Kirkstyle, Kemnay – lying in the pleasant rural landscape of Aberdeenshire under the shadow of Bennachie – has been the home of the Downie family since 1898.

James Downie took a lease of the croft and the carpenter's business following the deaths of Charles Leys and his sister Ann whose family had held the lease for some 97 years.

The Kirktown of Kemnay, of which Kirkstyle is a part, was at that time outwith the village area and consisted of the parish church, the Manse – the home of the minister, the home and workplace of both the blacksmith and joiner, and some 200 yards distant, the farm of Kirkstyle.

By the time James Downie arrived on the scene, the village had been in existence for only forty years, having come into existence following the commencement of granite quarrying operations on nearby Paradise Hill by John Fyfe in 1858.

Amongst these idyllic surroundings three generations of the Downie family have served the local community for over a century in a variety of ways.

James Downie was single when he came to Kemnay and his sister Caroline kept house for him until he married Margaret Nicol, daughter of the forester at Cluny, in July 1901.

He styled himself as "Carpenter, Cartwright and Funeral Undertaker" and much of the workload consisted of repairs to farm equipment – repairs to carts and wheels, repairs to water pumps, and repairs to houses in the village.

One interesting item supplied in 1899 was "packing box for 2 Bicycles for The Transval".

James Downie's son Grant started work in the business around 1917 and the pair worked together until James retired from the business in 1947, although he carried on working until into his eighties. He died in 1955 aged 84 years.

Grant in turn was joined by his son Duncan in 1957 by which time the work had become more domestic-related.

Government grants for provision of kitchens and bathrooms during the 1960s and 1970s meant quite an upsurge of work and when some 600 local authority houses were built in the village during the 1970s the maintenance of these properties ensured a steady workflow until 1989 when a change in Council policy dictated that maintenance work be carried out on an all-trades basis. This brought to an end a long connection with the local authority as an employer.

A combination of ill-health and old-age had brought Grant's working life to an end in 1984 and, following the demise of local authority work, Duncan took stock and decided to diversify somewhat.

It was decided to make the funeral undertaking side of the business the main priority, with joinery work being more or less concentrated in the workshop rather than on-site.

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