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Former Gordon Castle gardener makes emotional return to home turf

8 June 2021

The former head gardener at Gordon Castle has made an emotional return to the gardens that were his home turf for almost 60 years.

Willie Robertson, 91 and now a resident at Glenisla Care Home in Keith, began his career at Gordon Castle in Fochabers in 1946 at the age of 16, and spent 59 years working at the Castle until his retirement in 2005.

Gordon Castle Walled Garden has been nominated for the Historic Houses Garden of the Year. The modern gardens enjoyed by visitors today are testament to Willie’s dedication and hard work.

During a trip to the Castle, Willie was reunited with Angus and Zara Gordon Lennox, who own and run Gordon Castle, and enjoyed a tour of the gardens that remain his proud legacy. A picture of Willie tending to the gardens is still displayed in the Castle café as a tribute to him.
Angus Gordon Lennox has fond memories of Willie.

He said: “It was so lovely to welcome Willie back to the garden. What a life he has had and what changes in this garden over that time. He began work here in 1946 when it was still a traditional kitchen garden and then oversaw its transformation, working for my grandmother, into a sea of raspberries when in a good year over 60 tons would be produced. There are not many local people of a certain age who did not pick the berries here under the watchful eye of Willie.

“Around the near kilometre of walls, the trained fruit trees all owe their shape and survival to Willie who tended them for many years after the raspberries were no more, and he was a great font of knowledge and advice when Zara and I embarked on the latest transformation you see today. Willie is a huge part of this garden and its heritage and is a complete horticultural hero of the area, and the era.”

Willie Robertson said: “I was fine pleased to see it’s been looked after and kept bonnie. I loved seeing the lake and the curling pond again and I was chuffed to see they still have my awards on the wall in the potting shed.

“I would like to say a huge thank you to Glenisla, Zara and Angus for a truly wonderful day. I hope to return again soon.”