthead, housed 33 persons including 27 Railway labourers. At District 8: Railway Hut, (New Road) housed 5 persons, including  two Engine drivers, one Railway Labourer, his wife and a son recorded as ‘scholar’. At District 10: Crofthead Huts (2) occupancy is recorded as 12 and 15 persons respectively. Viewed from that perspective the Machardy’s hutted dwelling was hardly untoward. But given their social background and former life-style the rough living conditions to which they were now reduced were clearly bizarre. Although this rural ‘idyll' with its view over the picturesque Avon Valley served to nurture Robert’s artistic temperament, clearly the living conditions within the hut were ill-befitting persons of their social rank and cultural tastes. This, and the mode of dress and behaviour of the lady of the hut, excited local interest. The remote location of the hut itself brought with it a total absence of all modern conveniences. Water for domestic use had to be drawn either from the nearby Saint Oswald’s Well on the lands of Chapel Farm, or from the nearby farmhouse courtesy of Mr and Mrs Tom Currie. The situation can only be wondered at but is aptly summed up by a journalist who visited the scene in 1922. “I paid a visit to the hut situated on land tenanted by Mr Tom Currie, farmer, and was amazed that a couple of such refinement could have lived as many years in such a place. The hut is about forty feet long by about fifteen feet broad and is roughly constructed with felt laid on top of the walls to keep out the rain. The structure had three apartments one of which was used as a stable. The hut was not properly floored and the occupants must have experienced discomfort in moving about the place. Round peepholes, three or four inches in diameter, had been constructed in different parts of the shanty, and the place was littered with musical compositions and pamphlets dealing with music. In one place, I noticed a printed musical score, the work of Mr Machardy, It was entitled “The Serenaders’ Grand Opera Comique in three acts, libretto and music by Robert Machardy whose works have been accepted by H.M. The Queen.” On the little doors of the shanty tiny horse shoes had been nailed pointing to the occupants belief in luck, but despite this the place looked one of the most luckless and dismal of abodes. In the garden, from among a heap of papers, I picked up a volume entitled “The Shade of Burns” by Robert Machardy.” (12)


     From the social heights and delights of life in Edinburgh and continental Europe this once privileged couple were reduced to living in a primitive hut-dwelling surrounded by barbed wire entanglement within which a number of ferocious dogs roamed at will as protection against intruders.


     The events of The First World War (1914 - 1918) were instrumental in the downfall of the long established aristocratic network across continental Europe that duly exacerbated the financial ruin of this once seriously wealthy couple. The Polish inheritance of Lady Felice’ in both land tenure and banking investments was literally wiped out. Nevertheless, the ever resourceful Robert Machardy, LL.D., prove himself a stoic who, against all odds, struggled to maintain the couple’s dignity and independence. During The First World War years, Robert focused his talent as a composer and musician in support of the war effort. His unbridled patriotism found its release through his many musical performances and productions staged for the enjoyment of audiences in Strathaven and Glasgow.  


Strathaven News Columns of Hamilton Advertiser: Issue:

Saturday, 9th May, 1914.


The Palace of Delight:


     “The Palace of Delight” Dr. Machardy’s latest comic opera, is to be performed on Tuesday first in the Public Hall. It is full of fun, and contains many Scottish characteristics, and several of the finest Scottish airs are interwoven in the work. Dr Machardy (whose life’s work has been to raise Scottish music to a high place in the rank of musical works) appeals to his countrymen to come and hear his opera. We hope he will receive a gratifying response to his appeal in the shape of a large audience. Rev. John Muirhead will occupy the chair and address the audience upon the patriotic musical work Dr. Machardy is doing for this country.


Issue: Saturday, 17th April, 1915.


Scottish Patriots Concert:


     We are pleased to notice from advertisement that the clever Scottish composer Mr. Robert Machardy is to give a concert in the Public Hall on Monday evening. On former occasions we have endeavoured to draw attention to the claims of this native musical genius, but fear that he has to a great extent experienced the truth of the scriptures in that “a prophet hath not honour in his own land”. Recent events, however, seem to have put a different complexion on many things, and it is to be hoped that this extends to things musical and that the easy-going British public is now to make amends for its worshipping at the shrine of the foreign musicians by paying a little more attention to native talent. Dr. Machardy has collected a galaxy of talent for Monday evening’s concert and we feel sure that those who attend are in for a treat. In honour of our brave sons who have gone to the front at this time, Dr. Machardy has composed a military march “Heroes of Avondale” and with the assistance of an orchestra this piece will be given at concert.


Issue: Saturday, 12th February, 1916.


Production of a New Scottish opera - “The Shade of Burns”.


     Dr Robert Machardy is a strong champion of Scottish music. He claims our national melodies to be the most beautiful in the world with the true inherent power to entertain and charm the most artistic temperaments. His enthusiasm in this direction amounts almost to an obsession, and he is wont in season and out of season to demonstrate the great possibilities of our Scottish song. To his many musical arrangements and compositions, including the “Prince Charlie” grand opera, he has added a Scottish opera, which, in homage to our immortal bard, he has entitled “The Shade of Burns.” It is dedicated to Lord Newlands, and has been graciously accepted by His Majesty the King. Dr. Machardy is responsible for both libretto and music. Briefly, the scheme of the opera is that, following upon the singing of a grand Scottish chorus with orchestra and bagpipes, Burns returns to earth to express his love of his native land and its national music. The scene of the visit is the banks of the Lugar, where the poet meets with Lady Scotia Doon, with whom Lord Lugar is in love. The other characters introduced are Beneva, the daughter of a Highland chieftain, and a jester, who, as a satirist, gives his opinion on love, music, opera, the neglect of genius in life, and the posthumous honours heaped upon it when too late. The Opera was produced in the Public Hall, Strathaven, on Thursday evening, when a fairly large and representative audience was presided over by Dr. Mason. It would not be correct to say the performance was an unqualified success, but, making due allowance for a certain crudeness in a first production, the lack of a fully equipped orchestra, and the many embarrassing circumstances that Dr Machardy has had to overcome since the rehearsals started, the opera on the whole was given a fair interpretation, and was received with general favour by the audience. It was noticeable, however, that a section of the audience, from their boisterous exuberance and hilarity, were not inclined to consider the opera seriously, and in this respect Dr. Machardy was but suffering what the chairman hinted at in his opening remarks, the penalty of the prophet who is not honoured in his own country. The music of the opera is bold and vigorous in tone, and there are many passages reflecting a wonderful range of harmonic colour, the full effect of which could only be obtained by a complete orchestral accompaniment. The “book” also is meritorious, some of the stanzas, indeed, reaching a very high level. In the production of the opera, the title role was adopted by Mr James Stewart, who in general get-up was a splendid character and might have posed for the poet himself. His singing was well received. Miss M. Allan, L. Mus, was a delightful “Lady Scotia,” and her cultured singing was a feature of the performance. She was ably seconded as a vocalist by Miss Watson, in the character of “Beneva.” Both ladies were frequently loudly applauded. As “Lord Lugar,” Mr Hugh Macdonald gave a quiet, yet fairly effective interpretation of the part. Dr Machardy was the “Jester,” and he also was fairly successful, though he excels as a musician rather than as a vocalist. Valuable services were rendered the production by Miss Dempster, pianist, and Messrs C Kyle and D. Forbes, violinists. They contributed the various accompaniments with much ability and intelligence. We believe it is Dr. Zachary’s intention to produce the opera shortly in Glasgow under more promising auspices as to orchestra etc.


Issue: Saturday, 14th July, 1917.


Strathaven - Scottish Concert:


     Dr. Machardy has presented an interesting programme of Scottish songs, piano pieces and violin and piano music for Tuesday evening in Public Hall, Strathaven. He will be assisted by a variety of artistes. The entertainment should draw all patriotic music lovers to fill the house and enjoy an evening of splendid Scottish music.


Issue: Saturday, 21st July, 1917.




     Dr. Robert Machardy must have been gratified by the reception his Scottish concert programme received from a musical audience mostly composed of Glasgow visitors, on Tuesday last. Misses Young, Jackson, and Smith sang a variety of gems of Scottish song, which, with Dr. Machardy’s artistic accompaniments, were a delightful feature of the entertainment, and also a fine song, “Wallace the Brave,” by Dr. Bell, encores being frequent. Miss P. Smith accompanied her sister, and played a piano piece artistically. Miss Bryson, A.B.C.M; who has passed with honours the British College of Music exam, was presented with a diploma, A.B.C.M. She played a Scottish military march, and a Scottish rondo, which was encored. Miss Hamilton, 11 years of age, played with skill, “Cuckoo Waltz,” sang “The Laird o’ Cockpen,” for which she was encored, and also accompanied Dr. Machardy in “Freedom’s Flag.” Miss Murray, 11 years old, sang sweetly “I think of thee.” Miss H. Wright, a juvenile, played prettily the “Kype Waltz” and two accompaniments. Dr. Machardy in his comments on musical talent said that such juvenile exhibitions of artistic talent were unknown upon the Continent and that we do not require Germans to teach us music. Miss Wright played with nimble touch the “Spinning Wheel,” and sang “I lo’e na a laddie.” Dr. Machardy, whose piano playing, singing, and numerous remarks on our duty to our country and to ourselves in musical matters received great applause, is to be congratulated upon the success of his music.


Issue: Saturday, 25th May, 1918.


A Tribute to Scottish Music:


     Lady Margaret Scott, eldest daughter of the Duke of Buccleuch, who has been doing noble national work at the front, has accepted the dedication of a Scotch Mazurka, “Scots in Poland,” by Dr. Machardy, and wishes him success in his endeavour to popularise our country’s music.


Issue: Saturday, 1st June, 1918.



Dr. Machardy:


     Dr. Machardy, while cycling, was overtaken by a motorist last Monday, knocked down, and his cycle wrecked. He was to have given a Scottish Concert on 3rd June, but it has been postponed until his recovery from the injuries he received.


Issue: Saturday, 13th July, 1918.


Scottish Concert:


     Dr. Machardy gives a Scottish concert in Strathaven on Thursday of vocal and instrumental arrangements. The programme is a specially fine one, and should attract a large audience.


Issue: Saturday, 27th July, 1918.


Scottish Concert:


     Dr. Robert Machardy’s concert of his arrangements of Scottish music and original works was much enjoyed by an appreciative audience. Miss Baxter sang “British Volunteers and Freedom’s Flag” in fine style; Miss Hope displayed much skill in a Scotch mazurka, dedicated to Lady Margaret Scott, daughter to the Duke of Buccleuch, and Prince Charlie fantasia; Miss Bryson, A.B.C.M., was an efficient accompanist, and played a grand rondo and delightful Scotch fantasia; Miss Hamilton, a juvenile, was encored for her clever singing of “John Grumlie,” and played “Spinning Wheel with much skill; Miss McLaughlan played a beautiful Scotch waltz with artistic touch; Miss B. McLaughlan sang two songs, displaying a voice of good compass; Miss J. Hamilton, accompanied by Miss Gilchrist, 11 years old, gave a nice rendering of “Duncan Gray”; Mr Jackson, (violin) played, with Dr. Machardy, a fine Scotch duet for piano and violin; Mr Brown was encored for his graphic performance of “The Cuckoo Waltz.” Mr Murdoch, a talented boy, sang “The Laird o’ Cockpen,” and played “Empire Waltz.” Dr Machardy’s playing and singing received great applause. His Scottish concert was a high-class entertainment, unadulterated by anything German.


Issue, Saturday, 10th April, 1920


A Scottish Composer:


     Glasgow is soon to have an opportunity of hearing “The Shade of Burns,” opera libretto and music by Dr Robert Machardy, LL.D., who is a Jacobite Scotsman on both sides of the family. His great-grandfather was a captain in Prince Charlie’s army, his mother was a descendant of the Jacobite Macdonald’s. The Highland bagpipes has been introduced as an orchestral instrument by Dr. Machardy in several of his operas. He has made a special study of Scottish music so as to produce music characteristic of his native land, the result being operas - “The Shade of Burns,” “Prince Charlie,” “Laird O’ Lea,” “Heather Hall”, many piano and violin pieces with Scotch airs as subjects and arrangements of songs with characteristic accompaniments. His progressive eight singing and progressive pianoforte tutor and other works have run through many editions. In his boyhood he went to Australia with his parents, who had possessions in land in Victoria, and went with them on hunting expeditions in the bush. He received his first instructions in music from a resident governess, and later from Dr. Rogers and Professor Goodwin. He has studied harmony, counterpoint, figure and orchestration. Many of his poems, an essay on Musical Aesthetics etc., have been contributed to London and other journals. Three plays are also to his credit, Believing in inspiration from Nature, he resides near Strathaven close to the Lanarkshire moors. His favourite exercises are riding, driving, rowing and walking. He has a thorough-bred four-year old mare, a dog, donkey, goat etc. Dr. Machardy married Lady Felice Piaseski, (sic) of the noble house of Wielobysci, (sic) whose pedigree rolls back before the crusades. The principal seat of the late Marshal Wielobysci (sic) was Byten Castle, Volynin, Poland, and the other hereditary estates stretched far into the most favoured wheat lands in Europe. Part of those lands now form her Ladyship‘s appanage.



Issue, Saturday, 16th July, 1921.




     There died at Whitehill, Strathaven, on Friday, 8th July, Robert Machardy, LL.D., professor of music, at the age of 72.   The doctor had been ailing for about seven months, and in that time he suffered considerable pain. A native of Edinburgh, he was educated at the High School and University there, afterwards travelling very extensively. At an early age Dr Machardy showed a great love for music, especially the music of his native country, and when quite young he occupied the honorary position of organist in Edinburgh Cathedral. Impelled by an ever increasing passion, he decided to adopt music as a profession, so continued his studies under the great teachers of the continent in Paris, Vienna and elsewhere.


     Some of Dr Machardy’s best known published works are “Woodland Witch” (operetta), “Fairy Mother” (cantata for ladies voices)., “Progressive Pianoforte Playing” and “Progressive Sight Singing,” which have been standard works for many years. “Sancta Felice” (Sonata), “Karlus Waltzes,” “A Song of the Sea,” etc., all of which have been much commended by the press and musical papers of the country. Operas, numbering about 20 have been written by the doctor, and a few of them have been presented to the public of Strathaven, the parts on these occasions being taken by his pupils, who always made rapid strides under his tuition. As indicated, his special love was for native music, and this he has treated in such a manner as to make it classical. Unfortunately for the present generation, Dr Machardy was not sufficiently a business man to make arrangements with publishers, and so much of beautiful work still remains in manuscript. “His works live after him,” and like many geniuses who have lived before him, his name will be greater in death than in life.


Picture -
reproduced courtesy of
Willie Young, Strathaven


“Dr Machardy had all the qualities of a true gentleman, an ill word about him was never heard, for wherever he went his great talent and loveable nature secured respect and friendship”.


“His works live after him.”


     Dr Machardy had all the qualities of a true gentleman, an ill word about him was never heard, for wherever he went his great talent and loveable nature secured respect and friendship. His pupils were many and scattered out to a radius of 30 miles. Dr Machardy was an apostle of the “simple life.” On a holding at Whitehill he erected a wooden house, and in the enclosure had accommodation for horses, goats, pigs, fowls, etc., with which he delighted to work. An adept at gardening, he cultivated quite a large piece of ground, rearing vegetables for domestic use and growing a great profusion of flowers. Often he would take from the field or road side a specimen which appealed to him, and carefully tend and train it into fullness of beauty. On Monday he was laid to rest with great simplicity in his wife’s lair in Warriston Cemetery, Edinburgh, the cortege being attended by a few friends and neighbours. The epithet of those who knew him best would be “Here lies a nobleman.” Dr Machardy is survived by his wife, Lady Felice, Baroness Wielobysci, (sic) for whom much sympathy is felt.



Ground Plan of Warriston Cemetery, Edinburgh.

Section 'N' is the location of Lair No. N153 - the burial place of Robert Machardy.



      The ground-plan of Warriston Cemetery, Edinburgh, is reproduced by kind permission of  Warriston Cemetery & Mortonhall Crematorium, Edinburgh. The Krasinski memorial above the grave served to initially deepen the mystery surrounding the last-resting place of Robert Machardy. The Krasinski memorial commemorates a Polish expatriate hero Count Valerian Krasinski. Further investigation by Mortonhall Crematorium revealed the date of purchase of the said lair and the name of the purchaser. The records at Mortonhall confirmed it was purchased on 24th December, 1855 by none other than Dr Dionysius Wielobycki who made payment on 17th August, 1856.  Count Valerian Krasinski of 22 Albany Street, Edinburgh was buried there on 26th December, 1855 at a depth of seven feet, and there too Robert Machardy, Strathaven, was buried  on 11th July, 1921 at a depth of five feet. Significantly, the inscription on the imposing obelisk above the grave of these two reads only:


      “Sacred to the memory of Count Valerian Krasinski. A Polish Patriot illustrious by birth, by intellect, by nobility of nature. Author of numerous works on the history of his country . Through life a zealous champion of her rights and independence. He died in exile pleading her cause. December 22 1855. Erected by his grateful countrymen.”  Significantly, on 26th June, 1975 there was also placed in position by the Polish Evangelical Church of Glasgow a memorial plaque which reads “To commemorate 120 years since the death of Valerian Krasinski who died in exile. In memory of a great patriot and good man who died far from his homeland. Erected on 26th June, 1975 in his great memory.” The fact that Robert Machardy was buried within this lair confirms the significant detail recorded in his obituary published in the Hamilton Advertiser: "he was buried in a lair belonging to his widow".  Clearly, Lady Felice inherited the title deed to this lair from the estate of her late first husband Doctor Dionysius Wielobycki. The fact that he lies buried with Count Krasinski seems to suggest that Lady Felice looked upon Robert Machardy as her hero.


List of known compositions by Doctor Robert Machardy, LL.D.,


1. The Shipwreck. Song (begins: “The sea with imperial splendour”)

     (Poetry by H.S. Clark.) / (by Machardy, Robert). (1876)


2. The Soldier. (Song.) (1876)


3. What is there in that beaming eye. (Song.) (1876)


4. A Song of the Sea. (begins: “Dark and dismal”) … Written by D.R. Williamson / (by         

    Machardy, Robert). (1879)


5. Funeral March for the Piano.  (1880)


6. Hymn of the Seasons. Cantatina (begins: “O thou that dwell’st”).

    Poetry by D.R. Williamson. / (by Machardy, Robert). (1880)


7. The Jackdaw. Four-Part Song, words by Cowper. / (by Machardy, Robert). (1902?)


8. The Shade of Burns. Dramatic poem: Homage to the immortal bard.


9.  Mazurka. “Scots in Poland”


10. Woodland Witch (operetta)


11. Fairy Mother (cantata for ladies’ voices).


12. Progressive Pianoforte Playing.


13. Progressive Sight Singing


14. Sancta Felice (Sonata)


15. Karlus Waltzes


16. Operas numbering about 20 - including The Shade of Burns.


17. Setting by Gerald W. Crawford of “ Liberty ”, by Robert McHardy (sic) (early 20th cent), in MS.21973. fol.69.(13)





By Robert Machardy.


Paper covers, 28. Cloth, 3.s. Words, 3d.




" The Woodland Witch (Dramatic Cantata is by I'ulii-it MacHarly. Mr. Machardy's setting of the text is melodious, vocal, and musician-like in its treatment throughout. We may especially commend the soprano solo,  ‘Loyal Love '; 'The Appeal'(an expressive solo), and a simple

Andante, 'The Allegory,' concluding with a brief chorus. It is announced that the orchestral parts are published; and, by the frequent indications of the instruments for which passages are written, we can imagine that the orchestration forms an important portion of the composition. The pianoforte arrangement, however, is good, and fairly under the hands of a moderately advanced performer'." — Musical Times.


"The members of the Peebles Choral Union gave a performance, in character, of Mr. Robert Machardy's, dramatic cantata, The Woodland Witch, in the Chambers Institution, on Tuesday evening, to a very large and highly appreciative audience. The I'etb.'cs Amateur Dramatic

Club lent their scenery and stage fittings for the occasion, and these were put up in a very tasteful manner by Mr. Henry Kerr, junior, and proved a considerable attraction. When the curtain rose, a gay scene was disclosed to the view of the audience, the members of the Union, numbering between twenty and thirty voices, being seen occupying the platform, with the bride and bridegroom in front, and all wearing marriage favours, Miss M. Williamson appeared as Ella the bride ; Mr. Ewing as Harold the bridegroom ; Miss M. Watson as Elsie, a reputed

witch; and Mr. Green as the aged and venerable pastor. Each of these ladies and gentlemen sustained their several parts to perfection, and were rewarded, as they well deserved, with repeated rounds of applause. The choruses were all exceedingly well executed, and gave good

evidence of the care bestowed in their preparation. So highly gratified were the audience with the manner in which the piece had been performed, that when the curtain fell at the close, the artists were recalled, and had to repeat the bridal march chorus with which the cantata concludes,

and this was followed by loud and prolonged app'ause. The whole entertainment was much enjoyed, and Mr. Machardy and the members of the Choral Union may well be congratulated on their appearance on Tuesday evening, which, in every respect, may safely be characterized as

the most successful that has ever been made since the society was established. The performance of The Woodland Witch was a great success in itself, and was gone through without a single hitch of any kind occurring, while it was evident that it was very highly enjoyed and appreciated by the audience." — Peebles-shire Advertiser.



"Peebles Choral Society. — The members of this flourishing society gave their annual concert on Tuesday evening. There was a large and fashionable audience. Mr. Robert Machardy conducted. The first part of the programme consisted of the performance of Mr. Machardy's dramatic cantata. The Woodland Witch. The solos were sung by members of the

society, and were well received ; while the choruses were rendered with

fine effect, the time and tune being excellent. The whole performance reflected great credit alike on the conductor and the members of the society, and at the close there were loud calls for Mr. Machardy." — Daily/ Revieto,


"Peebles Choral Union. — The members of this society gave a performance of Mr. R. Machardy's cantata. The Woodland Witch, in the Keenation Hall of the Hydropathic Establishment, on Wednesday evening. The magnificent hall was well filled by a gay assembly, about one-third of whom were from the town. The curtain rose on the wedding scene at half-past

eight o'clock. The choruses were given with great spirit and effect. The principal characters were taken by the same ladies and gentlemen as at Peebles, who may be said to have excelled their former performance; and, being more at home in their parts, they acted as if to the life."

— Peebles-shire Advertiser.


'Mr. Robert Machardy, an Edinburgh composer, has just given to the world a dramatic cantata, entitled The Woodland Witch, by which his reputation is likely to be increased. The words of the cantata are admirably adapted for musical treatment." — The People's Journal.(14)


 I found a dedication in a book to "Her Ladyship Felice (in her own right), Baroness Wielobycka" (sic).

Then came the Scottish Monthly Musical Times (1876-87) edited by Robert McHardy (sic) for Wood & Co.'

(Henry Farmer, A History of Music in Scotland (London: Hinrichsen, 1947), p442.)


Edinburgh and Leith Post office directory (1880-1) Robert Machardy, "pianist and singing master" 72 Gilmore Place Edinburgh (1881-2)  3 Rosslyn Street Edinburgh.


     In 1921, the people of Strathaven learned that Doctor Machardy lay dangerously ill with little hope of recovery, and in an act of mercy, the sum of £70 was raised, and from which regular weekly doles were released to assist the distressed couple. On 8th July 1921, Doctor Machardy sadly died and his remains laid to rest in Edinburgh’s Warriston Cemetery.


     Following the death of Robert Machardy, the future of his widow was bleak beyond words. Living alone in the hut her plight became increasingly perilous. She had her animals and poultry to tend and only a ferocious Airedale terrier named ’Voyak’ for companionship. Living in this self-enforced isolation she quickly became disoriented and, by means unknown to others at the time, armed herself with three pistols and a couple of what were described as formidable daggers. It seems no-one could approach the hut without being seen by its inmate, and if truth be told few dared to approach the place since, from a series of loopholes constructed at various points of the hut itself, she was able to cover any intruder with her firearms.


     The situation of Lady Felice had become untenable and could not be allowed to continue. Matters came to a head when an approach was made to the Parish Council of Avondale for financial assistance, and it was this turn of events that resulted in Lady Felice being removed into the care of Hartwood Mental Asylum. Several newspaper reports of the day demonstrate that this was not achieved without a scene of considerable drama. According to one such report “When the officers called at the hut with a motor car awaiting near at hand, the ominous growls from the watch-dog Airedale terrier ’Voyak’ somewhat unnerved the officials, and it was only after some considerable persuasion that Lady Felice placed the dog in another area of the hut. On being asked to take her seat in the motor car, the Baroness protested vigorously, but latterly she was persuaded to do as suggested.” 12 Her removal to Hartwood hastened the end of the life of Strathaven's ‘Russian Princess’ ere two weeks had elapsed her troubled life was over. In the words of one local journalist “her removal to Hartwood made her the victim of one of the cruellest turns in fortunes wheel ever known.” 13


Hamilton Advertiser: Issue,  Saturday, 3rd June, 1922


Death of Mrs Robert Machardy:


     The curtain rang down on one of life’s tragedies in Hartwood Asylum on Monday morning when Lady Felice Kennedy Piaseski, (sic) in her own right Baroness Wielobysci, (sic)  passed away at the age of eighty-three years. Daughter of Marshall Piaseski, (sic) she was born at Byten’ in 1839. Poland at that time had come under the yoke of the Russian, and the Piaseski (sic) were a family of great importance in the country. Lady Felice was educated under private tuition, and celebrated masters of Paris and Vienna. The war of the ‘60’s saw her father leading the Polish armies against the hereditary foe, and in one engagement the Marshal and his only son were killed. Compelled, as the result of the victory of the Russians, to leave the country, she resided for a considerable time at Paris, being afterwards sent to Edinburgh to the care of a compatriot, Count Wielobysci, (sic) whom she subsequently married. Wielobysci, (sic) for professional reasons, did not use his title, being in practice a medical man. Still the possessor of great wealth, Lady Felice lived with her husband in great style in the capital. Passionately devoted to the study of music, her ladyship took a great interest in a young musician and composer of rising fame Robert Machardy, who at the time was organist in Edinburgh Cathedral. Realising that this young man possessed great capabilities, she shortly after the death of Dr. Wielobysci, (sic) married Machardy, and toured with him through all the Continental colleges of music. Meanwhile, the fortunes of the family had suffered considerably, and at the completion of the tour the couple came to this country and settled down in the Lesmahagow district, where Robert Machardy became a teacher of music. Twelve years ago the couple came to the Strathaven district, and here, as before at Lesmahagow, they preferred to live in a house of their own construction in the centre of a field and surrounded by a barbed wire entanglement, within which several savage dogs roamed at will. The existence within this enclosure was a peculiar one. Here they bred their own goats and fowls, reared their own pigs and raised food for their stock and themselves being to all intents and purposes . . .  and self-supporting. This went on till about a year ago, when it became known that Dr. MacHardy was lying seriously ill in the hut with little prospect of betterment. A subscription was raised among his acquaintances, and a sum which was to be made out to him in weekly doles had been raised, when on 8th July last, the doctor died.


     Following the death of her husband, the trust funds were applied to the keeping of her ladyship until they were exhausted. The old age pension was then applied for, but it was found insufficient for her needs, and so this one-time lady of great fortune, associate of the nobility of all Europe - this lady who had courage flatly to decline the rank of countess offered to her (maybe in a conciliatory mood by the late Czar Nicholas of Russia) - this lady whose wealth was at one time almost beyond computation, ultimately came under the Parish Council of Avondale and less than a fortnight ago was removed by them to Hartwood Asylum. The only living thing which remained behind after Dr. Machardy’s death was an ill-bred dog known as ‘Voyak’ Lady Felice was often heard to declare that when ‘Voyak’ died she died. On Wednesday, 6th inst., the dog was shot. On Monday the 8th, the woman died. So began the myth making of Strathaven’s Russian Princess.


     Significantly, no trace could be found of  the subsequent marriage of Lady Felice to Robert Machardy in the civil registration records of New Register House, Edinburgh.  I. therefore, came to the conclusion that either their 'marriage' was never solemnised or, alternatively, solemnised either in England or on the continent. However, given the evidence of Count Wielobycki’s death in 1882, his widow’s marriage to Robert Machardy could only have been solemnised sometime after that date. Copy of the marriage certificate between Lady Felice and Count Wielobycki was obtained from the Public Records Office, Kew, while the death certificates for Count Wielobycki, Robert Machardy, and Lady Felice were obtained from New Register House, Edinburgh, courtesy of my friend William Fleming, Historian and Genealogist, Lanark. 


The ‘princess’ story as handed down to Hugh Steele, Cumbernauld.


     Hugh Steele, who as a youth worked as a farm-hand at Chapel Farm, recalled a version of events related to him by old Tom Currie of Chapel as follows: “a Scottish concert pianist who went by the name of Machardy built a foundation and set of floorboards, moved his grand piano onto it, and built a house around this, where he and his wife lived - so the local story goes - I could show you the very spot where it was claimed to be - right beside a bit of grazing pasture which I knew well. His wife was thought to have been a Russian ιmigrι who had fled the revolution, paranoid of being tracked down by the Bolsheviks. The husband died quite suddenly (must have been in the 1920s) and she would not let police nor anyone near the house. The house was fiercely protected by their Alsatian dog, called ‘Voya and in the midst of the crisis, the police asked the farmer at Chapel Farm, Mr Currie, to shoot the dog (from a position on the skylight) because he had been a sniper in World War I. Tom Currie, therefore, climbed up on to the roof of the hut and shot the dog so that the police could gain access.


     That’s the story. It came out one night in 1959, over teatime, before the evening milking, when a group of us talked politics with old Tom Currie . This was at the height of the Cold War. The drift of conversation within the group prompted farmer Tom to talk about the Machardy’s. Tom  (then about 61 years of age) claimed Mrs Machardy was paranoid about the Russians and their Secret Police.  I remember distinctly, that his son, also named Tom, who was there that day remarked on what a nice name ‘Voyak’ was.


     The only other abiding  memory I have about the story of the Machardy’s is of Mr Currie saying that when they (the Machardy’s) took the pony and trap into Strathaven, Mr Machardy would do all the shopping while Mrs Machardy, the so-called ‘Russian Princess‘, remained seated aboard the trap, always dressed in black and heavily veiled, and never speaking with anyone.


      In 1959, as a lad of only fourteen, Hugh Steele, arrived at Chapel Farm seeking work on the land. The song ’The Farmer’s Boy’ might well have been on his lips. I leave Hugh to tell his story of his work experience with farmer Tom Currie in his own words as only he can tell it!



The Farmer’s Boy.




     In 1959, at the age of fourteen, I left school. I was a bit of an ‘under achiever’ at my secondary  – to be brutally honest, I was a lazy individual and a bit dreamy, I wanted to get away from that regime and see the outside world. (I picked up my higher education years later at night school courses etc).


     However, my school-friend and I were very fond of animals and wildlife, and we both were determined to work with animals and be close to nature, so we scoured the ‘Scottish Farmer’ newspaper ads to see if we could get some employment working in the country – either in farming or forestry – or anything ‘outdoors’!  So we sought out and replied to adverts and went to many interviews together . The farmers were not too keen on

employing city boys. My friend managed to get a job on the Garscube Estate Veterinary School in Bearsden, as a ‘byre man’s helper’, meanwhile I had applied for an advertised  job as a farmer’s boy at Chapel Farm, Strathaven.


     Initially, the ‘city boy’ image was not too favourable, but my father had taken me to the interview, (he probably wanted to check out what I was getting into!) and he managed to persuade them that I was keen to learn, and asked them to ‘try me out’ for a month or so. So, there began two of the most interesting and stimulating years of my life. Someone asked me what my first night in the bothy was like – the city boy in the country.  Well, I had done a lot of camping and youth hostelling before, and that night I was so excited at what the next days would bring - I rather relished it! This was my first independent step on the way to adulthood.


     The next morning brought a loud chap on the door at 5am – ‘Up ye get’! And I hurriedly dressed and Tam and I went out to get the herd (the ‘kye’) in for the morning milking. I was amazed at how obediently the kye would come to the gate at the shout of ‘Pyo pyo pyo pyo pyo!’ and the two dogs, Don and Tweed, (both named after Mr Currie’s favourite fishing rivers) would fan out to round up any stragglers, but I’ll come to this later.


     The owners – Mr Thomas Currie and his wife (‘Nelly’ he called her) took me in and accepted me as one of the family. It was a very warm household. Their son, Tom, (Tam) a young man of twenty three then, was a most kind and inspiring person – he just treated me as ‘one of the lads’ – we smoked (fashionable in those days!) and told jokes and he taught me so many things. He was a good friend. This was, to a boy fresh out of school, most impressive - to be accepted as an equal by a ‘big bloke’ like that.


    My initial weekly wage was Two Pounds Five Shillings (£2.25) but that went up on my fifteenth birthday to Two Pounds Ten Shillings (Riches!). My ‘schooling’ in dairy farming was intensive, strict, but never harsh... I learned all about the milking and handling of cattle, and all the salient points of their husbandry – I helped at calving, sat up with sows when  giving birth, and helped with the castration of young pigs. And, I learned how to keep a very caring eye on the livestock, checking for a limp or any other sign of distress. 


     This ‘caring for animals’ was right up my street. I also learned how to handle a tractor – and take it to bits if need be!  - and the various mechanised implements in the cultivation of the land (reversing a wide wheeled hay rake is no joke). I hope I am not being immodest if I say that I absorbed all this knowledge with great enthusiasm. I was also very interested in the seasonal crop events and I have many happy memories of cold frosty mornings under a glowing Winter sky. It was all really very beautiful.


      Looking back, this all sounds like a jolly hockey sticks outing on a Youth Training Scheme – but nothing could be further from the truth : You were a fully paid-up member of the team, and the family, and you had to pull your weight. Nae excuses, nae ‘sick lines’! Influenza and toothache were treated  with  contempt – you didn’t even mention it – and you got your head down and got on with the work. You shared the good things that were going, but you also had to be, in today’s jargon, ‘proactive’.  Many a hard day’s graft was put in trying to get the hay bales off the fields or corn stooked before a change in the weather, and the turnips didn’t shaw themselves! I hated that job. You were back broken with the constant stooping, your legs and arms were soaking from the shaws, you were cold and miserable, and you also had some nasty cuts where a  lapse of concentration would give your hand a whack with the sickle. (I’m trying to remember the Lanarkshire name for a sickle hook, but my memory fails me.)


     The farm was laid out in the mediaeval ‘strip’ pattern – arable and grazing land below, and rougher grazing up on the Kype Hill. I’ll try to describe a typical day. A dairy farmer’s life is dominated by the twice daily milking, and everything – everything – revolved around that – no Christmas nor bank holidays! We started at 5am – the milk lorry’s arrival about 7.30 was our deadline. We had to meet that. Once we got the kye in, we would machine milk them on a production line routine, but you had to ‘strip’ the udders towards the end of the machine’s process so that no milk was left in the udder. You crouched down and gently stroked the udder downwards to keep the milk flowing. The milk, you then took into the milk house and poured it into a high basin (the ‘beign abin’ in Scots, meaning ‘the basin above’) this trickled down over a corrugated stainless steel frame ( like a washing board) which had a constant supply of cold water running through it in order to cool the milk. This trickled into a twelve gallon milk dult, ready for collection.


This routine was slightly different in Winter, as there was the added task of keeping the kye fed with hay and protein cake. Oh yes – and final task was always the muckin’ oot, and washing down the ‘grip’. These byres were highly hygienic, and a government inspector would often take ‘a nosey in’ to make sure you were fit to trade. You had a Milk Licence to honour.


     During the milking, we could nip in individually to the dwelling house for a plate of porridge (I got to quite like salty parritch!) and after the milk float had gone, we would take the kye back out, then go indoors for a bacon and egg scoff. We always ate together as a family round the kitchen table, and Mrs Currie’s big feeds  were marvellous! She did a lovely Roast! (I can taste it yet!)  You didn’t worry about getting fat – you soon worked it off! Lunch was about 12.30 – 1.00 pm and I can’t remember a typical meal, but it was very substantial. In the evenings, once we got the kye settled, we would have a great three course dinner before the milking.


     In the evening, Mrs Currie always brought a tray of supper up to my bothy – this was a flask of tea, a couple (or more!) of sandwiches, and a cake or two. Looking back on it now, this was a very kind act by these people.  They didn’t need to do that, but I was cared for as much as the animals. However, between all this, we had the land to work – all of it, of course, concentrated on the maintenance of the cattle herd.  Ploughing,  raking,  sowing, haymaking, harvesting etc. When we weren’t  busy with these – there were many ‘slack’ days, so  you had to be ‘proactive’ and find wee jobs ‘aboot the hoose’. (There were plenty: cleaning gutters, painting a shed etc) I naively, thought that on a slack day I could plonk myself down with a book and I did so. Well, the rollicking I got for this! --- ‘If there’s naethin; tae dae – go and FIND somethin’ tae dae!’ - Whoops! Another thing I got a rollicking for was leaving an implement in a field. I was harrowing a field and I saw the Gaffer (Mr Currie) waving me in for lunch. I unhitched the chain harrows and drove up to the house. Well, I was told in no uncertain terms that you always take an implement up to the gate and unhitch it there, as it looked tidy and methodical. They were concerned about ‘what the neebors would think’.  This was no parochialism, I think it was a kind of unspoken etiquette among the farming community.


     The only contact we had with sheep was that we used to ‘Winter’ about 150 beasts up on Kype Hill for a sheep farmer in the Lothians. The sheep largely took care of themselves, but I was charged to take a walk up the hill every couple of days, give them a count, and make sure of their welfare. Occasionally a sheep would be found upside down! Because of their flat backs, if a sheep rolled over, it was like an insect – it couldn’t struggle to right itself! I yanked a couple over on to their feet in my time. The ungrateful beasts never even said thank you!


     Working in those days was very rough and ready – nowadays the Health and Safety Executive would have a fit! We never used goggles, steel toecaps, nor ear defenders. A merry band of kids at hay time all bouncing about on a trailer, or sitting along the wings (mudguards) of a tractor. We took some risks then, but we never realised the implications. No ‘risk assessment’ in those days! Often, when Tam and I went into Strathaven for supplies, bags of fertiliser, etc, once we cleared the town, Tam would let me drive the tractor and trailer home.  A 15 year old unlicensed to drive, bowling along the Queen’s Highway!


     Days off : We stopped at 12 noon on Saturday, and always took the full Sunday off – mind you, the twice daily milking was still carried out, so you couldn’t stray too far away from home. Once a month, I got a whole weekend off, so I used to go home to my parents’ house in Glasgow. Not much of a social life – Tam often invited me to ‘the dancin’ in Strathaven of a Saturday night, but I was a bit shy, and always declined.  I actually enjoyed taking long walks up into the hills, and going down to the Spectacle Falls. I wasn’t at all ‘lonely’. I have always enjoyed my solitude.


     There was no shortage of ‘characters’ in the area, and I have lifelong memories of them: There was Bill Lambie (‘Buff’ Lambie) in Windhill, and his ‘boy’ – 70 years old! – Auld Donil’ he was a veteran of WWI, and a character with a great sense of humour. He had won many awards and horse brasses at ploughing competitions. I liked him. It seems Buff Lambie was a great hand with horses. I didn’t know that at the time, (horses were pretty obsolete by the 1950s). There was Willie Felch and his wife who stayed in a cottage just off our road end. I think he had been a German POW who married a ‘local lassie’ it was certainly very common (in Ayrshire) in those days. They were a lovely couple – there was never a shortage of laughter in their house!  Willie was a dairyman at Castlebrocket Farm. Castlebrocket reminds me – they were the first farm in the area to own a big blue Fordson Major tractor, quite a status symbol. Their ‘boy’ was a nice young chap with the nickname ‘Buster’ he was a very nice big lad.


Castlebrocket Farm - (Year 2010)



“At a point overlooking the beautiful valley of Avon they set about the construction of a house of their own”.



     There were also great itinerants, like the two road menders, the various agricultural reps (I remember ‘Cheesy’ Hamilton was a very refined and cultured chap) and a scrap man who used to pick up all our obsolete machinery. I remember one Victorian ‘tattie howker’ machine he took away which would be worth a fortune to some museum now!


     Every Monday, ‘Johnny the Butcher’ used to call in his van with our meat supplies.  He always came about our teatime and, after giving our dogs and cats a titbit, he would sit down with a cup of tea and regale us with stories – some of them a bit ‘blue’ but all of them so funny.


     Mr Tom Currie himself, was a most gentle man. He had seen some bad things in WWI. He was a sniper with the Cameronians  - and it was he who told me of his first hand experiences of Doctor Machardy and his ‘Russian Princess’ wife. How he had to shoot the dog, 'Voyak', and the tragedy of their sad lives, living in such straitened circumstances, after the life they must have enjoyed in the capitals of Europe.  His account left a great impression on me.


     The best times of all were the ‘Big Mills’. This was a great communal event. These were the days before combine harvesters. The corn was cut, stooked for drying during harvest, then transferred to giant stacks (15 to 20 ft high) in the stack yard. Building stacks was a highly skilled job, it was really only the ‘old boys’ that had the skill to do it. It was like building a thatched structure which would withstand the rain and the elements.


     The separation of the corn, chaff, and straw took place during Winter. The local agricultural contractor (ours was Willie Dunbar – I liked him, he had a great sense of humour) would bring in the Big Mill – this was a huge wooden contrivance – there is one of these ‘Bamford Mills’ in Glasgow Transport Museum – which was belt driven from the tractor flywheel (in earlier days, from a steam traction engine) It took about 12 (?) people to keep it fed and cleared and the products bagged and bailed. However, at Chapel, we were in a syndicate with Struther, Strutherhead, Windhill, and Bonnanhill, and on an appointed day in winter, we’d all pile in together and hire the big threshing mill to do one farm at a time – Chapel this month, Struther the next, then Strutherhead the next month, Windhill the month after that, Bonnanhill the month after etc. And, of course, the ‘host’ farm would see to the feeding of all the hands who were drafted in. It was hard, backbreaking work, pitch forking sheaves all day trying to get 12 stacks threshed before sundown, but they were most convivial times, with lots of laughter and practical jokes, and occasionally a bit of drama, if you got near the bottom of a stack and a rats’ nest exploded – the farm dogs used to go wild when this happened! The communal meals afterwards, too, were as convivial as wedding feasts – I always remember Willie Dunbar winding up the farm kids.  Every time I see a portrait of Johann Sebastian Bach, I think of Willie (without Bach’s wig of course!) he was of much the same build and facial resemblance.


     These are my most immediate memories. I left the job after two years – I was approaching seventeen and the life was a bit isolated for a young lad, so I left in order to explore the next events that might happen to me. That life, though, ‘made’ me. The hard work, the fresh air and the marvellous feeding that Mrs Currie gave us – we ate so well! I’m sure all that set up my health and the robust constitution which I enjoy to this day.

I am surprised that I have nothing bad to say of anyone from these days. They were all, genuinely, good wholesome people, as I have described them.  Maybe there were some nasty folks about, but probably my mind has erased the bad people and only remembered

the good.



1)   Apart from a two-year stint after the farm with a council Landscaping Dept, I never worked the soil in my later working life. I always had ‘dead end’ office jobs - Shipping Clerk, Engineering Store man etc.  All lousy jobs, but they kept me afloat so that I could indulge in my lifelong passion for music. I have written quite a lot of music for orchestra and chamber groups etc and have had some of it played to my great satisfaction. So, I can’t complain.


2)   In the Glasgow Herald of February 16th 2010 there was a chilling article by Doug Marr about the future of the world’s food production. I had occasion to visit the Strathaven area (after 50 years!) and was shocked at how dead and barren that countryside has become. The Dairy industry seems to have all but collapsed, so that many of the farms in the Kype Valley are now occupied as fashionable country retreats. What a waste of good arable land! Glasgow has this potential breadbin (and tattie and turnip reservoir) right on its doorstep! You would think someone with a bit of sense in the government would recognise this?


     Doug Marr quotes Lord Cameron on the coming food crisis : ‘We are only nine meals away from anarchy’. Worth thinking about..


     The following sketch of Chapel Farm as I remember it  from 1959 was drawn from memory circa 1970/71 while living  in London and longing for the great outdoors. An old and happy memory of my life at Chapel I was keen to revive.



    If you imagine a vertical cursor line going from left to right, the buildings running from top to bottom are identifiable as follows:-

?         Tractor Shed.

?         Hen-houses, my bothy, with kennels in front.

?         Storage shed, but it was occupied by battery hen cages.

?         A free henhouse under the big tree. Attached to the battery hen shed were the original

?         stables, used as storage for animal feed.

?         The dwelling house.

?         Pig and calf rearing houses behind the dwelling house, then the Byre (I see I forgot the Milk house extension.

?         The hay shed.

?         Stirk and hiefer byres.

?         The stockyard, where all the ‘big mill’ threshing took place in winter

?         The scribble of trees (top of sketch) was the line which led down to Windhill Farm.


An aerial view of Chapel as a working farm




 Mr Tom Currie and his wife Helen (nee Maider)



 Tom Currie with his father Tom’s dogs ‘Don’ and ’Tweed’.

According to Hugh Steele they were named after Mr Currie’s favourite fishing rivers.



Young Tom had an abiding  passion for cars.




Chapel Farm as it appears (year 2010).



Tom Currie, grandson of farmer Tom Currie of Chapel Farm

    Pictured at the entrance to St. Oswald Chapel - years 2010



     On a bright February day in 2010, Tom Currie, farmer John Howatson and Hugh Steele met with the author to share their memories of the 'princess' story and life at Chapel with author Bob Currie.


Left to right: Tom Currie, Hugh Campbell and Strathaven farmer John Howatson

Hartwood Cemetery

     In a secluded enclosure within the grounds of Hartwood Hospital there is a cemetery where there are interred 1,255 bodies, all but three of whom were patients of Hartwood Hospital. Some were private patients, but the overwhelming majority are recorded as being pauper lunatics. Each lair is five feet deep and holds two bodies, and it is perhaps a reflection of Victorian attitudes that males and females were never interred in the same lair. The use of Hartwood Hospital Cemetery ceased in 1952 when the burial ground reached its full capacity. Each grave tells its own tragic story, but there is one in particular that holds a desperately sad yet romantic tale. It was reported at the time under the headline:


‘Sad romance of Baroness and Scots Musician’.  


     “The curtain rang down on one of life's tragedies in Hartwood Asylum this morning (Monday 21 May 1922) when Lady Felice Kennedy Piaseski' (sic) in her own right Baroness Wielobysci, (sic) passed away at the age of 83 years. Daughter of Marshal Piaseski, (sic) she was born at Byten in 1839. Poland at that time had come under the yoke of the Russian, and the Passkey’s (sic) were a family of great importance in the country. Lady Felice was educated under private tuition, and celebrated masters of Paris and Vienna. The war of the '60's saw her father leading the Polish armies against the hereditary foe, and in one engagement the Marshal and his only son were killed."


     Lady Felice was compelled to leave her country as a result of the Russian's victory. She eventually settled in Edinburgh where she married a compatriot Count Wielobysci (sic) and where she is known to have lived in great style. At one time her wealth was "almost beyond computation", and she remained a lady of great fortune and an associate of the nobility of all Europe. Following the death of her husband the Count, she married a young Scottish musician and composer of rising fame, Robert Machardy (later Dr Machardy, Teacher of Music), whom she met when he was the organist in Edinburgh Cathedral. The fortunes of the family suffered considerably as the income from the Polish estates diminished under the Czar's oppressive regime, and the couple moved first to Lesmahagow and then eventually to Strathaven. They lived in a timber hut of their own construction in the centre of a field and surrounded by a barbed wire fence, within which several savage dogs roamed at will. Rightly or wrongly, the couple believed themselves to be under the surveillance of the Russian Secret Police, and indeed claimed numerous attempts were made on their lives. The outbreak of the Great War, in 1914, brought complete financial catastrophe as the scant income from her Polish estates entirely ceased. On the 8th of July 1921, Dr Machardy died. Using part of the trust funds raised by acquaintances, the Baroness had her husband interred in grand style in Warriston Cemetery in Edinburgh. When the trust funds ran out, she applied for the old age pension but this proved woefully inadequate for her needs. She eventually came under the care of

the Parish Council of Avondale and less than a fortnight before her death she was removed by them to Hartwood Asylum. She is interred in lair 185 and is recorded in the cemetery records as a pauper lunatic.” (15)


Grave Tales



     On 24th December, 1855 Dr. Dionysius Wielobycki purchased a grave plot Lair No. N.153 in Warriston Cemetery, Edinburgh in which were interred on 26th December, 1855, the remains of Polish hero Valerian Krasinski (a compatriot and friend).


     In 1882 following the death of her first husband, Dionysius Wielobycki, Lady Felice purchased a grave-plot; Lair No. M-147 in Grange Cemetery, Edinburgh in which were interred on 21st November, 1882 the remains of the said Dionysius.


     Sixty-six years after the death of Polish hero Valerian Krasinski, Lady Henrietta Felice Kennedy Wielobycki, widow of Dionysius, interred the remains of Robert Machardy in the above-mentioned Lair No N.153 in Warriston Cemetery, Edinburgh.


     Following the death, on 21 May, 1922, of Lady Henrietta Felice Kennedy Wielobycki (Mrs Machardy) maiden surname Pasiski, (sic) Baroness in her own right, the authorities at Hartwood Asylum, Lanarkshire interred her remains in a pauper’s grave within the cemetery of Hartwood Asylum.




Warriston Cemetery, Edinburgh, Lair No. N. 153 - burial plot of Polish Count Valerian Krasinski where the remains of Dr. Robert Machardy are also interred (Pictures courtesy of Willie Young and Donald MacKinnon, Strathaven).




Memorial to Dionysius Wielobycki, erected by his widow Lady Felice, above Lair No. M147 - Grange Cemetery, Edinburgh.

(Picture courtesy of Grange Cemetery/Mortonhall Crematorium Edinburgh).





“These are very interesting maps. Whitehill is still marked on the present day map, but with no name, only showing a house. It is probably the same place that the Miller family resided in 1787 as Little Kype Farm lies just 1 mile south-west of it.”



(maps courtesy of William Fleming (Genealogist and Historian) Lanark. 29th January, 2010).


A substantial villa ‘Aftonlea’ now occupies the site of Whitehill. The Machardy’s crude dwelling was constructed further along the field.



The Baroness - The crude dwelling at Whitehill - Doctor Robert Machardy, LLD.





Miss Agnes Currie.

Tom Currie shot the ferocious dog 'Voyak'.


"Miss Agnes Currie, a sister of the farmer who carried milk and other things to the hut told me that on these occasions Lady Felice liked to refer to the times when she lived in affluent circumstances in Edinburgh."


According to Mr and Mrs Currie, the Baroness never did a hand’s turn in the hut. All the food was prepared by Mr Machardy. He did all the washing up and everything that required to be done was cheerfully performed by the former organist of the Edinburgh church. The devoted husband would not even permit his high-born wife to tie her own shoes. (16)







   Glasgow Weekly News: Issue - Saturday, June 3, 1922





Romance of Baroness Who Wedded Edinburgh Organist

and Lost Huge Fortune




     A Scottish romance, the central figures of which were a noted Edinburgh musician and poet and a Polish Baroness has come to a dramatic end this week by the death of the lady.


     Amazing to a degree is the story of how two such cultured and accomplished persons came to spend their life in a crudely constructed hut situated in a field a few miles from Strathaven, Lanarkshire. Nothing in fiction ever approached the poignancy of this couple’s romance.


     Lady Felice Kennedy Piaseski (sic) who, in her own right, was a Baroness, was formerly the possessor of vast wealth. The other central figure in the romance was Robert Machardy, a noted musician and dramatist, who was organist in an Edinburgh church at the time he met the Baroness, who was later to become his wife.


     The Baroness was the daughter of an Army Field-Marshal, and was born at a time when Poland had come under the yoke of the Czar, the family being of great importance in the country.


     Lady Felice was educated privately in Vienna and Paris.


     During the war of 1860 her father and only brother were killed in an engagement against the Russians. As a result of this change in the family fortunes, Lady Felice was compelled to leave the country and for a time she resided in Paris being afterwards sent to Edinburgh in the care of a compatriot Count Wielobysci (sic) whom she subsequently married. Although the Count did not use his title, Lady Felice and he lived in great style in the Scottish capital and their gorgeous equipage was a notable feature in the streets of the city.


     Always passionately devoted to the study of music, her Ladyship, at this time took a great interest in a Robert Machardy, who was a young musician and composer of rising fame, and on the death of her husband she and the Edinburgh organist were married.


     After touring through many continental colleges of music the couple returned to Scotland to find that the fortunes of the family had considerably suffered and they settled down in the Lesmahagow district of Lanarkshire where Dr. Machardy, now a Doctor of Music took in pupils.


     About a dozen years ago, circa 1910, the couple went to the Strathaven district and at a point overlooking the beautiful valley of Avon they set about the construction of a house of their own . . . Although at a spot remote from dwellings their hut was surrounded by a barbed wire entanglement within which a number of ferocious dogs roamed about at will.


     Robert Machardy was a great musician, but he was no architect or builder, and consequently the long rambling hut-like building forty-feet long, was crudely constructed. It looked as if bits had been added to it at different times, and some parts were higher than others giving it a grotesque and tumble-down appearance. This then was the home in which the couple elected to settle down in.


     Water had to be obtained from a neighbouring farmhouse while the domestic arrangements were of the most primitive kind, and goats, poultry, dogs, a donkey and a horse were all housed under the one roof!


     But the strange couple, now growing old, seemed to be quite content with their Robinson Crusoe existence, although it was well known in the district that they were very hard up. In order to add to the family income, Mr Machardy was in the habit of visiting pupils in Strathaven and giving them lessons on the piano, and the appearance of the ‘Doctor’ as he was called, and his titled spouse always excited comment amongst the townspeople.


     It was the couple’s custom to use a little two-seater wicker made carriage drawn by a pony, and at the time Mr Machardy was giving music lessons to the young folks of the place, his “lady of the hut” would sit in the little carriage and wait until the return of her husband.




     The war brought complete financial catastrophe on the curiously matched couple. The scanty income derived from the Polish estate entirely ceased and towards the end they were in dire privation. But husband and wife stuck to the tumble-down hut and were content with plain fare.


     Less than a year ago, the people of Strathaven learned that Dr. Machardy was lying seriously ill with little hopes of recovery, and kind friends subscribed something like £70 to assist the couple in their hour of distress. From this sum, weekly doles were made, until on 8th July last, the former Edinburgh organist (born 1848) passed away at the age of 73 years. His body was removed to Edinburgh where it was interred in Warriston Cemetery, two Strathaven lady teachers accompanying the remains to the Scots capital.


     Left alone in the hut with the exception of the poultry and a ferocious Airedale terrier named ‘Voyak’, the plight of the Baroness was almost heart-rending in its poignancy which heightened the eccentric traits owing to her lonely life in the hut. By some means she obtained three pistols and a couple of formidable daggers.


     No one could approach the long rambling hut from any side without being seen by the aged woman within. She had constructed loopholes at various points and from these she was able, if necessity arose, to cover any intruder with a revolver in a second or two.


     Surely one of the bitterest episodes in the chequered career of this one-time lady of treat fortune was after the old age pension had been applied for. This being found inadequate for her needs, she ultimately came under the Parish Council of Avondale, and a fortnight ago she was removed by them to Hartwood Asylum.


     That was not accomplished without a scene. When the officers called at the hut with a motor car awaiting near at hand, the ominous growls from the watch-dog tended to unnerve the officials, and it was only after some persuasion that Lady Felice placed the dog in another apartment of the hut. On being asked to take her seat in the motor the Baroness protested vigorously, but latterly she was persuaded to do as suggested.


Dr. Machardy Sends Works to the Queen.




     Lady Felice was not destined to live long in the asylum. In less than a fortnight her troubled life was over - the victim of one of the cruellest turns in fortune’s wheel ever known.


     I paid a visit to the hut situated on land tenanted by Mr Tom Currie, farmer, and was amazed that a couple of such refinement could have lived as many years in such a place.


     The hut is about forty feet long by about fifteen feet broad and is roughly constructed with felt laid on top of the walls to keep out the rain.


     The structure had three apartments one of which was used as a stable. The hut was not properly floored and the occupants must have experienced discomfort in moving about the place. Round peepholes, three or four inches in diameter, had been constructed in different parts of the shanty, and the place was littered with musical compositions and pamphlets dealing with music.


     In one place, I noticed a printed musical score, the work of Mr Machardy, It was entitled “The Serenaders’ Grand Opera Comique in three acts, libretto and music by Robert Machardy whose works have been accepted by H.M. The Queen.”


     On the little doors of the shanty tiny horse shoes had been nailed pointing to the occupants belief in luck, but despite this the place looked one of the most luckless and dismal of abodes.


     In the garden, from among a heap of papers, I picked up a volume entitled “The Shade of Burns” by Robert Machardy.


     From Mr and Mrs Tom Currie, Chapel Farm, whose steading is nearest to the hut, I learned some astonishing details concerning the life led by Mr Machardy and his wife.


     For more than twelve months the couple in the shanty had been supplied with milk, water and provisions from the farm.


     According to Mr and Mrs Currie, the Baroness never did a hand’s turn in the hut. All the food was prepared by Mr Machardy. He did all the washing up and everything that required to be done was cheerfully performed by the former organist of the Edinburgh church. The devoted husband would not even permit his high-born wife to tie her own shoes.


     The Baroness was, it was stated, “a curious wee body” who kept herself wonderfully well dressed, although living in a hut, and she was very particular about always wearing her hat. Latterly she was very hard-up for underwear and stockings, and she was obliged to use stockings without feet. Yet the lady was credited with being able to speak seven languages!


     If Lady Felice was hard-up in some things, she managed to retain a white silk dress of which she was very proud. When her husband died she donned this white silk dress and wore it a lot with white shoes, on the day of the funeral remarking that “Mr Machardy always liked her in white”.


     Miss Agnes Currie, a sister of the farmer who carried milk and other things to the hut told me that on these occasions Lady Felice liked to refer to the times when she lived in affluent circumstances in Edinburgh.


     One day, some time after her husband’s death, the Baroness told Miss Currie that she had been bothered by two tramps at midnight, but that she was ready for whoever came to the hut. On that occasion the Baroness showed Miss Currie three revolvers and two daggers. Pointing to the revolvers, Lady Felice remarked, “these will account for eighteen men”, a reference to the fact that the revolvers were six chambered and ready for action. There was said Miss Currie, a corridor right round the hut.


     Describing the incident when the police called at the hut, and the dog showed signs of attacking them, Miss Currie said that when the Lady put the animal in another apartment, the sergeant remarked, “Do you know what we have come about this morning”. The Lady of the hut replied that she was glad they had arrived to enquire about the two tramps, and she was greatly astonished when informed that the visit had reference to the revolvers in the hut which had never been registered.


     Miss Currie told me that no stranger ever called at the hut without gazing into the barrels of the revolvers cocked in the hands of this amazing Baroness.


     After Lady Felice had been removed to the asylum said Miss Currie, the problem of what to do with Voyak, the ferocious Airedale terrier arose. It was realised that to open the door and allow the brute to run free it would be likely to attack whoever happened to be nearest, and so it was deemed necessary to shoot the animal. Miss Currie’s brother Tom who had served in the army was requested by the police to perform this duty. This was duly accomplished.


     Mr. A. Wilson, Clerk to the Strathaven Parish Council who carried out the arrangements for the removal of Lady Felice to the asylum told me that in a long experience he had never dealt with such an amazing case. “The place was fortified like a castle” Mr Wilson remarked.






Drumlanrig Castle Dumfriesshire



14th February, 2010


Dear Mr Currie


     What a fascinating and poignant tale you tell of the poor Polish Countess and her devoted composer husband. Thank you for your letter with its request for information on a document which I fear is ‘needle in haystack’ territory.


     I remember my great-and Maida, (Lady Margaret Scott) - she married a sailor, Admiral Sir Geoffrey Hawkins and they lived latterly at Grafton Underwood, near our family home in Northamptonshire. I will copy your letter to their two daughters and of course let you know if they have anything relevant by way of a manuscript.


     Our own archives are had to penetrate - I am hoping to engage an archivist but there are years of work. My wife is leading a project exploring the music collection in particular but it is mainly 18th century material.


    Should you ever come across a copy of Machardy’s mazurka I would love perhaps a copy for the archives as another much favour of family musical links.


    Meantime best wishes for your researches.


Yours sincerely


Richard Buccleuch


Other Needle in a Haystack material


     What is proven, beyond any reasonable doubt, is the true maiden name of Strathaven’s “Russian Princess” who, prior to her marriage to Dionysius Wielobycki was namely, Henrietta Felicia Kierblewska Kennedy whose father, Stephen Kennedy, is recorded as ‘gentleman‘ on the certificate of marriage between Lady Henrietta Felice and Count Wielobycki. According to the Census for the Parish of Lesmahagow (1901) Henrietta Felicia Kierblewska Kennedy was born in Poland. As mentioned above,  the rendition of the name in the female form Kierblewska suggests a Polish familial link (through marriage?) with the Kennedy family. Significantly, neither Henrietta nor Felicia are regular Polish Christian names for  girls. However, her mother's name may have been Kierblewska.  It would appear, therefore, that her father Stephen KENNEDY married a Polish woman whose maiden surname was KIERBLEWSKA (any males in the family would spell the name KIERBLEWSKI). Stephen Kennedy may have been a mercenary soldier fighting in Poland. Significantly, Robert Machardy composed a Mazurka entitled “Scots in Poland” that may have been inspired by the Scots connection in his wife’s family history that continues to hold its secrets. While Lady Felice’s paranoia in later life can be attributed to an inherent fear of being tracked down by the Bolsheviks, this and her reclusive nature can also be attributed to the notoriety of the case celebre surrounding her first husband Count Dionysius Wielobycki.


     As mentioned above attempts to prove the naturalisation of Lady Felice proved unsuccessful. I checked the naturalisation lists with Public Records Office, Kew, but there are no references relating to Kierblewska or Keirblewska Kennedy. In any case as the daughter of a UK national she probably had no need to naturalise. However, as also mentioned above, the Immigration & Emigration England, Alien Arrivals, for periods 1810-1811, 1826-1869 register the arrival of one  Nikodemus Kierblewski at London, England which makes me wonder if there is a connection?


     Although Dionysius Wielobycki was by religious persuasion a member of the Church of England his marriage to Henrietta Felicia Kierblewska Kennedy was conducted according to the Rites and Ceremonies of the Independents at Horton Lane Chapel, Bradford, by Rev. James R. Campbell, D.D. However,

his widow arranged for a Requiem Mass to be celebrated in the Pro-Cathedral, Broughton Street, Edinburgh, for the repose of the soul.


     Despite an exhaustive search to locate copies of manuscripts and published works of Robert Machardy nothing whatsoever was revealed, not even from the Royal Library, Windsor despite newspaper amd opther published evidence that the composer regularly dedicated musical compositions to members of the Royal Household and British aristocracy including Lady Margaret Scott and Lord and Lady Newlands who graciously received and acknoledged them.


     I was also unable to obtain evidence of the marriage between Lady Felice and Robert Machardy through either Scottish or English civil registration which left me to conclude that their union, if solemnised, must have occurred abroad. Exhaustive attempts to trace the birth of Robert Machardy through civil registration also proved abortive. There is no mention of him in the Scottish census returns before 1901 at Lesmahagow I was, therefore, left to conclude that he was either resident in England or abroad on census night. However, he is recorded as residing in Scotland’s capital city in the Edinburgh and Leith Post Office Directory (1880-1) where he appears as Robert Machardy, "pianist and singing master" 72 Gilmore Place Edinburgh and in (1881-2) as residing at  3 Rosslyn Street Edinburgh. However, there is no record of him on the census of 1881. Significantly, the only mention of him in Scottish Civil Registration is that which appears on the census of 1901 as also in the Register of Deaths for 8th July, 1921.


     It remains puzzling that although there were five main-line churches in Strathaven, including the Roman Catholic congregation at Stonehouse Road, that this accomplished musician seems not to have been engaged as organist at any one of them. Moreover, I was unable to uncover evidence of membership of Lady Felice and Robert Machardy within any of these congregations. The fact that Lady Felice arranged for a Requiem Mass to be celebrated in the Pro-Cathedral, Broughton Street, Edinburgh, for the repose of the soul of her first husband Dionysius Wielobycki indicates that she, at least, was a practising Roman Catholic Church even although her marriage to Count Wielobycki was solemnised according to the Rites and Ceremonies of the Independents at Hoprton Lane Chapel, Bradford..


     It would appear that there are still many secrets as yet undisclosed concerning the enigmatic life of Lady Henrietta Felicia Kierblewska Kennedy Wieolobycki Machardy and her second husband Robert Machardy, LL.D.


     In conclusion I invite any viewer who possesses any published work or manuscript of Scots composer Robert Machardy to e-mail




 A History of Saint Oswald




       As the poet said, “what’s in a name”? The name of Saint Oswald, has, in recent years, been given to the ancient well situated near the High Kype road and adjacent to Chapel Farm. The farm house of the former Chapel Farm has now been called St. Oswald’s Chapel.


     The well is certainly ancient. It is given a “site of antiquity” seal on some of the old maps of the district. Only recently has it been given a name: St. Oswald’s Well. Miss Gebbie writing in 1877 mentions the well as a noted antiquity; it was then known as St Osan’s Well and she adds parenthetically: St. Oswald’s. The adjacent farm house may or may not have been a chapel in the full religious meaning of the word. To my knowledge it

was never known as St. Oswald’s and in addition my own research informs me that it was never dedicated officially to any Saint.


Hugh Steele and Tom Currie grandson of farmer Tom Currie at Saint Oswald’s Well.

February, year 2010




 “The well, giving an unfailing supply of cold pure water was available to all the neighbours  as a source of cold water in summer-time, and was used within living memory (Mrs. Currie’s) as a butter well by her mother.”



Extract from ‘Oswald’


William Whiteford, Strathaven


The Parish of Avondale Tiend-roll for 1813 has the following entries:


1. The thirteen shilling and four penny land of “Chapel of Meikle Kype called ‘Eister     Chapel’.


2. The thirteen shilling and four penny land of “Chapel of Meikle Kype called ‘Castlebrocket’.


3. The thirteen shilling and four penny land of “Chapel of Meikle Kype called ‘Bonnanhill’ .


4. The thirteen shilling and four penny land of “Chapel of Meikle Kype called ‘Wester Chapel.


1. Above is Dalefield now a ruin.


2. above is Castlebrocket.


3. Above is Bonnanhill.


4. Above is Chapel Farm.


These four properties together constituted the lands known as “Chapel in Meikle Kype”. Meikle Kype lay between the lands of “Little Kype” and the lands of “Lang Kype”


Miss Gebbie gives the list of heritors of Avondale for 1876/1877 as follows:


Robert Meikle of Chapel: valued £18.6.8d. John Semple of Chapel: valued £18.6.8d.


The family Meikle occupied Chapel Farm for many generations, and Miss Gebbie gives us the earliest mention of the area:


     In the reign of Alexander 11, in 1228 there exists a charter of a grant of land from the Patron of Strathaven to the monks serving at the Chapel of St. Bryde’s, Kype, and is as follows:


Hugo of Biggar (de Bigris), son of Robert, son of Waldave of Biggar, patron of the church of Strathauen (Strathavon), for his soul’s weal, and that of his ancestors and successors, granted to God, St. Machutus, patron saint of Lesmahagu, lands of Richard de Bard, lying on the south side of the Auan (Avon), viz., The Greater and Lesser Kyp, and Glengeuel and Polnebo (pool of Neil) and Louhere, and of all the lands lying on the south of the Auan, which are or can be cultivated, to be held as a simple benefice, quit of all service, custom or exaction; the monks out of these to pay annually 20 bolls of oatmeal to the chaplain serving at the Chapel of St. Bridget of Kyp.


     ‘As the granter was under age, he confirmed his gift by an oath before the Chapter at Kelso, renouncing the benefit of extraordinary and common law and the plea of minority.


     Twelve years subsequent to the last transaction, Richard Bard granted to the Priory of St. Machutus and the monks serving God there, the whole of the lands of Little Kype, (Now the farms of Little Kype, Juanhill, Hairshawhead, Yardbent and Braehead} with the consent of his over-lord Hugo, son of Waldave of Biggar,      


     It should be noted that it was the monks living and working in the greater and lesser Kype etc., who had to pay annually 20 bolls of oatmeal to the chaplain at St. Bryde’s.


     At this point the reader of this note is urged to consider what this was all about, and to find out we turn to David, fifth son of Margaret Queen of Scots (latterly Saint Margaret). David was talked of as a “sair sanct for the crown” because he founded so many abbeys, but David, who had spent a great many years at the English court was a man of vision. He returned to Scotland in 1107 and although his older brother Alexander 1 was King of Scots, David became “comes” of Strathclyde and also held away over Lothian and Northumbria. He now, not only had vision, he had power, power he hoped to introduce a modern system of government based on a Norman feudal system linked to a powerful Church. One of his first actions was to introduce a reformed monastic order the Tironensians. In 1113 a colony was established at Selkirk, later moved to Kelso. The Tironensians differed from the Benedictines in paying much less time and attention to complicated Church rituals, prayers, processions and services. They introduced the advantages of manual activity and contemplation. The Tironensians were the first of the great agriculturalists, soon to be followed by the Cistercians. Lesmahagow Priory was a daughter house of Kelso and St. Bryde’s a daughter of Lesmahagow. The Chapels in Kype already mentioned were almost certainly attached to Lesmahagow, but their function was probably purely pastoral and agricultural.


     It is now not known just what part would be taken by lay brethren. (Melrose Abbey was established by David in 1136 and between them Kelso and Melrose became a powerful influence on agriculture in Scotland.)


Oswald, King and Saint

     The sixth century in these islands drew to a momentous close. In his beloved Iona, Columcille (Columba) died on Sunday, June 9th 597. That very summer, Pope Gregory the Great commanded on Augustine and a band of 40 monks to go to England. They landed in Kent and of course eventually established Canterbury.


     At this time, the greater part of eastern England, including from the Forth to the English Channel was under the sway of Angles and Saxons. From the north; Northumbria, Bernicia, Deira, Mercia, Wessex and Kent were largely pagan.


     The King of Northumbria, Ethelfrid (or Aethelfrith) well merited his nickname “The Destroyer”. He was a powerful and aggressive ruler and would dearly like to extend his powers to embrace semi-Christian Strathclyde and Christian Wales - Gaelic speaking Britons.


     Fearing Ethelfrid, the Britons assembled a powerful army, including men from Cornwall, Wales and the whole of Strathclyde at Gododdin (Lothian) and marched against Ethelfrid. The two armies met at Dawstane; it was British cavalry against English spears and shields. Very few British warriors survived. The Vitadini of the Lothians were virtually exterminated. This was about the year 600. The disaster at Dawstane made Strathclyde vulnerable to attack from English under Ethelfrid.


     In 603, the rallying call went out again; Scots from Dalriada, Irish from Ulster and a mixture of Britons under King Aidan brought Ethelfrid to battle once more. Alas! Once more there was a complete rout and a general retreat of the Britons. This battle was at Catterick. St. Mungo and Rhydderch Hael both died this same year.


     There was no stopping Ethelfrid and his victorious Northumbrians; they were even threatening to cut right across to the Irish Sea. Yet again an army of Britons drew up near Chester in opposition. Two thousand Christian monks from Bangor assembled on a nearby hill to pray for a victory to the Britons. Ethelfrid demanded to know what they were doing and when told he replied “If they are praying for the Britons they are fighting against us.” Without more ado, he launched his attack on the unarmed monks, and it is said killed twelve-hundred of them. The massacre of the monks so unnerved the British army that they fled in disarray. Chester fell, Wales was cut off from the Britons of the north. Britannia was no more. This was in 616. Another authority gave the number of monks at twelve-hundred of whom all but fifty perished.


     Ethelfrith was at the peak of his power and like all men of his type he tended to disdain any rival. There was one, however, he was Edwin, his own brother-in-law, the legitimate but deposed King of Deira (which, of course, was part of Northumbria). Edwin was waiting in the wings and sure enough the moment came. Ethelfrith made a wrong move; after his overwhelming victory at Chester he allowed his army to return home with all the booty and slaves they could lay hands on. He, slightly swollen headed, decided to return home with only a small private bodyguard. He was waylaid by a force of East Engles led by Edwin at the River Idle near Bawtry. In a fierce encounter Ethelfrith was killed. It was now 617 and it was the ultimate disaster for the “Destroyer’s” family (Eanfrid, Oswald, Oswy and Ebba). Edwin became King of Northumbria in Ethelfriths’s place and even although Edwin and the Northumbrians accepted Christianity (from Canterbury) Ethelfrith’s family were no longer safe and they were hurried to sanctuary in the far-off west - Iona. Eanfrid, Oswald, Oswy, and their sister Ebba (or Abba) spent their childhood among the lay brothers there. Oswald was 13, his brother Oswy only 5. The two younger boys and their sister were baptised on Iona.


     Meanwhile, Edwin, Christian King of Northumbria was killed in battle against Cadwallon, Christian King of Gwynedd in 632. The royal exiles were free to return. Their return, however, was not quite peaceful; Eanfrid was murdered by Cadwallon in York. Oswald was determined to drive the Britons back to the west, and he gathered an army in the north, Cadwallon and Oswald met at a place later called Heavenfield. After a fierce battle the British forces fled, Cadwallon being caught and killed in the pursuit.


     Oswald returned to his capital, Bamburgh, in triumph. On the night before the battle he had seen a vision of Saint Columba spreading out his robes to cover not only himself but the whole area. His vision and its sequel, made him determined to make his nation a Christian nation. He turned not to Canterbury as did Edwin but to his beloved Iona, the place of his exile. King Oswald and Aidan from Iona were largely instrumental in establishing the powerful and influential Celtic Christian mission of Lindisfarne. The relationship between Aidan and Oswald was one of mutual respect for each other, and since Oswald was a fiery warrior it speaks volumes for Aidan’s sincerity and sanctity that the two achieved as much as they did.


     In the year 642 Oswald was forced into battle against the heathen King Penda of Mercia. Near Oswestry the Northumbrian army was defeated and their beloved king was killed.


     The life of St. Oswald is a matter of very clear historical fact. Apart from St. Columba,

Oswald had very little connection with the West of Scotland. The information given is gleaned largely from the following authors: Miss Gebbie, Sketches of Strathavon and Avondale (1879): J. D. Mackie, History of Scotland; E.S. Towill, The Saints of Scotland (1978); H.M.S.O. Scottish Medieval Churches (Richard Fawcett) local maps from 1813.




Fleming, W.A., “Parish of Avondale 1901 Census”, Riverside Printing, Lanark. (2010).


Glasgow Weekly News.


Hamilton Advertiser.


Kingston, C. “Dramatic Days at the Old Bailey”. London, Stanley Paul & Co. Ltd., 3 Endsleigh Gardens, Upper Woburn Place.


Roughead, W. “The Fatal Countess and Other Studies” Edinburgh (Green) (1924).




Sources of Research:


Capital Collections" *

Centre for Research Collections" *

Department of Manuscripts, National Museum of Scotland, George 1V Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1EW

Edinburgh City Library *

Edinburgh Society of Organists *

Edinburgh University *

Hamilton Library Reference & Local History Dep‘t, Town House, Almada St, Hamilton

Hamilton Advertiser archive

His Grace, Angus, Duke of Hamilton * *

His Grace, Richard, Duke of Buccleuch

Ms Anna Domagala, Secretary, Polish Consulate, Edinburgh

Mitchell Library, North Street, Glasgow, G3 7DN

Mortonhall Crematorium per Mr Jamie Reec and Ms. Aileen Stirling

Mr Michael Tobias, Genealogist

Mr Robert Ostrycharz, Renfrewshire

Mr William A. Fleming, Genealogist and Historian, Lanark

Polish Churches Committee, Glasgow, per Rev. Father Marian Lekawe

Reference Services, National Library of Scotland

Roman Catholic Cathedral, Edinburgh * *

Royal High School, Edinburgh * *

Royal Library, Windsor, per Lady Jane Roberts *

Scottish Music Centre

Scottish Music Centre" *

St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh * *

Tweeddale Museum and Gallery, Peebles * *


* indicates unable to be of assistance.

** indicates absence of any reply to my inquiry.




(1) sourced 5th March, 2010).  (last sourced 5th March, 2010).


(2) Extract from letter by Dr. Wielobycki to the editor of The “Witness”, dated 22 June. 1851 sourced 16th March, 2010).


(3) sourced 16th March, 2010).


(4) (last sourced 16th March, 2010).


(5)  “Dramatic Days at the Old Bailey” by Charles Kingston,  (not in copyright). sourced 16th March, 2010).


(6)  “The Fatal Countess and Other Studies” by William Roughead, “Physic and Forgery“, pp. 257/8.


(7)   Ibid, p.258.


(8)   1883 Wielobycki, Dionysus (Reference SC70/1/221 Edinburgh Sheriff Court Inventories


(9)   Hamilton Advertiser, 16th July, 1921.


(10)  Hamilton Advertiser, 16th July, 1921.


(11) Census for the Civil Parish of Lesmahagow, 1901.


(12) Glasgow Weekly News: June 3, 1922.


(13) (last sourced 1st February, 2010).


(14) sourced 24th February, 2010).


(15) (


(16) Glasgow Weekly News, June 3, 1922.





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