Glamis Castle’s stellar international reputation has enjoyed another boost in the unusual setting of NASA mission control.
In the wake of a visit by the latest in a line of US astronauts to have forged a connection with the Angus landmark, a century-old Stars and Stripes from the late Queen Mother’s childhood home has gone on display in the Houston hub of America’s space operations.
The flag, thought to date from the 1900s and bearing just 48 stars instead of the usual 50, was spotted in an attic room of the Earls of Strathmore family home by astronaut Doug Wheelock during a private tour of the landmark some years ago.
Doug, who flew on the space shuttle Discovery, was intrigued to find the historic item so far from home and his fascination led to the transatlantic loan by the standard’s owner, Mary, Dowager Countess of Strathmore.
The Dowager Countess has struck up a strong link with NASA and its astronauts – including receiving a telephone call from the International Space Station from one space man who went on to become the Chieftain of Strathmore Highland Games in the castle grounds on his return to earth.
During its long history, the flag has flown over the capitol building of West Virginia and in Washington, as well as above Glamis for the visit of the wives of world leaders when the G8 summit was held at Gleneagles in 2005.
The Dowager Countess said she was delighted to see it head Stateside again.
She said: “Unfortunately Doug didn’t get to take it to space, but it was in mission control, which is the next best thing and it is a really exciting addition to its story.”
In 2011, US Air Force Colonel Alvin Drew called Glamis Castle during the shuttle Discovery’s final flight – but had to leave a message on the Dowager Countess’s answering machine.
“I was out at the time, but I think I must be the only granny in Great Britain who’s had a call from outer space, which my grandchildren thought was pretty cool,” she said.
The Glamis links, which have been forged through the Tayside Space School and former NASA security advisor John Smith, from Kirriemuir, and will also see a special anniversary marked at the Angus attraction later this spring.
Retired astronaut Jim Reilly and his wife, Allison, are due to return to the landmark a decade on from being wed in the ancient chapel.
The rare honour was given to the couple in 2010, and was followed by the christening there four years’ later of their first child, Jacob Luke, whose gown was draped with a Saltire previously taken to space aboard the shuttle Atlantis.
The Dowager Countess had unwittingly played matchmaker to the pair when they were at Glamis during separate visits to Scotland, thinking Allison was Jim’s wife in a well-intentioned mistake which led to romance blossoming.
“I am so thrilled that they are coming back to Glamis where it all began for their tenth anniversary,” said the Dowager Countess.