A walk back in time through the town centre streets

Taking a walk down Longate.
Taking a walk down Longate.

We continue with our theme of street names by acclaimed author Robert Neish...

It is common knowledge that following the Declaration of Indpendence by America in 1776, which France, Spain and Holland all recognised, the towns on the east of Scotland were in daily fear of invasion and accordingly, in 1780 a Battery and a Company of the Aberdeen Militia were posted to Keith Inch.

The advent of the officers and men in their scarlet duffle coats, white vests, britches and stockings was an irresistible attraction, as it has been throughout the ages, to the female sex.

Their daily visits to the Batteries and their preambulations from the Meikle Battery to the Little One to the north of the island soon followed a well-defined path, which was christened Pleasure Walk.

With the formation of a volunteer company in 1808, Pleasure Walk became the rendezvous of fashion and romance when courtesans and society beauties bedecked in hooped crinolines flauted their charms before the admiring eyes of bewhiskered and immaculate gallants.

There is many a tale told in old letters of who the eminent Miss so-and-so paid an extended trip to the Continent after frequenting Pleasure Walk!

Now Pleasure Walk is but a faded negative of the past.

Retracing steps from Keith Inch we come to Bridge Street.

Here would explain that Bridge Street is built on top of a sand back which originally gave access at low tide to Keith Inch and when first built the street continued by a granite block causeway across Trot Valley to connect the mainland to Keith Inch.

For over 100 years Bridge Street was really a bridge to Keith Inch, but in 1847 it was decided that a junction canal between the North and South harbours was a vital necessity.

So, in 1849 the Bridge Street causeway was demolished, the sea returned to its original domain and on May 1, 1851 the Junction Canal was officially opened.

‘Farmers Lane’ is derived from the fact taht the second and last Flesh Markete stood on the site of the present fish salesroom.

When a plan of the proposed fish salesroom was submitted to the Superiors they objected on the grounds that the Charter stipulated that only a Flesh Market could be built.

After various deputations to the Superiors, one worthy member of the deputation complained that the writing in the Charter was so bad it was impossible to tell whether it was a Flesh Market or Fish Market.

The superiors admitted that such was the case and waived all further objections.

Brooke Lane to the north end of the Longate is so named from a small brook which drained the marshes to the west of the Longate and trickled down the brae to the sea.

At the corner of Brook Lane and the Seagate there used to be a semi-circular public house known as the Half Moon Bar. It was demolished in 1870.

There is another lane or wynd which I am often asked about which connects the Seagate to Broad Street - Flying-gig Wynd.

The only explanation I can offer for this name is that from 18830-50 there was a public house or shebeen - Proprietor Michael Flannigan - which flaunted the sign of a Flying Gig.

I have no doubt that the establishment was more a shebeen than a ligitimate public house and that on many occasions it was necessary for Michael’s guests to board a flying gig to escape the officers of the law!

Continuing up Broad Street we find Society Close which is so named because the various trade societies at one time held their meetings in the hall which was situated there.

Going to the south side of trhe Common Gait or Broad Street, the streets have little historical interest. James Street originally called Mounthooly and Narrow Lane, originally called Ark Lane.

Both streets, along with part of St. Andrew Street, were referred to as ‘the Back Road’ by reason of the fact that offenders were escorted from the harbours to the Tolbooth by the Back Road so as not to offend the susceptibilities of the nobility who resided in Broad Street.

Ellis Street and Landale Road are named after popular factors of the Merchant Company; Queen Street, Prince Street, York Street, Charlotte Street and so on are patriotic names and have no historical significance.

Thistle Street was so named as we cannot have a rose without a thistle.

In the Kirktown we have Weaver’s Lane where the mill weavers resided and in the Roanheads we had such euphonious names as Lobster Wyne and Partan Lane, but like the lobsters and partans in the vicinity, they have disappeared forever.

Chapel Wynd or Street was named when the third Chapel of St. Peters was built in 1767.

Backgate was then known as Fore Street, but when the Episcopal Church was built, owing to the religious persecution of the times, the adherents of Episcopacy took a round-about approach via the Drummer’s Corner and up a path now Back Street or along the Longate and up to the Backgate, to the chapel so as not to be seen by inquisitive eyes.

Consequently, these streets became known as their present names.

Windmill Street was the street leading to the windmill at the Priory Monkisholme.

Originally it was given the name of Cairdwell Road and that was because it led to the Priory Well at the top of Windmill Brae, where the cairds or tinkers were permitted to squat in the shelter of the priory ruins.

Many people are at a loss today to know why there is a walk along the Ugieside known as the Collieburn Path.

It is maintained by a community of feuars as an amenity of the town, yet there is an immemorial right of way along the path so far as the Collieburn.

The path was part of the original Drove Road to Fraserburgh which commenced at the Hillock in the Roanheads and continued round the coast to Buchanhaven and along the Ugie to the first ford at the Collieburn.

It then continued over Craigewan Links and along the coast past Broadlands House, now Rattray House, over the Back Bar at the Loch of Strathbeg, which was really a ford at the mouth of the Loch, then to Boatlea and on to Fraserburgh.

The road was used by packmen and cattle drovers to avoid the payment of toll at the Bridge of Balmoor, which was instituted in 1686 and latterly with the construction of the Peterhead Fraserburgh Turnpike Road in 1813, to avoid payment of tolls in Blackhouse, Mid Essie, Cortiebrae, Rathen and Fraserburgh.

Although tolls were abolished in 1866, and packmen continued to use the road for many years after that time.

Several parts of the road today are completely impassible for all vehicles except tractors.

When we reflect upon some of the names which our City Fathers have bestowed upon our newly laid out streets, we can only hope that, if posterity can find half the interest in the street names of today which we can find in those of the past then we shall not have lived without leaving some footprints in the sands of time.