The Royal Poo @ Ballater – By Duncan Harley

The timber-built railway station at Ballater was frequented by the Royal Family in the days when the journey north to Balmoral involved rail travel. When the Deeside line closed to passengers in 1966 the building found new use as shop units and even incorporated a Tourist Information Centre and a restaurant.
Prior to the disastrous 2015 fire, a part of the building was turned into a museum and visitors could, if they were lucky, meet up with a mannequin dressed as Queen Victoria’s loyal ghillie John Brown on the station platform.

A second mannequin representing an ageing Victoria, complete with mourning dress, could be seen taking tea in the private Royal Apartments of the station building.

Those Royal Apartments naturally featured a Royal Loo. Thunder-box in form and with an ornately decorated porcelain pan, replete with Acanthus leaves and brightly painted woodland flowers, the loo was off limits to ordinary travellers during Victoria’s time.

In more recent times however, subject to an admission charge of course, the receptacle for the Royal Poo was available for public gaze. However, after several visitors had succumbed to the allure of sitting on Victoria’s Throne and had used the device as intended by the manufacturers, VisitScotland were forced to add a cling-film cover as a deterrent.

When the station building burned to the ground in May 2015, the Royal Thunder-box perished in the blaze. The station building has now been re-built although the familiar red and cream livery has been replaced by a decidedly greenish exterior.

Visitors to Ballater can also view Victoria’s backup Royal Loo at the Deeside Inn on Victoria Road. Based on the design of the Royal Waiting Room at Sandringham, the Royal Throne Room within the hotel lies partially hidden amongst period features such as wooden panelling and exposed beamed ceilings but staff are generally delighted to provide a guided tour of the eight-foot square facility.  A hotel spokesperson recently commented that "we asked the Royal Protection Squad to flush out any concerns regarding the authenticity of the loo and have concluded that it is the genuine article.”

Currently however, a Royal Flush remains out of the question since the plumbing is distinctly Victorian. Fortunately, however, there are no plans to paint it green.

Words and images © Duncan Harley – Inverurie September 21st 2018
Duncan Harley is author of The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire plus the forthcoming title: The Little History of Aberdeenshire- due out in March 2019


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