Marjory Fidler (1734-1820) was an enterprising tea dealer who came
to live in Penicuik at Valleyfield.Born in Edinburgh, her father was a clerk in the Scots Exchequer
and joined the Jacobite rebellion with all the money
he could lay his hands on.Just eleven
years old, Marjory was taken to the Ball at Holyrood
-and was kissed on the cheek by Bonnie Prince Charlie.She stayed a keen Jacobite
all her life. Marjory fled to France with her father after the '45.Returning as a grown woman she married Charles
Cowan, a Fife-born trader
living in Leith, and the couple began to sell imported tea and
paper to Edinburgh townsfolk.She was known as “a first-rate man of business” and Moray House became
their headquarters in Edinburgh’s Canongate.They could not grow tea but they could begin
to make paper, and took over Valleyfield House and papermill in
Coming to live at
Valleyfield, of which she was very fond, Marjory Cowan paid great attention to
her dairy, poultry and garden, selling with her own hands her spare milk to
those who wanted it, and keeping cans set in order, each labelled for its own
customer, and every egg dated and marked with the hen's name.
Marjory had a keen
sense of humour. Her husband Charles liked to be a gentleman on all occasions,
but she had a contempt for grand ways. One day in the
garden at Valleyfield with a lapful of cabbages she’d been cutting, her
husband came home with a strange gentleman.She walked past them, dropped a curtsey and said 'your servant, Mr
Charles'.Mr Cowan kept a carriage for
travelling to and fro, but Marjory preferred her white pony.Once when engaged to dine with Sir John
Dunbar at Auchendinny, such a snow fell that her host
could hardly believe she could come, “till he saw her riding up the avenue
looking more like a snowball than anything else".
storerooms at Valleyfield and Moray House in those days would have been stocked
with her own supplies of good tea, sugar cones wrapped in Penicuik blue paper,
barrels of American apples, a barrel or two of salted beef from Shetland (the
delicately flavoured small cattle were stored each Michaelmas),
and huge American cheeses as big as cartwheels.
Since 1990 a group
has revived Marjory Cowan’s two-hundred-year-old tradition of making produce
available at Valleyfield House.Every Saturday from 10 o'clock till noon, organic supplies are set out by fair trade
volunteers.Teas of all kinds are there
from across Asia and Africa.And the
water Marjory used from St Mungo’s Well here at Valleyfield still makes a really good cup.
Jane Kelly has been
making hand-thrown teapots at Valleyfield House since 1980.You can see her work there on Saturdays from till , and at other times by appointment.