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WWW.NTS.ORG.UK33?the house as its first property under the CountryHouse Scheme.In the book, Dalyell suggests it might have beenhis mother's friendship with Eleanor Guggenheimthat persuaded her to give the house to the Trust. Ashe puts it, the Guggenheims' sense of publicobligation left "an indelible mark on her". Details ofthe handover are revealed here as never before.Dalyell relates that in July 1944, when he was 12,a letter arrived at the house so secret that its senderdemanded it be destroyed after being read. Thesender was Ernest Wedderburn, the family solicitor,and it requested a meeting on a delicate matter. For Wedderburn was also a member of the Councilof the Trust and at a meeting with Sir IainColquhoun of Luss, the President, Sir John StirlingMaxwell, Colonel Teddy Stevenson and the treasurerArthur Russell the prospect of the Trust taking onthe House of the Binns was discussed. As Dalyell tellsme, "it was Ernest Wedderburn who put it into theminds of the Trust that if they wanted anexperimental, pioneer, small-beer property then theBinns was something to start with".The Trust was concerned by the possibility ofmany Scottish houses being lost as they provedimpossible to keep going. The House of the Binns, asWedderburn had spotted, seemed perfect. As Dalyellsays: "It was near their headquarters in Edinburgh. Itwas in good condition and, what was crucial, therewere few complications, only in the shape of me.The English National Trust had had a lot of troublewith nephews, nieces and collateral cousins. In mycase the nearest relations were in the US." He digresses to tell me "in fact the one with thenearest claim went back to a connection of the1720s. He was a senator for Missouri who had beenchosen by Roosevelt as his running partner in thepresidential election. His name was Harry Trumanand when Roosevelt died in 1945, he found himselfwith a few things to worry about other than theownership of some house."To put it bluntly, with Dalyell himself as an onlychild of an only child, there would be no claims forother potential inheritors. Wedderburn, moreover,knew the Dalyells were forward looking and wouldprobably not demand money.Dalyell's parents, with classic candour, immediatelyacquainted their heir with the situation. Theyexplained that if he followed his father into thearmy or foreign office it would be impossible forTam to maintain the house. They were also keen to point out that the housewas not really owned just by the family but in asense by the whole nation. He was, he tells me, "avery mature 12-year-old and I understood clearlywhat was meant by what they said".The deal was done and his parents, with furtherforesight, named Dalyell as the donor, sending thedocument to him at prepschool for it to be signed.There, as he puts it, "for thefirst and only time, theheadmaster allowed a boy theuse of his fountain pen". Hesigned it at the desk over whichhe had the day received six ofthe best as a punishment.The transfer of ownership wassealed in April 1946 at a Sasineceremony. In this a clod ofearth from the estate washanded by Dalyell himself tothe vice-president of the Trust,the Earl of Wemyss. Dalyell recounts with mischiefthat although his father had been convinced the"There is another sideto this extraordinaryman than the abilityto agitate. A highlyintelligent andconsiderate side"Tam Dalyell, far left,has written movinglyabout his family home,the House of theBinns, in the Trust'scare since 1946

PEOPLE?ceremony of Sasine was a Celtic invention, its rootslie in Anglo-Saxon culture.The Dalyells had no idea how many visitors woulddescend upon them and pay their two shillings tosee the house. Happily, for 65 years, people havebeen fascinated by all the Binns has to offer.Dalyell believes such a house demands a guidedtour. "It is essential, and you must have guides whohave an understanding of Scottish history." After asuccession of ex-military guides, Dalyell's motherdecided students would better fit the bill and thefirst was a young David Steel, the future Lord Steel.A crucial event in these early years, Dalyell says,was the visit in 1949 of the Gowers Committee,which, he recalls, included a man called JohnCarruthers Little, "a complete socialist". Dalyellrecalls: "My father asked him whether he thoughtthat families should remain with the propertiesgifted to the nation. Carruthers Little repliedemphatically that they should."It is tempting to speculate on the effect hisparents' actions, the association with the Trust andthe words of such men as Carruthers Little had onDalyell, who in 1956 joined the Labour Party. Itmight have seemed a strange decision. He lived in astately home, even though it was now owned by thenation. He had been to Eton and sounded it. Butstand for Labour he did and at 29 was elected withan overwhelming majority. He never looked back.As we part, Dalyell reminds me to mention thecarefully worded acknowledgement that he hasincluded in the book, paying tribute to "thetolerance of successive generations of Trust staff".He also emphasises the role of his wife, Kathleen."I owe everything to Kathleen. She takes the viewthat she should deliver everything that would beexpected of a Trust representative. I have beenextremely fortunate."The Binns remains the only Trust property stilloccupied by its donor family. Dalyell says me: "Wehave always enjoyed a cordial relationship with theTrust. Kathleen has always made a point of askingsuccessive chairmen whether they are quite surethey wish for the family to stay on as residents.Happily the answer has always been yes." lThe story of the Trust's acquisition of the House of theBinns is recorded in a fascinating new book on themotivations for owners to give up their estates, works ofart and treasured artefacts for public benefit -A NobleThing, by Merlin Waterson (Scala, 2011). TheImportance of Being Awkwardis published by Birlinn.????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????