On a recent visit to Scotland I decided to pull off the A74 and have a look at Kirkconnel Hall, the home of Dr Archibald Arnott (1772-1855), Surgeon of the 20th Regiment of Foot and the last doctor to attend Napoleon on St Helena.
Arnott was born in an older house which once stood on this site, and after his retirement he had it demolished and completed the relatively modest two-storey house to the right around 1838. It is now somewhat overshadowed by the larger three-storey building to the left.
Dr Arnott lived in his new house until his death and is buried in the nearby Ecclefechan churchyard, with the following inscription on his tombstone:
At St. Helena he was the medical attendant of Napoleon Bonaparte whose esteem he won and whose last moments he soothed.
The hall iself is now a hotel, and pictures either side of the fireplace in reception remind the visitor of its historical associations.
And on the mantelpiece, almost hidden by unrelated bric a brac, is to be found a plate bearing an easily recognised image.
Curiously the current owner has created a corner dedicated to his own hero Winston Churchill. He was not aware of Churchill's admiration for Napoleon.
Perhaps most interesting of all is the willow tree to be found in the grounds of the hotel. This is claimed to have been grown from a cutting brought back from St Helena by Dr Arnott, of the famous willow that once grew on the site of Napoleon's grave.
Apparently the original was destroyed when the A74 was upgraded in 1992, and the current tree was grown from a cutting taken from it.
Whilst I was in Scotland my friend John Grimshaw was on the other side of the world, photographing a tree in Sydney Botanical Gardens that is also claimed to descend from the famous St Helena willow.