Bob Scott – the man

A lot of weekends featured on this blog have started with a night at Bob Scott’s Bothy.

But who was Bob Scott? And what’s his connection with the bothy?

Regulars at the bothy mostly know, but many first time or occasional visitors don’t have much of an idea.

Bob Scott at Mar Lodge in the 1970s

Bob Scott at Mar Lodge in the 1970s

Bob Scott was the head keeper on Mar Lodge Estate during the 1960s and early ‘70s, and lived at Luibeg Cottage from 1947 to 1973. The cottage is still there – it’s the stone-built white house across from Derry Lodge, on the south side of the Luibeg burn just before it joins with the Derry Burn to form the Lui.

That’s where the original Bob Scott’s Bothy was and where Bob’s legend – among the hill-walking fraternity at least – was born.

Bob Scott was born at Linn Cottage, Linn o Dee in 1903. That’s the cottage you can see just before crossing the Linn o’ Dee road bridge. He was one of a family of 11 and his father was a keeper on the Mar Estate.

His father died when Bob was young, and he left school aged just 12 to work on Mar Estate, soon being promoted to ponyman, as most of the young men in the area were away at the war.  For a number of years he was rifleman on the south side of the estate – up Glen Ey – in days when all transport was by foot or pony. He also spent a time as a fishing ghillie on the Dee for several years, working for the County Council during the winter.

When WWII broke out he joined the Royal Engineers in 1939 and, after being torpedoed at sea and blitzed in London, he served for three years in North Africa, finishing the war in Austria.

After the war he was the stalker at the Linn of Dee for a year before taking over the Derry Beat (and Luibeg Cottage) in 1947. The previous occupant, one ‘Aal’ Beattie, had allowed hill-climbers to use a wooden bothy beside the cottage and Bob followed suit, quickly establishing a rapport with the local climbers.

Luibeg Cottage, near Derry Lodge in the Cairngorms

Luibeg Cottage, Bob Scott’s home for more than 25 years

When he first arrived at Luibeg with his family he relied on a pony and cart for transport, swapping the cart for a sledge in the winter months when snow might lie on the ground for months on end. It wasn’t until the latter half of the ‘50s that he got a Land Rover – and it wasn’t until the ‘60s that he had the luxury of electricity, and that from a generator.

During the ‘50s, in what was probably the golden age of Cairngorm climbing, Bob was a good friend to his regular climbing visitors (he was friendly with both Adam Watson and Tom Patey) and his bothy was a favoutite resort socially as well as for practical reasons. He reckoned New Year might see anything from 40 to 50 people there.

Down in Glen Dee, when Mar Lodge opened up a public bar in 1964, Bob became a regular fixture, at least at weekends, and could sometimes be prevailed upon to give climbers and walkers a lift up to Derry – but one beneficiary of his kindness did once tell me that, having stowed your rucksack in the back of the Land Rover, you then had to keep a close eye on him in case he drove away up the glen without you – though whether that was due to forgetfulness, drink or devilment (he was known for his pithy sense of humour) wasn’t explained.

On a more serious note, in the days before organised mountain rescue teams, Bob participated in numerous rescues, sometimes organising and leading a search himself, using his intimate knowledge of these hills.

Throughout the ‘60s and into the ‘70s Bob remained a familiar figure to the increasing number of walkers and climbers stopping in by Mar Lodge on a Saturday night or up at the Derry through the day. (The author well remembers as a child being awestruck at meeting him face to face at the Derry and believing his outrageous lie when he claimed not to like the hills at all.)

His wife had died in the mid ’60 and he continued to live at Luibeg with his daughter Eileen until retiring in 1973, when he moved to Allanaquoich, a cottage east of Mar Lodge.

All the time he had been at Luibeg there had been a wooden bridge across the Derry Burn and another across the Luibeg to his home, but these had been getting increasingly rickety (and may even have been gone before he left the cottage) and his Land Rover usually forded the two burns. After he moved to Allanaquoich the estate built a new wooden bridge over the Lui, close to the site of the present Bob Scott’s Bothy. Bob was asked if he intended going up to have a look and allegedly remarked: “Na, na, I’ll see it when it floats doon the Dee.”

That bridge did indeed collapse (an accident with a digger) but, alas, by that time Bob was no longer there to see his forecast come true. He died in July 1981. That same year the public bar at Mar Lodge closed, as did the unofficial and increasingly popular Canadian Campsite just up the road where the Lui met the Dee. It was, all in all, the end of an era.

Anyone interested in learning more about Bob Scott should read Adam Watson’s excellent book It’s A Fine Day For The Hill, which is full of tales and reminiscences of Bob, who was his close friend.

30 Responses to Bob Scott – the man

  1. Andrew says:

    Great little write up that sir.
    It is a fine bothy and a good little memorial to the man himself.

  2. bullroar says:

    As usual an interesting couple of reads, great that this history can be written down by some one in the know and brought to us occasional visitors. Never stayed at Bobs, but did once call in for a brew at MkII on the way out from the Hutchie.

  3. Pingback: Bob Scott’s – the bothy and the man | cairngormwanderer

  4. Lindsay Watt says:

    My father used to work for Aberdeen corporation, checking the river Dee which supplied Aberdeen’s drinking water. He visited Bob Scott 2 or 3 times a year. I remember going with him a few times. I think we even stayed overnight in his house once. I do remember him going outside in the winter and banging on a tin pail. Some deer came down and he fed them turnips. I must have been 8 or 9 at the time. It seemed like the end of the world out there.

    • Thanks for that, Lindsay. Do you know what year that might have been? I believe the water quality up there is still checked, although by SEPA these days. One of the Friends of Bob Scott’s was assured that it was safe enough to drink: good thing too – we’ve all been drinking it since we were bairns!

      • Lindsay Watt says:

        I was born in 1950, and it was definitely while I was in early primary school, so 1957 to 1959 is my bet.

  5. I am delighted to have stumbled on this blog (I am not Urszula but her grandson which will become clear!). I knew Bob in the early seventies when I was a ghillie at Mar Lodge. I have fond memories of Bob, he was very kind to me. I will have to dig out the photo album and try and remember some of his more outrageous stories. Is Eileen still alive?
    And with reference to the previous reply – I wasn’t aware that Bob drank water!

    • Ho. Good to hear from you. There was never any shortage of outrageous stories about Bob, although none of them really bad. Not sure if Eileen is still alive or not: I’m sure someone mentioned her not long ago, but can’t remember the context. Did you know Kenny Freeman? He was a ghillie during the ’70s too (maybe the later ’70s) and still comes up the hills.

  6. No Kenny must have been after my time. I was ponyman at Forest Lodge, Glen Tilt for the 1974 season. I persuaded the head stalker Ron MacGregor, another worthy, to ride with me to the Ghillie’s Ball at Mar Lodge. I can’t remember if he and Bob had met before, but they certainly knew each other by reputation. They had a great evening together and Ron, being saddle sore and needing a drink from every burn, was in no state to ride home the next day. So Bob drove him up to Bynack Lodge and he walked home. I stayed an extra day to recover my equilibrium, and to help turn the sheaves of corn. Once the garrons realised that they were heading home there was no stopping them until we reached the forestry gate above Forest Lodge!
    Those were the days. Since then farming near Nairn has filled my life but I often remember the days spent at Mar Lodge. That was when there was a full set of flag poles in the centre of the car park beside the public bar!

    • Aye, great days. I was at Mar Lodge the night one of the flagpoles came down. Some hiker came out of the bar with his mates and started shinning up it. He was almost at the top when there was a splintering noise and the whole thing toppled. I think reversing cars saw to most of the others.

      • dave says:

        A misspent youth . That was me up that pole 1967/68. Myself, two young hotel porters and a young gillie from the estate were drunkenly responsible . The gillie cut down the pole with the axe used for chopping up the firewood for the bar. The pole ended up stuck down the bar chimney with its chopped off end in the embers of the Scandinavian fire and the flag still flying from the top of the pole. We then lifted up the rear axle of a Land Rover parked at the back of the bar and stuck a large log under it so it was going nowhere. The land rover was that of Mrs Anderson, Mar Lodge Hotel’s manager.

      • Heh heh! You’d better hope the long arm of the law isn’t matched by a long memory, Dave. That must have been a different night and a different flagpole though – not the night I was recalling.

  7. Ian Ferguson hazell. says:

    I remember bob well he was like an uncle to me I went to luibeg 2to3 times a year from 1955 to 1965 with my mum and dad and my uncle and aunt who lived at tomrichton in braemar I then started work in the fife arms hotel in 1967 many a time I sat in the little lounge at luibeg and played out the back and in the ice cold river playing with the dogs when bob got back in 1956 to about 1959 bob had a bloodhound called Dona pronounced do nah and cairn terrier called jiffy when he drove through the gate at the Lynn o dee he would let the dogs out and they would run behind all the way home he had white ponies but in 1955 he had a lovely big brown horse called punch looked like a cross bread Clydesdale one bad winter that horse pulled him and Eileen home in blizzard on the sledge bob and Eileen were under the covers and deerskins’ fallen asleep but Old punch knew the way home. Eileen made the best broth you ever tasted and scones’ to die for bob said I was soft because I had butter on my scones. He was a real character and as strong as an ox I remember the tame stag that came to the window to be fed. I have recently returned to Scotland and found this site thanks to all who have kept the bothy and Bob’s memory going I hope to visit the bothy in 2015 god willing I now live in Blairgowrie so not far to go just back and legs need to keep going happy new year to you all Ian

  8. Great to get more input from Ian. I do believe that Bob deserves a full length biography, it would be so much more interesting than the lives of these twenty something celebrities.

  9. Just back from a few days luxury at Mar Lodge. Magic! Found a nice photo of Bob and his dog Donna hanging in one of the rooms, can email a copy but not sure how to in this reply box. I have been lent Adam Watson’s book It’s a Fine Day for the Hill which has a 28 page chapter dedicated to ‘Bob Scott o the Derry’ plus other tales scattered throughout the book. It’s very entertaining and gave me many hearty laughs! A must read for anyone interested in Bob.
    Best wishes, Peter. (My WordPress account is in my grandmothers name, hence the misleading heading.)

  10. heavywhalley says:

    Great article thanks again what a man a legend!

  11. Alan Boulton says:

    I didn’t visit until Willie Forbes was in residence. Would I be right in thinking that the bothy was on the other end of the house.

  12. Sinbad says:

    A grand man indeed.One time a pal of mine( who will remain nameless) was staying at the bothy on a rather wet and windy day. Unable to go climbing and being a bit bored, he asked Bob if there was anything he could do to help, upon which Bob handed him his axe, and set him to work chopping wood in the old stickshed. Sadly, he managed to break the shaft, so that was the end of his good deed. Needless to say, Bob was not amused!!

  13. fergie mcqueen-ab159rb says:

    first met bob in 1957 whilst doing mountain rescue training with the 152(h)field ambulance-T.A. from fonthill barracks Aberdeen.He was indeed a legend.

  14. malc says:

    My grandmother was one of bobs older sisters . Met him a few times, my mother(bob’s niece)has some family photo’s in the attic , have to try and find them .

  15. Pat says:

    hi i loved the storys of bob scott and his bothy keep them comeing great stuff all you walkers cheers Pat / sunderland ex walker

  16. Gill Davies says:

    Happened upon this page and gosh it brought back memories. Dad used to take us (Mum and me) to stay with them in the house at October half term when I was at primary school. That makes it the 50s. They slept downstairs on a bed settee and we slept in the bedroom(s?) upstairs. I remember Donna and Jiffy, and another terrier called Fruachan (my spelling) though I have got Donna in my head as a retriever or something like that. The two terriers were different breeds, but typical terriers. Donna was more placid. I remember watching deer being called and fed, watching fascinated for ages. One year a bridge was down and we left the car on the opposite side of the river to the house and crossed on a tree trunk. There must have been a (rope?) handrail too, and I felt quite safe (though the adults were concerned about whether I’d be OK) and quite excited.

  17. Colin Grant says:

    Bob Scott was my uncle and I had great love and respect for him. I spent many happy holidays at Luibeg. Regarding the dog Dona; she was a Golden Labrador not a Bloodhound.

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