Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Noel Skelton

I spent a fascinating weekend at the home of Lord Crathorne in North Yorkshire looking at letters written by a long-forgotten Scottish Unionist MP called Noel Skelton to Katherine Tennant, who was Crathorne's aunt. Katherine later married Walter Elliot, who was the Conservative Secretary of State for Scotland from 1936-38. Lord Crathorne remembers Walter well and confirmed what many accounts say about him, namely that he was a cerebral and ebullient character. Interestingly, another of Crathorne's uncles was also Scottish Secretary, albeit briefly; H J Tennant in 1916.

Skelton served at the Scottish Office from 1931 until his premature death in 1935 as under-secretary to Sir Archibald Sinclair and subsequently Sir Godfrey Collins. Skelton wrote to Katherine Tennant from Gullane in East Lothian on 3 September 1931: '…yesterday afternoon Baldwin asked me to be Under Secretary for Scotland, which I accepted! So I am to be in the [government] too.'

Skelton is a fascinating character with, I believe, a substantial political legacy. I'm planning a short biography of his public and private life, of which Lord Crathorne's letters will form a substantial part.


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