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Donald Fraser

Derry LodgeDerry Lodge - 22nd July 2009

Donald Fraser was the resident keeper at Derry Lodge in the late 19th, and early 20th centuries, and was well known to generations of Cairngormers.

The photograph shows the west wing of Derry Lodge - the part occupied by the keepers living there year-round.

Oddly - I can't find a record of his birth, but his first appearance in the official records in the census of 1851 may explain why.  The census of 1851 shows him (aged 8), and his unmarried mother Jane Watt (aged 33) living by themselves in Little Inverey, the western part of Inverey.

In 1879 Donald Fraser was already a keeper on the estate when he married Elizabeth McGregor ; their daughter Mary Jane Fraser was born in 1880. 

In 1881 the census of that year shows Donald Fraser, and his family at Bynack Lodge.  The subsequent censuses of 1891, and 1901 show them at Derry Lodge.  Evidently Donald was the resident keeper at Derry Lodge for over twenty years ; from sometime in the 1880s to his death in 1913.

An interesting reference placing Donald Fraser at Derry Lodge is a Cairngorm Club Journal article A fortnight among the Cairngorms by William Welsh (ccj 33, July 1909, p100-107) describing a ‘tramp’ in July 1907 – where the author writes :

At 4.15 p.m. the rain stopped, and on arriving at Derry Lodge at 4.50 we found Frazer and Robertson enjoying a game of golf.  They had had no rain since about 12 o'clock !  After tea we set off for Inverey

- William Welsh (ccj 33, June 1909, p107)

The reference to playing golf may seem odd, but we have it from Seton Gordon that Donald Fraser had set out his own ‘golf course’ at the Derry, and in Gordon (1925) – the author writes :

There are a few clearings in the forest near Derry Lodge, and I remember how old Donald Fraser, the stalker at the Derry, used to play golf here in his spare moments – and in winter there were many. Fraser was a great personality ; he must have been known to thousands of mountaineers, for he had always a cheery greeting for the climber after a long day on the hill. On his home course he was a cunning golfer, although I do not suppose he had ever played on any links away from his own glen. … now Donald ‘’is lost to the mountain ; is gone from the forest,’’ and I doubt if it would be possible to find the old course

– Gordon (1925) (p64)

Donald died in the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary on the 28th of December 1913.  He is buried in the graveyard at Braemar.