Posts tagged ‘Aberdeen City Council’

October 9, 2014

Now you see it – now you don’t – Marischal Square

 

The vote was taken at once, and it was agreed by an overwhelming majority that rats were comrades.                                                                                                                                                                (Animal farm)

Aberdeen City Council has reinforced the belief that it is surely one of the most disgraceful and sleekit of local authorities.

It has played a dirty game over the development that it once boasted would be Marischal Square – a great opportunity for a civic space it once promised – an idea that captured the mood of the city’s citizens browned off by a recent diet of lacklustre plans lacking in ambition and confidence.

Did they say square? They did. Did. Not any more. Because square there aint. Unless you follow the logic of Cllr Boulton who, in reply to being challenged on the great disappearing square, muttered something along the lines of – the whole area is a kind of square.

 The erm, Square

Quite.

There used to be a distinctive old street there called Broad Street. Lord Byron, Geordie Gordon, bade there as a child. The old Aberdeen Journals occupied a large property there and Bissets bookshop was there at the other end. There never used to be a square and there sure as hell isn’t going to be one in the near future. Not until these eejits running the council are dead and buried.

So square is now a former concept of a square. This wonderful civic square that would become a hub (councils love the term hub) for city folk and so the idea of Marischal Square was born – no not born, conceived.

Then the council had a think and it thought – hey min there’s nae cash in an empty space.

Come on you didn’t think they’d stick to their word – did you?

 COUNCILLORS'  BRAIN

Average councillor brain

There’s been a lot of talk – encouraging the public to get involved, implying citizens’ views would be taken note of in drawing up the final design. That is until people said,

Yes we want a square – ken fit I mean, min?

Well you ken fit want gets.

It is clear the Labour-led coalition which includes a Tory and Independents while happy to provide a blank sheet for the developers eager to build shops, offices and a hotel is less interested in what the people of the city want. Did I say less interested? Not interested.

Of course councils ignoring the wishes of the people is not a new phenomenon but disappointing nevertheless whenever it occurs and when it doesn’t even try to modify the commercial aspects of the design as a sop to public opinion.

The final decision was taken away from the Planning Committee and put to full council to ensure the commercial proposal went through, as councillors would be more or less voting along party lines. This was nothing short of politicising the scheme and a scandalous manipulation of power on a project that is so controversial.

Cllr Willie Young is reported to have indicated on July 17th this year that the decision had already been taken to go ahead with the Muse development causing consternation among opposition councillors opposed to the deal.

Squares are good

Squares are good

Squares were good

Squares were good

Squares no good

Squares no good

Squares were good but concrete is better

 

What we want is concrete and more concrete. Can’t get enough concrete. Our aim is to concrete over Aberdeen. Concrete is money. Fill the mouths of those who dare to speak out with concrete. That’ll shut them up.

Cllr Jenny Laing tells the world this vibrant developments of offices and shops will prove that Aberdeen is open for business, as if one of the most economically dynamic areas of the UK isn’t already open and doing a grand line in business.

Do people actually vote for these people who speak in banalities?

ACC ratings

Aberdeen Evening Express

Do not imagine, comrades, that leadership is a pleasure.

On the contrary, it is a deep and heavy responsibility.

Contrary to what the Labour group say there is nothing , absolutely nothing in this design to attract people into the city. On the other hand a large photogenic square would most definitely become a tourist attraction as well as a potential gathering place and area for music and entertainment. Think of what some photographs of a fine square with the magnificent Marischal College, the second largest granite building in the world,  in the background and those fine old properties of Upper Kirkgate along one side, would do to enhance the attractiveness of Aberdeen.

Somehow it seemed as though the farm had grown richer without making the animals themselves any richer – except, of course, for the pigs and the dogs.

August 6, 2014

Keep it Simple Aberdeen. Simply a Square.

Marischal College

Keep it simple Aberdeen City Council.

You started this by talking about a civic square – Marischal Square.

Now deliver on your word.

Nothing more. Nothing less. A wonderful large and photogenic

Marischal Square.

Thanks for voting folks. Result of the poll, completely unscientific and none the worse for that, is 97% for an open square and 3% for the proposed Muse development.

It doesn’t prove anything other than people who are interested in Aberdeen’s architecture and how the city develops who read this blog are overwhelmingly against putting crass commercialism before preserving the little piece of magnificence there is in the city.

I hope Aberdeen City Council takes notice but I’ve been around long enough to know that other factors influence its members and permanent staff that have nothing to do with doing the decent and aesthetic considerations.

 

 

 

July 9, 2014

Build around not through and we can have Marischal Square

Aberdeen City Council is totally wrong in its outrageously misleading development of Broad Street – initially bandied around as the formation of a civic square fronting Marischal College.

There is no doubt the spec for the development was drawn up entirely with commercialisation in mind and the public consultation was the usual tokenistic gesture politics for surely there never was any intention to modify economic  priorities  with anything as prosaic as public opinion.  

It is clear that while Aberdeen City Council is happy to provide a blank sheet for the creation of shops, offices, parking  and a hotel it is less interested (uninterested) in what the people of the city want.

Of course councils ignoring peoples’ wishes is hardly a new phenomenon but it is disappointing when it occurs without even the suggestion of any sop to popular opinion.

Contrary to what the Labour group says there is nothing, absolutely nothing in this design to attract people into the city. On the other hand a large photogenic square would most definitely become a tourist attraction as well as a potential hub for local people.  Think of what social media could do to spread images of Aberdeen’s fine civic square with the backdrop of the magnificent Marischal College. Wouldn’t that enhance the attractiveness of Aberdeen?

This development used to be referred to as Marischal Square. Now there is NO SQUARE – instead there is a bog-standard street to be built – and not even a broad one despite being on Broad Street.

But there is a compromise that the council should grasp.

Create a square, or rectangle, from the old St Nix to Upper Kirkgate and along the Flourmill Lane, preserving Provost Skene’s House, with commercial properties. Instead of building over the whole area buildings would surround it. This would result in an open public space facing Marischal College. Such a space would enhance the attractiveness of any hotel fronting an open area instead of into a narrow street.

Surely it is time for the council to listen to its critics over this debacle. It’s not so long ago several of its members were very vocally critical over the awful proposals for Union Terrace Gardens but this is as bad and here we find the Labour group are poachers turned gamekeepers.

You are wrong Jenny Laing, you are wrong Willie Young  – Aberdeen Civic Society and the thousands of people who provided you with their sensible views are correct. In fact you should both be thoroughly ashamed of your small-minded approach to what is a unique opportunity to lay down a real legacy for the city. It speaks volumes that you can’t see this.

Shops, offices, hotel in green. Marischal Square in orange.

Shops, offices, hotel in green. Marischal Square in orange.

 

https://lenathehyena.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/the-marischal-odeon-or-gone-with-the-wind-a-muse-and-council-joint-production

https://lenathehyena.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/move-along-now-nothing-to-see-here-aberdeens-latest-civic-square-debacle

https://lenathehyena.wordpress.com/2013/11/09/the-card-square-project-marishchal-goes-phut

May 21, 2014

The Marischal Odeon or Gone with the Wind: A Muse and Council Joint Production

The controversial £107million plan by Muse Development, part of the Morgan Sindall Group, to build a block of shops, car parks, offices and hotel in front of Marischal College in Aberdeen has been lodged with the council and is so awful it is pretty well certain to be given the green light.

The common good land is about to be leased to private developers for the next 35 years to do with as they please. While local opinion is for tearing down St Nicholas House and having no building replacing it thereby creating a large open square to front Marischal College Aberdeen council and the developers are pushing ahead with commercialising the space. Let us hope that 35 years down the line it doesn’t get passed on from one private leaseholder to another until eventually the land is lost to the public. Not that this would ever happen. Of course that has never happened. No of course not.

Various consultations have taken place and some 4000 opinions provided which Muse said have been noted. Well all I can say is you will be hard pressed to detect much alteration in their plans.

Try as I might to open the detailed plans on the council website I failed but at least I had the council press release to reassure me how much the new build will improve the site ‘once dominated by the former council headquarters building St Nicholas House.’

I was more successful finding a link to the Final Report on Pedestrian Level Wind, doesn’t sound like much fun, and discovered the council’s reassurances were less than convincing.

Take a keek at this
http://planning.aberdeencity.gov.uk/docs/showimage.asp?j=140698&index=122914

Wind analysis of the site highlighted a ‘relatively windy microclimate at ground level’ in parts of the area – nearest Union Street – the result of wind ‘blowing around the St Nicholas House building, which is comparatively tall in relation to the surrounding buildings.’

Hold that thought as you check out the picture showing a model of the proposal and absorb its height in relation to surrounding buildings.

According to the Report around the 469 year old Provost Skene’s House it will become significantly windier because wind will be channelled between it and the proposed hotel. Conversely it argued that with more tall buildings the southeast area, around the rapidly disappearing St Nicholas House, would become less windy – losing the wind tunnel impact of St Nix.

The Report envisaged potential problems for pedestrians moving to and from the north and west of the site and suggested this might be dealt with by ‘solid or porous side-screens or recessing the entrances into the building.’

Landscaping would provide other types of screening. I think they mean shrubberies and trees but possibly more screens to
‘create suitable conditions for sitting.’

To avoid being rocketed into space people occupying the roof terraces would have to be sheltered by high balustrades or yet more screens and planting – and possibly guy ropes.

All of the above were put forward as mitigating measures for everyday breezes off the North Sea which are a feature of the Castelgate and Broad Street. When wind levels increase, as they do quite often in this part, then it’ll be a case of haud ontae yer hats folks because you can expect something ‘in excess of Beaufort Force 7’ that’s gale force, around the proposed pedestrianised corner, near to Provost Skene’s which ‘would cause pedestrians to experience difficulty walking’ Nae reading the P & J wi a cappuccino then – small comforts there. But just to be on the safe side you won’t be allowed access when winds get up – ‘restricted access during the windiest times during the year.’ Occasionally winds reach Beaufort Force 8 in this area.

So as well as having their access restricted when the wind blows the good folk of Aberdeen will be subjected to frequent bad hair days when venturing through Muse’s world bearing in mind Aberdeen is windier than many other parts of the UK.

For your information wind levels are classified according to levels of ‘comfort’ for ‘business walking’, ‘carpark/roadway’, ‘leisure walking’, ‘standing/entrance’, ‘sitting.’

Business walking you’ll appreciate means not hanging around but keeping up a steady pace, possibly while carrying a briefcase or other business accoutrements but almost certainly not soliciting with a nonchalant swagger. It is possibly advisable to do the business walk when approaching or circumnavigating Provost Skene’s House to cope with serious wind problems in its vicinity although with the wind at your back you may not require oxygen. It should be added at this juncture that if the proposed hotel were not erected here then wind wouldn’t be an issue but it will be – unless of course Provost Skene’s is demolished which would resolve the wee issue of a wind tunnel between it and the hotel. Business is business after all.

A heids doon fecht wi a nor’easterly isn’t what most folk expected when the council promised a pedestrianised area for leisure and pleasure – brisk walking being the main activity it would seem.

Oh well, there’s always the screens. Sounds like a promising business venture for councillor Swick. They’ll be needing so many screens when this proposal gets the thumbs up it can only be called the Marischal Odeon.

There’s been a lot of wind expended over this project with lots more to come. The bottom line is there’s a strong desire for a very large open square fronting Marischal College. This is not what Aberdeen Council wants because while thousands aired their opinions its money that talks in the end.

With a choice between what the people of Aberdeen want and multinational businesses the council has chosen business all the way.

Councillor Willie Young was quoted in the Press & Journal 17 May as saying
‘Some people who have responded have misunderstood what the consultation was about.
‘The council entered into a binding legal agreement with Muse on a leaseback basis.
‘It was never for the council to determine that it would be an open space – it’s a commercial space.’

Actually it isn’t a commercial space it is common good land and belongs to the people of Aberdeen.

https://lenathehyena.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/move-along-now-nothing-to-see-here-aberdeens-latest-civic-square-debacle/

https://lenathehyena.wordpress.com/2013/11/09/the-card-square-project-marishchal-goes-phut/

April 7, 2014

Move along now, nothing to see here – Aberdeen’s latest Civic Square debacle

marischal square plan 1

REVEALED! the latest vision aiming to regenerate Aberdeen city centre.

Yes plans for the hugely anticipated Marischal Square is moving on apace and it is worrying.

The publicity comes studded with those all-too familiar V words promising us a vibrant vision no less. Let me add a V or two of my own  – vacuous, vile, vulgar, very vulgar, vomitory.

Vibrant is usually a tag attached to something decidedly un-vibrant, hence the need for a tag to persuade people the emperor really is wearing clothes. For vibrant read bog-standard,  unexceptional and ordinary, very, very ordinary and here, dated designs.

marischal college old pic (2)

Marischal College is a magnificent building, world-class, a testament to the granite masons who sawed, carved and polished its fabulous frontage. It is the second largest granite building in the world and size matters in these things. It is the worthy public face of the city that has become Scotland’s economic powerhouse, a role reluctantly shouldered and modestly underplayed by the players who should be using the current economic climate to highlight its best features.

Brasov

Brasov

Consider Marischal College as the backdrop to a large expanse of nothingness but charm and wonder, let’s call it a square, in which people could congregate and marvel at the granite tour de force before them – this square would become a magnet for locals and visitors alike – on a par with squares in, and let’s be modest here, Brasov, Nuremberg and Sibiu.

Nuremberg

Nuremberg

 

Sibiu, Romania

Sibiu, Romania

The current version of the proposal from Muse Developments is to partially conceal Marischal College with dated looking boxy offices, shops and a hotel.

This is risk-averse bog-standard city centre development at its weakest and will convince no-one to come to Aberdeen, instead confirm to exasperated residents of the city and shire that Aberdeen’s decision makers really should not be allowed out on their own but be secured in a place of protection. They are recidivist dullards who never tire of displaying their woeful lack of civic self-confidence.

There have been the usual ‘consultations’ over the Broad Street proposals which has been development-led . What should have been done was to let the public come up with ideas for the gap left by the demolition of the St Nicholas House complex.  The people of the area, not developers, are better placed to inform the council that works for them (supposedly) how best to preserve and flaunt both Marischal and the 16th century Provost Skene’s House. After all the people who live and work in the city are the ones whose lives will be most affected by the changes to this environment. Once it became clear what the majority wanted the concept should have been put out to an international design competition.

Broadgate, later Broad Street, where Lord Byron lived as a child

Broadgate, later Broad Street, where Lord Byron lived as a child

 

What we got was a developer, Muse, ‘incorporating’ we are told the wishes of the public following their initial design.

It is no secret in Aberdeen that people want a square i.e. an open area where they can congregate and absorb the magnificance of Marischal.What they don’t appreciate is having the wool pulled over their eyes by a developer and council banging on about Marischal Square when that is precicelsly what is not being offered.

IT IS NOT A SQUARE – IT IS A STREET – LIKE ANY OTHER ZILLIONS OF STREETS.

marischal plan 2

This ‘public space free from traffic’ is council and Musa otherwise known as a street.

It is a street with hotels, shops and offices – how unique and brilliant a concept is that?

Marischal College will again be mostly hidden and so will the 16th century Provost Skene’s House relegated to a corner at the back much as it was with the St Nicholas House development.

16th century Provost Skene's House

16th century Provost Skene’s House

Where the traffic will go is chaos waiting to happen.

Marie Boulton is an independent councillor and the council’s deputy leader who tells us the plans have reached an ‘exciting stage.’ There are a lot of people who view the refined plans as depressing more than exciting. Nothing Councillor Boulton, nothing about this proposal is in the least exciting.

Don’t believe the propaganda accompanying this latest architectural outrage threatening the city. Pedestrianised shopping streets are ten a penny around the country, around the globe.

Aberdeen had an opportunity to make its mark with a real show stopper of a civic square. If retail and hotel space are essential why couldn’t they be designed to run around an open square instead of closing in the area?

Why can’t the many unused storeys above shops along the length of the decaying magnificence of Unions Street be turned into hotel rooms and offices or even shops?

Regenerate Union Street and create a civic square worthy of the city and Marischal College.

It is clear from statements coming from the council that the very people trusted with responsibility for taking vital decisions affecting the future of Aberdeen  are not up to the job. Is there anyone among them who knows anything about world quality architecture? Anyone of them with ambition? (aside from personal).

Remember the dreadful design chosen for Union Terrace Gardens? Well they haven’t raised the game since that.

The council administration has changed but no lessons have been learned in terms of design or aspiration. This administration for all its criticism of the last one who pushed the misguided Union Terrace Web fiasco are pursuing civic irresponsibility in their own right. Are these people stupid?

Muse Developments controversially became the Labour-led administrations preferred bidder for the Marischal site. There were questions raised at the time over the bid process but it was declared legal by the Court of Session.

marischal plan 3

Last year criticisim was made of Muse’s design to develop Chester’s city centre, their plans described as ‘a missed opportunity to create a high quality and attractive area within the city.’ Quite.

http://www.chesterfirst.co.uk/news/120411/3-000-jobs-but-critics-warn-chester-development-is-missed-opportunity-.aspx

In both cities business backed Muse’s plans in the hope of realising promised economic returns. Should short-term economic interests rather than civic integrity really be the driver in sensitive civic sites? Depressingly Chester’s experience is being repeated in Aberdeen.

Move along now, nothing to see here – nothing bold, nothing striking only a bleak row of boxes cutting through the splendour of Marischal and Skene’s.

Really could there be any design more out of sympathy with these architecturally interesting buildings?

Where is the cultural sensitivity? Where is the architectural merit, a sense of aesthetics in all of this?

Demolition of St Nicholas House complex reveals interesting aspects of Aberdeen

Demolition of St Nicholas House complex reveals interesting aspects of Aberdeen

This is a plan designed for people of a nervous disposition – frightened of change.

If you’re looking for an architectural legacy for Aberdeen’s children and future generations don’t look to this development – there is none.

It would make you weep.

 

Some comments on this proposal.

‘No surprise the Aberdeen Mafia aka HFM have been let loose on yet another swathe of the city. Sorry guys but this is still a truly grim proposal. You are really just replacing like for like in terms of the city scape. Not just the design of the buildings themselves but the whole site strategy – the same windswept square in the centre, blocked from any daylight and surrounded by windfunnels. There have been dozens of student projects that have come up with vastly more enjoyable and viable spaces for this same site.’

‘Reintroducing Guestrow is a nice idea but given the scale, massing and footprint of the new buildings it seems pretty disingenuous. If this is really to be reintegrated into the townscape and street pattern surely the site needs to be broken down further – this is still essentially one large building, mixed-use or not.’

‘Aberdeen city continues to know the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Aberdeen was one of the most architecturally beautiful cities anywhere in Europe but gradually it is being replaced with poorly designed concrete and steel monstrosities that are not in scale with the surroundings and clash with the design of the historic buildings. It is deeply depressing! We are consulted and then ignored which makes it worse.’

‘Contemporary, stunning, sympathetic, sustainable, long term, visionary, well considered… Some of the things that seem to have been missed with this one.’

‘You say that this is a refined design? i am afraid that it is still failing….a very poor design response to the opportunities presented by this site. What you have produced to date, lacks creativity and shows a complete insensitivity to the adjacent listed buildings. This design proposal is repeating the mistakes of of the 60’s/70’s. We have come a long way since then in our understanding and management of scale, relationship, materials etc.  The architectural solution on this site should be an iconic building which reflects the dynamic nature of the city not some bland compromise which fails to excite. Stop “refining ” your original concept for the site. Scrap it and start again. Employ an outside creative architectural design agency if your in-house people cannot respond to the requirements of this brief . The people of Aberdeen want an exciting aesthetic solution.’

 

 

 

January 7, 2014

St Clement’s cemetery: Hark! from the tombs a doleful sound

Aberdeen

St Clement’s Church

It’s taken me a long time to visit Aberdeen’s St Clement’s Kirkyard – several decades to be precise. I have tried once or twice but when I’ve thought of visiting it is usually been when I’ve been driving in the vicinity and as this busy industrial area is choc-a-bloc during the week with parked vehicles I’ve driven on past.

DSC03718

Undoubtedly it has looked better. This graveyard once served the people of Footdee (Fittie), from the evidence of the detritus lying around, it is now home to rough sleepers and prostitutes.

There were churches on this site before the current one, established in 1855, and for centuries this has been a place of worship for the people of the surrounding area.

DSC03747

Note the occupation of ‘tide waiter’ – a customs officer who boarded ships which had entered the harbour

It is believed a church may have stood on this site since the 11th century. Given its location it is little wonder that many of its memorial stones reflect lives lost to the sea, those for whom the sea was their place of work and others involved in the various maritime trades. Nautical inscriptions and decorative features such as ropes and ships combine with traditional symbols of death.

DSC03743Alexander Drysdale, a foreman at the Poynernook Factory. Note the heartfelt message of respect from his former work mates

So who was St Clements and why choose him to represent this maritime neighbourhood? He was a Bishop of Rome in the first century AD and suffered the fate of being tied to an anchor and drowned in the Black Sea hence him being adopted as the patron saint of fishermen.

P1000901

Aberdeen’s or possibly more accurately Fittie’s St Clements is only one of four dedicated to the saint in Scotland.  As might be expected the church was influential in the life of its congregation; fishermen were forbidden to go to sea or buy and sell fish on the Sabbath.  This did not go down well with everyone for it meant a loss of income one day a week. Should any man ignore the church’s ruling he could expect a fine – a boat master putting to sea would have his crew and their families fined as well as himself.

St Clement’s Church became embroiled in the Disruption, the events of the mid-19th century which split the Church of Scotland, the country’s established church.

P1000904

On 18th May 1843 the minister of St Clement’s, Alexander Spence, was one of many ministers who walked out of their churches in protest against the established church to form the Free Church of Scotland.

The Disruption was concerned with who had the right to appoint ministers of the kirk.  In Aberdeen it had been the privilege of the Town Council to nominate someone whereas the Free Kirkers believed no-one should be involved in the appointment of any minister other than a church’s  congregation.

P1000899

The one you see today was designed by architect John Smith, in the Gothic style. It stands bold and impressive with a fine square pinnacled tower surrounded on every side by industrial sheds of no architectural merit whatsoever.

When the church was being refurbished in 1888 a brass chandelier, or gaselier, was found with an inscription, ‘given to this church by Alexander Murray, elder – 1648’. Obviously not that church but an earlier one.

A model of a ship, Saint Clement it was named, was also discovered in the tower where it had been abandoned. It had been gifted to the kirk by John Milne, the hangman.

P1000900Note the granite carved rope strung around this horizontal stone testifying the various trades associated with the sea

 Seafarers of Fittie, once separate from Aberdeen, have long been required to defend their community from attack. In 1514 it was ordained that eight men from Aberdeen’s quarters, including Fittie, should keep watch to resist ‘the old enemies of England.’

The English were one thing but the plague was more costly to life. Throughout the 16th century penalties and banishments were placed on any who might ignore restrictions over the movement of people into the vicinity.

P1000895

Rope and sail makers lived and worked around here. Several stones in the graveyard feature rope motifs

P1000906

It was around here that ships were built. The first clipper ship built in Britain, the Scottish Maid, came from Aberdeen.  The world’s  fastest tea clipper, the Thermopylae, was built in Fittie.

P1000919

Hall was one of the main shipbuilders in the city and in 1839 James Hall in an attempt to circumvent Board of Trade regulations over ships’ tonnage devised the Aberdeen hull constructed so that cargo spaces were forward of the first point from which a vessel’s carrying capacity, therefore revenue earning capacity,  would be calculated. The result was the Aberdeen bow; curved, sleek and fast.

Hall died suddenly in 1869. It happened like this – Aberdeen tycoon, Thomas Blake Glover who settled in Japan and established the company that was to become Mitsubishi, arranged for Hall’s to build a vessel for the Japanese navy. It was a plumb contract and the Jho-Sho-Maru was well into construction when in 1869 a fire broke out in Milne’s wood yard near to Hall’s shipyard where the Jho-Sho-Maru was being fitted. People came from all around to help extinguish the blaze including James Hall who suffered a fatal  heart attack.  P1010025

For years Hall’s Carpenters’ Ball took place on Hogmanay, 31st December, usually in the draughting loft at the shipyard.  Throughout the year apprentices from the yard had some of their pay, known as launch money, put by which together with money from the company went to fund the annual social. There were few, if any, other occasions in Aberdeen where it was said a craftsman from the yards could mingle with millionaires other than at the Carpenters’ Ball.

 P1000929

Mair a common name around Aberdeen

Centuries of shipbuilding meant carpentry or wood carving was a popular trade. In the middle of the 19th century, around 1848, these ship carpenters or carvers from Hall’s yard formed themselves into a co-operative society, adding to a number already operating in the city.

They called themselves the Footdee Savings Association and sold groceries and bakery products from premises at Waterloo Quay. Hall’s carpenters had their own ship, the Elizabeth, which they used to ship in grocery supplies and other sundries.

DSC03722

Another well-known ship-building families was  Duthie. This impressive granite casket memorial belongs to the Duthies – ship builders and merchants.

John Duthie lived in the same district as most of the workers from his yard, in Wellington Street. Known as Old John he was apparently very down to earth with a good sense of humour. One day a ship sailed into Aberdeen from Sicily with a supply of sulphur, as a speculative piece of business it appeared as there was no-one down to receive the load.

P1000914

Someone advised the ship’s captain he might find a buyer for his cargo if he had a word with old Mr Duthie and so he did. Duthie thought the matter over for a moment then had a brainwave. He told the captain he knew of a man who dealt largely in brimstone (sulphur) who might be happy to relieve him of his cargo.

The captain went off as instructed to meet the gentleman, a strict Calvinist minister from one of the local kirks, who turned down the offer of a ship-load of sulphur but was thereafter known as Brimstone Johnnie.

P1000909

This pink plaque can be found on a wall at the graveyard. It was put there by George Davidsone. ‘George Davidsone elder burgess of Aberdeen built this dyke on his own expenses 1650′

George Davidsone of Pettens died in 1663. He began his working life as a packman, one who delivered goods, possibly on his back, and could neither read nor write. But he died a wealthy man and left several benefactions to Newhills kirk, Fittie kirk and  St Nicholas kirk. His impressive headstone can be seen on the west wall of St Nicholas’ graveyard by the Backwynd gate.

George Davidson at St Nicholas graveyard

Davidsone who had become a burgess of Aberdeen bought the land at Pettens, Belhelvie, from George Gordon 1643 of Overblairton and Pettens.

P1000922

Chief engineer John Simpson torpedoed at sea in 1917

 P1000889

1916 – Able Seaman Alexander Guyan, Hawke Battalion  was killed on the Western Front  on 9 December. Above is his family memorial, now sadly broken and below the official war stone.

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P1010024

This is a notice of Guyan’s death from a list of local casualties in an Aberdeen newspaper

George Crombie was drowned off  Tavira in Portugal in April 1882. A family of ship captains, their memorial is coming adrift.

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This plaque commemorates the death in 1971 of Captain William James Erskine, a naval chief engineer who was killed during the civil war in Pakistan.  1971 was the period of Bangladeshi liberation from Pakistan after the Pakistani military junta refused to accept the results of the country’s first democratic elections in 1970 which favoured the Bengalis. It was a brutal confrontation in which intellectuals were targeted for execution. Hundreds of thousands died in this war and ten million escaped into India.

MV Mustali, built by Short Brothers of Sunderland, was a Pakistani cargo steamer owned by Gulf Shipping and was sunk in an air raid at Chalna in ’71 by the Pakistani air force.

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The long inscription on Shipmaster William Bruce’s family stone has become all but illegible. Let me give you the full version.

Hark! from the tombs a doleful sound;
My ears, attend the cry;
“Ye living men, come view the ground
Where you must shortly lie.

“Princes, this clay must be your bed,
In spite of all your towers; The tall, the wise, the rev’rend head
Must lie as low as ours!”

These words were sung at the funeral of America’s President George Washington.

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This unusual cast iron memorial records the deaths of several ‘beloved children of Alexander Mortimer and Margaret Spring. Scottish women did not lose their own identities and retained their single names when married, at least when recorded on memorial stones.

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William Ingram, was one of several vintners in  Footdee where he traded out of the Trades Arms

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A fish curer’s lovely red granite memorial

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Coastguard Alexander Mennie

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William Henderson, cabinet maker, in memory to his father-in-law, Alexander Naughton, a Shore Porter. Note the beautiful flower motif.

The Shore Porters Society was set up in 1498, as it says in its website ‘six years after Columbus discovered America.’ Porters or pynours, hawling goods from the harbour to the town, and vice versa. It is thought to be the oldest co-operative still in existence.

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The all too familiar story of multiple deaths of young children

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And again, including twins

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Another ship captain. The different styles of writing including a kind of longhand create an attractive memorial

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A fine possibly hand-cut image of a sailing ship in full sail onto hard granite

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A custom officer’s family stone barely surviving

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Another fine design of a ship on this 1820 gravestone

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And again in this stone, a two-masted fishing boat of a type which commonly carried 6 crew

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Finally, Soapy Ogston.

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Ogston was as you might guess, a soap manufacturer in the city. Once a flax dresser he went on to produce soap and candles and you can scarcely imagine the fortune to be made in that trade. I believe James was Soapy and this stone is dedicated to Alexander, who started the chandlery business, his young daughter and grandson, also Alexander, who became an eminent surgeon.

The kirkyard ‘closed’ for burials in 1927.

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The abandoned St Clement’s East Church (Church of Scotland), was proposed as home to Aberdeen city’s archives at one time and later there was a proposal to remove its roof and allow it to decay. It is decaying albeit with its roof intact. It was sold to a housing association by the council.

The state of the church is one thing but surely Aberdeen City Council could send out a couple of people to clean up this important and historic graveyard. Or perhaps it might be done through a community service order. It would not take that much effort to have it looking in a reasonable shape again. What’s needed is a sense of respect for the dead of Fittie.