An Ormidale Tale

As a new chapter of the Scotland’s Year of Stories was announced last month, here is a lovely piece of Arran history from the Ayrshire Heritage and Cultural Services Facebook page on 21st June. The Ormidale hotel was built for the painter George Edwards Hering in the 1850s.

On this day….in 1846, Marion Adams-Acton was born at Brodick on the Isle of Arran. She was the illegitimate daughter of William, the 11th Duke of Hamilton and a local woman named Elizabeth Hamilton.

The duke owned Brodick Castle which was regularly visited by landscape painter George Hering. George and has wife Caroline had lost their only child at the age of 6 and the duke suggested that they adopt Marion. Her mother was reluctant but was eventually persuaded by the life the wealthy couple could provide for her young daughter.

They took her to London at 4 years old where she became known as Jeanie Hering (the name she would use for her children’s books) and she received a good education until 16 years old, before spending 2 years at finishing school in Westphalia, Germany.
The family returned to Arran each year in the summer months, visiting their house of Ormidale. One such summer, while en route, they were fortunate survivors of a train crash that killed hundreds.

In 1875, on the 10th of August, she married famous sculptor John Adams-Acton and the couple set off on a tour across Europe to India, spending 7 months in Bombay. Upon their return they settled in Marylebone and she inherited Ormidale following the death of her adoptive parents.

Marion was a prolific writer during her life, authoring more than 20 works including both fiction and non-fiction. She specialised in children’s books, publishing books such as ‘The Child’s Delight: A Picture Book for Little Children’, ‘Wee Lammie’ and ‘The Town Mouse’ however she also wrote non-fiction and seemed to have quite a love for dogs! Some of her non-fiction works include ‘The Dog Picture Book’, ‘Pet Dogs’ and ‘Doggie’s Own Book’.

The cover of Marion’s book Wee Lammie

In her private life she enjoyed a high social status, with her home becoming a social gathering place for politicians and artists. She had 7 children, was socialising with the highest circles and even wrote some plays.

One day her husband returned home and mentioned to her that some friends had walked from London to Dorset and as a result she decided the yearly trip to Arran should be made on foot. Despite the objections of her husband, she set off with her children in tow and walked the 500 miles to Arran, on foot, in around 7 weeks. Reportedly, the family nurse, Ellen, had to push the youngest child in a perambulator for the length of the journey. The trip became the story of her final book, ‘Adventures of a Perambulator: True details of a family history’.

Her husband died at Ormidale in 1910 due to a lingering illness following being struck by a car. Marion would live to the age of 82, when she died in London on the 11th of October 1928. Her body was moved to Brodick.

The Ormidale has been the Gilmore family’s home since the 1930s.

Scotland’s Year of Stories spotlights, celebrates and promotes the wealth of stories inspired by, written, or created in Scotland.  Every community has its own tales to tell, places to highlight as inspiration for well-known books and films, visitor attractions that showcase our literary and storytelling heritage and all kinds of places and spaces where stories, old and new, can be enjoyed. For more information see the Visit Scotland website here