Apr 182014

With thanks to Martin Ford.MartinFordatUTG

Kintore’s Category-A-listed historic town house could be set for a new lease of life thanks to an initiative to consider new uses for the building.

Kintore Town House dates from 1747 and is sited in the heart of Kintore. The building is owned by Aberdeenshire Council and a small number of Council staff are based there.

Said East Garioch councillor Martin Ford:

“Kintore Town House is a truly superb building, a really, really fine piece of architecture, and the natural centrepiece of the town. But in recent years it has been little used. Most residents of Kintore won’t have entered the building from one year to the next, and many of those who moved to the town in the last decade have probably never been in it at all.

“So Kintore Town House is an under-used asset. It defines the town centre, but it is not itself a centre of community activity. That needs to change.”

Aberdeenshire Council recently agreed to spend nearly £100,000 from its Capital Plan on external repair work to Kintore Town House.

A detailed brief for the external repair work is now being developed in consultation with Historic Scotland.

Aberdeenshire Council officers attended the April meeting of Kintore and District Community Council on Tuesday (15 April) to update the Community Council and ask for its involvement in a group to consider possible new uses for Kintore Town House. The Area Project Officer based in the Garioch Area Office at Gordon House has been tasked with co-ordinating work on finding possible future uses for Kintore Town House.

Cllr Martin Ford said:

“Kintore Town House needs to become busy again, to be a place where residents go – not just a building that is admired from the outside. Getting at least part of the building back into regular public use would be good for the building and good for the community.

“Finding a suitable new use will not be easy. It’s a project that will take time. I’m delighted a group is being formed to take this forward.

“There is no doubt that the building is greatly valued by the community, but it could also be a focus for community activity and identity as the town’s population continues to grow. I very much support the idea of finding ways of bringing this iconic building back into regular public use.”

£88,742 plus fees (total £97,616). See Item 19, page 10, at the Policy and Resources Committee on 3 April, here: https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/committees/PlannedMaintenance
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Apr 082014

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryTally Ho, Cheerio, etc.  It’s genuinely been a great week in the granite city.  I had some great new BrewDog single hop beers this week; the Amarillo on draft was heavenly (yes, I still have my 5 BrewDog shares).

I also had a great vegetarian meal in Café 52 (yes, I know them, too – funny that my weeks often involve doing things I like with people I like); congrats to them on being named one of the city’s top 10 restaurants in an article by Kirsty Ellington Langan (whose father I know – but I’d no idea she’d written this review –  which also rates Rustico and Yatai,  both of which I greatly enjoy – though I don’t know the people behind them).

There are however restaurateurs who review their own places on the Trip Advisor website and even offer incentives for good reviews. Such practices are totally against Trip Advisor rules of course (thankfully I don’t associate with anyone like that).

I’m also busy working on some paintings for a group show at Under The Hammer which will be going up next Saturday; do stop in if you’re around (wine will be had around 3pm).

Aside from that I’m busy getting my garden in shape with help from some friends. Lots of bee and butterfly friendly plants coming soon from the excellent Poyntzfield nursery on the Black Isle (don’t know them, but have used them for years). Best of all, Lord Warner (don’t know him) has a scheme which will save the NHS! Result! And that’s how the spring is starting for me.

The campaign to save and re-open Bon Accord Baths has cross-party support and thousands of supporters throughout the area. Lions and lambs are lying down together, doves are flying around with olive branches, and editorials in different local media all seem to think this great idea is a great idea. (PS I’m happy to be helping the campaign in some small measure).

A gathering place for all citizens in the centre of the city, offering affordable exercise and a social hub? What’s not to like? Could this ‘mend our broken heart’ (copyright P&J)?

It looks as if some £5 million or so will be needed to get the baths running. At present a team of volunteers with all sorts of expertise are working on it; help if you can.  No doubt some of the city’s better off multimillionaires who want to see a unifying city centre gathering place that benefits the public will be keen to get involved. Let’s see – £5 million is   4.6% of £92 million, and 7% of £140 million.  Just saying.

In case anyone’s wondering, that is. Find out how to help here.

Let’s face it; war is hell

It is understood that the officials who banned the BBC from entering the art deco baths to do a spot of filming are going to soon see sense and let the BBC film there after all.

Dangerous buildings are of course something to be taken seriously; no doubt the city’s Westburn House, a listed property at high risk, will be given some tlc.

On the dangerous structure note, things are very grim in Edinburgh. A 12 year old girl is dead after a wall in Liberton High School’s PE block fell on her. Edinburgh Council had an unfortunate recent history of managing public and private property repairs. A scandal is still unfolding wherein its repairs officials forced private home owners to undertake remedial works at hugely inflated fees – some of the work is thought to have been unnecessary.

As the BBC put it:

“Two reports which reveal how a £40m black hole emerged in Edinburgh City Council’s property repairs department have been published. Auditors from Deloitte were called in two years ago to investigate allegations of fraud and mismanagement. They found serious failings and a lack of accountability in how the department was run. The department’s head, Dave Anderson has since resigned.” 
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-22314731 . (I hope Anderson got a nice golden goodbye package).

No wonder they didn’t have time to ensure the city’s own properties were well maintained. City Council teams have since “..found nine walls similar to the one which collapsed on Keane in Castlebrae Community High and Leith Academy secondary schools. A number of smaller free-standing walls were also identified in 11 primary schools.” according to Metro 4/4/14).  Let’s hope the city will get its act together soon. Perhaps Aberdeen could take some proactive measures and fix its problem properties?

Perhaps it’s time for a few definitions spawned from this week’s news reports.

Trauma training: 

Let’s face it; war is hell. Once you’ve signed up to defend your country/king/queen/economy, you may have to kill people. Mostly this can be done these days without anyone but cannon fodder leaving command central. It’s great that we’ve drones that can whiz round to search and destroy; no one’s hands ever need get dirty (well apart from the odd Afghani wedding guest and the like).

Still, if you’re going to send out the infantry now and again (for police actions, obviously not wars), best to make sure you know how to give them proper first aid.

we can’t hurt business, bad for the economy don’t you know

You might get away without giving troopers the right kit for where you fly them, but you’ll need medics; it’s good PR if nothing else. When missile are going off, a medic might well be as useful as a 747 instruction card at 30 thousand feet or ducking and covering in the face of an incoming nuclear weapon.  But it makes us look good.

Still, you’ll have to show you’ve got trained medics, and training can only mean one thing: defence contracts. Defence contracts can only mean one thing: money.

How can you possibly train medics and others how to deal with soldiers who’ve been mildly wounded by automatic weaponry, mines, chemical warfare or missiles? Why, by tying up live farm animals, shooting and stabbing them, operating on them as they suffer, and then killing them. Repeat as necessary. Stabbing and amputation is apparently a big seller on the trauma training circuit, though Old Susannah wonders whether there is really that much stabbing happening on our front lines? Not so much I suspect.

Is there a great deal of automatic weaponry created by east and west being used to turn soldiers into Swiss cheese who will be nearly impossible to save? Definitely. Are there plenty of mines out there ripping off the odd human arm and leg? Most definitely.

There are no alternatives to the tiny amount of suffering that the pigs and goats get when their limbs are hacked off by ‘trainers’. You’ve got an industry going now, and we can’t hurt business, bad for the economy don’t you know.

However, according to those pesty people at PETA,

“U.S., Canada, Norway, Denmark, the U.K., and Poland were the only six NATO countries—out of 28—that still stab, shoot, blow up, and kill animals for cruel military training drills.”

What else can we do but make money and make animals suffer? How better to prepare someone for treating a wounded troop than being able to take a bullet out of an enemy piglet? Well, while we’re busy sending troops out to make the world safe (how’s that working out for you by the way?), 36,000 victims of gunshot wounds were treated in United States Emergency rooms in 2010. According to the Los  Angeles Times:-

“The medical journal Pediatrics this week reported that, based on the most recent data from 2009, children are hospitalized for gunshot wounds at a rate of 20 a day, or one child every 72 minutes, for a total of 7,391 hospitalizations in 2009. Nine of 10 wounded kids are male, and disproportionately African American, which focuses the problem even more.”

I don’t know why a Los Angeles paper would be interested in gun crime; perhaps it was a slow news day.

It’s gratifying that people in this kind of training work are so entrepreneurially creative

I think it’s so wonderful we’ve got doctors in the armed forces who want to save lives (doctors who nobly uphold their Hippocratic oaths by being complicit in shooting and killing animals and people). I suppose we could train the forces doctors in emergency rooms where people, not animals, were the ones who were being shot, but that’s probably not much of an income generator.

Then we come to landmines. That would be a good case for blowing live animals up, because there are only 70 landmine injuries a day every day in the world. I’m not suggesting anything ludicrous like sending troops to clean up the landmines of past wars and helping the civilians who get injured by our left behind junk; for one thing, I doubt there’s as much money in cleaning up after military actions as there is in setting them up.

Then we come to the scientific, medical, ethical and logical reasons why we need to stab pigs, sheep and goats to teach people how to treat stab wounds. I’ve no solution to that, as I can’t find any record of knife crime in the US, UK or Europe. Nope, guess we’d best stick it to the animals, literally. As usual.

It’s gratifying that people in this kind of training work are so entrepreneurially creative that they’ve come up with the wheeze of making money by torturing animals for democracy. If that’s not capitalism at its finest, then I don’t know what is.

There is one theory that briefly crossed my mind for a second; I dismissed it promptly. What if the real purpose of getting people to accept the squeals of suffering animals, and to be able to cause that suffering was not to teach how to suture up wounds, but rather to make the trainees immune to suffering, to bond them together in a bloody slaughterhouse, and to weed out anyone who would object to this ‘training’ and say ‘this is wrong’.

I guess my imagination must be in overdrive; surely the military wouldn’t engage in any psychological conditioning. The only stupider idea that came to me was to cut our military spending, and buy more bread than guns, solve conflicts peacefully by building infrastructure, and leave the animals out of trauma training.

To bring it closer to home, an Aberdeen University trained doctor hit a sticky wicket in Afghanistan after he failed to notice that detainee civilian Baha Mousa was beaten to a pulp and then to death by the UK’s peacekeeping forces. A witness reported hearing the murdered widower say:

“I am innocent. Blood! Blood! I am going to die. My children are going to become orphans.”

Did former healer Dr Keilloh act like a doctor should? Well, his pals think so. Dr Jim Rodger, medical adviser at the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland, said:

 “Dr Keilloh is extremely disappointed at the decision of this Fitness to Practise Panel and he will need time to consider the implications of this erasure and his future course of action.  He would like to say how much he appreciated the wealth of support he has received from his family, patients, colleagues and friends.”

Phil Shiner, of Public Interest Lawyers, said:

“The medical profession is well rid of such a man. All those UK doctors in Iraq who also saw signs of ill-treatment of Iraqi detainees but took no action had best start to instruct lawyers.”

The NHS is saved! Thank you Lord Warner!

It would be good to know if Keilloh had undertaken trauma training. It seems he hadn’t had enough training in the first place, and he was traumatised. How dreadful for him:
Doctor who denied he saw Iraqi detainee’s injuries is struck off  BMJ

The panel acknowledged that, at the time, Keilloh was still a junior doctor who had not been given the predeployment training he was supposed to have … accepted that Keilloh’s judgment may have been clouded by the traumatic experience [I dare say Baha Mousa’s experience was probably a bit more traumatic than Keilloh’s; and the torture of the trauma training animals was probably not a great time either]

NHS “membership charge” (Modern English compound noun c. Lord Warner)  – a proposed flat £10 per week charge for using the National Health Service.

That nice Mr Nick Tesco of The Members was on Facebook this week, issuing some curious anthropomorphic swear words I hadn’t previously heard. What caused his distress? A think-tank has said we should all chip in £10 per week for the NHS. For some reason, Nick seemed unhappy.

Well, I’m sure like me you’re wondering why we didn’t just think of this sooner. The NHS is saved! Thank you Lord Warner!  Warner once worked alongside St. Anthony Blair, who of course had nothing at all to do with sweetening the NHS for privatisation or carving it up for private companies to jump in. (or in engineering wars).

Everyone has a spare ten pounds per week, don’t they? Well, let’s get with Warner’s plan, and pay it, along with our Council tax, to keep the NHS going. Clearly there is no bureaucracy in the NHS, no extraneous middle managers, no ridiculous bean-counting exercises, supply chain mismanagement, fraud, waste or pre-privatisation manoeuvring that could be got rid of.

No, it’s up to you and me to start paying our way for the NHS. Some of you may have been of the naïve opinion your taxes went to the NHS, but that seems to have eluded Warner and his co-author Jack O’Sullivan when they proposed a fair, flat tenner per week tax.

Here’s what my Lord Warner said:

“Many politicians and clinicians are scared to tell people that our much-beloved 65-year-old NHS no longer meets the country’s needs… Frankly, it is often poor value for money. The NHS now represents the greatest public spending challenge after the general election. MPs taking to the streets to preserve clinically unsustainable hospital services only damage their constituents.”

Warner, in a report he has co-authored for the think-tank Reform, says dramatic action is needed as the NHS faces an expected £30bn-a-year gap by 2020 between the demand for healthcare and its ability to respond, and needs several new funding streams to remain viable.

I’m sure we’ll all be queuing up to help the government monitor our bodies

Revenue could also come from higher, hypothecated “sin” taxes on alcohol, tobacco and gambling, and taxes on sugary foods because of rising obesity. Inheritance tax needs to be collected from more than the current 3.5% of the 500,000 people who die each year, and visitors staying overnight in hospital should pay “hotel charges”.

A £10 monthly fee would be used to fund local initiatives to improve prevention of ill-health and an annual “health MoT” for everyone of working age, say Warner and co-author Jack O’Sullivan, an expert in new thinking in health and social care.

I’m sure we’ll all be queuing up to help the government monitor our bodies – and then get even more money for its new wheeze of selling our health data to private companies. We’ll be in great shape soon! Result!

And it gets even better: Warner wants alcohol and cigarette ‘sin taxes’ for those in the herd who won’t be squeaky clean (but surely government officials will be immune).  Sin taxes on the way soon? I’ve enough trouble with my syntax as it is.  Let’s just get down to privatising the whole system, and setting up weekly blood and urine tests for the poor to boot.

Alas, reading the 191 page report when I should be painting is giving Old Susannah high blood pressure, and I’m not getting any younger.  More later, particularly on the interesting Mr Sullivan and Lord Warner. I wonder if either of them have any reason to want privatisation? Surely not.

Nicky Tesco is interested in this stinktank, and so am I.

Next week:  More definitions, if I pass the State’s health tests, and more on the police and related arresting new developments.

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Feb 032012

With thanks to Kylie Roux.


Based on an event from November last year at The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Your Leaning Neck is a performance project that aims to challenge institutional representations of national identity by giving voice to non-institutional values.

A silent video installation showcasing last November’s event from two perspectives will be shown in the Peacock gallery.

Saturday 18 February – Saturday 10 March 

– Live Performance

Starting off at Peacock’s gallery then moving onto the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St Andrew, visitors will be treated to a live re-contextualisation of the performance event created as a site-specific response to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery’s collection of portraits from the Scottish Enlightenment. Within the performance, oral tradition singers are presented alongside contemporary artists who also use their unaccompanied voice as a means of expression.

Friday 24 February | 7 – 9pm | Peacock Visual Arts | FREE 

GIG IN THE GALLERY – Martin John Henry

Recently praised by Sound-Scotland, as “one of Scotland’s finest songwriters”, Gargleblast Records and Peacock Visual Arts present Martin John Henry.

The Lanarkshire born singer songwriter is best known for fronting Scottish Rock Band De Rosa – critically lauded and championed by John Peel and Steve Lamaq – as well as writing, recording and playing with many of Scotland’s finest musicians including Barry Burns (Mogwai), Robert Johnston (Life Without Buildings), King Creosote and Malcolm Middleton.

Saturday 4 February | 8pm | £8 on the door 

RESIDENCY/PERFORMANCE – ONE MAN UNIT – Paul Wiersbinski and Wieland Schönfelder

ONE MAN UNIT is a hybrid of man and sculpture. Through a variety of outputs, audiences are invited to interact with and experience the spontaneous and unexpected developments of this creative beast, as it evolves during the artists’ two-week residency at Peacock.
You can follow the construction of this half man half machine via their daily blog on Peacock’s Facebook page. The ONE MAN UNIT will then be let loose on the public on two occasions:

Saturday 28 January – Friday 10 February

– Note: Aberdeen Voice updates Peacock info periodically, but there may be recently added events not included in this post. Please contact Peacock direct for the latest information.

Peacock Visual Arts
21 Castle Street
AB11 5BQ
Tel: 01224 639539
Mob: 07947 490626
e: kylie@peacockvisualarts.co.uk
Website: www.peacockvisualarts.com
Online Print Store: www.peacockvisualarts.culturelabel.com

Sep 172010

By Alex Mitchell.

Much of the old toun was swept away in the major slum clearance programmes of the 1890s and 1930s. The Gallowgate, surmounted by the 15th century ‘Mar’s Castle’ – the town house of the Earl of Mar, demolished 1897 – was once compared with the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.

Surely something better could have been achieved than the charmless ‘Brutalist’ Gallowgate we see today? Of the reputedly haunted Guestrow (from Ghaist-Raw), the main remnant is the beautifully restored 16th century George Skene’s House, long known as Cumberland’s Lodging following its requisition by the infamous Duke of Cumberland on his way to Culloden Moor in 1746.

His troops were billeted in what is now Robert Gordon’s College, built 1739 to the design of William Adam, father of the Adam brothers, Robert and James, who are commemorated by the Adelphi Court, the name of which refers to dolphins – a classical symbol of brotherhood.

The Green is thought to be the oldest part of Aberdeen, perhaps properly ‘Green-gate’, meaning the road to the bleaching-greens the banks of the Den-burn; Aberdeen itself was perhaps originally ‘Aber-den’, given that seagoing vessels could come up the Den-burn as far as Patagonian Court.

King William The Lion (1165-1214) was said to have had a Palace on the Green, which he later presented to the Trinity Friars, hence the Trinity Monastery and Chapel, and now, presumably, the Trinity Centre. There was a Carmelite monastery on the south side of the Green, hence Carmelite St. and Lane.  Recent archaeological research suggests that the west end of the Green, close to the confluence of the Denburn and the River Dee, must have been marshy and waterlogged.

It is easy to forget that a full half-mile of Union Street, from the Adelphi to Diamond Street, is an artificial creation

The early or Dark Ages settlement must have been on the drier land at the east end of the Green, pressing up against the steep slope of St. Katherine’s Hill, looking eastwards to Shiprow and northwards up Putachieside to St. Nicholas Kirk. In such a confined space, any significant growth of population would soon have prompted a shift of activity and settlement to the higher and drier land of the Castlegate and Broadgate.

Even now, the streets and wynds around the Green are characterised by very high, narrow buildings, reflecting the tiny medieval plots into which the land was divided. The Castlegate was certainly the main street and market-place by 1290, being referred to, then, as a forum.

Nonetheless, for six centuries, the Green formed part of the only route into Aberdeen from the south. Visitors, both welcome and unwelcome, had to come over the Brig o’ Dee, up the Hardgate, down Windmill Brae, across the Den-burn and through the Green into the old toun. Then as now, the entry to the Green was narrow, but the street then widened out into a triangular shape. It branched off on the left hand into the wynd known as Putachieside and thence to the Netherkirkgate; whilst on the right hand, it led by way of Shiprow round the southern side of St. Katherine’s Hill to the Castlegate – the heart of the medieval Burgh.

Once Union Street and Holburn Street were laid down, the Green, Hardgate etc. et al ceased to be the main or only route to and from the south, and went into a decline.

It is easy to forget that a full half-mile of Union Street, from the Adelphi to Diamond Street, is an artificial creation – a kind of flyover – superimposed on a series of arches vaulting the streets and wynds of the old toun, and at a height of between 20-50 ft. above the natural ground level, which slopes from St. Nicholas Kirkyard down to the Green and the harbour, as did many of the old streets.

Thus Correction Wynd and Carnegie’s Brae run under Union Street whilst  other old streets like St. Katherine’s Wynd or Back Wynd were truncated by it. At the Castlegate end,  Narrow Wynd and Rotten Row were obliterated altogether.

Narrow Wynd was more important than it sounds, and ran across the Castlegate to Shiprow. The famous Aberdeen Philosophical Society, the fons et origo of what became known as the Aberdeen branch of the Scottish ‘Common-Sense’ Philosophy and a major contributor to the ‘Aberdeen Enlightenment’, was founded by Dr. Thomas Reid and Dr. John Gregory, both of King’s College, and held its fortnightly meetings in a tavern in Narrow Wynd from 1758 to1773. The remnant of Narrow Wynd was demolished in 1867 to make way for the new Municipal Buildings or Town House.

The Upper- and Nether-Kirkgate were the roads ‘above’ and ‘below’ the Mither Kirk of St. Nicholas. The narrow street nowadays known as Back Wynd used to be called Westerkirkgate.

The Upperkirkgate Port was the last of the six medieval town gateways to be demolished, sometime after 1794. It stood near the foot of the Upperkirkgate, just beyond No. 42, the gable-ended 17th century house which is still to be seen there now.

The original six ports – solid walls pierced by gateways – had become an obstruction to the flow of traffic, having been in existence from the first half of the15th century.

The other five ports were: the Netherkirkgate Port, controlling movement around the north side of St. Katherine’s Hill; the Shiprow or Trinity Port, checking entry from the south side of St. Katherine’s Hill and the harbour; the Justice or Thieves’ Port to the north-east of the Castlegate, demolished 1787; the Futty Port on Futty Wynd, to the south-east of the Castlegate, and the Gallowgate Port on Port Hill, controlling movement from Old Aberdeen and the north.

Sep 102010

Alex Mitchell continues his historical account of the development of Aberdeen, this week focussing on the old  Castlegate.

no images were found

The Castlegate, Broadgate, the Upper and Nether-Kirkgate, Shiprow and Guestrow were once historic and thriving neighbourhoods from the 16th to the 19th centuries.

The old Castlegate was dominated by:

(1) The Tolbooth, dating from 1394, but rebuilt in 1615 and nowadays largely concealed by the frontage of the Town House, built in 1867-72 in Flemish-Gothic style.

(2) The New Inn built by the Freemasons in 1755, visited by James Boswell and Dr. Johnson in 1773. The Freemasons had their Lodge on the top floor, hence the adjacent Lodge Walk. The New Inn was replaced by the North of Scotland Bank, later the Clydesdale Bank, built in 1839-42 as the corner-piece of Castle Street and King Street, and now a pub named after its illustrious architect Archibald Simpson.

(3) Pitfodel’s Lodging of 1530 was the town house of the Menzies family of Pitfodels, a three-storey turreted building, the first private residence in Aberdeen to be built of stone after its predecessor was destroyed by fire in 1529. The Lodging was demolished in 1800 and replaced the following year by the premises of the Aberdeen Banking Company, from 1849 the (Union) Bank of Scotland.

The power and influence of the Menzies family, who were Catholic and Jacobite, was in decline by this time and their old motte-and-bailey castle at Pitfodels, a stone-built tower-house, was in ruins. The associated earthworks were still to be seen at what became the entrance to the Norwood House Hotel until the 1970s, but not much is left there now. The family moved to Maryculter House in the early 17th century. In 1805 John Menzies put the lands of Pitfodels up for sale (also those of Maryculter six years later) and in 1806 purchased 37 Belmont Street (now Lizars opticians). This house had been built in the 1770s and thus pre-dates Belmont Street itself, which was laid down in 1784, well before Union Street.

It is from this house that Mary Queen of Scots is believed to have witnessed the beheading of Sir John Gordon in 1562

In 1831 John Menzies donated his mansion and lands at Blairs to the Catholic Church for use as a college and moved to Edinburgh. He died there without heirs in 1843, the last of the Menzies dynasty, receiving a spectacular Catholic funeral.

Until about 1715 the deceased members of the Menzies family were buried in ‘Menzies Isle’ within St Nicholas Kirk, thereafter in the Kirk-yard. Latterly they were buried at the ‘Snow Kirk’ in Old Aberdeen, just off College Bounds, where the Menzies family grave remains prominent.

(4) Earl Marischal’s Hall dating from about 1540 was next to Pitfodel’s Lodging on the south (harbour) side of the Castlegate. This was the town house of the Keiths of Dunnottar, the Earls Marischal. It had been the Abbot of Deer’s town house but became the property of the (Protestant) Keiths following the Reformation. It consisted of a group of buildings surrounding a central courtyard with gardens attached. It is from this house that Mary Queen of Scots is believed to have witnessed the beheading of Sir John Gordon in 1562 following the defeat of the Gordons of Huntly at the Battle of Corrichie.

Earl Marischal’s Hall was purchased by the Town Council and demolished in 1767 to allow ‘the opening up of a passage from the Castlegate to the shore (or harbour) and erecting a street there’, that being Marischal Street. Before then there had been no direct route from Castle Street to the Quay, and the growth of trade at the harbour made a new street absolutely necessary. Marischal Street was (and still is) a flyover, possibly the first in Europe, vaulting Virginia Street by means of ‘Bannerman’s Bridge’. It was also the first street in Aberdeen to be paved with squared granite setts, the first street of the new, post-medieval Aberdeen and it is the only complete Georgian street remaining in Aberdeen today.

5) Broadgate or Broad Street was the main street of Aberdeen according to Parson Gordon’s map of 1661, lying as it did between the main route north, the Gallowgate and the main (and only) route south via the Green, Windmill Brae and the Hardgate. The old town of Aberdeen never had a High Street as such, probably because St. Katherine’s Hill stood in the way of the most obvious route for a High Street, from the ‘Mither Kirk’ of St. Nicholas to the Castlegate.

A previous resident of Broad Street was the young George Gordon, later Lord Byron. He was born in London in 1788 and was named after his maternal grandfather George Gordon of Gight Castle in Aberdeenshire. The child was brought to Aberdeen in 1790 by his mother Catherine Gordon, after her worthless husband ‘Black Jack’ Byron, had dissipated her inheritance, resulting in Gight Castle being sold to the nearby Gordons of Haddo.

The Castlegate became squalid and dangerous and was notorious for the number and brazenness of the prostitutes

Mother and child lived in lodgings at No.10 Queen Street then moved to No.64 Broad Street. Young George attended the Grammar School at its original location in Schoolhill until 1798, when he inherited his father’s brother’s title and returned to England to continue his education at Harrow, where he was bullied on account of his club foot and Scottish diction.

Castlegate decline

The construction of Union Street from 1801 and the development of the ‘New Town’ westwards of the Denburn encouraged the wealthy and fashionable to migrate in that direction, and the old or medieval town deteriorated throughout the 19th century. The Castlegate became squalid and dangerous and was notorious for the number and brazenness of the prostitutes, who catered for the soldiers in the Barracks and the seamen from the harbour.

The congested old streets and wynds became filthy, infested, stinking and diseased. The courts and closes branching off the Gallowgate were described in 1883 as the dingiest and most unwholesome of any British town. Across the whole Burgh there were still in 1883 some 60 narrow lanes and 168 courts or closes of a breadth of seven feet at most.

The average number of inhabitants per house was reckoned at 14.8 persons. In the St Nicholas Parish the average was 16.8 persons per house. This level of congestion and overcrowding arose because the city’s population was expanding much faster than its geographical boundaries; from 26,992 persons in 1801 to 71,973 in 1851 and to 153,503 in 1901.

Jul 092010

by Alex Mitchell.

I first became aware of Carmina – I never learned her last name – when we were both students at the University of Aberdeen. She was a dark-haired, exotic beauty at the centre of a group of decadent, upper-class sophisticates who seldom bothered to turn up at lectures but would come lurching into tutorials, at which attendance was compulsory, still half-wrecked from the excesses of the previous night or weekend.  Continue reading »