Top award for Deeside memorial

John Forsyth and Hugh Inkster pictured at the award-winning memorial
John Forsyth and Hugh Inkster pictured at the award-winning memorial

Ballater’s war memorial has been named Best Kept in Scotland for the second year running.

The village’s carefully-tended monument gained an extra three points on last year to score a perfect 100% in its category of Small Community (under 5000) With Gardens.

It is one of seven sections covering size and style in the competition, which is run by the Royal British Legion Scotland.

Retired Lt Col Hugh Inkster, 92, and former Gordon Highlander John Forsyth, 50, ensured that the memorial was in pristine condition for scrutiny by the judges.

The pair were presented with the silver quaich at a ceremony in Edinburgh last Friday.

It has now been returned to the window of local solicitors Fraser and Mulligan in Bridge Street, where it has been proudly displayed since last year’s success.

For many years, Hugh’s efforts placed Ballater’s memorial second to Methlick’s, and on one occasion Ballater missed the Scottish title by just half a point.

He has cared for the memorial, in the centre of the village, for a decade, ably assisted by two Gordon Highlanders in succession, the late Arthur Menzies and now John Forsyth.

Hugh said: “We are both really pleased, if a bit surprised because we were worried that the surrounding grass may have been damaged by dogs.

“Fortunately we managed to keep everything well enough for the judges to deem it immaculate with full points.”

The veteran added that his biggest problem is usually small bits of litter, but he believes villagers have done their bit this year to keep the area tidy when he’s not around.

Hugh tends to the landmark each day and he says his work can stretch to a half-day because of the number of people who stop for a chat.

His army career began during World War 11 and spanned 42 years, around half of that in the sergeant’s mess and the rest after re-enlisting as an officer, first as a regular soldier and later in the Territorials.

He lives in Ballater with wife Helen and jokes heartily that he switched to the task at the war memorial as a progression from the local committee of the Royal British Legion Scotland when he realised he was “getting so old I was falling out with everybody”.

John works as a groundsman on an estate near Ballater, where he lives with wife Karen and daughter Rowan.

Hugh quipped: “John cuts the grass in his time off and I do the bits and pieces.”

According to the competition rules, should Ballater win the award again in 2020, the village will have to withdraw for a year to allow others a sporting chance.