Man reunited with family monument found in Scottish garden

Ian and Patricia Alexander-Sinclair, from Norwich, with the family monument detailing 15 of his ancestors.

Ian and Patricia Alexander-Sinclair, from Norwich, with the family monument discovered in a Scottish garden after more than 90 years. - Credit: Clarissa Place

A call from a stranger 600 miles away has reunited a Golden Triangle couple with a family monument that has stood in a Scottish garden for 90 years.

Ian Alexander-Sinclair, a retired solicitor, was contacted out of the blue by Chris Aitkens in Caithness, asking if he had any relatives called Julia and Isabella.

He replied that they were the names of his grandmother and great-grandmother.

It transpired 628 miles away from the couple's Norwich home was a monument commissioned by Mr Alexander-Sinclair's grandmother that had been sitting in its creator's gardens since the 1930s.

Mr Alexander-Sinclair, said the sculptor's grandson Alistair Sutherland, who is in his 80s, was concerned about what might happen to the statue and asked if the family would like to have it.

The 75-year-old said: "I have been up to Caithness three or four times. I would have gone to see it had I known. The first I knew about it was when I had the phone call from Chris Aitkens."

The monument, a triangular pillar standing at 5ft, was made by John Nicolson, a well-known Caithness farmer, painter and sculptor who accepted commissions for monuments and gravestones.

Ian Alexander-Sinclair's family monument now back in Norwich

The monument has sat in a Scottish garden since the 1930s but has now been brought to the family's home in Norwich. - Credit: Clarissa Place

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It weighs nearly a quarter of a ton and is engraved with 15 of Mr Alexander-Sinclair's Scottish forebears dating back to 1674. 

For Mr Alexander-Sinclair and his wife Patricia it will remain a mystery as to why the sculpture had sat in Mr Nicolson's garden all these years but it now has pride of place in their front garden. 

Julia Sinclair died in 1930, some 14 years before her husband Sir Edwyn Alexander-Sinclair, a Royal Naval admiral. Mr Nicolson, the sculptor, died in 1934. 

Mr Alexander-Sinclair said: "All the people who were around when it was commissioned are dead. For some reason, it was never delivered to my grandfather or his family."

The couple arranged with Mr Sutherland for the hefty monument to be transported to Norwich, at a cost of £166.

Mrs Alexander-Sinclair added: "He goes out every morning to see the monument." 

With no head or base, the couple called in stonemason James Hollington to create a stand for the sculpture made out of matching York stone to create a plinth. 

Mr Hollington worked with landscape contractor Dick Turner to construct a concrete sub-base so the monument could be laid on a slab.