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Glenbuchat Heritage

6 Alexander Walker’s Move to Newe Castle
The Glenbuchat Image Library
6 Alexander Walker’s Move to Newe Castle

Click for Alexander Walker Introduction

Following the meeting with Sir Charles Forbes (Picture above) at the Great Exhibition in 1851, Alexander moved with his family to the gardener’s cottage (Picture above) at Newe Castle Strathdon Aberdeenshire.(Picture and map above)

Castle Newe was a mansion built in 1831 incorporating an earlier structure built in 1604. The Castle was eventually demolished in 1927. In 1831 Castle Newe was built and eight years afterwards the main road was diverted south to ensure Baronial privacy. To achieve this, two new bridges were built, Bridge of Buchaam at the east end of the Castle grounds and Bridge of Newe at the west (see tune ‘Bridge of Newe’). The Castle and the hill behind, Ben Newe, (see tune’ Ben Newe’) were originally spelt New but the ‘e’ (Newe) was added to prevent letters meant for Sir Charles going to Newcastle-upon-Tyne and the form Castle Newe was adopted. The castle was owned by the Forbes Family who at the time were in Queen Victoria’s royal circle. Queen Victoria even visited Castle Newe in 1859 as reported in the newspaper article above.

Alexander commemorates this Royal visit in his tune ‘The Royal Visit to Newe, 1859,’
Other visits to Newe were made to the Castle by the Price and Princes of Wales in 1864 and again in 1876. “The Pall Mall Budget 1876 – reported:‎
The Princess of Wales, accompanied by Prince Leopold, visited Mr. and Mrs. C. Forbes. at Castle Newe, on Monday.”

Alexander Walker married Jane Shaw on 7th Aug 1856 in Strathdon. Jane Shaw had been brought up in Corgarff, the most westerly end of the Forbes estates. They had five children born while they were in Strathdon and there was a sixth who was born in New York.
The Children were:
Caroline Louisa Forbes Walker b: 04 Jun 1857 in Strathdon,
Margaret Jane Walker b: 12 Mar 1859 in Strathdon,
Jane Walker b: 27 Oct 1861 in Strathdon,
Charles John Forbes Walker b: 23 Aug 1863 in Gardener's Cottage, Castle Newe, Strathdon,
Alexander Ramsay Walker b: 31 Aug 1865 in Strathdon,
George Gordon Walker b: 13 Apr 1869 in Strathdon,
Jessie Walker b: About 1872 in New York

While working as a gardener, Alexander also demonstrated his scientific skills in archaeology and sent a number of archaeological specimens off for professional examination

Alexander’s interest in antiquities is not surprising when you consider that his home was at the foot of a hill with a vitrified pictish fort at the top (see tune Tap O’Noth) and as the above map shows, there were many archeological discioveries being made in the area. As a gardener and farmer he must have discovered may items buried in the ground.

The following are some of Alexander’s sunbissions (and by other colleagues from Newe):

“Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland – 1865
2 By Mr Alexander Walker, Castle Newe Strathdon, Small Stone Ball 2 inches in diameter found at Strathdon Aberdeenshire
4 By Mr Joan Laing, Castle Newe Strathdon Aberdeenshire Bronze Flanged Celt or Palstave measuring 42 inches in length and 1 inches across face Found on the top of a hill called Lord Arthur's Cairn in the parish of Tullyncssle Aberdeenshire
5 By Mr Wllliam Stuart, Boggach, Iron Chain of seven links which increase in length from 4 to 7 inches with an iron hook at the end Each link is made of a piece of iron welded in the middle leaving an open loop at each extremity It was dug up on the farm of Boggach Strathdon Penny of King William I of Scotland found in a cairn in Strathdon
6 By Mr Alexander Dunbar, Boggach, Iron Padlock and Hasp found close by the spot where the Chain and Hook mentioned above were dug up at Boggach Strathdon
7 By Mr Alexander Lawson, Mill of Newe Strathdon ,Penny of King Henry III of England found with many others in a cairn at the Mill of Garochy Aberdeenshire
(MR. ALEXANDER LAWSON. Scottish, Strathspey. E Major.)
8 By Mr F Stewart, Farthing of King George II found in the garden of Castle Newe Strathdon
The donations from Nos 4 to 8 inclusive were presented through Mr Alexander Walker gardener Castle Newe Aberdeenshire


An earth-house at Buchaam was excavated by Alexander Walker , Castle Newe, in 1859.
“A very complete specimen of an Erd House discovered by Mr Walker, Gardener, Castle Newe in 1859. It is about 60 feet in length and shaped like a pear. It is in a good state of preservation and is kept under lock and key.”
From the British Museum:

Gentleman's Magazine, and Historical Chronicle, Volume 75
Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
“A bronze ornament or armlet (see picture above) found in excavating over the ruins of a Picts house at Castle Newe Strathdon Aberdeenshire was exhibited by Mr Alexander Walker gardener Castle Newe. This beautiful specimen is ornamented with pieces of mosaic and attracted general notice”

Alexander also undertook an excavation of the Doune of Invernochty (see tune ‘Doune of Invernochty’) and it was reported in a journal of Archaeology

(the Dune ditch) .. was drained in 1823. Excavations in 1855 by Alexander Walker revealed the piling of a drawbridge and a building supposed to have been a gatehouse further excavated in 1935 by the owner, F L Wallace, revealed a stone curtain wall around the summit of the motte, with an original entrance in the S

Alexander also corresponded with the Scottish Meteorological Society and the Botanical Society of Scotland about observations he regularly made at Castle Newe.

“Journal of the Scottish Meteorological Society - Volume 1 - Page 196 1866
Manuscript Diagram of Meteorological Observations made at Castle Newe during 1864 as compared with the Observations of the last thirty two years By Alexander Walker Gardener at Castle Newe Presented by the Author “

Transactions and Proceedings of the Botanical Society of Edinburgh,
Report from Alexander Walker Castle Newe Strathdon Aberdeenshire dated 9th March 1861

“Castle Newe is situated 860 to 960 feet above the level of the sea and 35 miles distant from the coast, N lat 57 1 1 43 and N long 3 3 45. Although in a high lying Highland strath, surrounded N and S by hills on the north Ben Newe 1888 feet above sea level, the castle being on the southern base of it at the foot of the slope, and on the south by another hill 1300 feet above the sea level, still the castle grounds where the thermometers are placed may be said to be in a widened part of the valley of the Don, from east to west three miles long and three quarters of a mile in width. The castle and grounds are on a fine slope to the south on the north bank of the Don and are dry and sheltered. The thermometer in the shade and protected placed about four feet above the surface of the ground, indicated a minimum temperature on 25th December of minus 12 12 below zero and on a deal on the surface of the ground on snow, which was fifteen inches deep at the time, the minimum temperature was minus 19, 19 below zero. This was in the centre of a park away from trees and about twelve feet above the bed of the river Don, and 300 yards distant from it. Peaches on a south wall are killed back three years wood and few fresh buds are safe on the trees. Apricots have one year's wood killed, buds more safe on the old wood. Pears on walls espaliers and standards have one year's wood killed and the bark is split in many cases. As regards apples, the sorts not well matured in the wood, have on standards lost half lengths of last year's wood and some even more. Most of the evergreens were protected by the snow which had fallen and the very calm state of the atmosphere prevented in some degree bad consequences. Araucaria imbricata is considerably injured at top and very brown in the foliage, although the stems seem to be safe. Cedrus Deodara leaves all brown that were above snow and the buds apparently injured on the older wood Irish yew safe although much Drowned. Wellingtonia gigantea safe. Rhododendrons generally safe, being much covered with snow. Portugal laurels killed down to eighteen inches from the ground. Bays less touched. Common holly killed back three years wood and most of the leaves fell off a few days after the severe frost. Ivy that had reached some fifty feet high on the trunk of an old ash tree and had been growing on it for at least forty years past has shed all its foliage. Ayrshire and other climbing roses entirely killed to the then surface of the snow. We had 200 of them on the walls of houses and on gate arches of seven years standing and whose height in some cases was thirty feet. All standard grafted roses killed and many other valuable dwarf sorts about the pleasure grounds killed entirely, or nearly so. Many wild birds were found dead about the shrubberies and woods.”



In 1863 a reporter from the Banffshire Journal visited the Garden and Newe and gives a description as to what was growing there. He also noted Alexander’s scientific equipment.(See newspaper report above)

Alexander Walker was also closely involved in the music affairs in Aberdeen (40 miles east of Castle Newe) and attended and judged fuddle competitions: note the presence of Mr Skinner who was James Scott Skinner the well-known Aberdeenshire fiddler and friend of Alexander. (See tune ‘Mr. J. S. Skinner’)

“Competition of Scottish Music – On Friday evening 21st April 1856.”
Mr Skinner gave a musical entertainment, including a competition by violin players from different parts of the country. The entertainment consisted of singing and piano-forte playing by Miss Wilson and Miss M. Wilson–both of whose efforts were very well received. Mr Skinner himself played the solos for which he was recently awarded a prize at Edinburgh, effectively, and to the satisfaction of the audience. For the prizes, 15 competitors entered the lists for reel and strathspey playing, and 8 for slow airs. They were Messrs William Blair and James Blair, Balmoral; Forbes Morrison, Tarves; John Thomson, George Paterson, Peter Milne, John Melvin, Sen., Alexander Adam, J. Nisbet, A. Wilson, John Melvin, Jun., Andrew Henry, and John Smart, Aberdeen; George Gaul, Whitehouse, Tarland; and Mr Hardie, Knockespock.

The Judges were Messrs John Marr and William Smith, Aberdeen; Alexander Walker, Castle Newe, Strathdon ; and David Mortimer, Birse. The competitors played behind a screen, where they were sufficiently heard by the audience and yet not seen by the Judges. The playing generally was not of so high an order as might have been expected. There were several pretty good reel players, but there were only two or three performers who could lay claim to much ability at slow airs. The first prizeman, however, played admirably. The Judges awarded prizes as follows: –
For Strathspey and Reel–1st prize (Silver Medal), P. Milne, Aberdeen; 2d (Silver Medal), Forbes Morrison, Tarves; 3d (Fiddle Bow), G. Patterson, Aberdeen; 4th (Merit), A. Henry, do.”


7. Alexander Walker and the Newe Castle Band




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