The Long Riders' Guild

Tschiffely’s Friend Lady Polwarth Passes Away


The Long Riders’ Guild is very sad to report the death of Jean, Lady Polwarth (Jean Cunninghame Graham) at the age of ninety.

Her efficiency, energy and humour will be sorely missed.

Jean’s great-uncle was Robert Cunninghame Graham (1852-1936):  famous author, traveller explorer, politician and adventurer, a man of extraordinary talents, tireless energy and considerable courage. His friend and contemporary Joseph Conrad remarked, “When I think of Cunninghame Graham, I feel as though I have lived all my life in a dark hole without seeing or knowing anything.”

During the course of an event-filled childhood, young Jean Cunninghame Graham spent many happy hours with both her great- uncle and his equally well-known friend, Aimé Tschiffely. 

Aimé was the most influential Long Rider of the twentieth century because of his 10,000-mile ride from Buenos Aires to Washington DC in the 1920s.  His bestselling book about the journey, Tschiffely’s Ride, was only published thanks to the intervention of Cunninghame Graham, and the two men went on to become close friends.


Robert Cunninghame Graham (left) was a close personal friend of Aimé Tschiffely (right). They are seen riding together in London. Both Long Riders entrusted their literary estates to Lady Polwarth.

When Cunninghame Graham (affectionately known as ‘Don Roberto’) died in 1936, he left his estate to his nephew, When Aimé died unexpectedly in 1954, Violeta automatically carried on until 1975, when she asked Sir Angus if she could retire. “He, in turn,” Jean told the LRG, “appointed me to take charge of my great-uncle’s literary estate”.

When Violeta died in 1980, Jean, now Lady Polwarth, discovered she had also inherited Aimé’s literary estate.

Lady Polwarth spent many years protecting and promoting the literary legacies entrusted to her by the Cunninghame Graham and Tschiffely families. Since 2001 Jean has worked with The Long Riders’ Guild to reissue many of Aimé’s books in the Tschiffely Collection. In a final burst of academic activity, Lady Polwarth wrote a critically-acclaimed biography of her famous uncle, entitled “Gaucho Laird.”

Jean Cunninghame Graham on Don Roberto's Criollo horse, Chaja.

“The Tschiffelys were real friends to both my parents, as well as to my brother and myself. I can remember Aimé teaching my brother Robert to spin a rope cowboy style in about 1937,” Jean recalled.

Alexander Maitland, a close friend of both Jean and Violeta and esteemed author of biographies of Wilfred Thesiger, John Hanning Speke and Robert and Gabriela Cunninghame Graham, had this to say when he heard of Lady Polwarth’s death: “I shall always think of Jean as an eloquent 'keeper of the flame'; both of her great-uncle, R B Cunninghame Graham, and A F Tschiffely, his devoted friend and biographer.”

In the Autumn of 2005, Jean Cunninghame Graham announced that she was bequeathing the Tschiffely Literary Estate to Basha O’Reilly, one of the Founding Members of The Long Riders’ Guild and a good friend of Lady Polwarth.

Lady Polworth presented Don Roberto's crop to Basha O’Reilly at a special ceremony held at Canning House in London.