Happy Birthay Uncle Coco


Mar 20, 2000
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Cosmo Edmund Duff Gordon, 5th Bt. of Maryculter
July 22, 1862 - April 30, 1931

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From a letter to the author from Sir Cosmo's great-nephew Sir Andrew Duff Gordon, February 2, 1990:

"...Sadly I never knew Cosmo for he died in 1931 and I was born in 1933. However my father was extremely fond of him and talked constantly about the very happy, active, amusing times he and all the other nephews and nieces (there were a great many!)spent with Uncle Coco (as the family called him)at Maryculter ... This country estate was all that was left of the major family estate of Fyvie Castle in Aberdeenshire, which was sold by his cousin Maurice DG who became bankrupt in 1889....

...Gt Uncle Cosmo was educated at Radley (?) where he was a good oarsman and rowed in the college eight (fight?). He stood about 6'3" but with small feet for that height with very high insteps - a sure sign of an athlete. Father always said he was a fine looking man with a great presence. He had the most beautiful voice - having been properly trained in Italy and sang at many Edwardian house parties, of course...He taught his nephews not only to shoot straight and catch a fly ball but to sing or play a musical instrument to entertain his guests after dinner...He was a larger than life character, a very genial host....

...He was a superb fencer - and fenced for England in the Olympic Games in London in 1908 when he was a member of Lord Desborough's team...he had less hits scored against him than any other player. Moreover he only had one eye, having lost the other in a shooting accident.Incidentally he shot very well with a gun whose stock had been specially cast for him. He was a real countryman and far preferred being up in Scotland on his land than in town....

...It is perhaps interesting that for some generations the DG men have been lucky in marrying extremely clever and original women..."Lucile" was in her own way a genius and before her time and so was not a typical country squire's wife! However she and Cosmo adored each other for many years and in her book she says he was her real love... Cosmo took an active role in her business and did his best to protect her from financial sharks - but eventually failed...

...Now - the terrible affair of the Titanic...My gt uncle and aunt cleared their names but HE never recovered from the tragedy and spent more and more time in Scotland or abroad and became a rather sad and lonely figure - having been such a great extrovert...

...Finally I take great comfort from my father's lively memories of Cosmo, a courageous, honourable, generous, witty example of a fine Scot...

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From a letter from Sir Cosmo's step-granddaughter, Lady Flavia Anderson, nee Giffard, March 1, 1990:

"...Cosmo was a splendid old boy. I enjoyed my visits to Maryculter, his house at Deeside, where his gillie taught me to cast a line for salmon from the river's bank... Cosmo was ready to teach me to shoot rabbits but I touched the trigger too quickly and blew up a piece of turf toward which my gun was improperly pointing. But Cosmo never took me out shooting again for he had already lost one eye (from the gun of a careless neighbor) and wasn't going to risk the remaining one to my clumsiness at age 14!..."

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From "Discretions and Indiscretions" by Lucy Lady Duff Gordon, published 1932:

"...I realize that I have written very little of this quiet, rather stern Scotsman whom I married. It is not because I have not thought of him many times since I began this book; his death last year left a blank in my life that will never be filled; but both he and I belonged to the generation that made a virtue of reticence, at least where one's personal affairs were concerned, and he would have disliked nothing more than the idea that someday I should lay bare all the intimacies of our life together...So of Cosmo I will only write that I loved him very dearly and although we disagreed as all lovers do sometimes, he never once failed me in all the years of our marriage. His was the rare gift of understanding which pardons everything..."

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Thanks to Andrew Duff Gordon's extraordinary kindness, I have several wonderful photos of Cosmo fishing and hunting on the grounds of his beloved Maryculter (now a hotel), surrounded by the nieces and nephews that adored him. (Cosmo was unable to father children of his own and it was a grief to him but these pictures show a man anyone would have been proud to call Father. Of course he was happy enough being "Uncle Coco.")

Happy birthday to a great man, misunderstood perhaps by many, but someone whose story is always near to my heart.

Randy
 

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