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The Playboy from Scotland

“Why is it that Scotsmen have a penchant for stirring up trouble on these islands?” — David J Whyte (A Scotsman) Henry Gordon

Veitch was the British consul on Madeira from 1809 until 1834, a considerable time to make his mark! Which he duly did!

“Veitch was born of a noble family in Selkirk in the Scottish Borders ”

Veitch was born of a noble family in Selkirk in the Scottish Borders. He came to Madeira early in his career and prospered in the wine trade, shipping supplies, a spot of tea planting and even a bit of smuggling. He amassed a goodly fortune through his nearly three decades on the island and built several impressive properties as enduring evidence.

Now the ‘Madeira Wine Institute’, this was Veitch’s townhouse overlooking the centre of the city of Funchal

His primary Funchal residence overlooked the then harbour and is now the ‘Madeira Wine Institute’, a building worth appreciating for its striking maritime style not to mention its prominent position overlooking the Zona Velha or Old Town. Further west, the consul’s seaside domiciliary was Quinta Calaça close to the water’s edge which is now part of Clube Naval of Funchal.

Veitch’s former beachside property is dwarfed by modern hotels and is now part of the Clube Naval.

But the property dearest to his heart was the countryside quarters of ‘Quinta do Jardim da Serra’ set high above the fishing village of Câmara De Lobos. Over the years, he developed a large estate with beautiful gardens that contained many exotic species of trees. Interestingly, Veitch insisted that only the local women should be allowed to plant the trees because, he believed, their feminine touch conveyed fertility. This was not his only interest in the local ladies’ tactile talent.

Quinta do Jardim da Serra was Veitch’s favourite retreat where he came to enjoy a number of local ‘attractions’. It is now a comfortable 5-star hotel - if you like the blancmange pink paintwork!


“Bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘nailing your colours to the mast”

Judging by his photographs, Veitch wasn’t much of a ‘looker’! Yet at Quinta Jardim da Serra, he would invite a different girl from the surrounding area to enjoy the comforts of his boudoir on a very regular basis. He even devised a coloured flag system to alert the lady-of-his-liking for the evening, bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘nailing your colours to the mast’. They reckon he had as many as 30 different girls at his beck and call. Of course, this wasn’t an uncommon practice amongst the elite of the day who felt entitled to ‘sow their wild oats’ among ladies stationed beneath them so to speak. And they still say on the island, there’s still a predominance of blue-eyed blondes in the Jardim da Serra area - thanks to Veitch’s nocturnal pursuances.


As for his more legitimate lineage, Veitch’s roots can be traced back to King Edward III. His grandsires were the Lairds of Traquair House and Dawyck Castle in the Scottish Borders. while Veitch’s son went on to become a prominent captain and surveyor in the Royal Navy and was also the grandfather of Sir Noel Coward, the famous English bon vivant and playwright.

Rarely without a cigarette in his hand, Noel Coward was Henry Veitch’s great-grandson.


The HMS Northumberland took Napoleon to his final excile in St Helena far out in the south atlantic

“Do you realise that when this wine was vintaged, Marie Antoinette was still alive?”” — Sir Winston Churchill

Veitch was, if nothing else a rambunctious socialite. When the emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was on his way to exile on the island of St Helena in the South Atlantic, his ship, the HMS Northumberland called in to Madeira to restock on basics. Veitch, being the British Consul was the only person allowed to board the vessel bringing with him gifts and provisions including a barrel of Madeira wine. That barrel was never opened and after Napoleon’s death on St Helena in 1821, it was returned to Madeira where some 200 bottles were filled solely from Napoleon's barrel. These bottles are now extremely rare and valuable. One was presented to Sir Winston Churchill when he visited the island in the early 1950s, staying at Reid's Palace. Sir Winston insisted on pouring a glass for his guests, commenting "Do you realise that when this wine was vintaged, Marie Antoinette was still alive?"


The beautiful gardens of Quinta do Jardim da Serra

Following his death in 1857, Veitsch was initially interred in the British Cemetery in Funchal where the Catholic hierarchy permitted non-Catholics to be buried. Previous to this they were tossed off the cliffs at Garajau or unceremoniously dumped at sea. But his wife knew Henry would not be happy away from his beloved Quinta do Jardim da Serra so she built a mausoleum, surrounding it with heather, trees and shrubs to block it off from prying eyes and had her husband’s remains relocated. Apparently, during the night of the ‘‘move’, they used torches to light the way and today the locals still share stories of ghosts being seen near the Quinta.

Veitch wanted to be buried at Quinta Jardim da Serra, with his beloved dog so his widow, Carolina built a mausoleum on the property and secretly had his earthly remains relocated.

David J. Whyte


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