An illustrious Scot and his relation with Argentina

There are 9 replies in this Thread. The last Post () by Rice.

  • Perhaps some members of this furm woold like to know the biography of a Scot who loved Argentina.

    This is an excerpt from a Newspaper from Scotland, I have more information but is Spanish. For short, I send the English story:


    WHEN lists of the greatest Scots are compiled, William Wallace, Robert Burns and John Logie Baird rise to the top - few people have heard of Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham.

    But this traveller, politician and writer enjoys a unique place in Scottish history, having helped found both the Labour Party and the SNP.

    His life story reads like something from the pages of an adventure novel, and now the extraordinary tale will be revealed in a BBC documentary.

    The Adventures Of Don Roberto tells how this forgotten national treasure, born in 1852 to a wealthy family, left behind his privileged upbringing and elite education to flee to South America to become a "gaucho" - a cowboy in Argentina.

    He then returned home, married a penniless actress who concealed her true identity and, by 34, had become an MP.

    The first MP to describe himself as asocialist, he spent six weeks in jail after taking part in a violent demonstration in Trafalgar square.

    He then founded the Scottish Labour Party with Keir Hardie, before spending much of his later life writing and travelling.

    Just two years before his death in 1936, at the age of 83, he became the first president of the Scottish National Party.

    The documentary on his life is made by production company Caledonia TV and, for director Les Wilson, is the culmination of a long fascination with Robert's story.

    He said: "In Scotland nowadays, there are two parties that really matter - Labour and the SNP.

    "They are struggling for the imagination of the people of Scotland, and here is a man who was involved in founding both of them.

    "So it is a piece of history, but it has amodern resonance.

    "Robert would be at the head of the table at my fantasy dinner party."

    At 17, his adventures began when he left behind his family's estates - Finlaystone, near Langbank in Renfrewshire, and Ardoch, near Gartocharn in Dunbartonshire - and some unhappy years spent at Harrow public school to travel to Argentina.

    ASpanish grandmother had already taught him the language and, despite the dangerous, lawless nature of the country, he fell in love with the culture and the way of life.

    Les said: "He had this unusual background and he maybe just didn't quite fit into society. He wasn't quite an aristocrat, he wasn't bourgeois and he wasn't working class, so he invented his own position in society.

    "Parents these days worry if their kids go off to America or Australia on a gap year when they are in their early 20s. He was a 17-year-old going off to Argentina in the 1870s.

    "He had this fantastic restless spirit and a curiosity which he maintained all his life."

    While making the documentary, Les spoke to the only member of Cunninghame Graham's family who could remember him, his great-niece Lady Jean Ardoch.

    She said: "I remember him so full of energy and charm and absolutely beautiful manners.

    "He treated children exactly the same way he'd treat grown-ups. I thought he was a marvellous person."

    His years in Argentina proved to be eventful.

    Named "Don Roberto" by the other gauchos, he tried to make his fortune as a cattle rancher, but failed due to the ongoing revolution which gripped the country.

    One biographer claims he was press-ganged into the revolutionary army after being ambushed by a group of bandits.

    HE eventually came home and,at 26, married a girl of 19, telling everyone she was a Chilean actress called Gabriela de la Balmondiere.

    In fact, she was a penniless actress called Carrie Horsfall from Yorkshire.

    Lady Ardoch said: "Of course, he knew all the time that she was Carrie from Yorkshire.

    "The myth sort of stuck, and they got to the stage that they couldn't really do anything about it.

    "My father knew about it, but he would never say a word because he'd been sworn to secrecy by Uncle Robert, and so he never told us."

    Together, the couple spent years travelling - first to Texas, where they tried to open a ranch, then to Mexico, before returning to Scotland after the death of Cunninghame Graham's father.

    After inheriting a pile of debts with his father's estate, he turned to the radical politics of the day, and won the North West Lanarkshire seat at the 1886 election standing as a Liberal.

    He had been elected on a progressive ticket of Scottish home rule, the eight-hour day, nationalising industry, universal suffrage and the abolition of the House of Lords.

    His first Commons question raised the plight of Lanarkshire miners working long hours for low wages, and he soon gained a reputation for supporting the poor and oppressed.

    Lady Ardoch said: "He loved his fellow man. He didn't care who that fellow man was, they needed to be treated with respect."

    Les added: "There was this respect for people, no matter where they came from or who they were.

    "He treated people equally and with generosity. That applied to nations as well. He didn't think of any nation as bad or inferior."

    Less than two years into his political career, he was jailed for six weeks after charging at police lines during a demonstration in support of Irish home rule in Trafalgar Square.

    On his release, he returned home to a hero's welcome and cemented his radical reputation during a Commons debate by becoming the first MP to call himself a socialist.

    Soon, he became the first president of Scottish Labour when he formed the new political party with comrade Keir Hardie, who became secretary.

    But, while Hardie was elected under the Labour banner in 1892, Cunninghame Graham was defeated, ending his Parliamentary career.

    Again, he turned to travelling and writing. With his wife, he went to Spain to search for a lost Roman gold mine and, on another escapade, disguised himself as a Turkish sheikh to enter a Moroccan city in the Atlas mountains that was barred to infidels - he was caught and thrown in jail.

    His wife died aged 45, having never revealed her true identity.

    LADYArdoch said:"After my father died, I said to Mother,'You must know, I'm sure he told you who she was.' "But she still wouldn't tell me. It was rather sweet. She wrote a name and put it on my dressing table.

    "Then I did talk about it, because Ididn't understand why, two generations later, we shouldn't know the truth."

    Cunninghame Graham continued writing, travelling and campaigning.

    His friends included esteemed writers Oscar Wilde, HG Wells, Thomas Hardy and George Bernard Shaw.

    And, despite campaigning against the prospect of World War I, he travelled to Argentina to buy horses for the war effort in an effort to help the troops.

    Later, disillusioned with post-war Britain and the Labour Party, he moved further towards nationalism.

    In 1934, he became the first president of the new Scottish National Party.

    He died two years later, having recently returned to Argentina. His body was repatriated and he was buried beside his wife on the island of Inchmahome in the Lake of Menteith, Stirlingshire.


    In this country, several traditionalists centers still remember with high respect "Don Roberto", a Scot who loved the Pampas and the free life of the gauchos. I have a book published by him in 1930 plenty of notes of our landscape, customs and characters.

  • I can give you the entire book, purchased by my father in the 1940´s. but it is in Spanish!

    I hope you will understand it. And it has many drawings as well.

    By the way, i create the thread thinking in you, Mr Glasgow.

    Please send me you address and I will bring it to your home. I am coming back from vacations next Sunday.

    my mail address is cbozzoli@gmail.com