William Gordon Stables
William Gordon Stables was born in Aberchirder in 1837. He was the son of a merchant, innkeeper and farmer, and his passion for exploring the outdoors began as a child, where he loved to wander free in the countryside and developed a strong interest in nature.
After attending Aberdeen Grammar School he studied medicine at the University of Aberdeen, and served as a surgeon in the Royal Navy. He wrote over 130 books, largely boys’ adventure fiction.
In 1884 Dr William Gordon Stables commissioned a “gentleman’s caravan” – The Wanderer from Bristol Wagon Works Company in which he travelled the length and breadth of Great Britain – the subject of his book ‘The Gentleman Gypsy’.
Stables had a high profile and this enabled him to publicise his hobby more than any other person in its pioneering days, writing widely on the subject. He was fiercely proud of his Scottish heritage – Clan Gordon on his father’s side and the Robertsons and Frasers on his mother’s. He habitually wore highland dress and must have appeared larger than life to the small group of caravan pioneers who had by then taken up the pursuit.
Although Gordon Stables did not attend the meeting that led to the formation of The Caravan Club, he accepted his election as Vice President. In an apology he wrote:
“Amateur gipsies should be thinking of the road now, preparing for it I mean.
It is time for those who have no caravans to build and for those who have to see to varnish, gold leaf and paint.
Anyhow I wish the best of good luck, good roads, good weather and nice pitches to all good caravannists.”
Today, leisure caravanning is the most popular ‘paid for’ type of holiday in the UK and Stables had well earned his title as the ‘Father of Leisure Caravanning’.
William Gordon Stables died on 10 May 1910. The Wanderer remained in the Gordon Stables family until 1961 when it was gifted to The Caravan Club by the will of his daughter Ottoline. The Wanderer made an appearance at Buckingham Palace for the Caravan Club’s centenary in 2007.
J. Scott Skinner, the great Scots fiddler, composed Dr Gordon Stables Reel in dedication to Stables.
You can listen below.
A Scottish March; Strathspey; and a Reel. The March is; Inverness Gathering; the Strathspey is Bog an Lochan; and the reel is Dr. Gordan Stables Reel. Played by Maura Shawn Scanlin.