The Murray Family have lived in Balloan for at least 200 years. My great grandfather Angus Murray was born in Balloan in 1823: just before Napoleon died. They lived as crofters farming the 30-odd acres immediately around Balloan (including the land that now includes Dornoch Academy which my grandfather gifted the community in the early 1900s). However they did not live in Balloan House: they lived in the steading opposite and if you look carefully you can see a chimney on the extreme left of the steading and this chimney was for the fire that warmed what was a croft-house and their home until 1905. There are portraits of my great-grandfather and great-grandmother hanging in the main dining-room which I am happy to show guests should they have any interest.

My grandfather John Murray was born in 1865 and in 1895 he went to India to plant tea. He is mentioned in a book on the tea planters of that time which relates that he was not a mean man but he always saved half his quite generous salary and was canny with his investments so that he returned to Dornoch in 1905 just 15 years later with £10,000. Winston Churchill in his memoirs of his young days in the late Victorian/early Edwardian era mentions the same sum of £10,000 as being what was necessary to establish himself as a gentleman of independent means so presumably many had a similar aspiration at that time.

John Murray asked his father Angus to arrange the building of Balloan House for himself and Balloan Cottage for his father in time for his return in 1905.

The old part of the house where bed and breakfast guests will be staying has exactly the same structure as in 1905 except that we have added en-suite bathrooms to the two south-facing bedrooms; however with this alteration we have retired the bath which is now 112 years old and has the distinctive long drain-pipe instead of a modern plug. Downstairs what is now the study was originally the dining-room. It was changed to the study and redecorated with the ‘new’ blue wall paper when my aunt was married. The study still has this ‘new’ wall paper … my aunt was married in 1938. The room that you see to your right when you enter Balloan House was originally the parlour and subsequently became my grandmother’s piano room. In addition to her piano there was also the black lacquer dresser which stands there now. This was bought as a fashionable item because lacquered or ‘Japanned’ furniture was popular at the time as Japan was the last civilisation to be opened up to Western eyes at the end of the 19th.Century and caused great excitement with plays such as Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘The Mikado’.

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