I very seldom sign online petitions
regarding the welfare or otherwise
of non-human animals, assuming
that if we gave proper consideration
and care to one another the rest
of the animal kingdom would prosper
accordingly. I made an exception
today signing and sharing one entitled
‘Save the Wallabies of Loch Lomond’.
The Loch is a freshwater lake whose north
is in the highlands, its south in the lowlands.
It is the subject of a Jacobite song of love
and death – ‘The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond;
has more than thirty islands, some crannogs
man-made in prehistoric times, most
organic, all uninhabited, like
Inchconnachan, ‘Island of the Colquhons’,
whose property it was from medieval times.
For Fiona, Countess of Arran, née
Colquhon, Scottish power boat champion,
‘the fastest woman on water’, from childhood
the island was a haven. In time
she built a timber-framed bungalow,
boathouse and pier for her personal use.
On their estate in Hemel Hempstead,
near St Albans, in the Home Counties,
she and the Earl kept non-native mammals,
like llamas, alpacas, and wallabies.
Shortly after the end of World War II,
for some unrecorded reason she settled
a troop of the marsupials on the island.
For more than seventy years they have lived
in harmony with native flora and fauna.
The new owners want the wallabies removed,
whether exiled or culled is not clear –
hence the petition. Some see them as a
rather charming quirk of history,
a useful tourist attraction – others
an invasive species. These wallabies
are yet another victim of the British
Empire, and the selfish, careless whimsy
of landowners ancient and modern.
They are no more responsible for where
they are or what they are doing than escaped
mink eating grouse eggs on some money-making
moor, or, from some vast estate, self-seeded
rhododendron, lush and exotic
in the acid soils of Scotland’s west coast, its
empty glens cleared of folk.
Countess of ArranLoch Lomondwallabies