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Last Updated: Friday, 10 November 2006, 13:02 GMT
Builder best with Big Yin's help
Lonach Hall
The hall is a major focal point for the Strathdon community
An Aberdeenshire builder has been crowned Britain's best - thanks to a project backed by comedian Billy Connolly.

Michael Forbes, of Aboyne, won because of his work restoring historic Lonach Hall in Strathdon to its former glory.

Comedian Connolly, who has a home at nearby Candacraig, had supported the community renovation fund.

Mr Forbes was named the best commercial builder in Britain at the Master Builder of the Year Awards.

When Lonach Hall became semi-derelict, the community produced a business plan for a 250,000 restoration project.

Michael Forbes
We recreated the building from the inside out and brought it back to life
Michael Forbes

They said their community of Strathdon would not be the same without the hall, which had served as a focal point for village and business life.

The community raised 60,000, with the rest coming from a variety of European, UK and regional grants and funds.

New comforts

The Lonach Hall Community Association (LHCA) put the project out to tender and Mike Forbes Ltd impressed.

Following an intense four-month building project, the hall was unveiled.

The team of builders and craftsmen restored the hall's roof, as well as installing new cladding, timbers and windows, and a sprung dance floor.

The hall is now seen as enjoying the comforts of the 21st Century, but retaining the character of the original building.

Billy Connolly
Billy Connolly has a home nearby and supported the project

Builder Mr Forbes told the BBC Scotland news website: "It's a great honour, I am chuffed.

"We recreated the building from the inside out and brought it back to life.

"We stripped the roof and walls so all we were left with was the inside. We lifted the floor, putting in ducting for under-floor heating, then numbered all the boards and painstakingly put them back exactly how we'd found them."

He added of Billy Connolly: "He supported it all the way."

LHCA project co-ordinator Vicky Thomson said: "The hall is now being used frequently for business, cultural and social events and is very much a major lynchpin within the rural community of Strathdon.

"The approach taken by Mike and his team was very professional and every care was taken to minimise impact on the historic building, while ensuring its sustainability for future generations."

The Master Builder of the Year Awards is organised by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

FMB director general Ian Davis said: "What makes these awards different is the combination of exceptional professional skills and customer service demonstrated by the builders.

"Our congratulations go to Michael Forbes and his team for this well-deserved award, but equally our thanks go to the LHCA who recognised their excellent work."

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