In the summer of 1881 a pretty, young Austrian Baroness by the name of Johanna ('Hanna') von Ettingshausen married Norman Macleod of Macleod. 42 years her senior Hanna’s new husband was the Chief of the clan Macleod and recently widowed. Many years earlier, in 1849, he had been forced to give up parts of his hereditary lands in the Isle of Skye due to astronomical debts (some of which he probably inherited from his father and grandfather). The estate was taken over and run by the trustees of the family’s creditors. Macleod left his ancestral home at Dunvegan Castle and relocated to London with his first wife, Luisa, and their children.
In London the Macleod family lived at first in Montagu Place in Marylebone and Macleod had to get a job to support his family. For a few years he worked as under-secretary in the Prison Department of the Home Office, before moving to the Department of Science and Art where he worked as Assistant Secretary. This Department had been transferred from the Board of Trade to the Education Department and was responsible for the administration, among many other things, of the South Kensington and Bethnal Green Museums. As such, Norman Macleod found himself working in South Kensington Museum.
A decade later Macleod’s financial situation had improved and things were looking up. The family gave up Montagu Place and moved to the considerably swankier Cadogan Place in London’s Belgravia district. By 1863 Macleod was once again able to take possession of Dunvegan Castle and the family started spending several weeks there every summer. Some of Luisa and Norman’s children, who had been born in England and never set foot in Skye, were able to spend holidays there and formed life-long attachments to the place.
Norman’s boss too – Henry Cole – appears to have visited Dunvegan. The British Museum have in its collection two etchings of Dunvegan Castle made by Henry Cole, signed "Dunvegan Castle / Skye. Sep / 1863 / H Cole" and dedicated to Mrs Macleod.
In South Kensington Museum Norman Macleod corresponded with Colonel Lane Fox (aka Pitt-Rivers) in relation to proposed loans of objects from Lane Fox’s collection to the Museum’s branch in Bethnal Green. He also wrote to John Lubbock, J. Fergusson, Prof Huxley, E.J. Poynter, P. Cunliffe Owen, Colonel Donnelly and George Rolleston in relation to Pitt-Rivers’ proposed development of his Ethnological collections at South Kensington Museum.
At this time, Baron Constantin von Ettingshausen, Professor of Botany at the University of Graz in Austria and an internationally recognised geologist and palaeo-botanist, made several trips to London where he stayed for extended periods of time. In 1876 he was summoned to London to reorganise a fossil plant collection at the Natural History Museum. In the same year he lent or donated several specimens to the Special Loan Collection of Scientific Apparatus, the organisation of which Macleod was involved with. I think it is highly likely that Norman Macleod came into contact with Baron von Ettingshausen around this time, and importantly, with the Baron’s daughter, the lovely Baroness Johanna.
Then, on 27th October 1880, Macleod’s wife Luisa died, aged 62. With all the Macleod children having flown the nest, Norman moved in with his son Reginald and his family in Belgravia, a short distance from Norman and Luisa’s home. Norman continued to work in the Department of Science and Art, but things were about to change. The following summer Norman, aged 69, married Baroness Johanna von Ettingshausen in Graz, Austria. He retired from his position in South Kensington, able to enjoy retired life without financial woes, with a new, young wife and an ancestral castle to spend the holidays in. Not bad at all.
While in the Isle of Skye Hanna developed an interest in the island’s archaeology. Over the years she would carry out two excavations, one at Dun Beag, the other at Dun Fiadhairt.
Her first piece of work was the excavation of the Broch of Dun Fiadhairt (Dun an Iardhard) which may have taken place in 1892. Whether Hanna had any previous experience with archaeological fieldwork we do not know, but Fred T Macleod, who years later wrote up the excavation on her behalf, states that she carried out and personally supervised the work. It is evident that several workmen were involved, as the ‘over one hundred full working days’ spent on the project involved the ‘conveyance of men and necessary implements a distance of two miles across Loch Dunvegan’. Four men are mentioned by name: Donald Ferguson, Hanna’s [farm] manager; Donald’s two nephews Angus and Neil Ferguson; and Macleod of Macleod’s factor, John Mackenzie FSA Scot, who surveyed the broch and prepared plans and sketches.
Donald Ferguson may be the very farm manager, who upon his retirement in 1931, Hanna presented with a Norse gold finger ring, said to be from Skye, and now in the collection of Glasgow Museums (A.1979.19).
On 5th February 1895 Norman Macleod died in Paris. His body was taken to Skye and buried at Duirinish Church. Now a widow, Hanna, aged 41, was entitled to Dunvegan Castle’s dower house – Uiginish Lodge, where she would spend the summer seasons. In November 1897 she married Count Vincenz Baillet de Latour (1848-1913). At the time he was Austria’s Education Minister, and himself of European noble origins. Hanna’s new married name - Countess Baillet de Latour – is the name by which she is known to archaeologists in Scotland.
Between 1914 and 1920 Hanna excavated Dun Beag broch, near Struan in Skye. The excavation was written up by J G Callander, Director of the National Museum, who records that about 200 tonnes of stones and earth were removed from the broch and that all the soils were sifted through the fingers – a technique Hanna had also employed at Dun Fiadhairt. By the time she completed her excavations, in 1920, she was 66 years old.
Whether Hanna continued to explore the archaeology of the Isle of Skye, we do not know, but I imagine that she continued to spend her summers in Skye, and the winters on the continent. Perhaps in Paris where she may have lived with Norman Macleod before his death; perhaps in Graz where she had grown up, or perhaps in Vienna where she was born. In 1942 the Countess Baillet de Latour died in Arthington Nursing Home in Torquay, 88 years of age.
Macleod, R. C. 1906. The Macleods: a short sketch of their clan, history, folk-lore, tales, and biographical notices of some eminent clansmen
Devine, T. 1996. Clanship to Crofters War.
Osbaldeston-Mitford, B. 1941. Roderick Charles Macleod of Macleod, A Short Memoir.
British Newspaper Archive
Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
Katinka Dalglish, museum curator, Strathard Community Trust member, Scandi immigrant, beginner blogger.
Me at Blipfoto