Ord Arms Hotel

The earliest records of a building on the site where the Ord Arms Hotel is today, dates back to an Inn, named Mackenzie’s Inn in 1820 after the owner Thomas Mackenzie od Ord, becoming known as the Moor or Muir of Ord Inn by the late 1840’s and 1850’s. In 1857 the Inn was referred to as having been “long established” when a party of fifty gentlemen met to celebrate the marriage of Thomas MacKenzie of Ord’s son, Captain Alexander Watson MacKenzie, and Miss Angela Babington Peile who had married at the bride’s home in Hertfordshire.

Valuation roll indicates that the Inn was owned by Thomas MacKenzie of Ord and that he tenanted the property to various people. In 1865 the name may have been an Archibald McKillop, with a death record in 1868 of a Mary Simpson indicating the Innkeeper at that time was her husband, Alexander Mackenzie.

The Inn was known as the “White House” and had been well known and “far-famed” throughout the area. However, by 1874 its reputation had been tarnished by “unpopular” previous tenants which led to the owner improving and extending the premises and appointing a new tenant.

Hector Cameron took over the tenancy on Whitsunday of the same year. The Inn was described in the papers as being more comfortable looking both internally and externally, that it would soon return to being a favourite resort of those attending the Muir of Ord markets and travellers in general.
Hector and his wife, Helen had seven children and on the 1881 census they employed two servants. At the time of the census, they were catering for three guests; a Mason from Dundee, a Labourer from Kirkhill and a Coppersmith from Edinburgh.
Hector Cameron died in 1894 and Helen remained as the tenant and managed the business with her son Kenneth. By the 1911 Census, she was recorded as a Hotel keeper and saw the older Inn establish itself as the ‘Ord Arms Hotel.’ Helen’s daughter Margaret had also remained living at the hotel with her mother and on Helen’s death in 1927, she became the new tenant. She remained there until at least 1935, as the valuation roll indicates.

Cameron Family Ord Arms

Attribution: not recorded or unknown

Cameron Children:

Roderick was born in 1873 and went on to become a travelling wine merchant. He was married at the Priory Hotel, Beauly in 1903 to Mary Dun Mackenzie. The couple shortly afterwards took over the lease of the Duthus Hotel in Tain and remained there until at least 1910. Roderick saw a short period of service during WW1 with the Royal Navy.
The 1921 census records Roderick as living at 70 Huntly Street, Inverness with his wife and three children. He was recorded as still being a wine merchant, however his death entry in 1923 records him as a publican.


Margaret was born in 1874 although the 1921 census has her recorded as being younger than her brother Kenneth who was born in 1876. She remained at the hotel following her mother’s death in 1927.


Kenneth was born in 1876. On the 1901 census he was recorded as a mason
1921 census he was still living at the Hotel with his mother and sister with his occupation recorded as ‘Crofter’. He died at an Inverness hospital in 1929 with his home address recorded as being the Ord Arms Hotel.


Alexander was born in 1878 and was recorded as a farmer on the 1901 census. By 1906, when he married Annie Urquhart, he was recorded as in domestic service as a coachman. He died aged 39 in 1917 when he was recorded as a chauffeur. His cause of death was Chronic Asthma which would have made him ineligible to serve during WW1.


Christina was born in 1879 and assisted her mother with the hotel until her marriage in 1901, when she married William Gill, a Still man at Oban Distillery. The couple had three children, Robert and Roderick who later lived with their grandmother and aunt at the Ord Arms on the 1921 census and James who appears to have remained with his mother.
William died in 1913 and following the death of his brother Robert’s wife in 1915, it appears that Christina formed a relationship with Robert. Robert was a stationmaster at Kinloch Rannoch and had five children with his first wife.
There is no indication that Robert and Christina ever married but she was documented as being his wife on the 1921 census and upon her death in 1962, Christina has both William and Robert recorded as her spouses.


Jessie Ann was born 1882. Sadly the last record that can be located for her was in 1901 when she was still living at the Hotel with her mother and siblings.
Ellen was born in 1886 and died two years later in 1888.


John (Ian) was born in 1889 and like his siblings, he also assisted with the running of the hotel whilst also working as a law clerk with MacDonald & Graham, Inverness before rejoining the 1/4th Seaforth Highlanders at the outbreak of WW1. He was killed in action on 9th May 1915 and is buried at Rue-Petillon Military cemetery, Fleurbaix, France.

In 1936, the property was sold for £1725, by Mr Donald Low MacDonald Jr, the son of the Station Hotel in the village. Donald got married in 1939 to Margaret Forbes, daughter of William Forbes of Forbes Grocer’s and Bakery, Muir of Ord.
Donald died suddenly at the end of 1950. We do know that Margaret (Peggy) returned to work for her family at the Forbes café, but it is not recorded as to how long after the death of her husband, she may have stayed at the hotel. By 1958, the hotel had been bought by William Fraser, formerly of Balvattie Farm. William Fraser, started his career as a trainee manager at the Golden Lion Hotel, Stirling in 1948 and moved to the Brora Arms in 1953 and Fort William in 1956. He remained at the Ord Arms until 1974 when sold the property to Mr Maurice Newton, a director of Ross County Football Club. At the time of the sale, the hotel was described as a “well established 2 star hotel, furnished and equipped to a very high order with public bar, cocktail bar, 2 lounges, dining room/ function room, large modern kitchen, 11 bedrooms, and staff bungalow.”

 

Ord Arms Hotel 1957

Amongst some of the innovations Mr Newton proposed was to provide free transport for organisations within a 20 mile radius who are holding functions at the hotel and supply limousines for bridal parties. A task that could be easily achievable as they had a Coach driver in the family.

Mr Newton may have owned the hotel but he employed managers to oversee the running of the business. His first manager was Derek Graham who had been working at a large Stornoway Hotel before arriving at the Ord Arms. However, by 1975, Derek had moved on as there is evidence of an advert for a new manager in the papers. Patrick & Fiona Buxton took over around this time, but it is unclear whether they were owners or managers, although Fiona was the sister of Maurice Newton. The hotel did however sell around 1979 to John & Shirley Baillie who remained there until 1982.

Ord Arms Adver circa 1970

 

At this time a 3 course lunch with coffee would cost £3.25 and high tea with 2 courses and home baking would cost £2.95. The hotel also had 15 bedrooms by this time.
The Baillie’s decided to sell due to Mrs Baillie’s poor health but John continued as chairman of the recently formed Muir of Ord Development Association, which had been set up to stimulate the local economy following the opening of the new A9 which was once the main route through the village. A job, he felt was vital to the future of the community.
The hotel did not however sell as quickly as they would have wished, as the Baillie’s were still advertising for staff in 1984. The drinks licence changes to a Vera Nairn in 1985, but again we are unclear whether she and her husband are tenant managers or owners at this point, but they are both still there in 1987.

Ord Arms Hotel Advert circa 1979

The Hotel changed hands again in 1988, when 22 year old, Billy Grant realised his dream and bought the property. He had previously worked at the Hotel as a gardener, whilst still at school. A local lad, he studied Hotel management at Robert Gordon’s Institute of Technology in Aberdeen, before being chosen as one of five candidates to join Crest Hotels, becoming their youngest assistant manager within four months training on their graduate development programme. He continued with Crest Hotels working at Hull, London and Edinburgh before returning home as the owner of the Ord Arms Hotel. Billy hit the ground running and secured a top pop star performer, Hazell Dean, to stage an appearance at the Hotel to play to a crowd of 220.
By 1993, the Hotel was again for sale with the advert describing the building as comprising of a public bar, lounge bar, dining room, large function hall. 10 letting rooms (6 en suite) and a self-contained owner flat.

Billy continues to be involved in many local groups and committees and is a successful business man in the area.

The Ord Arms Hotel was recently sold in 2024 and the local community are looking forward to experiencing what the new owners have to offer.

Page created on 26 June 2024

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