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Glenbuchat Heritage

165 Dr Bill Todd and Bellbeg
The Glenbuchat Image Library
165 Dr Bill Todd and Bellbeg

Dr Bill Todd and Bellabeg.

At a recent meeting with Dr Bill Todd, a retired GP now aged 93, it came to light that he had been born in Bellabeg and spent the first few years of his life there. The following therefore are some stories and details about his time in Bellabeg and the histories around them. He eventually became a GP in Kemnay Aberdeenshire and retired to Edinburgh. Many thanks therefore to Bill for his memories.

The photo above shows Bill in 2014 aged 93, a photo of his family and a copy with names attached as well as the bank house and shop at Bellabeg. His father was George Todd, back row left in the picture. Bill was born in 1920 to George and Veda (nee Mary Eliza Veda Watt) Todd in the rooms above the bank at Bellabeg. George was the son of Mr Adam Todd Netherhills, Crathes. (See below ore details about Adam Todd). Veda was the daughter of William Watt, the minister at Strathdon since 1881. George and Veda had two sons Bill and Jack. Bill became a doctor and eventually was a GP in Kemnay and Jack was a pilot in the fleet air arm in the war. The family moved to Rothienorman about 1923

George, Bill’s father, had had a leg amputated as a child. Apparently he fell in front of a reaper and the leg was very badly damaged. The leg was removed by Professor Ogston who travelled out from Aberdeen and carried out the amputation at his home. Professor Ogston was appointed as Regius Professor of Surgery in 1882 and was also famous for his discovery of Staphylococcus bacteria. In 1892, Queen Victoria appointed him Surgeon in Ordinary, a post he also held under King Edward VII and King George V. He was appointed Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 1912.

As a result of his disability George was unable to undertake manual labour so he was put to work in a bank and he came to Bellabeg as the clerk in the bank beside the shop, and lived above the bank. Bill Todd recalled that George often had problems with his stump due to heat, sweat and chafing. He fashioned his own prosthetic leg and designed a bellows contraption at the top which cushioned pressure on his stump but also drew in air to ventilate it.

Bill, whose grandfather William Watt, the minister, recalls a style of local paternalism which helped students to get to university. Mr Watt the minister, Mr J. B. Innes the Schoolmaster (Dominie) and the Doctor, presumably Dr Howie got together and identified suitable pupils who would benefit from University education. They would then visit the family to discuss the idea. Usually the first comment was that they couldn’t afford university but the group indicated that they would be able to arrange bursaries to assist. Secondly the family stated that they could not afford lodgings in Aberdeen. Again the triumvirate indicated that so and so’s relative had a house in Aberdeen and would let out a room very cheaply. Finally they were able to source some financing to enable the student to live while studying. He mentioned two local lads who did well under such a system, Sir William MacGregor of Towie and Dr. Robert Douglas Stuart of Strathdon (see below more details below)

Perhaps it was such paternalism that enabled such a small isolated community to produce a significant number of Scientists, Doctors and Ministers.

Another example was the son of the Schoolmaster himself. Ian Innes son of J.B. Innes, Strathdon headmaster 1873 – 1912, also benefited from special tuition as noted in his obituary. He was a medical student in the same year as Bill. Dr Innes eventually became a GP in Hull.

I. G. INNES, O.B.E., M.A., M.D.
The death of Dr. Ian G. Innes on 18 February has robbed Hull and the East Riding of one of its most colourful and best loved personalities. He was aged 74.
Ian George Innes was born at Strathdon, Aberdeenshire, in 1890. The son of a schoolmaster, he was educated by his father and at Aberdeen Grammar School before going to Aberdeen University, where he had a distinguished career.
He graduated M.A. in 1912 and B.Sc. in Agriculture in 1913, before taking up medicine.
He qualified M.B., Ch.B. in 1918 and M.D. in 1928.


Bill Todd and his family stayed above the bank beside the grocers shop owned by Mr Wattie. His father G. Todd is noted in the Workers Education Year book of 1918: “G. Todd, Bellabeg,” This probably indicated that George was keen on increasing his education.

The Bellabeg Bank:

The bank in which George Todd was a bank clerk had been originally a branch of the Aberdeen Town and County Bank.

An 1882 gazetteer notes in Bellabeg:
There are a branch of the Aberdeen Town and County Bank, a post office under Aberdeen, with money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments, and fairs on the second Fridays of February, May, and November, the last Tuesday of April, the Friday of July after Glass, the Friday of August after Mearns, and the last Saturday of September.
(Frances Groome, Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (1882-4); © 2004 Gazetteer for Scotland)


The Town and County Bank opened for business on 15th June 1825. During the early years the Bank was constantly troubled by bad debts, which in every balance sheet swallowed up a significant amount of the profits. The Town & County Bank Limited merged with the North of Scotland Bank in 1908 to form the North of Scotland Town & County Bank Limited. North of Scotland Bank refused to adopt a suggested merger with Clydesdale Bank. The merger eventually happened some 27 years later in 1950. The branch finally closed in 2005

The Watt family

William Watt, Bills maternal grandfather, was the son of George Watt and Jane Howie. They had four children, 3 sons and a daughter. Of the three sons two were doctors and the youngest a medical student when he died. William Watt was the nephew of the previous Strathdon minister John Watt (see below)

The children of William Watt were:
1. William Gordon Watt, b. 4 Apr 1886,
2. John Taylor Watt, b. 23 Feb 1887
3. Mary Eliza Vida Watt, b. 26 Jan 1889,
4. David George Melrose Watt, b. 11 Aug 1896, d. 26 Apr 1916, Cambridge,

William Gordon, M.B., Ch.B. was a medical officer, West African Frontier Force,
John Taylor Watt, M.B., Ch.B. was a medical officer, West African Frontier Force, born
Mary Eliza Vida, teacher, New Aberdour, married George Todd
The youngest David a medical student he enlisted in the RAMC in 1915 but died in hospital in Aldershot in 1919 at the age of 19.

Rev William Watt
He was born Drumrossie, Insch on 14th July 1853.
He was the son of George Watt and Jane Howie, and nephew of Rev John Watt the previous Strathdon minister.
He was educated at Aberdeen Grammar School, University of Aberdeen, M.A. (1873), and St Andrews, B.D.) 1881 and licenced by Presbytery of St Andrews in 1879.
He became schoolmaster at Coatham Grammar School, Redcar, Yorkshire, and Pannal College, Harrogate.
He became assistant minister and then ordained minister of Strathdon, 2nd Feb. 1881.
He married 3rd June 1885, Catherine, daughter of David Taylor, farmer, Newhouses,
He died at Aberdeen, 1st Nov. 1925.

Rev John Watt (Uncle of William Watt)
Born in Kennethmont, 8th June 1821, son of William Watt, Old Town, and Catherine Warrack , he was educated at Grammar School and King's College, Aberdeen ; M.A. (March 1843) .
He became schoolmaster of Keig and Rathen and was ordained to Towie on 4th Dec. 1856 ; presented and admitted 22nd July 1859.
He died at Aberdeen 15th Feb. 1888.
He befriended and took a deep interest in an orraman's boy of his parish, who became Sir William MacGregor, G.C.M.G., M.D., D.Sc., LL.D., Lieut-Governor of British New Guinea, and Governor successively of Lagos, Newfoundland, and Queensland, and founder of the Univ. of the latter colony.
John Watt married on 12th Oct. 1869, Sophia Margaret (died 26th March 1899), daughter of Major-General John Gordon, R.A., Gartly
(Aberdeen Univ. Review, vii., Nov. 1919.)

In the files of the Aberdeen Medico Chirurgical Society is an interesting letter donated by Bill Todd.

The following is a copy of a letter written by Dr. Alexander Kilgour (possibly addressed to Mr. Watt, Minister of Strathdon). Dr Kilgour was an Aberdeen GP who became a senior physician at the Infirmary. It would appear that the minister had rights to refer appropriate patients to Doctors, not always to the Doctor’s satisfaction!

'My Dear Parson,

Don't for any sake send any more of your "parishioners" to me with notes of introduction. They don't pay. Country people when they get a note from their minister make it serve in a genteel sort of a way the purpose of an Infirmary Recommendation - that is to say, they call at our houses and think they are entitled to our advice there on the same terms as at the Infirmary. We are up to the dodge from experience. Your three parishioners acted on the principle. Give the Infirmary Recommendations or Nothing. And if they are too fine to go there, they then know that they have no right to trouble us at our own houses'. He goes on to recount the actions of a Strathdon man who had taken bed and board at the hospital whilst he settled a business matter in Aberdeen.


Sir William MacGregor
Sir William MacGregor was a remarkable, and in some respects an unique example of a Scotsman rising by his own exertions from the humblest origin to one of the highest and most honourable offices in the British Empire.

He was descended from the MacGregors of Delavorar, near Tomintoul, Banffshire, a family founded about 1675. He was born in 1846 at the small cottage called Hillockhead, in the parish of Towie, Aberdeenshire, where his father, a farm labourer, resided. It may be mentioned that, like David Copperfield, he had a ' skeeliehoo " (Aberdeenshire) or caul on his head, a fact to which he was frequently in the habit of referring as a charm against its owner being drowned and marking him as a favourite of fortune. He was the eldest son of a family of ten and attended the small "side" school of Tillyduke, Strathdon, conducted by Mr. James Kennedy, a very energetic and enthusiastic teacher, who soon discovered that he had in William MacGregor a pupil of outstanding aptitude and promise and one who could learn about as fast as he could instruct him. The late Reverend John Watt, minister of Strathdon, who likewise foresaw the possibilities of the lad's future, if wisely directed, took a great interest in him, helped him in his study in the Manse and gave him financial assistance. He procured for him, in the absence of Mr. Kennedy, the position of teacher in Tillyduke School, where after school hours he pored over his books by the aid of a "crusie lamp," preparing himself for the Aberdeen University Bursary Competition. He proceeded to the Aberdeen Grammar School in 1865, and after spending two sessions there gained the Second Bursary at the Competition.
(Aberdeen University Review)


Dr. Robert Douglas Stuart, (from his obituary)
Professor of Bacteriology at the University of Alberta and Director of the Provincial Laboratories at Edmonton died on May 5, 1968, at his home in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, at the age of 62. He was on sick leave from his post in Canada.
A native of Strathdon, Scotland, he graduated M.B., Ch.B. at the University of Aberdeen in 1927 and joined the Royal Navy on a short-service commission.
Dr. Stuart obtained the D.P.H. in 1932, proceeded to his M.D. in 1933 and was awarded the D.Sc. at Aberdeen in 1943. He was a lecturer at the University of Glasgow, bacteriologist to the Royal Infirmary and, for a time, city bacteriologist for Glasgow. He joined the editorial board of the Glasgow Medical Journal in 1946 and became a Fellow of the Royal Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow in 1949. He took up his appointments in Canada in 1949 and in 1961 won the Kimble award of the American Public Health Association for the development of a new holding medium for the transport of bacteriological specimens. Dr. Stuart is survived by his widow and three sons.


The Todd family:

The pictures above show the Todd family and the following is an obituary obtained from Bill Todd about Grandfather Adam.

The Late Mr Adam Todd, Netherhills

The death is announced of Mr Adam Todd Netherhills, Crathes, which occurred on Sunday at his home after a lingering illness, borne with great fortitude. There were few better known farmers on lower Deeside than Mr Todd. Starting life as a farm servant, he worked his way up from farm service to butcher and cattle-dealer and then to farmer, grazier, and breeder.

It is over 20 years since he took the farm of Netherhills on the Crathes estate, but before that time he -made his mark in the district through his extensive cattle transactions. In the ‘good old days’ another Aberdeenshire farmer, the late Mr James Ra----- of Greystone said ‘his cattle were worth riding for’.

Mr Todd crossed the Cairn o’ Mount into the ‘Howe of the Mearns very frequently, and was known I have bought as many as 300 head of cattle at one time While at the time the trade was at its height, his weekly output to the London -dead meat market ranged from 60 to 80 head. When he entered the farm of Netherhills working with an equitable arrangement with his landlord he at once set about the renovation and improvement of his holding which at that time contained about 100 acres of "arable land and later on Mr Todd-had nearly 200 acres under the plough, much of It being reclaimed by the new tenant from woodland and waste. When he entered the farm the cereal crops were vained over to him at a very low yield. By a liberal application of manure and his extensive feeding operations he brought up the fertility of the farm very rapidly to the average of . . . He was an extensive user of city manure, buying as much as 100 tons to 1400 tons in the year.

It was by this means that he brought up the productiveness of his farm, much of which was composed of naturally poor, thin, sandy soil. He was at this time an extensive feeder and grazier and took a large extent of grass and turnips outside his own farm. In this connection it may be mentioned that his landlord dealt very liberally with him in the way of providing new and up to date buildings for the accommodation of his stock. But Mr Todd‘s energies were not confined to the handling of commercial stock of which he had an intimate knowledge. For a number of years he kept a pretty extensive herd of Aberdeen-Angus cattle which were descended principally from the Easter Skene Grizzles and the Daisies and Maras the former from Skene House where his leading family were the feature of the local shows at Banchory.

From time to time he made a number of important private sales, to her late Majesty Queen Victoria, Mr Clement Stephenson, Newcastle, Mr George Bruce, Tochinael and other well-known breeders. Mr Stephenson was very successful at the English fat stock shows with an ox bred by Mr Todd. The herd was given up a few years ago. The deceased, both as a farmer who added immensely to the productiveness of his holding, and as a breeder of Aberdeen-Angus cattle occupied an honourable place among the agriculturists of lower Deeside.

He was a most unassuming man but though he took no part in public business he was a close observer of local events and a very hospitable entertainer. He was 70 years of age and leaves a widow, two daughters, and six sons to mourn his loss.





Picture added on 08 April 2014 at 23:01
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