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Ivor McBain: Gamekeeper’s son who was born in a castle, dies aged 88

Ivor McBain.

Ivor McBain, who has died aged 88, had the distinction of being born in the kitchen of Craigievar Castle.

Ivor was the son of Wattie McBain, head gamekeeper on the estate then owned by the Forbes Sempil family.

His mother was Ella Cameron, a seamstress. He went on to have a career in the civil service and in later life, together with his wife Isobel, was a major charity fundraiser in the Inverurie area.

Isobel, who died last November, was nominated to open the Tesco Superstore in the town in recognition of her community and charitable work.

Mr and Mrs McBain.

Ivor’s son Barrie said his father remained a countryman at heart retaining many of the skills learned from his gamekeeper father.

He took pride in the fact that his birth certificate stated he was born in Craigievar Castle.

“In those days, the servants went up to the big house to give birth and I suppose his mother would have been helped by the cook,” said Barrie.

Ivor was educated at Hatton of Fintray School and then Inverurie Academy. At the age of 14 he went to work at the North of Scotland Bank in Kintore for three years before being called up for National Service with the RAF in Egypt.

Ivor McBain in his younger years.

When Ivor was demobbed in 1952 he was unemployed for a few years. To make ends meet he turned his hand to poaching.

“He was an expert angler and a fantastic shot. He caught a 30lb salmon on the Don, one of the largest to come out of the river. With meat still being on ration, he made a very tidy living indeed.” said Barrie.

Loco Works

Ivor eventually applied for a vacancy in the office of Inverurie Locomotive Works and during the interview, his future wife, Isobel, caught his eye.

He got the job and a few years later they met up again and started going out and married in Inverurie on March 12, 1960.

The couple’s first home was a caravan on Cobban’s Lane, off North Street, in the town, before they moved to a house in Selby Drive.

In 1963, their only son, Barrie, was born two months premature. Ivor was lithe, athletic and played football as team captain for both Huntly and Fintray.


When the Locomotive Works closed in 1969 the family moved to Shildon, County Durham, where British Rail had a large workshop. They lived there for four years before returning to live in Fintray.

Ivor got a job in the accounts office of the Hydro Electric Board in Aberdeen before moving to the Rowett Research Institute in 1975.

By the time he retired in 1994, he was chief establishment officer for personnel.

In retirement, Ivor and Isobel moved to Kintore. Ivor thrived in the outdoors, either, fishing, gardening or woodwork projects.

Ivor McBain.

Barrie said: “He could make a fishing fly from anything including roadkill and the hair from his head. He loved all wildlife and could recognise any bird by sight or its call or name any wildflower.

“Like his father Wattie, Ivor was also a fantastic storyteller with sharp wit, apt humour, a great entertainer.”

Isobel was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, a disease that had already taken her sister Margaret, brother Doddie and struck another sister Anne.


However, her determination carried her through and she then embarked on fundraising for several cancer charities.

She was nominated to open Inverurie Tesco in recognition of her efforts.

Both Ivor and Isobel played active roles in the community. She was a past president of Kintore Senior Citizens Club and he served as treasurer and secretary.

They were members of Kintore Walking Group, Kintore Bowling Club and played in whist drives.

In 2013 Ivor had an aortic valve replacement but suffered a stroke during operation, resulting in peripheral vision loss and short-term memory loss.


Four years later he was diagnosed with lung cancer which limited his mobility. Isobel became Ivor’s carer but her own vascular problems worsened and over the last two years she endured a great deal of pain that left her housebound.

They celebrated their diamond anniversary in March 2020 with family and friends. As Isobel’s health deteriorated, Ivor moved into Badenscoth House Nursing Home for respite care during lockdown.

Isobel was eventually moved to Badenscoth to be with Ivor and died in November last year. Ivor died on June 3rd.

The family’s announcement can be read here.