Life in Boleskine House

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The name Malcolm Dent will be familiar to many visitors here: he was caretaker of Boleskine House throughout much of the time that the property belonged to guitarist, Jimmy Page.

The Inverness Courier has an interesting interview with Malcolm, including his reminiscences about life in Crowley’s Scottish hunting lodge…

[…] He was brought to Loch Ness by his boyhood friend Jimmy Page […] There were plans to run electricity pylons from the new power station at Foyers through Boleskine’s grounds. Page asked Malcolm to fight these plans and supervise the restoration of the house….

If the happenings were strange, so too were some of the visitors.

“I had them from every corner of the world,” he recalled. “A lot of them were nutters. A lot of them were downright dangerous lunatics. They will still be turning up today. The house is on the map as an occult centre and you’re not going to get rid of Crowley’s legacy that easily.”

Page, who spent no more than six weeks at Boleskine in the 20 years he owned it, eventually sold the house in the early 1990s.
For the full article visit http://www.inverness-courier.co.uk/news/fullstory.php/aid/1327/A_rock_legend_and_black_arts_figured_in_Malcolm’s_life.html

A rock legend and black arts figured in Malcolm’s life
by Calum Macleod
Published: 03 November, 2006

OVER 30 years in the Highlands have done little to erode Malcolm Dent’s mellow Surrey tones, but for the past six years he has been putting that voice to good use in providing a service for the sight-impaired in the area and beyond.

Black Isle resident Malcolm is one of the volunteers who produces talking newspapers for the Highlands and Islands Tape Service for the Blind and Disabled (HITS).

It is 25 years since the first edition of the north’s talking newspaper was sent out to 35 blind people throughout the area.

Today the service caters for up to 500 listeners, some from well outside the Highlands, and is always in need of fresh volunteers like Malcolm to cater for demand.

“I was unemployed for a short period some years ago and I heard they were looking for volunteers. I walked through the door and I was snapped up immediately,” Malcolm recalled.

The Inverness Courier is just one of the local newspapers recorded, along with the Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and the Monthly Record, the magazine of the Free Church of Scotland, and some church services, with tapes sent throughout the UK and beyond – Malcolm recalls one listener as far away as New Zealand.

“People like the sound of my voice, I know that, but as a volunteer you do more than just read. There’s high speed copying of tapes. You’ve got to check the ones that go out have something on each side and check the ones that are returned,” Malcolm said.

It is one way the 62 year old has of contributing to the region where he has lived since 1971.

“I sometimes find it amusing my mother gave me a Scottish name. There’s no Scottish blood at all in the family,” he said. “It always seemed strange that I should land up in the Highlands.”

Yet Malcolm had only made one visit to Scotland, hitch-hiking to Edinburgh as a teenager, before he was brought to Loch Ness by his boyhood friend Jimmy Page, guitarist with Led Zeppelin, to live at what is probably the most notorious house in the Highlands, Boleskine House near Foyers.

“Jimmy Page caught me at a time in my life when I wasn’t doing a great deal and asked me to come up and run the place. I never did establish why he fixed on me,” Malcolm said.

At the time, there were plans to run electricity pylons from the new power station at Foyers through Boleskine’s grounds. Page asked Malcolm to fight these plans and supervise the restoration of the house.

“Initially I thought I’d be coming for a year or so, but then it got its hooks in me. I met my then wife at Boleskine House. My children were raised there – my son Malcolm was born in Boleskine House,” Malcolm said.

However, when Malcolm first arrived at Boleskine, the 18th century lodge seemed far from hospitable.

“It was a wreck,” he said. “It had been more or less abandoned. There’d been at least one fire there, parts of the building were missing and it had been badly patched up. The grounds, which at one time had been very nicely laid out were gone to hell so the main task I took on was getting them into some sort of shape. That was something I really enjoyed.”

Life at Boleskine contrasted greatly with his previous career in advertising. He learned to raise animals, including goats and pigs, and developed new skills including furniture design.

“All the main rooms look out across the loch and you’re 300 feet up so you have some dramatic views. We loved living there,” Malcolm said. “It was a great house to raise children in and they loved it there, in spite of its history and in spite of the peculiar happenings that went on there.”

Malcolm had no idea of Boleskine’s history when he arrived at Loch Ness and knew nothing of occultist Aleister Crowley, the house’s most infamous former resident.

Crowley became a counter-culture hero in the 1960s for his rejection of conventional religion and liberal attitude to sex and drugs, but even during his time at Boleskine, his reputation led local people to avoid the house after dark.

“I knew Jimmy had some weird interests, but that was about it,” Malcolm revealed.

According to legend, Crowley bought Boleskine in 1899 to carry out a magic ceremony, but never completed it, and the demonic entities released in the rite remained in the house.

“I arrived a total sceptic, to a degree I still am, but there are things at the house you can’t explain,” Malcolm said.

“I’m aware that, compared with where I’m from in Surrey, there’s more superstition in this part of the world. It all became a bit more real when I came here, but it never put me off.”

One of the most famous stories is that the head of Simon Lord Lovat, beheaded for treason following the 1745 Jacobite rebellion, can be heard rolling around the floor at Boleskine – even though the house dates only from the 1760s.

“At the time of his death, he was supposedly casting his mind back to the heart of the Highlands. Just above us is Errogie, which is the geographical centre of the Highlands, and the nearest consecrated ground is Boleskine,” Malcolm explained.

Another ghostly tale is more closely related to Crowley and involves seven chairs brought to Boleskine from the Cafe Royal in London.

“Everyone loves that story,” Malcolm laughed. “Jimmy got those chairs specifically because one of them had Aleister Crowley’s name on it. Each of the chairs belonged to a famous person and had a nameplate on the back and front – Marie Lloyd, Billy Butlin, James Agate, Ruldolph Valentino, William Orpen and Jacob Epstein.”

Crowley’s chair was always placed at the head of the table, but after the chairs were repaired, Malcolm would come into the room and find they had switched places with Marie Lloyd’s chair at the head of the table.

“The kids couldn’t have done it and we didn’t know why this was happening. Then I realised the guy who did the repairs didn’t know which plaque went with which chair and hadn’t put them back on the right ones,” Malcolm said.

Construction work and redecorating also seemed to have their effect on the house.

“Doors would be slamming all night, you’d go into a room and carpets and rugs would be piled up,” Malcolm added.

Another regular occurrence was that the back door, inside doors and kitchen doors would suddenly spring open as if someone was running through them, even on calm days.

“We just used to say that was Aleister doing his thing,” Malcolm said.

If the happenings were strange, so too were some of the visitors.

“I had them from every corner of the world,” he recalled. “A lot of them were nutters. A lot of them were downright dangerous lunatics. They will still be turning up today. The house is on the map as an occult centre and you’re not going to get rid of Crowley’s legacy that easily.”

Page, who spent no more than six weeks at Boleskine in the 20 years he owned it, eventually sold the house in the early 1990s. Coinciding with the break up of Malcolm’s marriage, it began a new chapter in his life.

“I always say I have had my life back to front – I had my retirement at Boleskine,” Malcolm commented. “No matter how hard I worked, it never seemed like a job at all.”

Most recently a salesman for double glazing company C. R. Smith, Malcolm acknowledges life is a little tamer now, but no less enjoyable and if he has no longer the scenic views over Loch Ness to enjoy, he can sometimes be treated to displays by the Moray Firth dolphins right outside his window at Kilmuir.

“You’ve got to enjoy life.” Malcolm said. “There’s a saying: life’s not a rehearsal. I subscribe to that.”

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