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The Invergordon Archive

The Royal Hotel
The Invergordon Archive
The Royal Hotel

Here is a picture of the burnt out Royal Hotel. It was taken in mid February 1973, the fire having occurred earlier that year.
Incidentally, the woman in the pink top is my sister Jeanette with her future husband Frank. They now live in Perth.
Picture added on 04 March 2006
Dear Bill
My then wife and I worked at the Royal Hotel from October 1972 until the fire. I was Restaurant Manager and my wife Bar supervisor. It was a tragic night with one young man dying some 24 hours after being transported to Craigmo. The night still is buried deep in my memory. Luckily young Donald who was Cocktail Barman at the time was found in the corridor next to the Cocktail Bar door with burns to his shoulder from the falling timber of the wooden cigarette machine and suffering badly from smoke inhilation. He spent some time in hospital but fully recovered.
Added by Erwin Weiss on 11 April 2013
The loss of the Royal Hotel was tragic in all perspectives, not only the loss of human life but it took the heart out of the High Street in many respects. The photo, which is very well preserved, I think, encapsulates this. It was a lovely building and very much centre piece in the town. I can recollect making regular deliveries to the hotel kitchens when working as a message boy, usually with a bit of banter or teasing thrown in by staff. I can remember attending a dance or disco in the Joss Street Hall the night before the fire with my friends and after the dance finished walking home along Joss Street. It was a particularly cold clear night as I recall and it stuck in my mind how quiet everything was in the area and no sign of activity about the back of the hotel or in the lanes adjacent to it.
I did not believe my father when he told me the following morning that the Royal had 'burnt to the ground'. Such a pity it was never rebuilt.
Added by Graeme Askew on 16 April 2013
There was an earlier fire at the Royal Hotel in the 1950s and it remained closed for a long time on that occasion. I am sure Bill Geddes will remember it.
Added by Harry O'Neill on 17 April 2013
I think Graeme strikes the right note here. We did not have a Town Hall of architectural merit and in some ways the Royal was the building that gave the High Street a wee bit of class. Even as a kid I had a sense that it was a structure of some beauty and its a great pity it was not rebuilt to the same pattern. What is there today on the High Street that stands out? The Playhouse?
Added by Bill Geddes on 21 April 2013
Hi Bill and Harry. The balcony of the Town Hall was made from wood from Invergordon Castle. I was told this by the manager of the picture house, Alistair Ross, when I was the ice cream girl there.
Added by Rosalie Graham (Samaroo) on 10 May 2013
Hi Rosalie, that is correct and I was told that the floor also came from the Castle.
Added by Harry O'Neill on 10 May 2013
I was the operator of the crane that demolished the burnt-out shell of the Royal Hotel, one Saturday morning, taking unsafe chimneys and gables down to the level you see on the photograph featured. I also remember the night it burned down as we came upon it as we returned from a dinner/dance at the Jackdaw Hotel, now of course a care home for the elderly. I remember the Royal Hotel well as a primary feature of the Invergordon High Street. I don't like what they have done to the High Street, which was once very wide. Invergordon in those days was great with visits by the Royal Navy Fleet and later NATO really creating a very exciting atmosphere.
Added by John Fraser on 14 May 2013
John, how right you are. The High Street used to be so wide and Invergordon itself a hive of activity. How on earth did Alness prosper so much and Invergordon allowed to regress?
Added by Rosalie Graham (Samaroo) on 16 May 2013
Rosalie, there is a volunteer organisation in Alness called Civic Pride and this group of people must take credit for all the fantastic work that is done to keep the High Street and I am sure other areas spick and span and of course so very colourful with pots, baskets and beds of plants/flowers. I know about them because they were a couple of years ago down in Ellon, where I live down advising a similar group of enthusiastic towns-people on how they could turn the town into something to be proud of - and it worked. This town is teaming with beds of flowers and you can see this community-spirited group out almost every night busying around. It's fantastic and I often feel quite ashamed - but not enough to get my sleeves rolled-up and stuck-in. Maybe when I retire!! Still I am very proud to say I am from Invergordon and indeed from Inverbreakie Farm where I was born in my Granny and Grandas house. You can take the boy out of Invergordon but you can't take Invergordon out of the boy as they say - that's why I am continually scanning this excellent web-site.
Added by John Fraser on 16 May 2013
Even now (2013) people viewing the Hotel for the first time have commented that it was a magificent centrepiece (I recall sitting in my cousin's Cortina watching the scene just hours after the tragedy. Re High Street becoming inferior to Alness's - my view is that (Nigg/Smelter closures etc notwithstanding) the rerouting of the A9 away from the town onto the previously "back road" effectively "marooned" Invergordon geographically, from a shopping and services perspective at least. Hopefully better days ahead soon!
Added by David Fleming on 20 May 2013
I stayed in digs directly opposite the hotel. I was a mechanic in Munro's garage next door at the time. I was sitting in the living room of my digs when I heard the crackling of wood and when I looked out the window the fire was just taking hold. Apparently I was the first to raise the alarm. Happy memories of time in invergordon.
Added by Norman Macdonald on 06 August 2018
I remember the day the Royal hotel burnt down. When I got up for work early that morning there was no water in the house. I was a waitress at the Marine hotel. It was a very busy day. We served breakfast to the people who had fled from the hotel and to several fire crews. The residents lounge was full of people all day. There was a smell of burning all through the place and I didn't stop serving food and endless pots of tea till 10pm. It was so sad that it was never rebuilt.
Added by Annie Kieran (MacDonald) on 19 November 2018
With regard to the comments about the Royal Hotel being the centrepiece of the town. It could equally be said that when it burnt down the town went down with it. Only this week in the Guardian there was an item about the best Hight Streets in Britain today.The Scottish one which came top was Alness!!! Sraggering to think when I was a kid in Invergordon that Alness was seen very much as the poor relation. In those days Alness had nothing other than 2 distilleries and a few shops.The people who lived there were generally very working class and it did not seem afluent. I visited Alness a couple of years ago and was astonished as to how vibrant and attractive it looked. So the top rating does not surprise me....And just look at sad old Invergordon. Goodness knows what Cruise Ship visitors think when they go ashore. Sonmething like "Why have they brought us here " perhaps. I am sure that Alness has become a different place because the right mix of people got together and started community projects and what a job they have made of it. Invergordon needs a similar boost but so much of the town has been wrecked/ruined I wonder if its just impossible?
Added by Bill Geddes on 19 November 2018
Alness might have only 2 distilleries, the fact is they still have them along with Pat Monroe, they never suffered any set-backs.
Look at the set-backs Invergordon has had, loss of the naval base, loss of the smelter and lay-offs.
I just received a photo of the new flower planters located on the High Street. They look great, so Invergordon is trying. Let's give them that.
Added by Harry O'Neill on 24 November 2018
I hope people can turn it around in Invergordon harry. It needs a lot of Community committment and not a little money..I often wonder how much the town benefits from port charges. Given the number of cruise ships which berth there, I would expect substantial percentages to be passed on to the town for the benefit of all. The whole firth is exploited by very wealthy companies ..they should be doing the right thing by the town.
Added by Bill Geddes on 24 November 2018
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