Were you at Echt School in 1935?

King George V mug

Last November, when I attended Echt church to lay a wreath on Remembrance Sunday, I got chatting to a gentleman, David Reid who was brought up in Echt and had returned from his home in Leicester to pay his respects to family members who had lost their lives to war. As we stood beside the War Memorial, David pointed out a tree at the entrance to the church yard which he recalled had been planted to commemorate the Jubilee of King George V in 1935. He wondered if a plaque could be provided by Aberdeenshire Council to provide a lasting marker of the occasion some 70 years on. Echt & Skene Community Council later stepped forward and suggested that they fund it and between the Echt community council representative and myself, we set about trying to find out more about the event while David returned to England.

We were successful in finding some newspaper cuttings which I have transcribed below and I hope you find them interesting.

Echt & Skene Community Council are meanwhile seeking former Echt School pupils who would have been at the school in May 1935 and remember the Jubilee celebrations. If you know of the pupils who officially planted the trees (or relatives of), or have any photographs, please contact Wendy on 01330 860770 or email duncanrod7@aol.com by Friday 11th December. The pupils were Gordon Clark of Knockquharn, Dunecht and Annie Farrol, Tilleoch Cottage.

Aberdeen Press and Journal, Saturday, March 30, 1935:

Memorial Tree at Echt

“A public meeting convened by Mr T K Reith, District Councillor, was held in the Echt Public School, when the committee was completed as follows:

Chairman, Mr T K Reith, Old Echt; secretary, Mr A Gray, Schoolhouse; vice-chairman, Mr R Strachan, Kirkton: members of committee – Mrs Gray, Misses Cattanach, Cowie and Thomson; The Rev J A Munro, Messrs Brown, Douglas, Dow, Knowles, Ledingham, McKay, McRae, W Sandison, A Sandison, J Sangster, J Thomson, J Sharpe, and W Watt.

It was decided to have a house-to-house collection to raise funds for entertaining the children, and the following programme was drawn up; – A service to be held in the church to be followed by the planting of a memorial tree in a prominent position. Afterwards the children will be conveyed to a cinema entertainment and entertained to tea in Aberdeen. Each child will also be presented with a medal.

In connection with the Jubilee celebrations on May 6, a service will be held in the Monymusk Church at 11.30am.

A picnic for children will be held in the afternoon in the grounds of Monymusk House. The children will be presented with a souvenir mug.”


Aberdeen Press and Journal, Thursday, April 4, 1935

“Echt Jubilee Committee.

Sir, – In the “Press and Journal” of Saturday I read the report of a meeting in connection with above and was surprised to find my name among those appointed to serve on the committee.

I wish it to be distinctly understood that at the first meeting I refused to become a member of committee, for reasons I need not state here. I was not present at the meeting of 27th ult., and had no opportunity of refusing. I do so now. – Yours, etc.,


That sorted, the big day arrived and the Aberdeen Press and Journal, Wednesday, May 8, 1935 reported:

“TREES PLANTED BY ECHT PUPILS – Commemorative Trees Near Church.

“At the school a new flagpole had been erected by the Jubilee committee and the Union Jack was raised by Mr R Strachan. Accompanied by their teachers and a number of parents and members of the committee, the children numbering 130, went by bus to a cinema at Aberdeen. Dinner followed.

Returning to Echt each child was presented with a medal. At the subsequent service in the church the Rev T A Munro officiated, Mr A Gray, headmaster, read the lessons, and the National Anthem was sung. Two trees were planted in the ground adjoining the church, one for the King and one for the Queen, by the oldest boy and girl pupils, Gordon Clark, Knockquharn, Dunecht, and Annie Farrol, Tilleoch Cottage.

Before dispersing, each child was presented with a Jubilee mug.

A bonfire, provided by Lord Cowdray, and the arrangements for which were carried out by Mr David Morris, factor, was lit near Dunecht House. An evening dance was held in the hall, Echt.”


Miss Elyza Fraser’s Mausoleum – a restoration project


I am very grateful to The Friends of Miss Elyza Fraser Mausoleum for their kind invitation to join them last week at Cluny Old Kirkyard to get a rare glimpse inside this fantastic structure. I have quoted below from the group’s own publication to highlight their project.

Mausoleum 2


For years, there has been a general awareness of a large and imposing mausoleum in the Cluny Old Kirkyard, Aberdeenshire, without a great deal being know about it locally. The huge lettering around the top “Elyza Fraser of Castle Fraser” and the high quality of its design and construction all added to its interest. Obvious signs of deterioration in recent years led to enquiries to the Church of Scotland, Aberdeenshire Council and the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) at nearby Castle Fraser. Limited emergency repairs to the roof were undertaken externally by Aberdeenshire Council. The strong links to the castle prompted NTS staff to take the lead in calling together a group of individuals who then became an informal group, in an attempt to save, conserve and interpret the building.

The heritage value of the building

It soon became clear that this was no ordinary building, but instead a small masterpiece by James Byres of Tonley, a leading architect of his day and a mover and shaker in European society, with strong links to those in power and also responsible for the early success of such notable artists as Pompeo Batoni and Henry Raeburn. The story then became even more interesting for two reasons: firstly it seemed to be the only extant structure designed by Byres; secondly it would appear that no-one can be proven to own the building.


The project which started to take shape thus divided the work into various pieces of work:

  • determining ownership;
  • making the building secure, through commissioning an overhaul of its faulty lock;
  • assessing the condition of the building;
  • assessing and costing roughly the works needed to consolidate, conserve and interpret the mausoleum.

As Euan Glen, Minister of Cluny Church of Scotland stated at a public meeting:

“children have been playing around the mausoleum for years, without really knowing much about it. It would be great if we can ensure that they can continue to play around it safely into the future, as well as knowing a little bit more about it and being proud of it as part of their local heritage.”

Clearly, if no ownership can be discovered, then the situation becomes more complicated.

Work to date

We have managed to secure some start-up funding from two sources: the Aberdeenshire Council Area Manager’s Discretionary Fund and the National Trust for Scotland’s Group Manager’s Discretionary Fund. This has allowed the recruitment as project manager of North East Preservation Trust, in the person of Paul Higson. Paul has overseen the commissioning of local maps from Ordnance Survey and drawings (kindly provided pro bono). He has also commissioned an overhaul of the external locks on the mausoleum and an outline survey of the condition of the grave covers and wall plaques inside. He has been working with Aberdeenshire Council staff and commissioned experts on the title search, with no success to date.

Historic Scotland, Aberdeenshire Council, Cluny Church of Scotland and National Trust for Scotland have all been asked for an official view and advice on ownership. To date, no-one can be identified as owning the mausoleum.

What comes next?

The title searches continue. Aberdeenshire Council is considering the mausoleum alongside other important structures within its geographical area.

It is likely that a significant sum of money will be required to consolidate, repair and interpret the Miss Elyza Fraser Mausoleum. At this point, this is likely to be from grant awards and public donations, if an owner cannot be traced. The informal group is determined to ensure the long-term future of this very important building.

(The Friends of Miss Elyza Fraser Mausoleum, April 2014)

Mausoleum 3

Since last year, the structure has deteriorated. On the visit last week, I could see how the elements had further eroded the structure and the inscriptions inside. I am very happy to support the group in any way I can and look forward to meeting with them again.

If you would like more information or to join the Friends, please contact:

Paul Higson (NESPT) – info@nespt.org

Jill Standing (NTS) – jstanding@nts.org.uk

Peter Davidson (Aberdeen University – peter.davidson@abdn.ac.uk

Revd Euan Glen (Minister) – minister@clunychurch.org.uk

John Fraser (Chairman of Friends) – johnfraser477@btinternet.com