Based on what we were up to, one would expect a “Booooo! Instead of the”Mooooo!” we got as a greeting when we pulled into Kellas Estate located in the rural district of Dallas, Scotland.
“You’d really look good on my plate right now … a nice juicy steak!” exclaimed an exasperated Terence as we passed by a heard of cows who looked on curiously at the two lost brown people driving past their field, literally chasing a ghost.
At this point I was praying that this was not turning into a wild goose chase. The weather was gloomy, and the drive through unfamiliar territory and terrain in north-east Scotland to Kellas Estate was a little daunting.
Thankfully the Toyota Auris Hybrid that we got upgraded to was easy to manoeuvre.
The economical petrol consumption was a plus and it came with some useful features like lane departure warning system (handy for narrow country roads), speed camera alert and more importantly a fairly accurate ‘Touch To Go’ GPS navigation system.
Excitement and adventure beckoned as we left Inverness – until we drove right into a mushy dirt road as the ‘GPS lady’ exclaimed “You have reached your destination!”
Well, I did enter ‘Kellas Estate’ as the destination, so to the middle of the estate she took us.
“Time to ask for directions from a real person!” I exclaimed reversing the car back to the main road where we had passed a building marked as Mill of Kellas Fishery, while praying hard that the car tyres won’t get stuck in the muck that was part dirt road, and part cow dung – courtesy of the only company we had at that time.
What on earth were we doing here?
Well, it all started with an unplanned stop at the old Kellas Estate in Batu Gajah, Perak, Malaysia in 2014.
This is the site where William Kellie-Smith, a native of Kellas chose to build his dream home – Kellie’s Castle but never got to complete it. Find out why at https://goo.gl/rEWt3x
Smith was part of a group of early colonial contractors, in was was then known as the Federated Malay States, who obtained concessions to build roads and public facilities in Perak which was a part of the Federated States of Malaya.
He later purchased land to take advantage of the then lucrative rubber industry and named it Kellas Estate as per his birthplace in Scotland. This estate is now owned by UEM Group and is known as Kinta-Kellas Estate.
William Kellie-Smith is probably the only Scotsman in the world who has had the honour, and privilege of having a statue of himself adorn the roof of a Hindu temple together with other revered deities. Why? The answer is at https://goo.gl/rEWt3x
The drive to Kellas took us through several small towns and once we drove past Elgin, the main roads narrowed. There were signs to the nearby villages of Dallas and Longmorn, but no signs to Kellas.
So putting our trust in the navigation system, we drove on in a heavy drizzle, and through breathtaking scenery made grey and mysterious by the rain, the rolling mist on lakes, green fields and hills (along the B9010 route) as far as the eye could see.
A man at the Mill of Kellas Trout Fishery told us to head down the road to Kellas village when we made some quick inquiries about Kellas Estate, house and the Smith family – whom he was not familiar with.
We knew that the Smith family may no longer be here, but thought someone might remember some old stories or legends from the past.
As we pulled into the village of Kellas, a war memorial dedicated to the men from Kellas who lost their lives in World War I & II greeted us.
The village itself was nothing more than a row of about five rustic stone cottages. The only thing that indicated some form of modern living was a red phone booth smack in the middle of town.
It was a pretty scene, smoke billowing from the chimney of the warm homes on a wet and chilly day.
Up ahead, we pulled up in front of a sign that said Kellas House. This must be it I thought as I knocked on the door with a tinge of excitement and a little apprehension.
A gentlemen dressed in a sweater answered but introduced himself as a tenant of the small cottage.
“We’re just renting his place for a holiday. The larger house is up the driveway, you may be able to find some answers there,” he said.
Indeed, the house atop a small hill looked slightly more regal with a circular pebbled driveway, trees all around and pheasants pecking for food in the grass.
A lady, Vivienne met us at the door, and despite having to prepare for a dinner party later that evening, spent some time answering our queries.
However, she had not heard of the Kellie-Smith family either.
“The Christie family had built the current Kellas house in 1910 and three generations have lived here,” she said.
“But nothing much has been left behind by the previous owner who presumably sold the estate to the Christie family,” she said adding that the house had been rebuilt since the Christie family took over.
So the trail at Kellas went cold, as cold as the Scottish weather.
However, despite it being a weekend we managed to find some information on William Kellie-Smith’s family at the Elgin Library.
In the LIBINDX Online Genealogical Search William Kellie-Smith’s father William Smith is listed as a farmer, auctioneer, valuator and surveyor. He died in 1902 at the age of 65 at Longmorn Farm, near Elgin.
William Kellie-Smith’s mother Helen Kellie-Smith passed on in 1914 at the age of 73 in Edinburgh.
William’s residence in Malaya is mentioned in his records, as is his place of death in Lisbon Portugal.
The search also indicatess that William had four siblings – Alexander, James, Henry and Ann. However, I was only able to extract information on Alexander who is two years younger than William. Alexander, a bachelor, died on News Years day 1907 at Kellas Estate Perak Straits Settlements of heart failure at age 39.
The obituaries of William Kellie-Smith and his father WM Smith that were published in local papers and available on microfiche read:
Dec 17, 1926 (Elgin Courant): KELLIE-SMITH – At Lisbon; suddenly of pneumonia on 10th December, William Kellie-Smith of Kellas Batu Gajah, Federated Malay States, aged 56.
Oct 7, 1902 (Elgin Courant): ELGIN – THE LATE MR WM. SMITH – Many friends will regret to hear of the death of Mr WM Smith, late of the Pans, Elgin, which took place at Longmorn farm on Sunday. Mr Smith had not been in robust health for some time past, and the end was not unexpected. The deceased who was a native of Urquhart, was educated at the Elgin Academy, and after leaving it he entered the office of Mr Geo M Wlliam, surveyor, Sheriffston, then one of the best surveyors in the north of Scotland. After remaining there for a number of years, Mr Smith took a farm in the Kellas district. At the same time he acted as a valuator, auctioneer and surveyor, and previous to the introduction of Auction Marts he carried on an exceptionally large auctioneering business. He was also tenant of the farm of Pans, near Elgin, for about 12 years, and only went to the farm of Longmorn in May last. He leaves a widow and grown up family. Deceased is to be buried in the Cemetery of Elgin tomorrow (Wednesday).
I was a little disappointed that I was not able to meet or speak with someone at Kellas who knew of the Smith family and the history of the Kellas Estate in Scotland, but glad I was able to extract some information from the library.
For the lack of a better comparison, the story of Kellie’s Castle seems like the structure of the castle itself – unfinished and abandoned. Maybe it’s a futile attempt, but I hope to someday find the missing pieces of this puzzle that have been lost for almost a century.