This blog has never had any real need for a Royal Correspondent, but I had to appoint myself to the job today for the official opening of the refurbished Gelder Shiel Bothy on the slopes of Lochnagar.
Back in May, the Ballater Charitable Chiels drove up en masse from Balmoral to carry out a major renovation of what up until then had been a cold, unwelcoming doss. The MBA, including your truly, were there, having drawn up the plans and been involved in negotiations with Balmoral Estate, but the real work was done by the experienced and tooled-up tradesmen of the Chiels, who had wanted to adopt the project as a tribute and memorial to their former president Ernie Rattray (who had also been a member of Braemar Mountain Rescue Team for many years).
Today (8th October) the transformed bothy – now called Ernie’s Bothy – was officially opened by HRH The Duke of Rothesay, better known to most as Prince Charles.
The Chiels were once again there en masse, along with members of Ernie’s family, and four of us from the MBA – Bert Barnett (who drew the plams), Kenny Freeman (project manager for a gazillion bothy work parties and renovations, Ian ‘Piper’ Shand (joint MO for the bothy) and myself (MBA Eastern Area Rep).
A jolly nice day out it was too. After a couple of pretty moist and mochy days, the sky cleared and the sun shone – and the four of us piled into Piper’s Land Rover to get a lift up there.
Prince Charles arrived, drams of Lochnagar 12-year-old Malt Whisky were handed round in commemorative glasses (all courtesy of the Lochnagar Distillery I understand?), speeches were said (some great stories about Ernie!) and a plaque was unveiled by the Prince and Ernie’s widow, Dot.
Then Ian Shand played a tune on the pipes, ‘Ernie’s Awa Tae The Hills’, which he had composed in memory of Ernie.
Charles stayed around to meet and greet the assembled cast (we chatted, no-one will be surprised to learn, about the amount of litter left in bothies) and then signed the bothy book before going back down the road.
Before he had left, though, the bothy got its first official visitors since the opening, a quartet of Joyce K Low, Alan Ferrier, and two others whose names I missed, who had arrived intending to stay the night before tackling Lochnagar. They looked slightly puzzled as they arrived and had to wind their way through lots of identically-jacketed Chiels, but then came to an abrupt stop when they saw the guy in between them and the door was the next King of Britain. Cue much back pedalling as they decided they weren’t in such a hurry after all! At least they were able to enjoy an unexpected dram while they waited though – and a very nice drop it was too.
I’m not much of a royalist, but I’m with Charles on this one, hoping that people will treat this bothy (as any bothy) with the respect it deserves.