How did I end Chapter 2 -
I would hope to have the Tower completed and liveable by the Summer
of 2012 – Watch this space..!!
Well the Summer of 2012 has long past and the Summer of 2013 is fast
approaching, and the build continues. Funny how we think of Summer
as being the time to get things moving and the time of year when you
see builders stripped to the waist toiling away under the blazing
sun. Not in the Den of Gask, Turriff, during that very, very wet and
dreich period from April to September of 2012 which we normally
associate with Summer. For me and my team of ‘Castle Builders’, it
was a time when we were constantly drenched in rain and the period
of the year just before the snow and freezing conditions of October
heralded the start of Winter, which then lasted through to mid-April
2013. It was also a time I learnt another Scott’s word, Drookit,
meaning Soaked to the Skin. But have I let this inclement weather of
Scotland dampen my spirits, never let it be said – the build
continues and the Summer of 2014 is looking good for the grand
completion date of Craigietocher Tower and a magnificent Castle
We have, even with the worst the weather could throw at us, made
progress, slow and little, but progress all the same. I have
continued to work offshore to fund the build, with Meryl, my life
partner toiling away to keep a house and roof over our heads and a
larder full of food. The word retirement has ceased to be used in
our household and eventually turning 65 in October 2012 was pleased
that the government started to pay me my Old Age Pension, as every
penny has been needed to meet the ever escalating costs of this
I did mention progress, so what have we accomplished since August
2011. I think it will be easier for me to list the work accomplished
briefly by month so as to give you a flavour as to why things are
taking so long. Strangely enough, I have during some of my off time
in the UK, been watching Grand Designs and was please to note that
every episode I watched that the project was way over schedule to
complete and way over budget too, well may be not by 4 + years as in
my case and not as much money wise, but the work ‘Over Schedule’ was
used quite a lot, making me feel quite a bit happier and not so
alone out there.
September 2011 – This saw the start of spiral stairs being
installed. This was a great disappointment in that the way they had
been manufactured and left a lot to be desired in the final fit up
to the Stair Well. Thus leaving me with a lot to do to make the
steps look like they are ‘Built Into the Walls’. This has yet to be
completed by the now onsite plasterer.
October – November 2011 – Slating commenced and ran through right up
to the start of December. After standing my ground and insisting
that I would have no other slates on the roof other than the
reclaimed Ballachulish Slates I had, I managed to find a Slater who
would do the work, and what a pretty picture the roof looks with
these slates. At this time I awarded a contract to a local window
manufacturer to have all windows made and installed by Christmas so
that the Tower could start drying out ready for an early start
internally in 2012. The quotation was for £18,000 and as there was
quite a bit of material to purchase initially I was requested to
make an upfront payment of £5,000 which I did, only to have the
contractor renege on the contract and produce nothing, my solicitor
is now chasing this up, but basically that was £5,000 lost. Another
window contractor was found, but no windows were installed until
February 2012, meaning the Tower did not dry out fully as hoped.
December – January 2011/12 – Snow, snow, yet more snow and lots of
ice. Site shut down.
February, March & April 2012 – Windows installed; commence some of
the internal work removing the temporary floors to allow beams to
dry out. Repositioning windows in the stair well due to the
miss-alignment caused by the spiral stairs not meeting specification
and best of all the last snow fell in April, Spring had officially
May, June & July 2012 – Construction work outside on the walkway and
open rounds, capping out the crenulations and the chimney coping
installed. Clearing out all rubbish from the Tower internal and
preparing the beams for flooring and UFH to be installed.
August & September 2012 – At long last the scaffolding was removed;
the Tower could at last be seen. What a wonderful sight that was,
all the proportions were right. Internally work continued. The cast
stone surrounds had suffered from lime scale staining that had
leached out of the block-work so all had to be cleaned before the
flooring could start as lots of water was used in this cleaning
November 2012 – Commenced trenching in the main power,
communication, security and telephone cables from the Tower along
the road way to the main entrance gate area. Started laying the
re-claimed Oak flooring to the 2nd, 3rd & 4th
floors and preparing them for the UFH pipe work. At this time we had
and still have a big issue with water ingress at the point where the
Crow Steps fit onto the gable ends. It seems that where we raggled
out the cast stone Crow Steps to run in the lead flashing it went
through the water proof layer and water was now seeping into the
Crow Step cast stone and through into the garret. Due to the rain
and onset of winter nothing could be done about it at this time, so
we worked around the wetness and we are looking to try and remedy
the problem in early Summer 2013.
December & January 2012/13 – Work on the Tower slowed down due to
the cold, but we took the opportunity to repair the road which had
suffered from continually heavy use and all the rain washing down
from the high side banking causing the road to erode. At the same
time I installed a French Drain along the full length of the road
which has been a huge success in removing all the excess water from
the site. Foundations were put down for the Main Entrance Gate at
this time too.
February 2013 – Work inside the Tower was now moving at a faster
pace with Plumbing, Carpenter, Electrical and General Building
trades working away with the 1st fix work.
March 2013 – Snow at last departs the Den of Gask. Floors, walls and
garret are being insulated, the Gt. Hall Fire Place Surround is
started and the window manufacturer starts installing the windows.
Things are starting to move on at a pace now.
April 2013 – A traditional plasterer starts using an amazing mix of
lime, sand and horse hair to do all the internal walls which will
eventually be finished with a white lime wash. All windows are
installed and looking very good. 1st fix is well on the
way and discussions taking place on how to make the ground floor
kitchen and dining room ceiling vaulted. We are still working on
this but we think we have it cracked now. Jennifer Merredew visited
the site and we discussed the painting of the Gt. Hall and Laird’s
Room ceilings. I think this is going to be a centre point of the
internal decoration. Jennifer is hoping to commence her work in July
May 2013 – The master bedroom and the Laird’s Room all plastered and
ready for the final lime wash. Start installing the domestic water
pipe work to all floors. What seems like miles of electrical cabling
runs everywhere, an amazing spaghetti mix it seems. Suspended
ceilings in halls and hidden spaces between the walls – the start of
the ‘Secret’ passageway, but where will it lead too..??
June 2013 – Central Vacuum system arrive and tie to commence boring
the holes through the concrete floors for the whole house
ventilation system ducting. A nice surprise visit from Ian McIver of
Strathendry Castle and David Kerr the Blacksmith who fabricated the
top to my well. Even more electric cabling installed and the
completion of the plastering of 2nd & 3rd
bedrooms and the start of plastering the Gt Hall. Work at last
starts on trying to resolve the gable water ingress with sealing the
crow steps with a coloured mastic, fingers crossed it will fix the
problem. Sorted the 10 year Build Warranty Insurance with Build
Assured after supplying them with every scrap of documented
paperwork we had – Thank you john and Colin for all your work and to
Graham for recommending the company to me.
That’s where we are at now. Looking back over the past nearly two
years I can reflect on the both good and bad times, the near tears
of hopelessness and the tears of joy. So what were the highs and
lows of these years..??
Seeing the Tower for the 1st time without any scaffold.
Walking into the Gt. Hall and seeing the Fire Place Surround in
position – boy was that impressive and I must admit my eyes watered
at the sight of it.
Seeing all the windows in place and knowing the Building Inspector
was happy with them, even though they did not meet 21st
century lighting levels..!!
Watching my Site Handy Man introduce 20 Brown Trout to the pools and
seeing a wild duck raise her young on the island in the centre of
Seeing the Rhododendrons flower this spring for the first time and
the frogspawn in the pools.
Seeing the rain water running in at the gable ends and not being
able to do anything to stop it.
Losing £5,000 and not being able to do anything about the loss.
As you can see the Highs outweigh the Lows and as long as that
continues then I am happy.
I finished Chapter 2 outlining costs and I will do the same here, as
of 17th June 2013 I have spent a total of £688,242.34 on
this dream. What do I think it will take to complete, well, my best
guess is another £150,000. Sort of along the lines of ‘Grand Design’
– Somewhat Over Budget. I do though want to say a very big ‘Thank
You’ to Meryl, my life partner, for allowing me to spend every penny
I earn on this dream and for keeping me fed and putting a roof over
my head during my time in the UK. Without her I don’t think I would
have been able to keep this project going.
I will end this Chapter as I did Chapters 1 & 2 - I would hope to
have the Tower completed and liveable by the Summer of 2014 – Watch