Several years ago, I was shown a book given to George Sim as a gift from the author. On the flyleaf is the dedication: ‘To George Sim, Victoria Cottage, Ballater. In remembrance of a long and happy friendship. Wm. A.G. Farquhar. 16th Dec 1904.’ Why was George in Ballater in 1904?
The Sims had left the farm of Gourdas in 1903 and George had retired to Nigg, south of Aberdeen. I did not know of any family links to Ballater.
Family traditions passed on to me from two different parts of the family said that George had worked as a taxidermist at Mar Lodge, Braemar, and that some of his work went to Balmoral, the Deeside residence of the Royal family. My enquiries to try to expand the information about a link with Mar Lodge or Balmoral failed. I could not understand how he could have lived at Ballater and worked at Mar Lodge, places just a short car journey apart today but a more difficult journey in 1904.
Using newspaper archives, I looked for articles linking the words ‘taxidermist’ and ‘Ballater’ and found that John Findlay was in business as a taxidermist in Ballater from about 1896. So perhaps George had gone to work for him. I also found that the Prince of Wales, later King George V, had sent stags he had shot to John Findlay for preservation. By 1912 John Findlay had been awarded a Royal Warrant enabling him to display that he supplied taxidermy services to the King. Perhaps it was George who did the work on the stags and hence the family tradition.
What more can I find? Is there any archive material about John Findlay that might confirm a link with George? Are there any family descendants of John Findlay who might have information? Was there ever a photograph taken of George while he worked at Ballater? Did he also work at Mar Lodge, helping one of the taxidermists in Braemar?
I have been told that a descendant of John Findlay donated a photo album and a ledger that belonged to John Findlay to the local Tourist Board in Ballater around 2005. Might there have been a picture of George or references to his being paid for his taxidermy work? What happened to these gifts? I have tried contacting those who may have worked at the Tourist Board but have not had any response.