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Christmas Without You: Daughter’s poignant memories of Elgin golfer Archie Gill

The dad-of-two died on Christmas day 2003, following a diagnosis of Lewy Body dementia.

Precious memories of Archie Gill, a man treasured by his wife and chidlren.
Precious memories of Archie Gill, a man treasured by his wife and chidlren.

Archie Gill is a name well known to Elgin’s golfers, and as an engineer he was “weel kent” around Banff and Nairn too. But for daughter Audrey, losing her dad on Christmas day 10 years ago, means home is the place he’s missed the most.

“He always used to say I was always like a big kid at Christmas, but now it’s tinged with sadness, even a decade on,” said Audrey – a former care home manager from Elgin.

Moray born and raised

Archibald Gill, always known as Archie, was born on June 27 1922.

Son of Robert and Maggie Ann he was one of four boys for the farming couple from Bogton, Llanbryde.

From St Andrew’s Primary School he moved on to Elgin Academy.

Though he had ambitions to become a pilot, when his brother was killed in a flying accident his mum encouraged him to forge a different path.

Archie Gill, aged 83, visiting a wind farm.

With another of his brothers staying on to manage the farm, Archie went to university in Aberdeen to study engineering.

On graduating he secured a job as a district engineer with the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board and in 1950, after meeting Jean Meldrum from Bogmoor at a dance, they married in Fochabers Church.

The couple went on to have two children, Audrey and Ian, and Archie remained with the “Hydro Board” until he retired, latterly more office-based than out on the road.

Elgin Golf Club

Over the years he remained a keen sportsman, with a particular love of golf, which he played into his 90th year having joined Elgin Golf Club in 1956.

He was club captain from 1973 – 74, held numerous other positions during his time there, and in 2001 he was awarded a life membership of the club.

To honour him, the Archie Gill Memorial Trophy began in 2016, awarded to the senior gents’ scratch champion.

From the archives of Elgin Golf Club, Archie’s Captain’s Wall picture.

Audrey said: “My dad was a very fair man. I never heard him raise his voice. I held him up there as my idol.

“He loved golf and he and mum had a routine where by he would work, come home for a cooked lunch and a cat nap, go back to work, come home for dinner, then spend his evenings golfing or in the garden.

“He did a full day and slept well as a result. That all changed when he developed Lewy Body dementia.”

A brilliant man

The second most common form of dementia, it’s often misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s Disease and can cause hallucinations, disturbed sleep and personality changes.

“Thankfully my dad was still my dad. His lovely, gentle spirit never changed but it was a horrible thing to watch him go through. As soon as it took hold he couldn’t sleep.

“It was really sad to see him deteriorate. He was a brilliant man with an incredibly sharp mind and an enthusiasm for life,” added Audrey.

Archie Gill, then 83 at Cairn Uish Wind Farm in Moray. Photo by Alasdair Allen.

Illustrating the type of man he was, Audrey explained that when Archie retired he returned to college where he learned advanced woodwork skills, building himself a grandfather clock and a violin.

“So then he took lessons,” she said, “so he could play it.”

From there him and his chums formed a band called The Revellers playing to the elderly in care homes. “Even though he was older than most of them,” Audrey joked.

Christmas sadness

To celebrate 60 years of marriage he and Jean threw a party at Moray Bowling club but just three years later, in 2013, Archie’s health had significantly deteriorated.

An infection followed by a couple of falls saw him admitted to hospital on December 23. In the early hours of Christmas morning he passed away aged 90.

“Of course that Christmas, 10 years ago, was a write off. The man my brother and I just adored had gone on what is supposed to be a happy family day.

“Even the year after we abandoned the usual plan of all going to my brother’s house. We just couldn’t face seeing an empty chair or thinking back to dad loving a game of charades but not being there with us.”

A tough act to follow

Now, a decade on, while they’ve returned to old traditions, Audrey will still be thinking of her dad – and her mum on Christmas Day.

Jean and Archie Gill on their wedding day in Fochabers.

Jean, who passed away in 2019, and her husband of 63 years, have their ashes buried together at Elgin Cemetery where Audrey will visit before joining her brother, sister-in-law and nephew for a festive lunch.

“My dad was just the best. My brother and I adored him. Nobody has ever come close to Archie Gill… that’s maybe why I never married. He set the bar really high.”