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Dornoch Hotel
Dornoch Hotel

Monochrome postcard of the Dornoch Hotel. Code A2956.

This a b/w laser copy on a sheet with 2006.143.1 & 3-4.
Picture added on 04 June 2009
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Hidden Gems
I worked as a "comi chef" waiter in the Dornoch Hotel in the school holidays of 1954 and 1955 when I was 14 and 15 years old. In my later school years I worked as a waiter in the Golf Hotel in Dornoch. The Dornoch Hotel was then owned by British Railways and was very up market with a five star rating. There were a number of other Embo boys working with me there and also a largish group of Embo women working as chamber maids, cleaners and still room staff. Having these women with us was very handy as they would always come to our defence if we were ever bullied by "outsider" workers. I remember the very well built Christina Mackay (Curstag aigh Vogs) coming to my defence on several occasions. Of course there were two sides to the coin. She had a very sweet tooth and I was often able to sneak her titbits from the dining hall. It was a great life experience and earned us good money. Our pay was 27 shillings and six pence a week but we could make more than that in tips if we were clever and fast enough. There were 32 waiters in the dining room in those years. Probably today there will be no more than eight. Many of the waiting staff were from Switzerland and also a number from the Scottish Catering School in Rosehall near Glasgow getting "hands on" catering experience. It was also great fun serving those we considered to be toffs or celebrities. I clearly remember local MP Sir David Robertson and his wife as guests as well as a group of British navy admirals led by an Admiral Watson. I often wonder if the guest registers from those years are still available as they would make interesting reading now.
Later than the above dates I used to deliver messages for Weirs (Duncan McGregor)and Sir David was a regular visitor to the Hotel but refused to pay corkage on his drink at the hotel and would buy all his alcohol and mixers at Weirs and I had to deliver it at a certain time to the golfers entrance at the hotel where one of the porters took it to Sir Davids suite in closed boxes The golfers entrance is the porch you see on the left hand side of the photograph and across from what was at that time the tennis courts.His party at that time consisted of his wife ,daughter and her husband a Mr McGill they all golfed together but rarely played more than nine holes at a time he was quite an elderly man then and when you were caddying for him you had to tee the ball up for him .
Added by Dan Murray on 28 December 2010
Just read Kenneth Mackay's piece about Dornoch Hotel. I was Admiral Watson's caddy when he came to Dornoch.

Many thanks for your comment - Administrator
Added by Peter Murray on 08 September 2014
For some time I have been meaning to tell of another tale from my time as a commis waiter at the Dornoch Hotel. (Sometimes we were called commis chef waiters but that did not make sense to me then, or even now). First of all it must be again emphasised that in 1954 and 1955, when I worked there, it was a very posh place indeed. In addition to this there was a hierarchy system strictly applied in both the kitchen and the dining room. In this system the Head Chef in the kitchen was treated by his staff with respect bordering on fear and the same applied in the dining room with the Head Waiter. Now a commis waiter was the lowest rank in the dining room’s rank structure, and we were never allowed to forget this. In addition to myself there were three other Embo boys of my age also working there as commis waiters. If my memory is correct they were Davey Ross, Johnnie Mackay and Jimmie Sutherland. The Head Waiter was very strict as to our turnout and our uniform was always expected to be in perfect order. The uniform consisted of a long pair of black trousers with no turn ups, black patent leather lace up shoes, black socks and a white shirt. These items we had to provide for from our own pockets. The hotel then supplied a white cotton long sleeved monkey jacket which was heavily starched and well ironed, and a long white apron that ran from our mid chest to our shoes. We were supplied with newly laundered monkey jackets and the aprons on a daily basis. With experience we became used to wearing this uniform and we always took a pride in our appearance. Special care was taken to make sure that our hands and fingernails were spotlessly clean at all times…probably the first time in our lives! The one item of our uniform that gave us a particular problem, was the shoes, as our constant running and changing of direction on the deep carpets in the dining room made our feet overheat and blister badly.
Initially as new commis waiters we were virtually plate and food carriers from the kitchen to the “station’s” serving bench. In such a large dining room there were up to ten such stations which each had a minimum of three waiting staff for the tables that made up the station. All service was what was called “silver service”. This simply meant that most food was served to guests from pure silver platters or tureens, onto to preheated chinaware, laid by another waiter. Later as our skills grew we commis waiters were even allowed to approach the guest’s tables, and even much later still we were even permitted to talk to them. What a victory…!
Now back to the tale that I wanted to tell. Round about the time that I was first permitted to talk to guests I was spoken to by the Admiral Watson that I mentioned before. It was when he and his party were being served dinner and while they planned to celebrate some naval victory or occasion the following night. They then ordered two bottles of a very old port for the celebration…I think that the vintage was 1922…and these bottles cost a fortune. Of course prior to the celebration dinner the station waiter had decanted both bottles into two crystal decanters and at the dinner one of the decanters was emptied while the guests smoked their after dinner cigars. (There were no smokeless zones in those days). Then Admiral Watson spoke to me again to instruct me to make sure that the remaining decanter was safeguarded and to be available at their dinner the following day. I then duly locked the decanter in the station’s cupboard.
After all the guests had left the dining room and as we were clearing up the dinner tables and resetting them for breakfast the Head Waiter, a Mr Bendell, and the Deputy Head Waiter sat at the back of the dining room and were served with their dinner by the waiting staff. Immediately they sat down Mr. Bendell called me and asked me where Admiral Watson’s port was. I told him that it was locked safely away as I thought that that was his concern. He then told me to bring it to him and I fetched and gave it to him. He then poured a glass for himself and his dinner partner, while I stood there protesting as loudly as I dared. And that was not very loud. After their dinner they left the dining room and me with an empty port decanter. I had a sleepless night.
The next day after lunch, and as we were setting up for dinner I summonsed up all my courage and went to Mr. Bendell. I then asked him what I was to say to Admiral Watson when he asked for his port at dinner that night. He just laughed at me and put his hand in his pocket and gave me a ten shilling note and told me to go to the local liquor store …it may even have been Dan Murray’s Weirs…and buy a bottle of Spanish port. I did this, and I am sure that it cost about seven shillings and sixpence. I rushed back to the hotel and decanted this new port into the posh crystal decanter and locked it back in the station cupboard. Later Admiral Watson and his party came for dinner and I stood there shaking in fear that the port swap would be discovered. As expected they called for their port…luckily by then they had already enjoyed several bottles of wine…and they never even noticed that their second bottle of Port was not born in the Douro Valley, Portugal in 1922, but in Spain in early 1953.

Added by Kenneth Mackay on 12 February 2015
I recall that my sister Vera used to caddie for Sir David Ross and I caddied for his wife Lady Ross. She had about four clubs in a canvas bag! Sir David and his wife used to play regularly each year with Dr Haddow and his wife. I recall that the ladies were not very interested in golf but talked of shopping!
Added by Donald Ross on 13 December 2015
Having read the above comments I think the Sir David referred to should be Sir David Robertson who was the Conservitive and Unionist M P for Caithness and Sutherland. The shop where the Port was purchased was either Ackie Murray's (my father) or Duncan Macgregor next door.
Added by Peter A Murray on 15 December 2015
Peter - you are quite right it was Sir David Robertson - how the passage of time plays tricks with ones memory!
Added by Donald Ross on 18 December 2015
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Hidden Gems

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