The life of an Aldourie Castle groundskeeper in the 1900s

Historic Castle to Rent Scotland.

William Fraser, was an estate worker on the grounds of Aldourie Castle Estate, now a historic castle to rent, from 1948 until 1974. This was a long career taking up much of his working life. Here we chat to his granddaughter, Wendy Mackay, (through her own father, William’s son) to find out about his general time living and working on Aldourie Estate to help maintain the magnificent historic castle to rent.

What attracted William initially to working for a large Estate in Scotland?

He had to find work after the war, one of the men who worked there was an old friend of his and told him if he ever wanted a job to get in touch with him.  He stayed at Aldourie Pier and he was the foreman.  My father must have known him in Aberdeen.

Could you give a summary of his life until his employment at Aldourie to give an idea of his history?

He was born in Buckie (a town on the Moray Firth coast of Scotland) and moved to Bucksburn, Aberdeen, and was from a farming/horseman background.  He worked on the farms initially, then worked as a labourer on building work.  Then went to war (WWII), six out of seven brothers served in the army, on D-Day + 6, got as far as Germany but was injured (shot and lost a couple of fingers), then returned home.

What was a typical day like working as groundskeeper of a castle estate?

He attended to all general maintenance on all the farms belonging to the estate. The Castle itself had a caretaker and was not his priority. Likewise the gardens had a gardener to maintain them. Occasionally he worked with the gamekeepers doing work in the estate grounds. He worked 8am-5pm and went home for lunch. He was a foreman with up to four men working for him.

Did William ever mention who he worked alongside at Aldourie Estate? Was it ever lonely work?

He was always in a team which meant he wasn’t alone. They were all scattered across the estate with Grandad and one other worker living in the village. He must have enjoyed it as he did for a long time and loved the area.

The following information is written within Aldourie’s historic records:

Hester Vere Fraser-Tytler

In 1908 Hester married Alan Cameron, younger son of Cameron of Lochiel. He was killed on 25th September 1914. She died on Aug 9th1949. Their only son, Colonel Angus Cameron MC, bought Aldourie from the Trustees of Neil Fraser-Tytler in 1948.

Was Colonel Angus Cameron MC resident at Aldourie with his own family during your grandfather’s time there, and did he report to him? And If not, who?

He didn’t report to him, all estates had Factors running the estates (whom he reported to) and the Factor liaised with the Colonel.  He did meet the Colonel frequently and he was very good to the local people. My dad thinks he may have visited their house a couple times too.  Dad says he was a nice man.

Your grandfather, William, his surname was Fraser. Any family link to the Frasers who lived at Aldourie from the mid-1700s?!

No. Fraser was and is to this day a popular family name in Scotland.

Was your grandfather ever involved in preparing the land for game shooting for shooting parties?

He used to get involved in the heather burning in the early spring with the gamekeepers and this was in preparation for the shooting.

William was given a beautiful clock as a retirement gift by the family who were obviously very grateful for his work over the years.

He had no direct dealings with the family who lived in the Castle. This must have been bestowed on him via the Factor.

Your grandparents moved from Aberdeen just after the war ended, for the job at Aldourie. Where did they live?

They moved directly into a lovely wee cottage on the Aldourie Estate.

William lived in this same cottage on the Estate for the remainder of his life and I understand the area where this once stood remains a special place for your family.

He lived there until he died…

What work, if any, had your grandmother done in the area of Dores? 

She did home help for some retired policemen in the village but that was all.

 Did your grandfather have his own garden at the cottage and was his obvious love for the outdoors bestowed on his private garden as well as the Aldourie Estate?

Grandad’s garden was amazing, he grew a lot of his own fruit and veg which was how it was done in those days. 

How does your family now celebrate the area of Aldourie Castle Estate where your father spent so much of his life?

We don’t tend to go back to the area much at all as Aldourie and the village of Dores has changed so much.

You used to have your own sports days at school in the Castle grounds. What school did you attend?

I went to Aldourie Primary, a small rural school with two classrooms at the time. They still have the school registers from the time detailing all the parents who worked on the estate!

Can you describe the Aldourie Estate from your own memories? How did you feel to be invited to use the Castle’s private grounds?

There was a big lawn great for Sports Day races.  School Christmas parties were also in the Castle. Santa would come in, that was really exciting! It was the way it was done back then. It was just our way of life and I didn’t know any different.

A note from the Castle

It was fascinating to speak to Wendy about her grandfather, William’s, time working and living on Aldourie Estate. And wonderful to learn of her own family’s intrinsic link to our own beloved Estate in the glorious Scottish Highlands. Lifetime memories for one man and his wife and children. We are grateful for her and her father’s (William’s son) time and effort recounting facts and memories, and for the work William carried out many years ago in maintaining our historic castle to rent. 

Aldourie has continued in the same vein to make lasting memories for families around the world with its exclusive use experience as a historic castle to rent. Groups book Aldourie for their private holiday or house party and can stay in the Castle as their own home for up to a week or longer. We uphold the notion of spending quality family time and time with loved ones inside and around a beautiful and exciting property filled with adventure, the great outdoors and its own remarkable history. There’s something for everyone at Aldourie’s historic castle to rent. And everyone brings something to Aldourie.

If you’re looking for a historic castle to rent we welcome any enquiry for private hire so please contact Aldourie Castle via our online web form on the ‘Contact us’ page or by emailing [email protected]


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