by Sir Francis Ogilvy
There has always been a Christmas tradition at Winton, although, by design, it tends to be a bit different each year. Whether we go back to my grand parents’ period between the Wars or my parents era after the 1960s, the essence has not changed; there have been gatherings involving people from the Estate, often with a focus on the children.
We always had a large, 10 foot tree with a crib underneath displaying the nativity scene, as we still have today; this was decorated by the children staying at the time. It often had real candles so they needed a little help! If candles were lit, a watchman would stand by with a damp sponge on the end of a long pole (at that time our fire alarm was a large hand bell!).
The tree could be in the library, the drawing room, the Octagon or in the bay window of the dining room (where the candles could be seen from outside). It was always a magical sight!
Winton parties have ranged from simple occasions with children invited from around the Estate, half the village of New Winton and much of Pencaitland, to larger affairs with over 100 visitors.
In the middle of last century, a favourite game amongst the children was to ‘flip the kipper’ across the dining room floor. The first time I can remember Santa at Winton was when I played the part and one of the girls got up and fled through fright!
When families have been invited, we have usually included a story during the occasion which made a reference to the meaning of Christmas. Other parties have involved carol singing around the estate followed by mulled wine, dancing in the dining room, party games and Christmas plays with the cast drawn from the estate.
I remember when the roles of shepherd and sheep dog were split, perhaps unwisely, between two brothers; the shepherd, instead of kindly leading the bleating sheep with the rug strapped to its back, terrorised it with his crook!
On Christmas day my grandparents would go to church early in the morning at 8am. This tended to be in Haddington and, before their time, I suspect that my great Aunt Constance would have travelled there by horse and carriage, unless the service was downstairs in the House chapel.
Today, we enjoy taking our children to the church in the local village of Pencaitland and gifts from stockings are taken to the service.
Christmas Day is also Dorothy’s birthday so there have often been two cakes to enjoy! The sparkle of Christmas and the meaning behind the celebration makes it a special time which stands out in the memory.
‘Traditional’, yes, though with a freshness and relevance to the meaning of Christmas.
I hope you have a very Happy Christmas!