Three Score Years
One of my favourite memories from the last few years was standing in Lime Tree Avenue with the film crew from Viking Cruises. We were creating some promotional and historical archives to share and they had asked me to “interview” or chat to Eddie Hughes, our Head Keeper. The idea was to represent and record the stories and lives of some of the team who work here at Highclere as a sort of modern ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’.
Lime Tree Avenue runs roughly north-south some half a mile to the south of the Castle. I love walking, biking or riding along it whatever time of year it is – it somehow settles the soul.
We chose a spot half way along and Eddie was standing there in his hat, tweed coat and breeks, long walking stick in hand, spaniels to heel. I wondered where to start. Looking around, I asked him what was his favourite time of year, what was his favourite season? In his soft country burr, he replied “every day is my favourite day Milady; I love every tree, every path, every time of day”.
I was silent. He was so right. He wears the same tweed suit, he loves his dogs and knows every gnarled tree trunk. He can sense the weather, the rain, the eddying wind, from his sense of being far better than I can. I felt very humbled as I realised how much greater his knowledge was than mine partly because I just never seem to have enough time.
Last week, we threw a party here in the Castle for him, his family and friends and our community, to say thank you for everything he has done and achieved for us. He has worked here for sixty years and has decided it is time to retire.
Eddie was one of six people I chose to create a portrait of in my book “At Home at Highclere” and sitting down to listen and write his voice was for me one of the highlights of the book. One morning in 1957, as fourteen-year-old Eddie Hughes was cutting firewood in the fields, the 6th Earl of Carnarvon and his agent came towards him. Lord Carnarvon commented that Eddie was doing such a good job he would like to offer him a more permanent position. Eddie thought nothing of it – after all, he had only just finished school – but three days later the agent returned and offered him a job assisting the keepers in rearing pheasants.
His day began at 4 a.m., learning from the Head Keeper and Under Keepers about the land, the woods, the birds and the crops. Eddie met his wife here at Highclere where she was a lady’s maid. She looked after the ladies each evening before helping Robert Taylor the butler in the Dining Room. Sometime after they separated Eddie met Val, an accomplished assistant keeper, with award-winning dogs who shared their skills with Mary Berry in a television programme. They have been together for some 25 years and live in a cottage at Beacon Hill with the old iron age fort on the skyline. I hope they will continue to enjoy their walks, the country life and myriad of marvellous spaniels for many years to come.
As Eddie and I ended our chat in Lime Avenue, he said “You could not work for a better employer than Lord Carnarvon [my husband], very fair and honourable, a lovely bloke. I have been very lucky. It is a lovely place to work and I would not get a better office than this.’
What a wonderful accolade from a lovely man. Eddie and Val wrote to us “We have both loved working here…it’s been a wonderful experience.” And I hope that for the hundred or so friends who came to toast him, to say thank you and by whom he was showered by accolades. I have only known him for one score years and it has been my privilege.
Lady Carnarvon, Eddie has such a kind and gentle face. I hope he has a wonderful retirement. Bless him for all he has done for Highclere Castle.
How wonderful that they both had a job they loved, employers they loved and a lifetime of happiness at Highclere….God bless them both in their retirement
A beautiful tribute. Hope Eddie has a lovely retirement years.
What a lovely tribute to dear Eddie. May he enjoy many years of retirement. My thanks to him for all he has done to help preserve and keep Highclere Castle the magical place it is. Cheers Eddie 🙂
Thank you, Lady Carnarvon
Great accolades for a devoted FRIEND who happens to work for and with Highclere.
Our world is better with people like your Eddie living in it.
I do love you read your blog.
Regards from Belgium.
What a lovely tribute and even more lovely to know of 60 years of career enjoyment! What wealth of knowledge must reside in Eddie’s heart and mind!
Enjoy your retirement Eddie!
Falls Ontario Canada
Thank you, Lady Carnarvon
Enjoyed this lovely tribute to Eddie. Well done, Sir!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
A beautiful tribute for a life well lived and well shared. I love how he speaks of his love of all seasons, all times of day, and how he had the best office. Indeed he has. He gave a beautiful tribute to you and your husband as well. A joy to read, and I wish him and Val much happiness and good health in their retirement. Those are big shoes to fill!
All the best,
Charlotte Merriam Cole
Thank you – yes they are.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
thank you for sharing. I detect a slight hint of sadness as one era passes and another begins. Lovely to look back and remember the good times, and I get the impression he had the best job in the entire world in his eyes. I met your bobby on his bike last year, and he said that he has the best beat in the world, and he really meant it! A tribute to you, as this is a reflection of you and his Lordship.
He sounds like a very kind and gentle soul. To be at the same job for 60 years is amazing. His love for Highclere Castle, You and Lord Carnarvon shows in his face. Good luck to Eddie and Val, and thank you Milady for your blogs. I love to read them.
Thank you – you are kind
Thank you so much for sharing your life and thoughts with us Lady Carnarvon.
In the United States we tend to change positions and even careers several times in a lifetime. Most employers here do not care about their employee’s more than if they are serving them well. I love your country…the traditions, the incredible beauty, and especially the people. So kind, caring and polite. It seems so wonderful that a person can be so contented and well cared for that they remain in their position for 60 years.
I have so enjoyed hearing about Eddie. He and Val sound like they have loved Highclere as much and you and Lord Carnarvon do. They take as much pride in caring for the property as you all do. Thank you for sharing his story with us. All the best.
Loved it – wishing all employers were as kind.
It is wonderful that there are kind and gentle souls that love the earth and tend it so lovingly.
Thank you, Lady Carnarvon, for capturing once again all that is important and timeless in this world. Best wishes to Eddie Hughes and all the folks at Highclere Castle.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
What a wonderful blog, just looking at Eddie, you can tell, he is a font of knowledge, and I imagine has some wonderful stories to tell. I would like to wish Eddie and his Wife all the best in their retirement.
What a warm tribute to a lovely man. May he and Val live out their days together enjoying their beautiful surroundings. I saw both of them on the Mary Berry TV show from Highclere. As I recall, Val was one of the spaniel trainers. She really knew her stuff.
Val does know her stuff – it is a good partnership
What a wonderful story, about a rare gentleman.
There are some amazing people here
Greetings from Texas! For many years, my husband worked punishing hours in order to build his medical practice. Now that we are retired, and he has slowed down, he has taken an interest in my gardening. He now marvels that such tiny bulbs bring forth a spectacular show each year. Stopping to admire the lavender bed, which still blooms and thrives through our blistering summers. Standing slack-jawed at the huge purple iris blooms, which stop traffic on our street when people stop to stare, looking so lovely with the surrounding pink roses. Laughing at the antics of the baby squirrels, the cardinals flashing bright red as they teach their babies to fly. Sentinel birds screeching warnings when a hawk or eagle is spotted. He has discovered nature, bless his heart. Thank you for sharing your life and allowing us to share ours with you.
How wonderful and I think we all should discover nature and take the time to listen and watch. I think it helps us in body and mind
I wonder with such longevity with you if Eddie remembers Jock and Fanny who also worked at the castle. We stayed with them sometimes and vice versa.
I thought I would sit down with him to capture some stories
Wishes to Eddie and his wife for a continuing fulfilling life with the trees, birds, pheasants, and beautiful nature of Highclere. He shall always be part of Highclere and it shall always be a part of him. ‘Loved seeing your “under der linden” , Lime Tree Avenue! The linden tree is what gives us the tranquil tilia (linden) tea. I can just imagine what that lane is like in the spring when the linden flowers send off their wonderful scent! Thank you for such a inspiring blog.
Thank you – he is still here, I hope driving along Lime Avenue …
How fortunate that you have such loyal employees! Sixty Years! Who wouldn’t want to work at such a lovely place. Best wishes to Eddie and his wife. May they have health and happiness in their retirement!!!
60 years! WOW. It’s evident he really loved his job and your family. Nice pictures of that lane and him. The big retirement party for him was a great idea. Frank Chary of Cape Coral, FL.
It was a lovely evening – although sometimes near tears
An achingly beautiful compliment to him and yourselves. Thank you for sharing with us.
WOW What a guy!!! Hope he has passed on his font of knowledge to the next keeper.
I am sure that over the next few months he can tell his stories and we glean some knowledge..
A great tribute to Eddie. I hope Eddie and Val have a blessed retirement.
I am sure Eddie will be hard to replace, Lady Carnarvon. He sounds like he is old school and they come along once in a blue moon. The earth is in his blood and soul. I hope he finds something he loves to do in his retirement. He certainly has earned it. Loved your story about him. Thank you.
He is not one to sit back.
Dear Lady Carnarvon
Best wishes to Eddie and Val on Eddie’s retirement. May he continue to enjoy every day. Kindest regards to all.
I hope he will!
I enjoy reading your blog very much! Congratulations to Eddie on his retirement. Warm regards from Littlestown, Pennsylvania
Thank you !
What a tribute ! I wish more employers here in America would realize what treasures they have in their faithful employees. It;s true they are compensated for their work with a pay check. But happy employees are more productive. One can tell just by being in and around Highclere that the employees are not just employees. My observation is they are treated and thought of more like family. The party you planned for Eddie proves this point. You made him feel like his life has been valued. We all want to feel that way. To know the world is a bit better off with us than if we had not been born.
Well done, Eddie!!! Well done Lord and Lady Carnarvon. Our world is better with all of you in it!
L. Sue Smith
They are our family, then together we can keep going
Such a wonderful gem of a story- thanks for sharing! May Eddie’s retirement be wonderful!
Enjoy spending time with your lovely wife and enjoying retirement.
Dear Lady Carnarvon–This was a beautiful post and tribute to a man who has helped make your incredible home a showplace, as well as an icon to many people around the globe.
From my home in San Diego, California, may I send my congratulations to Eddie and Val, and heart-felt wishes that they enjoy a long, happy retirement.
He is an anchor isn’t he?
I saw Eddie being interviewed when I watched The Secrets of Highclere Castle on PBS. It was a delightful segment with Eddie’s comments. How lucky he was to have Highclere and you and your husband to work for and how lucky you were to have Eddie. What a wonderful story. I love reading your blogs.
Thank you – you are right
Such an incredible story. Once again the love of Highclere and the community it represents are so evident. May Eddie and Val enjoy their retirement. The compliment to Lord Carnarvon is poignant. It’s part of the cycle of life; Highclere continues and the stories of the people of Highclere enthrall us. Lady Carnarvon’s essay has brought tears to my eyes again.
L’dor v’dor: the continuity of life through the stories that are shared through the years and build community.
Thank you for such a lovely glimpse into a life well-lived. May we all experience the same joy.
I think a community and being valued gives stability and helps us all ride the ups and downs.
I’m so excited to be able to visit!
I will be there at the end of July with about 8 other people. I’m so looking forward to this trip, to see Highclere and other parts of London.
If you are staying in London, Highclere is an easy train journey..
What a wonderful tribute to a loyal employee as he embarks on this new chapter in his life. The stories he could tell.
My great grandfather was the head gamekeeper for Kinfauns Castle in Perthshire just after the turn of the last century. I remember my father and aunts relating stories of his adventures—he so loved the land and all the flora and fauna on it.
Warm regards from (frigid) northern British Columbia, Canada
Wow, 60 years, that is indeed devotion to one employer. Having watched the recent Mary Berry’s Country House Secrets (an amazing one hour special on Highclere on BBC iPlayer) Mary asked the keepers, what is it you like about your job, as none of you ever seem to leave? and they all replied it’s the atmosphere, its the camaraderie, it’s like being with family. I think that sums up what it means to work at Highclere and having visited the castle, you quickly get a sense of the enormous pride everyone has in their jobs.
What a beautiful tribute for a much loved and deserved man, Wishing you many happy years of retirement Eddie…………
Lady Carnarvon, I so admire your dedication to Highclere. It is obvious that fate destined you for this day and age. May God bless you and Highclere.
What a lovley story you are very kind to all your employees my family the collins family worked for you you treat everyone as family thankyou for all your kindness
They are family
Such a wonderful story! He has done much for Mother Earth, and had a wonderful place to do it. May he and his wife have a blessed retirement!
Lady Carnarvon, I had forgotton to ask you in my last post if Eddie and Val have any children and live close by for them to visit. If so, they must be so very proud. Also, I am going out today to purchase one of your books. I think it might be At Home At Highclere. I am excited myself!
They do from earlier lives. Let me know what you think of At Home – there is a fuller story about Eddie in it and 5 other special people
Best wishes to Eddie for the future.I’m sure he will keep in regular contact with Highclere as I am sure he will miss it very much.
He will miss it.
Thank you for the lovely, charming story of Eddie Hughes. What a delightful gentleman. I was particularly taken by his comment having to do with his frequent walks down Lime Tree Avenue:
” “every day is my favourite day Milady; I love every tree, every path, every time of day”. In attempting to visualize this wonderful setting it motivated me to inquire as to whether or not that area is open to Highclere Castle visitors? In that we will be touring the property in May of this year, we’d love to walk one-half mile south of the castle to stroll down Lime Tree Avenue.
Thank you and best regards,
Thank you – in fact it is not but the Wood of Goodwill is near it – alongside it – I hope I can meet you when you come and show you
What a thrill and an honor meeting you would be during one of our visits over two days (5 May and 13 May).
And, we will certainly plan an adequate amount of time to, if possible, visit Lime Tree Avenue.
I am around then !
Lady Carnarvon thank you so much for sharing Eddie’s story. Reading stories of this nature restoreth the soul. I am sitting in my solarium looking out at a wintry, snowy scene which is lovely, but your blog provided a welcome inner warmth.
Downton lives. Your culture is so endearing. I too share the love of woods, greens, and quiet walks to stimulate my soul. It is the best place. Continue all for all.
As usual, your blog says something timely and interesting. What a wonderful tribute to a long-time, dedicated employee! Please give him my best! Thank you
How fortunate you have all four as part of your team.
Dedication is invaluable.
Thank you sharing all these stories about your beautiful estate.
I hope to visit some day….
Lady Carnarvon, I am going to send you another greeting card as the first one I mailed January 20 and I believe that one has gone astray. Blessings to you.
Thank you – if you send the second, the first will arrive
It is certainly the end of an era, I would like to wish Eddie and Val a long and very happy retirement. My son was one of the lucky ones invited to the party that you organised for Eddie and he counts himself very fortunate to have been part of the beating team at Highclere for 22 years and has always held Eddie in the highest esteem. Likewise my father (before his final illness) also formed part of the beating team for many years and counted Eddie amongst his closest friends. Not many people stay in a job for 60+ years but for Eddie it was more than a job, as he said you couldn’t find a better office than this. I know my son has some great memories of his time beating at Highclere which he will remember for ever, thank you Eddie.
Thank you – and I hope he will continue! I hope Eddie will drive round with advice still.
I was enthralled with this post. Eddie sounds like an amazing example of integrity, loyalty, dedication to his position, employer and Highclere. The world could use more people like this.
I am grateful that I recieve your emails which brings a little bit of England to me.
After reading this post my heart become filled with pride of England. I am also impressed with you and your lord Carvanvon and the phenomenal example you both are exhibiting regarding Highclere. A shining example to many , of how to adapt and survive an all levels and stations of life.
Although I do not know Eddie or Val etc, I wish them well in their new adventure, of retirement,
ahead . Let them know that life can be full of joy, wonder and wonderful fullfillment in retirement.
I also sincerely encourage you to continue to share , via emails etc, to share your journey and adventures there at Highclere.
I am glad you enjoy these blogs!
Oh my. I didn’t read last week’s post until just now.
“I love every tree, every path, every time of day.” I think I’ll print that quote and post it above my desk as a reminder of Eddie’s glorious pearl of wisdom.
Thank you for sharing the nicest of tributes to your hard-working Head Keeper. May he have a well-deserved retirement blessed with good health.
His quotes live with me
I love looking forward to your blog each Monday……but in perusing my newly arrived 452 page Whole Seed Catalog what pops up but Highclere Castle and very special seeds steeped in the history of Lord Carnarvon and Mr. Carter…….what fun! So in a way I can meld your history with an ancient (246 years) American garden. Best wishes for calmer weather this week.
Your blog never fails to lift my spirits!
Thanks for writing it.
Sandy in New Mexico, USA