Mormond Hill

Mormond Hill

The hill rises 754 feet (230 m) and has two summits, which form a landmark for those at sea. On south west side of the hill is the outline of a White Horse, a war memorial formed from white quartz set into trenches cut into the turf, created by the tenants of the Strichen estate between 1820 and 1821. Alternative stories regarding its origin are available. The landmark measures 164 feet (50 m) from nose to tail, and 146 feet (44.5 m) from head to hoof. Said to have been created by Captain Fraser (Lord Lovat of Strichen) as a tribute to Sergeant James Hutcheon of New Pitsligo. Sergeant Hutcheon gave the horseless and vulnerable captain his mount during a battle against the French near Gilze in Holland on August 26, 1794, and was then killed before he could find a loose mount for himself. Locals tell of the feature disappearing once, obscured during World War II to prevent its use as a landmark by enemy bombers.

Captain Fraser also built a two storey hunting lodge on the hill, dating to 1779. Now a ruin, its upper floor served as accommodation for the estate’s gamekeeper. A single room on the lower floor was described as having a fireplace large enough to roast a deer, and used by the Laird and his guests after a day’s hunting in the surrounding area. The door lintel still bears the words In this Hunter’s Lodge Rob Gibcommands,MDCCLXXIX. Tradition tells of a locally born jester of the same name who was in the service of King James V (1513 – 1542), saying “I serve your Majesty for stark love and kindness” (some sources have him serving James VI or Charles II). The words Rob Gib were used as a tacit loyal toast in Jacobite circles and it remains a mystery whether the laird simply hoped goodwill might prevail within his Lodge, or was making a veiled political statement, as Charles Edward Stuart was alive at the time.

 

The hill was home to Station 44 of the US North Atlantic Radio System (NARS), which followed the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line, and provided a similar function, serving as an early warning radar system between 1961 and 1992. While the DEW Line was originally intended to provide a warning of enemy bombers, the later NARS system was intended to warn of missile launches. The station was built in 1960, as the penultimate link in a chain of radio sites reaching from Iceland to Fylingdales in Yorkshire, which would transmit that information to the Cheyenne Mountain complex in the USA. Mormond Hill provided connectivity from the radar site at RAF Buchan to Fylingdales.