Published: 27/12/2006 00:00 - Updated: 21/11/2011 21:36

Admiral's tomb ship-shape again

Members of the Hay family at the tomb of their ancestor, Admiral William Gordon, whose memorial in Banff they have helped to renovate. Malcolm Hay, whose cousin Angus organised the replacement, stands between Aberdeenshire Concil's environment planner, Richard Leith (far right), and Banff monumental mason Graham Watt (centre). The rest of the Hay family are (from left to right) Georgina, James, Oliver, Isabella, Katharine and mum Debbie.
Members of the Hay family at the tomb of their ancestor, Admiral William Gordon, whose memorial in Banff they have helped to renovate. Malcolm Hay, whose cousin Angus organised the replacement, stands between Aberdeenshire Concil's environment planner, Richard Leith (far right), and Banff monumental mason Graham Watt (centre). The rest of the Hay family are (from left to right) Georgina, James, Oliver, Isabella, Katharine and mum Debbie.

THE FAMILY of a long-dead admiral from Banff have joined forces with Aberdeenshire Council to refurbish his memorial in St Mary's Kirkyard. The memorial plaque attached to the grave of 18th century seaman, Admiral William Gordon, has now been renewed at a cost of more than £2,000. The admiral, who fought against the French in the Seven Years War, retired to Banff, and helped establish the first bank in the town. When he died in 1769, a pyramid-style memorial, with a plaque detailing his high standing in Banff, was built in the churchyard. But, over the centuries, the lettering on the plaque eroded. Last year, a distant descendant of the admiral, Angus Hay, who lives in Dorset, was in Banff for a funeral, and visited the cemetery to see his relative's grave. The plaque was illegible, so Mr Hay was spurred into action. He contacted Aberdeenshire Council's environment planner for buildings and cultural heritage, Richard Leith, to see if it could be renewed. Mr Leith, said: "Angus Hay had been at a funeral and had gone to look at the memorial. The original panel was pretty eroded and you couldn't read anything that was on it. He went to ask us if we would consider replacing the panel, so in principal we said yes. We then found money, together with the family, to enable the panel to be re-done. "It has the same information as the original. We were able to get the correct wording from one of the books from Banff, Imlach's "History of Banff". It gives the lettering for most of the stones (in the churchyard). "From that, we were able to get the correct wording. It's all part and parcel, almost supplementary work, that's being done as part of the Aberdeenshire Historic Kirkyards Project." One of Gordon's distant relatives, and the cousin of Angus Hay, Malcolm Hay, who lives in Glass in Huntly, was at the special ceremony set up to celebrate the new plaque on Thursday, December 21, along with members of his immediate family. He said that Gordon's contribution was very important to Banff. He said: "My cousin got a bunch of us together to raise some cash. Gordon's a very important man for Banff. He founded the first bank and he was apparently an extremely generous benefactor." Speaking about the work done on replacing the plaque, he said: "They have done a great job. It's wonderful." Admiral William Gordon was a distinguished naval officer, thought to have been born in Elgin in 1705, who fought against the French in the Seven Years War. He obtained considerable money during his seafaring days. During his passage home from Virginia, he captured a very valuable French merchant ship, homeward bound from Martinico in the West Indies, called the Happy Mary, laden with sugar, cocoa and other valuable commodities, bound for Bordeaux. Retiring to Banff he took a prominent part in local affairs, amongst which was the establishment of the first bank in the town. He also built a house for himself in Banff, which is now the Carmelite House Hotel. He married a Forbes, and their daughter married James Forbes of Seaton, whose estate was situated in Old Aberdeen, next to the River Don and is now the park owned by Aberdeen City Council. His grand-daughter, Elizabeth Forbes, married General Lord James Hay, who fought in the Peninsular Campaigns and at Waterloo, and whose descendants continue to live in Aberdeenshire. The memorial plaque was restored by Banff monumental mason Graham Watt, using the original style Carrera marble, but of a harder type to ensure that the inscription does not become erased over the next 200 years. The plaque reads: 'Sacred to the memory of William Gordon Esq. Rear Admiral of the White Squadron, who after bravely serving his country for more than forty years, died at Banff, 17 April 1769, aged 64. 'His behaviour in public life was one continued and uniform execution of humanity, patriotism and valour. Gentleness and elegance of manners, a friendly benevolent and tender heart and strict regard to religious and social duty are some of the engaging qualities that distinguished him in private life and have left upon the minds of surviving friends a regret which no length of time will be able to remove. 'His only son, William Gordon, gave early proof of ardour to imitate and of ability to equal the virtues of his father, but alas, to the inexpressible affliction of his mother and only sister, and to the unfeigned sorrow of all who knew him, he was carried off by consumption June 22nd 1772 in the 19th year of his age. 'Mrs Elizabeth Forbes erects this memorial of her gratitude to a most affectionate husband and most amiable child.' duguid_k@spp-group.com

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