David Crichton (BA Medieval and Modern History, 1994) is head of Clan Crichton and Managing Director of the 4,000-acre Monzie Estate in the Scottish lowlands…
Mention a Clan Chief and you may think of a great warrior leading his troops in battle but David is keen to clarify ‘that’s a bit feudal,’ to contemporary Scots.
You’re more likely to find him hard at work on the family estate, near Crieff in Perthshire, where he and his wife Alexandra run three holiday cottages and a joinery business, and are currently developing two more holiday properties. They’ve also recently become parents to baby Charles.
Amongst breath-taking scenery, the couple are grafting to ensure the estate remains sustainable. There are 1,500 sheep, 200 cows and a hydroelectric power station built by David’s grandfather in 1952 that needs daily attention. They have a small team of staff but are very hands on, doing everything from cutting firewood to refilling hot tubs, sewing curtains or doing paperwork for the joinery.
Until four years ago the couple were based in London, where David worked in the City and Alexandra still has a PR firm. When they returned to Scotland to run the estate they promised to give it six years; now they can’t imagine ever going back. They’re developing their holiday business further and hope to eventually run a wedding venue.
‘Scotland has amazing ambience and individual elements such as golf, whisky and Highland Games add up to create an exciting alternative culture. Clans are part of that. They’re iconic,’ David says.
‘We need to focus on tourism and particularly on experiences. People want to stay in special places. It’s great to be able to offer them somewhere a bit wow.’
David remembers his time at Birmingham with affection, particularly the support he received from friends and the University when his father died during his first year.
‘It meant a lot when people who I’d just recently become friends with made a huge effort to look after me. Some of them are still friends now and are chipping in with bits of advice years later,’ he says.
As a clan chief in the 21st Century, he says historic responsibilities manifest themselves in new forms, from helping people get hold of the tartan to explaining the genealogy and allowing them to trace their Scottish roots. He also enthuses about clan castles which are open to the public, including Crichton Castle near Edinburgh and Blackness Castle in Rosyth, a former prison jutting out into the Firth of Forth which he gleefully describes as ‘absolutely vile.’
The Crichtons have been based at Monzie (pronounced without the z) since the 1850s. David’s mother now lives in the castle, and guests who stay in the holiday cottages are offered complimentary tours.
While clan chiefs may no longer engage in physical combat, David is battling to make the estate attractive to visitors and help its more traditional businesses find a niche in the modern world. Agriculture in particular, is vital to help maintain the stunning backdrop.
‘It’s quite a juggle, but having become parents we’re conscious that we need to make this work for the next generation. It concentrates the mind,’ he says.