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Joint administrator at Brodick Castle, along with his wife, Wilma from 1973 to 1985.
John Forgie was born in Edinburgh on July 6, 1929 and educated at George Watson’s College, and briefly as an evacuee in WWII, at Ayr Academy.
In 1949 he joined the staff of the Scotsman and by 1951 was a staff photographer, covering everything throughout Scotland from cup finals and train crashes, to the Edinburgh Festival.
Of the many interesting and famous people John met as a photographer, his favourite was meeting and photographing comic legends Laurel and Hardy.
Being a staff photographer with John’s keen sense of adventure was not without risk.
He nearly fell out of the open door of a light aeroplane, whilst leaning out taking aerial photos of the Forth bridges.
For that feature he also walked along the top of the then two bridges.
On the Forth road bridge he walked the whole length of one of the top supporting cables with an inspection team, prior to the road surface being laid.
On the rail bridge, he did the same on its top girders, where he walked up the steep climb with his trusty camera, following two workers who were weighted down with chains. Near the top of one of the spans a gust of wind nearly swept him off.
It gave him such a fright he crawled the rest of the way.
Outwith his control, he was hit on the head by a bottle, thrown from the crowd, whilst covering a cup final at Hampden. Little wonder John preferred rugby to football!
In 1959 he married Wilma Stewart, a bank clerk and talented freelance artist.
In 1960 John became picture editor, responsible for arranging press coverage of major events such as state visits, royal visits and the Commonwealth Games.
He also edited and helped to promote the successful Scotsman colour calendar, which was then selling a quarter of a million copies a year.
John and Wilma were appointed joint administrators at Brodick Castle in 1973.
The job involved living in the castle, which they moved to with their two school-aged boys, Murray and Garry, both of whom attended Brodick primary and Arran High School.
The Forgies were also the trust’s resident representatives for the whole island and quickly became deeply involved in island life.
During 12 years on the island, John became the chairman of the Isle of Arran Tourist Board and the island’s Council of Social Service.
He served on many other island committees and was an elder at Brodick Church.
John was also a founding member of the successful Isle of Arran Heritage Museum.
Wilma was deeply involved with the community too, serving as a Sunday school teacher, a committee member of the island’s SWRI, and chairperson of the parent teacher organisation.
John and Wilma were also keen members of the island’s Gilbert and Sullivan society.
John made a particularly villainous and humorous Dick Deadeye in HMS Pinafore!
When the Forgies went to the island in 1973 the annual number of visitors to the castle was 28,000.
Just 12 seasons later, by means of their imaginative publicity efforts and from setting the highest standards in terms of displaying the castle and the gardens, they raised the number of annual visitors to 66,000.
John and Wilma were responsible for the rebranding of the castle into Brodick Castle and Country Park, Scotland’s first island country park.
One of those visitors hosted by John and Wilma was HRH The Queen Mother, who made a special visit to the Castle in June, 1979.
However, for John and Wilma, the most important people at the castle were the staff.
Together they created a family atmosphere, which extended to all the people who assisted at the castle, from the garden team to the many local tradesmen who helped keep the castle looking pristine for the visiting public.
The end of season staff concerts, or parties, were testament to that as everybody who had any input at the castle was invited.
They were big events held in the drawing room that required all of the furniture to be removed in advance, except for the piano.
Not surprisingly John was compere in an evening of music, singing and a lot of laughter.
Sadly, in 1983, Wilma died after a short illness. John carried on as sole administrator at the castle for a further year.
From 1984 to his retirement in 1994, John returned to Edinburgh as head of public relations for the entire National Trust for Scotland.
John was editor of all the NTS literature, including the property guidebooks, promotional leaflets and other trust literature.
He was responsible for the organisation and management of hundreds of events throughout Scotland.
During his retirement, John organised and participated in over 150 concerts around Scotland.
Some were purely commercial ventures, mainly with singer Mary Sandeman, the ‘Scotland the What’ pianist George Donald and Scottish Opera singer, Debra Stewart.
Most of the concerts he promoted and presented were fund-raising events with professional musicians and singers for Music In Hospitals, Barnardo’s, Alzheimer’s and churches in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Arran.
The Corrie Church concerts in Arran, ‘Summer Serenade’, ran for 18 years. These were particularly popular and soon ran for two nights instead of one.
John was compere, monologist and sang a variety of, usually comic, songs.
As compere he led talented Arran soprano Jean Bowden and professional musicians George MacIlwhan (former flautist of the BBC Symphony Orchestra) and David Ingles (principal bass player with the Scottish National Orchestra).
John had a wicked sense of humour. Throughout his life he used humour and fun alongside his warm and enthusiastic personality to get people ‘on-side’ – be it work or a task needing done, a concert or charity venture, or simply fun for the sake of it.
John was a pleasure to spend time with.
The last chapter in John’s long life was a joyful time. In 2011 he uprooted house and home from Edinburgh to Pluscarden, in Moray.
There he had 10 wonderful years living with his son Garry, daughter-in-law Amanda and his loving grandchildren Gemma and John.
- The Banner 20 years ago feature will be back in two weeks time.