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Meet the Roxburghe Estates Team

27th July 2023

When we met Robin Luke - Head Joiner (now retired)

In this months “Meet the Roxburghe Estates Team” we bring you Head Joiner, Robin Luke. Robin has worked here for an incredible 42 years and is retiring at the end of October, so we had to make sure this true Estate stalwart was included in this feature before then.
Kelso man, Robin was 24 when he started here in 1980 as an Estate Joiner after serving his apprenticeship and working 8 years in total at G & J Waddell at Eccles. He then became Head Joiner in early 2000’s.
The first job he took on when he started here was renovating the 2nd Giftshop, this is not however the Giftshop that we know today – Robin has seen 3 Giftshops, 4 if you include the Apple Shed, in his time here.
He has worked on many big projects over the years, one that stands out for him as the most exciting is the renovation of the Roxburghe Hotel in 1984, converting what was then Sunlaws House (which was the Estates Office at the time) to the Roxburghe Hotel, the Estate Works department did all the internal work in house within a very tight time scale. He enjoyed this very much, watching the transition unfold and found the work very interesting. Another favourite was the renovation in the Castle private living quarters of the new “Garden Room” which used to be the House Keepers Team Tea Room. In those days the Duke, Duchess and family very much up until then had lived upstairs in the Castle, the then Duchess Virginia wanted a family room, somewhere she could enjoy cooking, eat and spend time as a family in a more relaxed atmosphere. Robin and the Works Team again pulled off this large renovation! Something that is clear from talking to Robin – he loves a challenge!! He works closely with the family in the house and is called for to fix almost anything if something on the Estate breaks – usually that is followed up by a “ Oh Robin should be able to fix that, give him a call”
Robin jokes and reminisces that at his job interview no one told him that every winter when it snows one of the biggest jobs he would be involved in is to clear the snow from the Castle roof!!!! He recalls one year in particular, he thinks it could be 1986 or 2001 as these were particularly bad years, it snowed so much for so long that he was up there every day for 2 weeks! The snow is cleared first thing in the morning to keep the weight of the snow off the roof to protect the roof and to stop it from freezing. This aside, Robin looks at these times as one of his fondest memories at Floors. The Ghillies, Works Department, Gardeners, Foresters would all be up there every year shovelling the snow and it would be great fun pulling together at a pretty miserable, cold time doing a random job but everyone keeping each other’s spirits up, you would all take your bags up with your flask and lunchbox in. One year he remembers they stopped for breakfast up there in one of the turrets as the snow was falling so heavy, “we ended up stopping for an hour as we couldn’t see! When we came out and started again there had been well over 2 foot of snow fallen and we had to start all over again!”. He has enjoyed sharing lots of fun times with his colleagues over the years and laughs when he remembers the rather large castle raft, he helped make in 1983 for the Annual Kelso Raft Race that used to take place (see photo), they won the prize for the best-looking raft, however he does inform me the raft did sink – it was rather heavy!!!
Robin is also the Castle salvage squad fire leader, once when a fridge freezer caught fire in the Castle, Robin had to go in the Castle and cut a hole in the Dining Room floor above to let the Fire Brigade see there was no fire or hot embers in the ceiling above the freezer that could still be a danger to the Castle.
The favourite thing he enjoys about the job is the variety, he can come in on a Monday morning and think ok I have A,B and C to do – but come Friday he has never seen A, B or C!!! You never know where you are going, or where it might lead! Some days, he never has to touch his tools!
Asking him what he will miss most about the job when he retires at the end of October, he answers, working with a new Duke and a new Factor, they are bringing new changes and ideas in and he is sorry he going to miss that and seeing how it all evolves.
One thing is for sure, when the end of October comes, Roxburghe Estates will be minus a hugely special and valued member of its team. Whether it’s building a trail, hanging countless pictures in the Castle, renovating Hotels, Cafes, Giftshops, Houses or shovelling snow Robin is always there with his smile and expertise on hand to help. But it is without a doubt, Robin deserves to enjoy some easier days in his retirement. Thank you Robin!