The Glenbuchat Image Library
Ken Cruickshank Year: 200791 The History of Glenbuchat Hall
The following is a transcript of the booklet on “The history of Glenbuchat’s Community Hall” published by Dr Jennifer Carter and Mr Ken Cruickshank in 2007.
I am grateful for their permission to reproduce the booklet
Click on 'Minutes of Hall Committee'for more details and pictures of the actual Minutes of the Committee who organized the building of the Hall
Click on ‘Glenbuchat Hall Accounts' for more details and pictures of the actual Glenbuchat Hall Accounts
Click to see the hall today
Click for Newspaper article about laying the foundation stone of Glenbuchat Hall
Click for Newspaper article about the Bazaar to open the Glenbuchat Hall
Click for details of activities in the Glenbuchat Hall
Glenbuchat’s Community Hall, formerly known as to the Public Hall, is a little over a century old, having been opened in 1889. To build and maintain such a Hall was a big effort for a poor and thinly populated rural parish.
When the decision was finally taken in 1898 to raise money for building a hall, there were about 90 families in the glen. Official census figures, taken every 10 years, chart the long decline of the population from a peak of 570 people in 1871, dropping thereafter to 506 in 1881, 408 in 1891, and 403 in 1901. When the Hall was contemplated, therefore, although the population had shrunk significantly since 1871, it looked as if it had stabilised around the 400 mark. In fact it was to fall much further after both World Wars. Whereas there were still 74 families in the glen in 1911, by 1991 there were only 74 people. The most recent census, that of 2001, registered a mere 60 residents. Robert Murdoch from Belnacraig, captured in his poem of the early 1960’s the sense of bewilderment local people felt as they saw the population of the Glen shrinking.
The parish of Glenbuchat runs from the river Don for approximately seven miles. It is bounded on three sides by hills, six of which rise above 2000 feet, and beyond which lie the parishes of Glenlivet, Cabrach, Towie and Strathdon. The watershed of the Buchat Water forms a natural definition for the Glen, and the boundaries of both the parish and the Glenbuchat Estate (as it was in the nineteenth century and as it remained until the 1960’s when it was broken up) follow the line of the watershed. This, together with the fact that all tenants in the Glen had but one proprietor, gave the inhabitants a strong sense of their own identity and fostered a powerful social spirit. Examples of the practical operation of this spirit in the nineteenth century included the Glen’s annual Highland Games and picnic, held in the Castle grounds; St Peter’s Fair, held at Kirkton; a Literary Society and a Mutual Improvement Society; and the Glenbucket Male and Female Friendly Society, set up to provide a small financial safety net for those members who fell on hard times (formed in 1822, a year before its more famous neighbour’s Lonach Highland and friendly Society, this Society was unusual in admitting female members). Glenbuchat was considered by many to be “the perfect glen”, and it was especially proud of its traditions of ballads, and of violin and bagpipe music. (The ballad tradition has received international recognition in 2007 with the publication of a scholarly edition of the local ballads collected in the 1840s by the Rev Robert Scott of Glenbuchat).
The geographical size of the parish was always large in proportion to its population, with 11,084 acres recorded in nineteenth century census reports. Much of this, however, was hill land, covered by grouse moors and rough grazing, while the arable grazing was reported as around 1,500 acres in 1901. The farming population was confined to the lower lying, flatter or gently sloping areas of the Glen, along the valley floor and around the Buchat Water and its tributaries. The shooting estate, with its lodge at the head of the Glen, was reckoned a vey good grouse moor, and it also offered to sportsmen mountain hares, pheasant, partridge, roe and red deer, and a herd of feral goats. It provided employment for some of the Glen’s inhabitants: full time employment for gamekeepers and caretakers, and casual or seasonal employment for grouse-beaters and for domestic staff at the lodge.
At the end of the nineteenth century, when the building of a Hall was being considered, agriculture in the Glen had long suffered from under-investment by a succession of absentee landlords, and the farming population was given little practical encouragement. This was to change for the better in 1901. Meanwhile, at least rents were fairly low, te Valuation Roll of 1899-1900 showing the shooting estate valued at £750 a year, which was more than half the total value of the whole Glenbuchat Estate. By comparison, the highest farm values were £155 for Mains of Glenbuchat and £62 for Baltimore. Most local people found the services they needed in the Glen itself. There were two schools, the main Parish School on the hillside above Craigton, and the small Balloch School near the shooting lodge (this school had been set up in the mid-nineteenth century by the Scottish Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge to counter Roman Catholic influence on the inhabitants of upper Glenbuchat and neighbouring Glen Nochty from Catholic enclaves in Corgarff and Glenlivet, and it remained to serve children who lived to far away to attend the Glenbuchat Parish School). There were shops at Sunnybrae and Badenyon, and a post office. The range of local tradesmen included a corn miller at Mill of Glenbuchat, a wool carder at the foot of the Glen, a blacksmith at Culstruphan, a builder at Upperton, plus a timber merchant, carpenters, weavers, shoemakers and tailors – though by the end century weavers , shoemakers and tailors were losing business to factory–made clothing and footwear. In addition to these local services, the Glen had its shooting estate at the head of the Glen, and its historic castle at the Glen’s foot. Built in 1590, Glenbuchat Castle was later home to John Gordon, “ Old Glenbucket”, the famous Jacobite who fought the Stuart cause in 1715 and 1745.
All this added up to a largely self –sufficient, self-contained and independent community with a strong sense of its own traditions and identity. A century later the schools and shops and post office have closed, and almost all the tradesmen are gone from the Glen. The former Free Church and its Manse are in private occupancy, as is what the established Church Manse was. The Auld Kirk at Kirkton of Glenbuchat holds a single service in August of each year. This service, however, is well attended by both locals and by “expatriates” making an annual pilgrimage to their spiritual home and it demonstrate something of the tenacious community spirit of the Glen.
One of the main facilities for which the people of the Glen felt a need in the late nineteenth century was s suitable building, centrally located, in which to hold meetings and social events. On 15 January 1898 a meeting was convened to consider building a Hall. It was attended by representatives of three local entertainment committees – the Picnic Committee, the Young Men’s Committee and the Tradesmen’s Committee. Until then these and other groups had held their meetings either at Sunnybrae Farm or at the Parish School. Indeed, in 1855 a long case clock had been presented to William and Mary Chree of Sunnybrae, with the inscription: “Presented to Mr and Mrs Chree, Sunnybrae, by a number of their neighbours as a small mark of esteem and regard for their uniform kindness and attention to the wants and comfort of all those attending the public meetings at their place, January 1855”
But despite the clock, neither Sunnybrae not the school was an ideal location. At Sunnybrae the space was not always sufficient, while the School Board did not approve all types of use for the school. For example, in 1886 the School Board was happy to allow after-hours use of the school to Mr Ogg (prominent tenant farmer of Baltimore farm ) and the ‘Conservazione’ Committee; or to the Rev. Mr Spark minister of the Establishment Church) and the Musical Association. But when, 1888, ‘The Clerk submitted letters of the date 6th and 16th April from D J Anderson, Comedian, Melrose, application for use of the Public School for an Entertainment on Friday 27 April….. After deliberation the Board unanimously refused the application’. The School was in any case difficult to access I bad weather, as parents and the school board frequently noted, so it is not surprising that in 1898 it was considered that a centrally located Hall would better serve the needs of the community. The three neighbouring parishes of Towie, Strathdon and Corgarff each had a hall. Towie’s dated from 1890 and had been built for the Oddfellows (a quasi-masonic club). Strathdon was home to the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society dating from 1823, which had its own hall at Colquhonnie, built in the 1860. Corgarff village hall had been gifted by the Forbes Laird of Newe in the 1830s and rebuilt in 1892.
At the meeting held to launch the Glenbuchat Hall project 17 men were present, including all the substantial tenant farmers in the Glen – Charles Ogg of Baltimore, John Dawson Jnr of Easter Buchat , John Begg of Badenyon , George Chree of Sunnybrae and Alex Smith of Dockington . Charles Ogg was the leader, and to serve as chairman or secretary and treasurer of the Hall project even before the initial meeting, as its minutes record that, after his election as chairman, “Mr Ogg made some statement about his committee being on the buying of a sort of ready made hall but through some mistake not known to the Hall had gone to another quarter altho’ Glenbuchat had offered more money for it”. Although not present at the first meeting, two other principal activists in the matter of the Hall were the Rev. William Spark, the Established Church Minister (his wife Isabella was a daughter of Charles Ogg), and Alex Fletcher, land steward of the estate and tenant at Mains of Glenbuchat – the farm attached to Glenbuchat Castle.
Typically of Glenbuchat, bad weather hindered the launch of the Hall enterprise. A public meeting was called for 3 February 1889, but “the night being stormy few turned out”. A month later a further meeting took place on 8 March, when all those present were asked how much they could subscribe towards the Hall, and a committee was appointed “ to go round the parish and see what could be collected in cash and promises of work”. By 9 May the sum of £93 14s 6d had been collected. The Laird of Glenbuchat, Mr Henry Burra (an English banker who had bought the estate in1883) promised a free site and a donation of £20, and the shooting tenant, Mr Percy Hargreaves ( a cotton manufacturer from Manchester) offered £50. “Mr Fletcher proposed that the Hall be gone on with at once. Mr Spark seconded” A management committee was appointed and by 24 November draft plans were ready. At this stage a site beside Sunnybrae Farm was intended, but the committee decided that this site would involve too much excavation, and instead chose the “Corner of the field lying to the east of the road leading to Belnaboth ”. Here the Hall was constructed and here it stands to this day. Glenbuchat was then, and still is now a very spread-out community, but at least the Hall was to occupy a central position in the Glen.
Despite early optimism, raising funds for the Hall was hard going. On 20 February 1899 members of the committee gave personal pledges of sums of money varying from £5 to £20 to cover the costs of the building work if other efforts at raising funds failed, and on 16 March a prize draw was organised with donated prizes including a ram, a sheep, a hive of bees and a rifle. Already a bazaar was planned to raise further money to clears off outstanding bills when the hall was completed. Surviving accounts show that the building costs of the Hall came out at £355. Mason work was done by James Farquharson of Upperton , Glenbuchat for £103 10s 0d; slating by Charles McDonald of Alford for £51 3s 0d; and carpentry by William Robertson of Lumsden for £201 3s 0d. The foundation stone was laid by Mrs Fletcher on 20 March and the opening day and bazaar were planned for late September 1899.
Meanwhile the committee were concerned about the long term management of the Hall. At a meeting on 23 August 1899 “The deed for management of the Public Hall was under consideration. Mr Fletcher stated that he had a letter from the factor suggesting that the Trustees be the Proprietors and Factor with two to be appointed by the committee. A long discussion took place on the subject and it was agreed on the motion of Mr Ogg seconded by Mr Dawson that it lie over for a while” At the next meeting on 31 August “The subject of the Charter was again under discussion. Mr John Dawson proposed that the Trustees be the two proprietors and five others to be elected by the committee. An amendment by Mr Spark that the two proprietors and three others constitute the Trust fell to the ground by 11 votes to 2. The secretary was instructed to send a note of his resolution to the Factor”. These constitutional matters occupied several anxious meetings but eventually a Blench Charter was legally drawn up and registered on 20 March 1901. By this time Henry Burra had died, and it was other members of the Burra family who confirmed the gift of the land for the hall to the Trustees.
The first Trustees were the proprietors (James, Henry & Richard Burra), Percy Hargreaves the shooting tenant, with Alexander Fletcher of Mains of Glenbuchat, James Forbes of Tombreck, William Fraser of Belnaboth, James Farquharson of Upperton, William Gauld of Auchavaich , the Rev. William Spark of the Established Church Manse, and John Stewart from Mill of Glenbuchat. This was a list much nearer the wishes of the inhabitants of the Glen than the original proposal to have only two of them s Trustees. Under the terms of the charter the Hall was to be used ”for holding public and other meetings, assemblies, entertainments, delivering lectures therein and other like purposes. The site was to be bounded by a wall or fence to the satisfaction of the proprietor. The affairs of the Hall were to be managed by a committee consisting of the proprietor or his nominee, with 22 male ratepayers of the parish, elected triennially. The Trust could be wound up only by resolution of 4/5 of the male ratepayers of the parish, voting at two successive general meetings. In the event of such a vote the land and the Hall building were to be offered to the proprietor, who could buy them at an agreed valuation (subject to outside arbitration) or, if he did not wish to buy, ten sold by public auction and the profits distributed to the poor of the parish.
The charter also stipulated that any monies raised by letting the Hall should be applied to its upkeep and the payment of the hall keeper. These day-to-day questions of management were addressed by the Hall committee on 19 October 1899 when the secretary was instructed to write to the hall keepers of Towie and Strathdon for a copy of their rules and charges. At its next meeting, on 14 November, the committee established a table of charges. Singing classes were to be 2s 6d, but the organisers were to provide their own light and fire if required. Concerts were to be 5s, and whole days hire 10s. Dancing classes were to be £1 per quarter with an extra 15s for a final ball. Alex Chree of Sunnybrae was appointed hall keeper, at an annual salary of £2, which was to include the costs of cleaning the hall. Several copies of the “Rules for the Guidance of the Hall keeper” and “Rules for the Glenbuchat Hall”: unfortunately none is dated. From their consent it seems likely that these two sets of rules were drawn up at an early date and remained current for years.
RULES FOR THE GUIDANCE OF THE HALLKEEPEER
1. The hall must be put in order and set for all entertainments in the Hall, notices to these entertainments coming from the secretary.
2. When the Hall requires to be washed out for a dance or any other entertainment, those taking the Hall have the option of washing it out themselves under the supervision of the Hall keeper, or they may employ the Hall keeper to get it washed out at their expense. The Hall Committee leave it to the Hall keeper to judge how much will be required for the washing of the Hall, after which a fixed charge will be made. The charge for washing the Hall, when done by the Hall keeper, is out with his salary and goes to himself.
3. The Hall must be scrubbed twice a year and the Committee Rooms four times a year, by the Hall keeper. The Hall must be swept and dusted and every entertainment, while the whole Hall and rooms must be swept and dusted once a month.
4. The Hall keeper will supply firewood for lighting fires in the Hall. For this and his trouble for lighting and setting the fires he will be paid by the Hall Committee at the rate of 3d for each fire.
5. The Hall keeper to see that no tacks or nails re used when decorations are put up in the Hall.
6. Lamps to be filled and kept in good order. Spouts to be cleaned out twice a year, autumn and spring. Grass to be cut when necessary and walks kept free of weeds.
7. Three month’s notice to be given on either side to terminate engagement.
8. All necessary cleaning materials will be supplied by the Hall Committee with the exception of materials for washing the Hall for parties renting it, which must be supplied by the said parties.
RULES FOR THE GLENBUCHAT PUBLIC HALL
1. Parties engaging the Hall will be held liable for any damage to property which may take place during their occupancy.
2. All furniture removed outside the Hall must be put back at the end of the entertainment.
3. The Committee of Management will not be responsible for any loss which may be sustained by any persons attending any meetings at the Hall.
4. Gentlemen are requested not to stand in the passages or doorways.
5. No smoking allowed in the Hall.
6. Anyone using profane language or making themselves a nuisance will render themselves liable to ejection.
7. Parties are requested not to stand on forms or chairs, nor to scratch or otherwise damage the woodwork, plaster or furnishings.
8. Parties must obey the orders of the Hall keeper whose duty is to see that the foregoing rules are not infringed.
9. Applications for the use of the Hall to be made to the Secretary.
BY ORDER OF THE MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE
The first stage of the hall’s history – it’s planning, financing and building – culminated in a grand opening and bazaar on Friday 22 September 1899. The Aberdeen Free Press gave the event full coverage, listing all the principal persons attending and the stallholders, and reporting the speeches and the toasts made at the luncheon in the marquee. Proceedings ended with a ball in the new Hall. Part of the report is as follows:
BAZAAR AT GLENBUCKET
A very successful bazaar was held yesterday in the Glenbucket Public hall for the purpose of raising a sufficient sum to clear off the debt on the hall which was quite recently completed. The bazaar was opened at noon by Mr H C Burra, of Glenbucket, in the presence of a large audience. Amongst those that visited the hall during the day were Mr Percy Hargreaves, Glenbucket Lodge, the shooting tenant of the estate; Sir Charles Forbes , Bart, of Newe(etc). The hall was utilised to its full capacity, and was prettily decorated with coloured hangings. A large marquee and various small tents afforded extra accommodation, and various open competitions in bagpipe playing and dancing were conducted in the open air, as well as numerous “side shows” which proved extremely popular. There were altogether five stalls, four of them devoted to plain and fancy work of which there was a great variety, while the fifth was a refreshment stall. In one of the side rooms the Edison-Bell phonograph was a much patronised attraction.
Mr Hargreaves had loaned the phonograph and a tent, and the committee had ordered for the refreshment stall six gallons of whisky and two bottles of port and sherry wine.
The newspaper report continued;
Mr H C Burra, in opening the bazaar, said he was delighted to be present on this occasion, and though he had not been able to be in Glenbucket as much as he would have wished, he hoped by and by to become a resident proprietor – (applause). He was delighted to meet the tenantry and with those that came from the adjoining estates. The erection of the hall he hoped, would do much there, as elsewhere, for the intellectual and social life of the people, and foster kindly intercourse in the neighbourhood. He regarded it as a sin of the general prosperity of the glen and of the generosity of the shooting tenant, Mr Hargreaves – (applause). He hoped there would be a most successful sale – (applause).
After its successful launch the hall settled down to an annual routine that remained little changed until the First World War. Thus in 1899/1900 there was a Young Men’s Conservazione; Children’s Concert; Janet McGregor’s raffle; James Smith’s dancing class; a Trades Presentation; Calder’s Cinemat showing; Asher’s wedding; Scott Skinner’s concert; Mr Hands Wizard; and the harvest Home Ball. Most of these or similar events were repeated in subsequent years, and the addition of whist and draughts clubs; political meetings (for the General Election of 1906); County Council election meetings (1907); and a gymnastic club (1912). Significant users of the hall in these years were the local volunteers , who met there from 1901 to 1905, using the hall for training and social events, including an annual Volunteers’ Ball. Volunteering as an army reservist was a very popular occupation of that time, but sometimes could be a little too popular. The School Board Minutes of 31 December 1902 record:
The Board took up consideration of matters concerning the Headmaster of the Public School Mr James N Watt, and resolved to ask him
1. To become a total abstainer from all intoxicating liquors, and not to keep them in the house.
2. To cease connection with the Volunteers.
3. To guard against debt.
The Board also resolved that should he fail to comply with these conditions or break them he be requested as he hereby is to send in his resignation.
On 21 April 1903 the Board unanimously required Mr Watt’s resignation, though it is not recorded which of their conditions he had broken – perhaps he was still carousing with the Volunteers? At all events Volunteers withdrew from Glenbuchat Hall in 1905. Lt Christie wrote to Mr Ogg “I beg to intimate to you that “B” Company 4th Volunteer Battalion Gordon Highlanders will not require the use of the Hall at Glenbuchat after Whitsunday next. I much regret that we have been obliged to come to this decision, but there are now so few volunteers with no appearance of recruits that it is unlikely the Hall could be made any use of by us” Despite the death of Volunteers in 1905, a decade later Glenbuchat gave its men to fight in the First World War.
In 1901 the Glenbuchat Estate had been purchased from the Burra family by James W Barclay, Son of a builder at Cults , Barclay was educated at Aberdeen Grammar School and Aberdeen University. He started his business career as a grain merchant, but subsequently became a ship-owner and bank director. He served two terms on the Aberdeen Town Council, and was MP for Forfarshire 1873-92. In local and national politics he was an “advanced” Liberal and champion of agricultural reform and tenant farmer’s rights. For 25 years he rented the Loch of Auchlosson Farm, near Aboyne, where he was noted as an agricultural improver and breeder of Aberdeen Angus cattle. When he bought the Glenbuchat Estate he became Glenbuchat’s first resident laird since “Old Glenbucket” in the eighteenth century. He invested a large part of his wealth in an attempt to halt the decline in the population of the Glen by improving the prosperity of its farming and the living conditions of his tenants. Most of the former estate houses, cottages and farm steadings we see today were built or reconstructed while he was Laird. It was he who had the name of the parish restored to its old spelling of Glenbuchat, in place the frequent eighteenth and nineteenth century usage of “Glenbucket”.
On the sudden death of James Barclay in 1907, Glenbuchat \estate passed to his daughter Florence, wife of Colonel George Milne of Logie Estate near Pitcaple, Aberdeenshire. Colonel Milne was a keen member of the Territorial Army before the First World War and was energetic in recruiting for the army when war began. His son, Major James Barclay-Milne, saw active service and won the Military Cross. The ancient church of Glenbuchat contains a Roll of Honour with the names of eight men who gave their lives in the 1914-1918 war. They were Lt A C Spark (son of the Rev W Spark), Corporal J K McRobert, Lance Corporals A McGregor, W McRobert (brother of J K McRobert) and H Gordon Smith, Gunner g Farquharson, Privates W McGregor and A Thomson. Most served with the Gordon Highlanders.
The First World War saw the Hall committee struggling to pay its way. The number of functions held in the Hall dropped dramatically, even allowing for the War Fund Ball in November 1914. In 1916 no events were held in the hall, and in 1917 only a concert and dance on 31 December. In 1916 and again in 1918 the Hall had no recorded income. On 28 March 1917 Colonel George Milne wrote from his main residence, Logie House, saying “I am sorry I cannot come to the meeting about the Hall on Saturday because I cannot get petrol, but I enclose a cheque from Mrs Milne for £5.17.4 to cancel the adverse balance”.
On 16 March 1918 a general meeting of ratepayers was held to try and revive the fortunes of the hall. A new committee was formed, with Colonel Milne as Chairman, and 22 male ratepayers as members. A managing sub committee comprised the Rev William Spark, Walter C Davidson , William Stewart and Robert Shearer . At the annual meeting of the Hall committee in 1919 charges for most kinds of bookings of the Hall were raised by 25%, and in 1920 there was a further rise to 50% above pre-war prices. Also in 1920 the hall keeper’s salary was raised from £2 to £3 a year. In 1920 the Hall seems to have been used for only one dance, but in 1921 and 1922 bookings picked up. The Parish Council and the Women’s Rural Institute began to meet at the Hall in 1921, and in addition there were five dances, an “At Home” and a “Parliamentary meeting”. In 1922 drama, whist and a ‘Café Chantant’ were added, along with a wedding reception. Some of the parties must have been quite lively as the treasurer’s accounts constantly record broken jugs among the expenses of running the Hall.
Wear and tear on the fabric of the building was showing too. Mrs Milne, the proprietor of the Glenbuchat Estate, became chairman of the Hall’s Management Committee in 1924, and brought the Women’s Rural Institute to the aid of the Hall. A special meeting was held on 5 May 1924 “to consider what repairs could be carried out on the Hall and out buildings, a special donation of £25 having been promised for the purpose from the Glenbuchat Women’s Rural Committee”. Seeing they were giving such a large sum towards the repairing of the hall it was decided to add two members from the Women’s Rural Institute to the Management Committee and Miss Hay and Mrs George Keir were appointed. With its three women members, the Management Committee also included Rev. William Spark, Mr Callum and Mr Davidson. The committee arranged for the repair and re-harling of the outside of the Hall and for the repair and repainting of the interior. In addition Mrs Milne paid for outside paths to be made and for the re-glazing of the windows. By September 1924 the work was complete and the committee reissued the Rules for the use of the Hall and those for the hall keeper, and raised the hall keeper’s annual salary to £5. Thereafter the history of the Hall is unrecorded until the end of the Second World War, as no minutes or accounts seem to have survived for the twenty-two years from 1924 to 1946. It is probable that the Hall belfry, seen in early photographs on the north end of the building, was taken down at some time within this period. Among miscellaneous bills and receipts is one showing that the water supply to the Hall was repaired and improved in 1929. The 1930’s was a decade of economic hardship, and at the same time the population of the Glen continued to decline. The census of 1921 recorded 260 inhabitants, and that of 1931 recorded 221. It may be that little use was made of the Hall in those days, but it is likely that at least some of the traditional activities continued as before but were simply not recorded in a form that survives.
At the end of the Second World War a fresh effort was made – as it had been after the First World War – to get the Hall back into use, and to carry out necessary repairs and improvements. A minute book for 1946 to 1968 and an account book for 1946 to 1962 show what was done. The minute book begins: “A meeting of all interested in the affairs of Glenbuchat Hall was held in the Hall on Saturday 27 July 1946” A committee of twelve was elected, with Colonel Barclay-Milne as president, John Murdoch of Belnaboth as vice-president, James A Davidson of the shop as treasurer, and John Johnston of Milton as secretary. George Cameron was appointed hall keeper, but he resigned within a couple of years and was replaced by William Thomson of Belnacraig. At the same meeting; “The new committee discussed the question as to whether the Hall should be handed over to the County Council or carried on by a committee as before. It was proposed by John Johnston and seconded by Wm Thomson, Dockington, to carry on the Hall affairs on the same lines as before”. The County Council option was one that was to be taken by the neighbouring Towie Hall, which over time got grant money for maintenance and the addition of a new toilet block – though this not until 1996.
Going it alone, the Glenbuchat committee found that it could cope with basic repairs, but the improvements were difficult. Already on 14 August 1946 “The question of water for lavatories etc was discussed and it was decided to shelve the question meantime”. After three years of strenuous fund raising £272 7s 6d had been collected by September 1949 and it was hoped to get ahead with building new lavatories. But on 29 October 1949, Jas Davidson, having seen the Sanitary Inspector explained his views on our ideas for new lavatories which were entirely different from ours and would cost in the region of £400-£500.” In November Messrs Walker and Duncan, the Architects, and the Sanitary Inspector, met the committee at the Hall and the architects came forward with a plan estimated to cost £780 “The committee decided we would never be able to collect all that money” Again, on 13 March 1950, “It was agreed by the committee that the plans for the lavatories would have to be modified as we the committee would never raise enough money for that purpose”. It took five more years of fund raising before a scheme for building lavatories on the south side of the Hall was adopted in October 1955. Though the minute book does not say so, it may be that grants received in 1957 (£100 from the Education Authority, and £250 from Alford District Council, plus a donation of £50 from Colonel Barclay-Milne) helped to release the long planned building project.
Meanwhile other repairs and less expensive improvements had been carried out. For example, the roof was repaired; the Hall repainted; new curtains were purchased (Mrs Webster, wife of the head gamekeeper at Glenbuchat Lodge, made them up for no charge); stags’ heads donated by Colonel Barclay-Milne were put up in the Hall; gas boilers were installed in the kitchen; and in 1950 when “the piano was about done and beyond repair” a good second – hand piano was obtained from Messrs Bruce Miller in Aberdeen for £85. A generator to supply electric light was bought in 1957 – and offered for sale four years later, in 1961, when mains electricity reached the Hall. Also in 1961 an estimate was sought for a new porch, but once more a desirable improvement had to be out off for lack of funds. On 30 May “It was agreed to shelve the idea of a porch on the North gable of the Hall, owing to prohibitive cost of same, also to leave off new Fire escape door until a later date”. The minute book is eloquent of the efforts made by this now small community to help itself in the matter of the Hall. Typical entries include one for December 1948 when the committee resolved to “beg and borrow for sale of works”, or again, in 1956, when prizes were solicited for a fundraising raffle, and local people gave such varied items as an embossed tea service; 5 dozen eggs; an embroidered tea cloth; a hen; and a cherry cake.
Partly because of fundraising events, The Hall was kept pretty busy in the years covered by the account book of 1946 to 1962. The WRI and the Women’s Guild held regular meetings, and whist and badminton were played in the Hall (badminton from 1951 onwards). Church socials were fairly frequent, especially in the earlier part of the period. There were occasional farmers’ meetings and political meetings, and in 1946 the Aberdeen County Council outing was held at the Hall. Dances were many, sometimes supported by dancing classes. For a time in the 1950s dances were held fortnightly. Some of the dances were in aid of good causes such as the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (1946) or the meeting of the Craig Road (1952). Coronation year, 1953, was marked by a dance in February and party in June. From 1956 onwards there was usually at least one play a year, given by visiting amateur dramatic societies and concerts by the Strathdon Sparklers’ were given in 1956 and several subsequent years. Christmas parties for children were a regular fixture, and a tradition of the Burns Night concert and dance gradually established itself. There had been a Bannoch Night in 1946 and a Haggis Night in 1954, but from 1956 the Burns Night was well attended by people from the Glen and the Strathdon area, and became the main source of income for the Hall. Burns Night falls in February, often a very cold and snowy time in Glenbuchat, and a memory of the 1960s recalls the piper confessing to wearing his long johns rolled up underneath his kilt. A flavour of the entertainment on offer is given by the poem from the early 1980s, recited at the Hall by George Hay of Craighead, Belnacraig – farmer, musician and poet.
The Burns Night poem, and other poems by George Hay, were published posthumously in 2001 as “The Call of the Mountains”. Besides the Burns Night concert and party, he also celebrated in his verse the annual party given at the Hall by the Laird to mark the end of the shooting season. Until the formal record fades at the end of the 1960s, a clear picture emerges of an active local community, still content to find its own entertainment near home, and to work hard to get it.
The last thirty years of the century saw a gradual change. Similar patterns of activity, if on a slowly diminishing scale, seem to have characterised the Hall and its supporters in the 1970s and 1980s. But in the last decade of the century there was less demand for the kind of entertainment the hall had offered. Not only had the population of the glen dwindled to fewer than 100, but an increasing proportion of the inhabitants were no longer farming families, of otherwise employed in the Glen, but were “commuters” who lived in Glenbuchat but worked elsewhere – many in oil related jobs – or retired people, or owners of holiday homes who might be in the Glen as often as every weekend or as seldom as once a year. The population was mobile (with no public transport except school buses almost every household had at least one car) and television was virtually universal. Socially important institutions, other than the Hall, closed down. The school had gone as early as 1960; the shop and the post office in the late 1970s; the Church of Scotland sold what had once been the Free Church Manse in 1988, the Church itself in 1999. Activities which had focussed on the Church, not just church services, but also Sunday school, church meetings, and meetings of the cubs and scouts, now took place outside the Glen. There was an attempt to run a boys’ club at the Glenbuchat Hall in the 1990s but this did not last long. However an important difference between these changing social patterns in the Glen and those which had characterised earlier changes linked to a fall in population, was that homesteads were not left empty. Robert Murdoch, writing in the 1960s, had worried about empty houses, but at the end of the twentieth century there were very few of these. Farmhouses and cottages, and former tradesmen’s homes, might house one or two people rather than the larger families of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but at least they were inhabited and kept in good order, as were the Manses, the former Free Church, and the old parish Schoolhouse and School. The derelict buildings left in the remoter parts of the Glen as a result of earlier population fall were not replicated in the twentieth century. Many incomers also became very much attached to the Glen and its heritage.
All of these changes were reflected in the fortunes of the Hall. Through the 1970s and 1980s residents remember the same kinds of events taking place at the Hall as had taken place in previous years. The Christmas party for children continued financed by fund-raising efforts such as the particularly successful concert of 1984. There was a badminton club in the 1970s and whist in the 1980s. Dances and parties were held, if less often than before, but by the later 1990s the fabric of the building was looking discouragingly shabby. Even the strong tradition of the Burns’ Night concert party had to stop on 1996 because health and safety regulations made it impossible to serve haggis, neeps and tatties in the customary way. During the long period of slow decline, the management of the Hall devolved onto fewer people. Prominent among these were James Davidson of the shop on the 1970s; Albert (Bertie) Grant , farmer at Sunnybrae in the 1980s; and Henry Thomson , farmer at mains of Glenbuchat, with Hector McNeil , head gamekeeper of the shooting estate and a noted Scottish artist in the 1990s. Throughout and beyond this time George Farquharson of the Mill served as hall keeper. Without the efforts of these men and their friends the use of the hall might simply have withered away.
Yet the centenary of the Hall, and the occasion of the Millennium, stirred old feelings of public responsibility for the Hall as somewhere available as a focus for community activity when one was wanted. Efforts began to be made to revive the use of the Hall and the find money to keep it going for the future. In 2005 the Glenbuchat Hall Community Association was formed to support the Hall. A General Meeting on 24 February was attended by 16 in habitants of the Glen, and received support by proxy from 11 more. Many of the names recorded at this meeting, and those which followed, were names of people who had moved to the Glen in the last 20 years, but were also “Old Glenbuchat” residents involved. The General Meeting adopted a new constitution to update the Blench Charter of 1901, preserving the spirit of the original foundation but modernising the means whereby the Hall was run. The “Objects” of the association were set out as being to;
1. Secure the establishment, maintenance management of the Hall.
2. Promote and maintain the traditions and culture of the Glen
3. Benefit the inhabitants of Glenbuchat and surrounding district.
4. Associate with inhabitants, local authorities and voluntary organisations in a common effort to advance education and leisure with the purpose of improving the lives of the said inhabitants.
A managing committee of six was elected, but it was decided that any inhabitant of the Glen could attend any meeting of the committee. The first office bearers elected were; chairman – Rod McGillivray of Craighead; treasurer – Wendy Downie of Balgrennie; Secretary – Caitlin Buon of Eastburn. The new committee and its supporters set to work to refurbish the Hall, to raise money for its improvement, and to encourage the use of the Hall.
On two “working weekends in 2007 about 30 residents came together and tidied the Hall and its grounds, checked the roof and made temporary repairs to the windows, repainted much of the interior of the Hall. The 2007 social programme ran to weekly line dancing and a number of events throughout the year – Christmas, Burns Night and Harvest Ceilidhs, two wedding parties, a birthday party, and a retirement party. Despite all the changes that Glenbuchat has seen since the building of the Hall in 1899, the old spirit of the Glen and the traditions of the Hall have not died.
Picture added on 31 August 2011 at 15:12
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