Spotlight on Alistair Riddell

The Spotlight On column is intended to shine a light on people who are quietly working away behind the scenes in efforts to make our communities better places to live. As a member of the community council, Alistair (Danny) Riddell is one such person.

Alistair is a Stow man through and through. His family have been in Stow for five generations and Alistair himself was born at Cathpair. Apart from a stint at Watherston and Fountainhall he has lived in Stow all his life. He says he loves his village and always has a good feeling coming back home of an evening, rounding the Watherston Corner, smelling wood smoke on the air and seeing the lights of Stow.

Since childhood, Alistair has watched Stow change from a place where many people could find employment locally, to a place where many people commute elsewhere to work – and quite frequently go elsewhere in their free time. Alistair has observed that this makes it difficult for some people to participate in community life and so the heart seems to have gone out of the community. This, he feels, is not helped by the physical heart of Stow being damaged with the demolition of the Royal Hotel, the deterioration of the Old Kirk and the Subscription Bridge, and the relentless flood damage to the Bowling Club and the Park.

After a long working life as a joiner (he served his apprenticeship with Scott Miller) and working in different parts of the timber trade, Alistair looks at the world around him with a practical eye. He hates just talking about things and wants to get down to action. Like many people he gets very frustrated by the bureaucracy that often seems to hinder rather than help any community action. He is currently on the community council because, as he says, you’ve got more chance of making a change by giving the community a voice than remaining silent.

Of particular interest to Alistair at the moment is the state of repair of the Old Kirk and the Subscription Bridge. He has been instrumental in encouraging the community council to organise some running repairs on the Old Kirk as part of the fabric of the building would not last another winter. Through this interest, the community council is now spearheading a move to look at all the heritage assets in the community, as a piece meal approach will not attract funding or achieve long term results. The idea is to draw up a plan of action so that official bodies, such as Historic Scotland, can be approached with a coherent plan.

Alistair continues with the community council, as he can see a future where the local football team is playing on a brand new pitch next to a landscaped ponds and gardens – and he’s not going to let bureaucracy kill the dream!

4 Responses

  1. Donald Murray
    Donald Murray February 5, 2013 at 10:04 am | | Reply

    Great to read this little feature… must have taken a fair bit of coaxing to be interviewed Danny!
    Well done on your efforts to champion the preservation of the kirk and bridge,Donald (aka Haggis as you named me!)

  2. Alexandrina Murray
    Alexandrina Murray February 16, 2013 at 6:13 pm | | Reply


    Have your Murrays been living around Stow for very long?
    Our Murrays were at Ferniehurst Stow from 1720 circa to 1765 circa.
    I stayed there recently with the current owners and they were so helpful.
    Although I live in Australia, I travel to Scotland as my family are still there. Two Aunts in their mid 90’s and a cousin all near Perth.

    Please let me know if there are any old time Murrays still in and around Stow.
    We have a research project going for Murrays worldwide. Please see the website .

    Alistair, I sympathize with you regarding the condition of the old Kirk. I have stopped there again in May & during my past few trips just in case I could see any headstone that might indicate a burial for my Murrays , Watherstons etc, however as you know the majority of the headstones are so well weather worn that it is impossible to locate folk any more.

    I think that the poor old Kirk is such an historic old building that it is incredibly sad to see it deteriorate the way that it has done; even since I was in Scotland last, this trip it seemed much worse. It must be the situation there on that little rise; the exposure to the weather and no protection from direct wind-rain from many overhanging trees etc.

    Personally I cannot come to Scotland without coming to Stow first, popping in to the little shop – trudging through the Kirk graveyard and driving the lanes and little roads noting the old farms with their names still in-tact over the past 300+ years.

    Not sure if I am an unusual tourist to Stow or not, even although my Scottish family now live in Blairgowrie in the highlands, I still need to come south to the Borders first & visit their Murray heartland at Stow & surrounds. Perhaps others are the same and we could help fund a plaque at the old Kirk with known names of burials- there might be a list somewhere- Just a thought…

    All the best,
    Alexandrina Murray

    1. Donald Murray
      Donald Murray May 26, 2013 at 10:06 am | | Reply

      Hi Alexandrina,
      I have not picked up on your reply until today…..I am also resident in Australia (Gold Coast) and have now actually resided here as long as I lived in the UK,mostly in Stow.Your notes interest me as I love the place (Stow) and know that those with the knowledge of Stow`s history are becoming fewer.

      To answer your question as Murrays my father belongs Lauder and surrounds and my mother is a Watson who have a longer association with Stow and surrounds.

      I have both parents notes on their respective family trees which they were tracing before they passed away (which is only recent).

      Interestingly on a trip back to Stow my (Australian) mother in law noted an `Arbuthnot` on a gravestone in the old church yard..the name of a family descendant of her late husband….and so I understand the idea of retaining fading records from your `legibility `perspective.

      The village I know has started an archive group with a `home` in the town hall – the organisers their will be of assistance.

      Prior to this (archive room) one of the best authorities on Stow`s records was a Mr George Wood…who has taken on his notes I`m not sure.

      I have not had time to digest your notes on your Murray DNA project…..I`d say my interest lies in family tree rather than farther back to clan.

      Kind regards,


  3. Alexandrina Murray
    Alexandrina Murray May 30, 2013 at 12:48 pm | | Reply

    Thanks for getting back to me Donald. I didn’t receive your reply via email and happened upon this post just by chance.

    Can you email me your family tree please. I have Murrays from Lauder too. Eastertoun>> & St Leonards.

    My email is

    Hope to hear from you soon


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