In all honesty, it is chiefly for the sake of Thurso’s grandfather, my old friend Sir Archibald Sinclair, that I am undertaking this journey. He led the Liberal Party between 1935 and 1945, and was altogether a splendid fellow. He was orphaned at the age of five but (despite my family’s best efforts) was brought up at Thurso Castle by his own grandfather Sir Tollemache Sinclair. He too was a splendid fellow, who had pulled down the sixteenth century castle and had a new one built to his design. He had a passion for the orchestra – a superior sort of mechanical organ – and could often be heard belting out some such tune as "Ride of the Valkyries" on the latest model.
I arrive in Berwick Upon Tweed, only to find it besieged by the hairier members of the Scottish National Party. I am told that they are plotting to seize the town and bear off Alan Beith and Lady Maddock so that they can exhibit them in Edinburgh, forcibly dress Beith in a kilt and oblige the lovely Diana to spend the rest of her life cooking porage for SNP backbenchers at Holyrood.
To Inverness Zoo at last, where I find Thurso disconsolately shelling peanuts while being groomed by a charming lady gorilla. "I’ve told them that I am the Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross," he says, "but they just laugh." I complain of his treament to a passing keeper, but he very reasonably replies: "Sir, if I believed every hard-luck story I heard from an animal in this zoo, our cages would soon all be empty."
I write these words in the trophy room at Brig O’Dread with a tumbler of Auld Johnston at my elbow. The charming lady gorilla occupies the armchair on the other side of the roaring fire and Thurso is doing the washing up after our well-earned dinner. I felt it was the least he could do.