Crock of Gold
On a wild and windswept Sunday morn, we’re wandering through the 189 rooms, grand and not so grand, of the largest house in the Scottish Highlands. Dunrobin Castle, a fairytale in stone as mostly imagined by the Houses of Parliament architect Sir Charles Barry and later by the Edinburgh architect Sir Robert Lorimer, stands proud on a precipice. Far below, between the south elevation and the north coast, framed by a forest of violet shadows, lies a garden of nature tidied: clipped trees, manicured bushes and shaped hedgerows. Distracting, no doubt. Dizzying, definitely. Yet somehow, we’re transfixed by a didactic sign in the servants’ hall. Prosaic, probably. Poignant, possibly.
“Fire. In order that the Household Servants should be instructed in their duties in the event of fire, I direct that the following rules be observed: Every Indoor Servant is expected to make himself or herself fully acquainted with these rules, with the positions of the fire alarms, chemical extinguishers, fire hydrants etc, and to act with the utmost speed. If the fire discovered appears to be more than can be quelled by an extinguisher, the alarm should be given by the cry of ‘Fire’ and by sounding the Castle ‘hooter’ from the nearest point. This is done by breaking the glass front of any of the alarm boxes. This is to be followed by ringing the fire bell, using the steel rope which is accessible at any point of the Clock stairs. Any servant, hearing either of the foregoing alarm signals, should immediately ring the electric bells within the wall case with sliding glass cover opposite the door of Housekeeper’s Sitting Room, and the Telephones, as per notice in the Telephone box. Servants, other than those engaged in sending out the last named fire calls, should at once proceed to the scene of the fire and act as the situation requires, which may mean collecting of more fire extinguishers, buckets of sand, smothering cloths, or running out hosing from the nearest hydrants, as per Drill instructions, and carry on extinguishing operations until relieved by the Fire Brigade. Sutherland.”