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‘Half a million burgers – and just as much banter’: Family’s tribute to Ellon’s Maggie Leslie

Maggie Leslie, Ellon's beloved 'Queen of Burgers'.
Maggie Leslie, Ellon's beloved 'Queen of Burgers'.

For 37 years Maggie Leslie dished up burgers and banter from her much-loved van, near Ellon. The mum-of-three took over the fast-food unit in 1985 and had a queue at her kiosk ever since.

Hundreds of tributes have now been paid online, and flowers left in her layby, for the gran and great-grandma who died suddenly aged 73.

Hard work in her genes

Margaret Helen  – known as Maggie – was born on August 17 1949 in Ardlethen. Her parents, Helen and Douglas Murray were dairy farmers and Maggie was one of five children.

A young Maggie Murray, as she was then.

A two-mile walk each way, would see her attend Esslemont Primary School before moving on to Ellon Academy. Though she was good at English and maths she left with few qualifications, joining the world of work at 15.

Starting out as a shop girl in Duthie’s Store in Tarves, other employment included a spell with Buchan’s Poultry and working as a clippie on the buses.

Raising a family

It was while in Tarves that she met mechanic Bill Leslie.

Having seen each other in the shop where she worked, when he spotted her out in Ellon he asked her up for a dance.

Maggie Leslie, right, with her parents Helen and Douglas Murray.

The couple married on August 17 1968 at St-Mary-on-the-Rock church, Ellon and went on to have three children, Gillian, Douglas and Susan.

They moved to Bridge of Don and when they later divorced Maggie and the kids returned to Ellon.

However, a chance sighting of a job advert would change her life forever.

‘Help wanted’

A woman called Jenny needed support to help run a fast food van. Maggie welcomed the opportunity. As a single mum the hours suited and it was near the family home.

In 1985 she was given the opportunity to purchase the unit. Maggie’s Burger Van was launched.

Maggie was the backbone of her family. Shown here with her mum and children, Gillian, Susan and Doug.

The van, located just outside Ellon on the A90 towards Peterhead, became Maggie’s passion immediately. Although the first few years were tough financially, her regular customer base grew.

“Just working it out, 50-60 burgers a day, 50 weeks a year for 37 years… that’s more than half a million burgers cooked over that time!”

Burgers and banter

Also a great baker, but best known for her burgers, the customers expected to be dished up more than just great food.

“I think people came as much for the banter as they did the burgers. My mum called a spade a spade – and the customers seemed to like her sharp tongue. She loved a laugh and her loyal customers loved her for it,” said Gillian, Maggie’s daughter. “She was a character, with a big, big heart.”

Morning everyone- This is Maggie at 'Maggie's Burger Van' beside Ellon collecting for Maggie's Aberdeen! From Maggie's…

Posted by Maggie's Aberdeen on Monday, 14 March 2016

Throughout the decades Maggie always had a tub on her counter to raise money for charity.

“She was always fundraising for something. Too many causes to name.

On a wing and a prayer, Maggie Leslie strapped to a plane ready to wing walk for charity.

“I think it was for her 60th that she did a wing walk. We thought she was mad but she absolutely loved it!”

Sudden illness

Very much a family affair, everyone mucked in to help Maggie when needed. In recent months Gillian was made redundant and was able to support her mum more regularly.

“She was one of those people who played her cards close to her chest when it came to illness or feeling tired, but she was trying to make more time for herself.

“She worked up to Christmas, but the week between Christmas and New Year she was starting to feel a bit run down. I called my sister, who is a nurse, on the Thursday.

“Mum played things down but the consensus was that she was probably fine but needed a rest. Friday she was worse and by Saturday she was taken into hospital. We were told it was Influenza A.”

Family by her side

Not given any cause for alarm really, the family were advised that she was being given oxygen and other treatments.

“The doctor said ‘no news is good news’. We didn’t hear anything so thought she was improving. Then she suddenly began to decline really quickly and we got a call to come in.

With grandson Gary, Maggie Leslie of Maggie’s Burger Van, Ellon.

“Mum had an enlarged heart – she always joked about having a big heart – but other than that, nothing. You just don’t think about how bad flu can be.”

Peacefully, with her family by her side, Maggie passed away on January 1.

It followed what Maggie described as “her best Christmas ever”, including a visit to Doug’s where she taught him how to “properly” make stovies.

One last trip to her lay-by

A celebration of Maggie’s life will take place at The Station Hotel in Ellon on Monday January 16 at 12pm.

Maggie will be making one final drive by the van and layby at 10.30am on her way to the funeral.

Tributes left for ‘Queen of Burgers’ Maggie Leslie, at the A90 lay by where she ran her burger van.

“All family and friends are respectfully invited. Please wear something bright and beautiful. And if you’re on the go give her a big toot!”

Donations will be going to local animal charities with flowers from family only.

Gillian added: “Sweet dreams mum, from all of us. We miss you already.”