A Childhood at Kildalton Castle

An extract from the memoirs of the Sivell family... Alfred Sivell was butler to Talbot Clifton

This has been written to commemorate the 65th anniversary of Dunkirk. Arthur Sivell was wounded badly here on 2nd June 1940 and taken prisoner by the Germans. He was 29 years old, married with five children. He remained in captivity for three years. These are the true memoirs of Eileen, his eldest child.

My grandparents were Alfred and Florence Sivell. Alfred was an Isle of Wight man, his family being traced back to Thomas Sivell who was mistakenly shot for a smuggler while on board his sloop in Portsmouth waters in June 1785. There is a special headstone to Thomas in Binstead churchyard. Florence came from Newark in Nottinghamshire. She was Florence Stevens. Her mother's name was Geeson. They were farming and bakery folk. Alfred and Florence had six children - Alec, Arthur, Frank, Dolly, Lionel and Yvonne. This is a true story of my dad Arthur and his family. Arthur was Alfred and Florence's second child; he was born 7th February 1911. He was a prisoner of war in World War Two.

As a boy Arthur spent some years on the Isle of Islay, an island off the western coast of Scotland. His father was butler to Talbot Clifton at Kildalton Castle. They all seem to have loved it there. Frank always said these were the happiest days of his life. Dolly described it as an 'Idyllic Life'. This was in spite of them walking to school barefoot - she said they hid their shoes in the hedge to be like the local children. Dad (Arthur) told us the bottom of one's feet soon go hard. While at school Arthur wrote a wonderful composition called 'Life through his eyes in Islay'. He won a very special prize. The family never forgot this. Continue reading.....

Yvonne was born here at Kildalton Castle on 24th May 1925. Arthur made the butter that morning. He was fourteen. He also said what a marvellous life they had there. The boys enjoyed rowing in a boat with a man called Conboy. Frank once took the boat out on his own and was swept out to the open sea (not to the Sound of Jura). Conboy and Arthur went to his rescue and definitely saved his life. Poor Frank was severely punished. One did not get a warm embrace in those days. Arthur received the nickname 'Badger' because he went badger hunting. This name stayed with him for most of his life. He loved nature and all animals. The only dark spot seems to have been when he found a sunken fishing trawler washed up on the beach with the bodies of German fishing sailors inside. This was his first encounter with the Germans!

One Christmas in the 1920s there was a grand party for all the staff, well remembered. Talbot Clifton was leaving for a journey to Africa. Sadly he died while away. Grandmother Florence has told us that the Castle walls were draped with black velvet. Talbot Clifton is buried on the summit of Fairy Hill. It is known that the Sivell family left Kildalton a while after this. With thanks to Catriona Bell

This is part one of two and printed with kind permission of the Ileach. The next part will be published in the next couple of days.

Tag: kildalton castle sivell history

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