Tributes paid to former head gardener

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DOUGLAS MacDonald, for many years head gardener at Crathes Castle, has died aged 93.

Mr MacDonald had worked at the castle for 44 years, half of the time as head gardener, and during his time it is believed around 1.5 million people visited the famous castle gardens.

He began work at Crathes Castle in 1938 where he became regarded as a superb and gifted gardener who helped to develop the gardens enjoyed today by thousands of visitors every year.

The only gap in Mr MacDonald’s long service with Crathes Castle was a break during war service with the Gordon Highlanders and Royal Army Services Corp, based in Germany. Culter Kirk minister, the Rev John Ferguson, recalls being told that Douglas had twice been struck by lightning, once getting a major shock whilst standing by his army lorry, then years later on a phonecall during a lightning storm, when he was thrown across the room and knocked out for a while.

The Rev Ferguson said: “He wasn’t seriously hurt - proving that lightning can indeed strike twice - and you can survive!”

Over the years, Douglas MacDonald often gave gardening advice to people, helping with their garden designs and problems, receiving letters from all over the world on gardening topics. He also took part several times on BBC TV’s Beechgrove Garden programme, was a judge for Scotland in Bloom, received the British Empire Medal in 1979 for services to gardening, was made an Associate of Honour of the Royal Horticultural Society, and was awarded the Scottish Horticultural Medal by the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society. In addition, he was a member of the Loyal Order of Ancient Shepherds and the Masons.

Mr MacDonald married in 1943 but outlived his wife, who died seven years ago. He leaves a son, Douglas, daughter-in-law Alison, and a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His ashes have been interred in the gardens at Crathes which was, the Rev Ferguson said, the place he loved more than anywhere else in the world.