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Bill Hay: Former janitor at Skene and Elrick schools dies aged 79

Elrick pupils wish Bill Hay well for retirement in 2007.

Bill Hay, janitor at schools in the Westhill area for more than 30 years, has died aged 79.

He was the man who kept schools functioning through even the fiercest weather, clearing paths early in the morning and stoking furnaces.

Bill, who had a natural talent for art, also left his mark by creating sets for school plays.


He will also be remembered for the horses he carved from wood during long evenings waiting for events to end in the school hall.

Many of these were given as wedding presents and are on display in homes throughout the north-east.

Bill was born at Crosshill Cottage, Craigdam, the fourth child of farm worker Joseph Hay and his wife  Margaret.


He was educated at Barthol Chapel and then Methlick schools, leaving at the age of 15 to work on a farm at Cuminestown until he began a gardening apprenticeship with John Garden and Sons in Inverurie.

In 1962, he had a career change by joining the Royal Air Force, just after the period of compulsory National Service had ended.

Bill served as a fireman and was based at RAF Bridgnorth in Shropshire and then RAF Watton in Norfolk over a period of three years.

Bill Hay.

When he returned to civilian life he went back to work at Dunecht Estate as a gardener before moving to Springhill Nurseries.

In 1966, at a dance in the Railway Hall in Inverurie, Bill met his future wife, clerical worker Mary Burnett.

The couple married at St Ninian’s Church, Turriff, in 1968 and their daughter, Lorraine, was born the following year.


It was in 1973 that Bill secured a post with the local authority as janitor at Skene School.

When Elrick School was built and Skene’s headteacher was offered the new position, he agreed to go on condition that Bill went with him.

So Bill went on to take care of the running of both Skene and Elrick schools.

His daughter, Lorraine, said her father had shown artistic ability from a young age and enjoyed helping out with projects at the schools.

“He used to make sets for school plays. I remember him making a chimney for a show with a Victorian theme and a Cinderella coach from boards and wood.


“There was a lot of night letting to organisations and he would spend his waiting time in his office carving horses from wood with his Stanley knife.”

Outside work Bill and Mary, who died six years ago, enjoyed Scottish country dancing and were regulars at events at Ravenswood, Banchory.

Bill particular enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren, Keiran and Mhairi, on whom he doted.

You can read the family’s announcement here.

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