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‘He was Mr Dunnottar Castle, that’s how he’ll be remembered’: Wife’s tribute to Jim Wands, 59

Jim Wands, custodian of Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven.
Jim Wands, custodian of Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven.

“We’re so overwhelmed by the outpouring of love for Jim. He’d be gobsmacked that so many people thought so highly of him.”

The wife of Jim Wands, custodian of Dunnottar Castle, has paid tribute to her husband and thanked the hundreds of people who have expressed their sadness at his death just days after his 59th birthday.

The former British Transport Police sergeant, who has been an active member of his Stonehaven community since moving there in 2003, leaves behind his wife Shona and their two daughters and granddaughter.

“He’d honestly not believe how many messages we’ve received,” said health visitor Shona, “he loved it here, and loved his job and it seems that people felt the same way about him. We’re really grateful.”

Early years

James Gerard Lochrie Wands was born in Bellshill, Lanarkshire, on August 14 1963. The only child of John Wands, an electrician, and his wife Theresa he attended Corpus Christi Primary School in Calderbank, then St Patrick’s Academy in Coatbridge.

After school, Jim took on a diesel mechanic apprenticeship with Central Motors but couldn’t find work after qualifying so took a job on the railways.

Jim Wands, a popular Stonehaven resident and custodian of the town’s famous landmark.

First as a painter, of the posts holding up the railway wires, then as a railway storeman, based in Glasgow.

“He really wanted to join the Transport Police but his eyesight wasn’t good enough at the time,” explained Shona.

Young love

Jim met his future wife Shona McLellan when they were both 17.

Attending the Nova Scotia under-18s disco in Calderbank, they fell in love and got engaged on Shona’s 18th birthday.

“We went to different schools because we were ‘from different sides of the tracks’ as they said then. But it wasn’t an issue for our families.”

The young couple tied the knot in Corpus Christi Roman Catholic Church in Calderbank on August 11 1984, three days before Jim’s 21st.

Pictured in 2008, Sergeant Jim Wands, British Transport Police, Aberdeen.

Not long after they were married the British Transport Police entrance criteria changed and Jim was able to join their ranks.

Becoming a dad

Shona worked as a midwife in Bellshill Maternity Hospital and Jim was based in Glasgow. Their girls, Abi and Ainsley were born in 1987 and 1990 respectively.

Committed to bringing their daughters up in the best possible environment they decided to make a move north.

Jim in 2009 during a case involving fighting at Stonehaven Railway Station.

In 2001 Jim got a transfer to Aberdeen and Shona found work in the area too.

The family initially moved to Newtonhill where they stayed for two years, before relocating to Stonehaven.

Dunnottar Castle

Jim retired as a sergeant just over eight years ago but found a new job with the Wood Group soon after.

“An office job really wasn’t for him, so that was only fleeting. A role at Dunnottar Castle came up as a deputy custodian, which he got, then six months later the position of custodian came up. He went for it and from then on it was all about the castle,” said Shona.

Jim in the place he loved the most – Dunnottar Castle – when Visit Scotland introduced a new phone app.

A fan of history, research and reading – as well as physical pursuits – it was the perfect job for Jim, and he loved it.

Dunnottar Castle – owned by Dunecht Estates – became his passion. But it was no small task looking after the well-known landmark. At the height of the season, Jim would be known to tackle its 219 steps six times a day, sometimes lugging bags of building materials if repairs were needed.

Time with family

In his spare time, Jim was incredibly active. In 2011 he was runner-up in the World Martial Kombat Federation kickboxing championship in Sicily, representing Scotland. He also loved archery and sailing.

However, it was spending time with Shona, his girls and being Granda to 15-year-old Olivia that made him most happy.

The Wands family during happier times. From left is Abi, Olivia, Shona and Ainsley, with their beloved Jim.

‘Trundling around’ in their motorhome was a favourite pursuit.

Shona said: “We loved to go galavanting together all over the place. Jim loved Scotland.”

Final months

Around nine months ago Jim received a difficult diagnosis which meant he had to step back from work.

He passed away on August 20, in Kincardine Community Hospital, just a few days after his and Shona’s 38th wedding anniversary.

A celebration of his life will take place on Tuesday August 30 at Baldarroch Crematorium, Crathes. The castle will close for the day.

It is with a heavy heart that we write this post. At the weekend, our Custodian at Dunnottar, Jim Wands, passed away…

Posted by Dunnottar Castle on Monday, 22 August 2022

Since his passing hundreds of comments have been added to Dunnottar Castle’s Facebook post and the family has been inundated with messages of love and support.

“To say we are overwhelmed is really an understatement. We feel like we haven’t been up here that long and yet we have had hundreds of messages. In one sense, Jim wouldn’t have believed it, but in another he was all about Stonehaven. And he really was ‘Mr Dunnottar Castle’. That’s how he’ll be remembered.”