The Stirlings of Gargunnock


Miss V.H.C. Stirling
Viola Christian Stirling was the only child of Charles and Evelyn Stirling – Third Stirling Laird of Gargunnock.  She was brought up on the Estate to fish shoot and ride and  she remained a keen fisherwoman until late in life.  Sent to a girl’s boarding school in Yorkshire she then, most unusually in those days, went up to Oxford University to read history. On returning homes she worked for a number of years in the Estate Office at Roselle near Ayr an Estate belonging to a Hamilton cousin.  She developed a great and lasting interest in gardening and forestry and continued all her life to look after and manage the woodlands at Gargunnock  and particularly those trees  in  the park and surrounding plantations The gardens have extensive plantings of ornamental trees, azaleas, and rhododendrons along the drive side planted both by her and her predecessors .  During her life she visited many gardens throughout Scotland, most especially Inverewe in Wester Ross where she stayed frequently and  she was in time  elected a fellow of Royal Horticultural Society.

She was immensely proud of the house, estate and village and oversaw  any development in  the village with a rod of iron and until modern planning laws overruled her, tried to keep the original ribbon development of the Village intact. She carried out detailed research into the village and drew up plans of the original feu’s, how they had been split up and who had lived in the houses going back many generations.

The development and enlargement of the House was an abiding interest. She had copious notes of how it had been enlarged over the years and of the providence of the furniture and pictures. She was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

One of the outstanding parts of her life was her military service from 1938 to 1948.  In 1938 she formed the first ATS platoon in Stirling and she retired with the rank of Controller in 1948.  She was asked to allow her name to go forward to be the UK Controller but it meant living in London and she felt that having been away from Gargunnock for 10 years she must go back there.  On her retiral she was appointed a Military CBE and awarded a Territorial Declaration.

She returned to Gargunnock and lived initially in a flat over the stables as the house in the years she had been away  had been let.  She eventually moved into the front of the House with two flats at the rear being leased  as separate  properties.

After the war she took over running two of the estate farms and farmed them  very successfully for 25 years winning many prizes for her cattle at local shows.  She served on the County Council for ten years and woe betide any council official who did not live up to her standards.

Her final years were clouded by chronic arthritis in her hands and feet and she found that  any movement latterly became very difficult.  However she retained her very alert mind all her life and  was regularly driven round the Estate where her eagle eyes missed very little.  She died in 1989 and left the Estate to a Charitable Trust – the last and most formidable of the Stirling’s of Gargunnock.