In 1992 Ballater was able to celebrate two gifts of Mr Alexander Gordon to the people of Ballater. The Victoria Hall was re-opened, after refurbishment, by Mr Lindsay Gordon and the delightful Polhollick Bridge was 100 years old. The description of Alexander Gordon's life was compiled from family records by Lindsay Gordon who performed the re-opening ceremony.
Thanks to Alexander Gordon's generosity, Ballater has a fine set of public halls which are much used. Between 1985 and 1992 great energy was devoted to collecting funds for their refurbishment with the Albert Hall being re-opened by HM Queen Elizabeth in 1987. One room is now named after George Beaton, a former resident of Ballater, who did so much of the fund-raising.
Alexander Gordon (b. 1818) came from Deeside farming stock. His father held the tenancy of Littlemill in Glengirnoc while his mother, Betty Gauld, came from Migvie. Alexander was the second of six brothers and two sisters. His brother John, less than a year his junior, appears to have been his close companion during childhood and being so near in age, they were treated almost like twins. They are known to have received at least part of their education at the school in 'Coulstone' (presumably Logie Coldstone) while living with their mother's brother, William Gauld, a farmer of Milton Braes, Cromar. Although separated, Alexander and John remained continuously in touch until John's death in 1884.
Alexander was apprenticed to a Mr Rattray in Dundee where another of his mother's brothers, George Gauld, was 'Rector of the Academy and Preacher of the Gospel'. The teaching at school and under Mr Rattray must have been sound for Alexander is subsequently recorded as having 'charge of Brewery, Aberdeen and then of Gilcomston Brewery' - aged only 18! In 1838 he came to Farquharson's Lochnagar Distillery for several months before leaving for London. His brother John trained as an engineer in Aboyne and Aberdeen and then spent seven years in Ceylon with his three youngest brothers. (The eldest brother also went to Ceylon!) He returned to London in 1850 to establish his own firm, John Gordon and Co., Colonial Engineers.
Alexander spent his first year in London working for Truman Hanbury and Burton's Brewery. Thereafter he too became involved with engineering, spending the next 13 years (1839-52) first at Deptford Iron Works and then Tindall's Millwall Wharf. During that time - in October 1844 - he married Miss Elizabeth Mickle in London. In his last year at Millwall he started building his own Caledonian Road Brewery. This opened in 1852, followed in 1876 by his Peckham Brewery. The success of these ventures left Alexander a wealthy man.
Perhaps while working at Lochnagar, or earlier, Alexander is said to have witnessed a tragedy. With other guests he had escorted two young friends, whose marriage had just been celebrated at Glenmuick, to a river crossing. It was a wild day, the Dee in spate. Part way across an accident occurred and the young couple were drowned. Alexander vowed that if ever he had sufficient funds he would replace Polhollick ferry with a bridge. This he did in 1892.
But the bridge was not his only gift. To show his love for Deeside he presented buildings for public recreation, entertainment and education to Ballater. The Albert Hall opened in 1874; the Victoria Hall and Gordon Institute followed in 1895. It is believed that he also contributed to the building of Glenmuick Church.
Alexander and Elizabeth celebrated their golden wedding in 1894 but there were no children. In 1895 Alexander died to be followed in less than six months by Elizabeth. However, this was not the end of his generosity for 10 years later the lovely bridge at Cambus O' May was built. It is interesting to speculate how much of the engineering skills of Alexander and his brother John went into the design of the halls and the bridges.
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|Introduction||A History of Royal Deeside||The Deeside Railway||The Old Military Road||Old Kirkyardst|
|Queen Victoria and Royal Deeside||John Brown, Loyal Servant||Francis Farquharson||Lord Byron, poet||Alexander Gordon|
|Macbeth and Braemar||Braemar Gathering and Highland Games||History of Braemar||Clan Farquharson||Bridges of Ballater|
|19th Century Ballater||History of Dinnet area||Aboyne History||Aboyne Wartime Poetry||Aboyne Great War Records|
|History of Dinnet||History of Tarland||Scott Skinner, the Strathspey King||Glen O' Dee Hospital||Brunel's Bridge|
|AA Box 472|
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