Dorsincilly Cottage – Alltcailleach Forest
The images were taken by Alistair Cassie whose father, George, and grandfather, Adam, worked in the Forestry Commission for most of their working lives.
This original house was built with help from the local forestry staff in the early 1950s to what seemed to be a standard design. Around this time also the prefabricated British Timber Houses (BTH) were making appearance around the country. Small roomed, lightweight, quickly and locally erected they filled an urgent need to supply housing for people to work in the countryside and fast expanding forests.
‘The Birkhall squad including my father worked with the builder who may have been Robertson the Joiners from Ballater where one of the joiners was called George Cummings who now lives in Aberdeen. The clerk of works I recall was a guy called MacIntosh the Mason who came from Elgin. I think the wooden frames may have been from reclaimed Army huts. (The Birkhall squad had some skilled workers and the sawmill guys made a lot of sheds, fence flood boxes etc for other Forestry Units. The houses at Birkhall were known as the ‘Huts’ I think and they were named The Birches, Woodlands and Glenview.)
I can vaguely remember the building of Dorsincilly Cottage which was our family home and we were certainly in it when the Jan 1953 gale struck. The foundations including dwarf walls were built with cement blocks. When complete the fished wooden flooring was added on to the top and then the timber frames for the walls erected. I am not sure if they were reclaimed army huts, or built on site as prefabricated units were the thing in those days. The walls were all clad with wood. Steel lathe sheets were fixed on the external walls, scratch coated and harled by MacIntosh the Mason. The roof was boarded and finished off with corrugated asbestos sheets. The front and back porches were added as wooden frame structures covered with weather boarding. The inside walls were lined plastered and then painted with Distemper the non waterproof covering before the emulsion paint days.
A Triplex fireplace with oven was the main heat source but two of the three bedrooms had cast iron wood burning stoves and one bedroom had the cast iron chimney running up the inside of the room after emerging through an asbestos sheet. The back bedroom had the chimney flue on the exterior of the building. There was certainly no gas and electricity supply available.
The plumbing was very basic with hot water provided by a back boiler in the Triplex stove to a hot water tank and then piped to a simple sink and the basic toilet. The drains led to a concrete septic tank near to the house.
The house was extremely cold and one winter I remember that there was a frosty crust on the exposed hot water bottle. In winter we had the hairy army type blankets piled on the bed and I remember having my father’s Home Guard Great coat on top of the blankets. We had portable paraffin heaters when needed and a wireless powered by a dry battery plus wet battery accumulator that required regular charging. Cooking was done on the open fire and oven with no hint of carbon monoxide or smoke detectors. Forestry wages were on par with farm servants but without the same perks such as free house, tatties, milk etc. Apart from the times of the big wind blow (1953) firewood was expensive but my father kept the local woodland tidy!
We did have a bathroom but I remember as a youngster sharing the galvanised tub in front of the fire as it was such a cold house. We were only three miles from Ballater but depended on delivery vans and even in those early days we had two grocers vans and a fish van (Fishy Forbes). The grocer had paraffin tanks under the van from which he filled our tins. In the severe winters I remember going to meet the Shoppers Bus on a sledge with a hot water bottle and blanket. We got our milk from Charlie Fraser of Ardmeanach and sometimes Mrs Fraser gave me a drink of warm milk straight from the coo. That I did not enjoy.
I have described some of the ways of life of living in the countryside in the early 1950s and I am sure many other country folk can recall similar stories.’
The photograph and the other images on the attached PDF show the ruined Dorsincilly Cottage as in 2014? The two gentlemen are Alistair Cassie on the left and the late Jock Watt who was a fund of stories about the local area.
Picture added on 23 January 2019 at 08:12