In the Pipeline!

Now you might automatically think oil when you hear the word‘Pipeline’ or at least those of you living in the North East of Scotland might. As far as my research into Midmar through the ages goes, there are a lot of people living here who are involved in the oil and gas industry including Midmar Castle’s  more recent owners. 

But you might not be so familiar with ‘Maggie Laird’s spoot’,necessary because of the lack of a pipeline, albeit this time water! Just one of the stories evocative of days gone by.

From historical facts, to funny and sad stories, the information coming my way about Midmar through the ages is just so interesting, and I am very grateful to those of you who are taking the time to share them with me. Keep them coming!

It’s fast becoming apparent that the subtitle of this book should be ‘Fact, Fiction and Fairy tales’! Watch this space!

Research for another project reveals a connection between the discovery of the blackstuff in a country far removed from Scotland, and the owners, then and now, of a ‘big hoose’ in this area. It’s proving to be a compellingly interesting story from ‘Flying Fleas’ to silver bicycles and a man who could still shoot after losing an arm in the flight from Flanders.

The autumn round of talks has come to an end now, and as usual, I met some really interesting people, quite a lot of whom had connections with Douneside for some reason or other. Many have mentioned that their relatives who went to Alastrean to recuperate from the traumas of their service in the second World War, felt that the peace and tranquillity, good food and the country air, played a huge part on their road to recovery.

Douneside is also a haven of peace where the food proffered to guests is absolutely superlative!  I had the pleasure of telling the MacRobert story to a small gathering over lunch,arranged in conjunction with the Tarland Food and Music Festival. Suitably replete, there followed a tour of the magnificent gardens conducted by the young gardeners who were passionate about their role in nurturing the environment, originally an aim of Georgina and brought to fruition by Lady Rachel MacRobert.

The MacRobert story is only one of many concerning Tarland and the surrounding area.

The Cromar History Group will next year celebrate 25 years of recording the history of the area and sharing the stories with the wider community through its publication of ‘Echoes from Cromar’s Past’. This year’s edition is available from the second week in December and is a bumper edition!

Just to let you know that Deeside Books, that gem of a shop in Ballater (and not only for booklovers – great selection of gifts and cards too) stocks my book ‘Cawnpore to Cromar – The MacRoberts of Douneside’. Visit their website and their Facebook page.

Thank you too, to Finzean Farm Shop for being loyal stockists.

There is no reason why the book should be unavailable but if you’re unsuccessful in sourcing it, please do contact me as I always keep a stock. It’s available on Amazon too in book form and electronically. See the stockists section for a full list.

P.S. It’s back in stock at Yeadons of Banchory too. Thank you Yeadons!!

May I take this opportunity to wish you all a happy time over Christmas and good health and happiness in the coming year.

Home to Douneside

I’ve been busy preparing some new talks for groups who have requested that I share the MacRobert story with them. One of the groups is to meet at the magnificent Douneside House and gardens (home of the story of course) which is attracting so many well deserved accolades. The hospitality is reminiscent of that of Lady Rachel MacRobert’s – an invitation to Douneside was much sought after! And she’d be so well pleased to see the magnificent gardens which are a credit to the staff.

We’re Back!

Well hello all you weary readers who have probably given up looking at this website. Owing to other commitments over the past two years, I have seriously neglected my research and writing including keeping you up to date with anything to do with the MacRoberts of Douneside and their history, or indeed the present. I am hoping you will help me add to my knowledge of the family and of the farms and the Trust.

I am always amazed that, at the many talks I give, just how many of you have wee stories and anecdotes to add to my research.

So thanks to all of you who have so readily shared your memories. This autumn and winter, I have so enjoyed talking to groups as varied as farmers clubs, Probus groups, Heritage societies, Scottish Women’s Institutes and Inner Wheel clubs.

Through those talks, I have discovered where Sir Alexander’s brother lived, and how respected the name MacRobert still is in India. A lady told us of how she had recently visited the Kalimpong Homes there which Sir Alexander and Georgina had supported, and because of their Aberdeen connections, were invited to look round areas of the home not normally viewed by visitors. It’s so nice to know that the legacy lives on and that they are not forgotten.

Another lady had reason to be eternally grateful for the peace and tranquillity of Douneside. Her son in law had returned from Afghanistan traumatised, but a stay at Douneside in its idyllic setting and the hospitality and kindness which seems to come naturally to the staff at Douneside, basically saved his sanity.

You may remember that Balhousie Alastrean Care Home was being extensively refurbished. Well, in the true spirit of Lady Rachel MacRobert who at the time of the 2nd World War, put the house at the disposal of the R.A.F. as a rest home for airmen recovering from the trauma and horrors of combat, Balhousie Alastrean House is again engaged in providing hospitality with care and support.

It seems that hospitality and care are still the focus of things MacRobert.

Douneside House is completely refurbished and their guests are provided with a country house hotel experience like no other. Its history as the family home of the MacRoberts ensures it is unique, and Lady Rachel would be so pleased to know that Douneside upholds her reputation for outstanding hospitality and the most delicious of food. An invitation to Douneside, when she was chatelaine, was much sought after, so I hope you can visit and enjoy the experience personally.

Well, that’s all for now.

I am currently adding to features available from this site such as links to Twitter and Facebook.

And please remember, if you struggle to buy a copy of the book ( something else I am addressing), it is available from me by using the contacts tab…

P.S. You might be interested to know of the annual publication of “Echoes from Cromar’s Past”, produced by the Cromar History Group. It is made up of bits and pieces of fascinating local history. View the website

P.P.S. I have just put together a talk with Powerpoint presentation, which takes a light hearted look at the history of The Millers Visitor and Retail Centre. As you can see from the title “Smoked Salmon to Cement — Tales from The Millers — that shop like no other!”, it was indeed unique!

Should you think this might be of interest to your group, please to use the contact tab to get in touch. Thank you

Foresight, Fire and Flood

One hundred years ago, Mac, that prolific of scribes whose journals bear witness to his thoughts and observations, wrote:

Think not of far off duties

But of duties which are near

And having once began to work

Resolve to persevere.

In 1916, Mac had dedicated the output from his Mills in India to supporting the war cause. He and his 30000 empolyees worked round the clock to keep the army supplied with its requirements. Such was his diligence that this effort was recognised at an Armistice dinner when the Lieutenant Governor of the Provinces paid tribute to the efforts of Cawnpore – and to Mac’s patriotism.

But of course his thoughts did stray to his family at home. At about this time, he wrote to his wife Rachel, lamenting that they were in danger of outgrowing Douneside. With Alasdair almost three and Roderic soon to be one, there was a need for extra nursery space and also accomodation for staff. He was sorry they had not succeeded in purchasing a neighbouring estate and had come to the conclusion that they should extend Douneside.

Thank goodness they did, because 100 years later, this grand old house, standing sentinel over the Howe of Cromar, will soon extend its hospitality to a wider circle of guests.

The MacRobert Trust has long been guardians of Douneside, purchased in 1888 by Mac and lovingly cherished and inmproved by Georgina and Rachel. Today, it is about to enter a new chapter in its life. Renovations are almost complete, and Douneside will soon become a hotel and leisure club, where not only will the quality be superlative, but its history and that of the family, together with the most stupendous view imaginable, will ensure its guests will want to return time after time.

Would Mac, Georgina and Rachel approve? I think so. Rachel was oft heard to quote – ‘New situations create new challenges.’ The MacRobert Trust as one of Britain’s most respected charities has had the vision to keep abreast of the challenges presented whilst remembering Rachel’s original wishes.

At certain times of year, rooms at Douneside will still be reserved for Ex Service personnel.

I think the venture would have their whole hearted support.

This winter saw an almost unprecedented disaster on Deeside when the River Dee burst its banks causing severe flooding all down the valley. The village of Ballater was particularly badly affected and my thoughts go out to all whose lives were instantly turned upside down. I’m sure though that the resilience and stoicism of the residents and business owners will see them through these challenging times. Bryn from Deeside Books in Ballater was one business badly affected. What he has been able to salvage can be purchased online so do visit

Sadly, earlier this year, fire badly damaged Alastrean House, owned by the MacRobert Trust and operated by Balhousie Care Homes who looked after the residents, including those ex service personnel for whom a quota of beds was still kept. If you’ve read the book, you’ll remember the fascinating story of how the House of Cromar came into MacRobert ownership and was renamed Alastrean. Rachel had intended it as a home for her sons when they came home to Tarland, but after their untimely deaths,and having no more use for it, she offered its use to the R.A.F. where those who came to say, could rest and recuperate from the ravages of conflict.

It’s sad to think that this is not the first time fire has struck this property. In November 1952, Alastrean House was gutted by fire and a member of staff perished.

On a happier note, all those in residence and working at Alastrean escaped this fire safely.

And in the immortal words of the onetime doyenne of the House of Cromar, the much loved Ishbel, wife of John Campbell Gordon, seventh Earl of Aberdeen whose home it was prior to falling into MacRobert ownership, – ‘Onwards and Upwards’!