From the first page the pace and style of these memoirs, like a good novel, draws the reader in. This is no mere chronological rendition of the life of a former Naval Officer who unexpectedly inherits a castle, giving a new twist to his life which then leads to a variety of public roles. It contains all the elements of story-telling with setting, plot, development, imagery, conflict and characterisation. Neither the title or front cover indicate the diversity and interest of its content. Michael Saunders Watson leads the reader from one engaging aspect of his life to another.
To give up a promising Naval career and sacrifice the command of a Destroyer to accept from his uncle, Sir Michael Culme-Seymour Bt, the offer of Rockingham Castle and its associated agricultural estate presented no mean challenge. He would have to learn new skills, and his task would be to put the estate and castle on a financial footing so that it could generate sufficient income from its own resources to cover maintenance, repair and development costs.
But if taking over Rockingham Castle and the estate was in itself a challenge, it was also the starting block from which he was propelled into a succession of other roles: over 15 years with the Historic Houses Association as Chairman of its Parliamentary & Taxation Committee and subsequently as its President, he played a pivotal role in achieving public and political recognition of the plight of historic houses; as a trustee of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and also of the National Heritage Memorial Fund; and as Chairman of the British Library Board.
Current and future generations will benefit from being reminded of these experiences - and the author is a good raconteur. As Tam Dalyell writes in his foreword "This book is not ephemeral, it is a required text for any historian of the attitudes of the British towards their past."