The Doric Columns
Fishtown, Fittye, Futty, Fittie or Footdee
plan, drawn by
shows Aberdeen Harbour in
Fittie Village in 1769 was a remote hamlet for Fishermen of narrow passages and parallel linear cottages on the bank of the Shorelands then washed by the Dee and the Denburn with exposed Inches between the shallow navigable channels. To the east and west of the Blockhouse and where Pocra Quay stands now were a series of 7 short jetties projecting at right-angles to the shoreland. This defined the then busy fishing boat haven or Pock Raw near the Stell Salmon Fishing Reach and the narrow tidal Navigable channel leading past the reclaimed shorelands with built up quays to the Weigh-house or Pack-house and the Trinity Quay. A drainage ditch had been dug from the Pack-house towards the Pow Creek and Pock Raw. There appeared to be a short Bulwark constructed along where the Lower and Abercrombie Jetty was later built. The Blockhouse vista stood sentinel over the stone lined sharp interior corner of the Sandness and the Seaward Estuary looking towards the Torry Bulwark which was the then only deep water berth for large vessels. The similar village of Nether Torry linked by a common interest reflected this arrangement but without projecting jetties West of the Torry Pool and Pier of Torry side of the River. The Torry Bulwark ran from almost opposite the Blockhouse to where Skate Nose Jetty stands now leaving a small beach between its start and the Pier of Torry for landing the small fishing craft of Nether Torry.
During the digging of a service trench at 3 South Square, Footdee, Aberdeen in the 1980s, 4 black-glazed post-medieval jugs were uncovered. The 4 large jugs or jars were probably 18th to early 19th century in date and may have been made in Aberdeen either at the substantial quayside Pottery at Pocra Jetty in Footdee or at the Clayhills Pottery. The jugs had been slightly 'squashed' from the round allowing them to be more easily packed in crates or determined as rejects.
It was at
Aberdeen Map 1789
The Later Layout of Fittie
Footdee is a particularly interesting example of a planned housing development purpose-built to re-house Aberdeen's local fishing community. Laid out in 1809 by John Smith, then Superintendent of the Town's Public Works. Smith went on to establish himself as one of Aberdeen's key Architects. Occupying an isolated spit of land to the South-east of Aberdeen's City centre, its regimented squares have been described as `a cross between the neo-classical aspirations of Aberdeen and the close-knit fishing communities of the North-east'. On an 1828 map, the new housing squares were specifically labelled 'Fish Town'. 'Footdee' referred to the larger area from St. Clement's Church to 'Fish Town'. Later, the name 'Footdee' was erroneously used to refer specifically to the housing squares, with 'Fish Town' becoming forgotten. The 2 squares of 'Fish Town' (known as Footdee), originally contained 28 single-storey thatched houses although this increased when the later Middle Row (circa 1837) and Pilot Square (circa 1855) were added. The entrances on each of the North and South squares were filled in the 1870s by William Smith (son of John and Architect of Balmoral Castle). He also added additional storeys to the East and West sides of South Square creating a tenement feel. This was an attempt to ease crowding resulting from an influx of fishing families from other less prosperous areas and to help try to enforce the `one-house-one-family' rule.
When the original village was built around the open squares, the houses were uniform in width, height and depth with similar doors and windows; the only features which distinguished 1 house from another may have been the colour of the painted door or its individual number, the sheds or wash houses. The St. Clement Free Church School grew up with the village. The 1st major change to the small-scale intimate character of these single-storey dwelling houses occurred after 1880 when the Town Council sold off their ownership interests - the Council are still Superiors - and this enabled, in some cases, the new owners to increase in height their properties to 2 or 3 storeys or attic Tenements, for example 29 and 30 North Square. Fortunately, 100 years ago building materials being restricted, the new extensions were constructed with granite walls and windows thereby retaining the Architectural character of Fittie. Recognising the importance of this ﬁshing village in its contribution to Scotland’s Heritage, in 1965 the Secretary of State included all the buildings in the Squares (except 21 South Square which had been inappropriately altered) and 1-5 New Pier Road in the list of buildings of Architectural or Historic interest. These buildings are listed category B which means that they are primarily of local interest, being good examples of early 19th century, North East of Scotland ﬁsher’s cottages.
At the corner of the Beach Esplanade and opposite the Footdee Sawmill is a public toilet. That was a unisex bog. It had a box with a row of holes for bared bums, flushed by water, like the Grammar School toilets (when I went there in 1947 for a few months.) Chest high partitions separated each bum hole from the next, measured from where you sat. Hence you could converse while you went thro' your motions, so to speak. My Granda went in to do his business there in the late 40's. He was a very shy man. Imagine his mortification when a middle aged, rotund woman came in with her messages (shopping), put them down, hoisted up her claes, dropped her spoil sports, and plumped down on the seat in the next stall. "Aye, aye?" she said turning to him, as he frozen in horror. "Handy things es eh?" she said, after a series of collossal farts. My Granda never knew they were unisex Latrine. We often went for a walk down there to the pier, when you could walk along its entire length, and watch the "bore" wave wash along below into the Harbour, and fowk fishin for shitie sadies (Seths) or Mackerel which fed around the sewer outlets, and admire the waste turds belching out from the Powcreek sewer outlet near Abercrombie's Jetty at the start of the pier. He usually recounted his story when we used the bogs. Different days. Hard fowk wie nae pretentions - Fraser H
French Invasion Scare - Aberdeen Volunteers 1791-1802
Whalers of Fittie
The Jawbones contained oil as do all whale bones so they were often taken on board the ship and hung from the rigging. Holes were drilled in the bone to allow the oil to seep out on the long voyage home. This oil was particularly pure and highly prized. Back in port, the arc jaw bones were valued as gate-posts, and even used as structural supports for the roofs of sheds. Whaling Captains and the Civic dignitaries also erected them as symbols of the Hunt and Civic pride in the Whaling Industry.
The photograph shows the Footdee Waterside home of Alexander Hall, one of the foremost Aberdeen Shipbuilders of the 19th century. Footdee was for many years the home of the white fishing community, but the gardens of Waterside contained relics of the whaling industry. In the early part of the 19th century a flourishing Whale Fishery operated from Aberdeen and whale jaw bones formed in arches, as in the above photograph, were at one time a common sight throughout the City. These arches have now all but disappeared, however, 1 such arch remains in Stewart Park as a reminder of times past. The Park contains whale jaw bones presented to the community in 1903 by the Captain of the Arctic Whaler Benbow.
John Smith, Architect 1828. Neo-perpendicular, pinned rubble. Rectangular with tower. Refurnished 1874, further alterations by Mathew's & Mackenzie 1885. Wall dated 1650; enlarged 1788 and again 1819. Inscription on churchyard wall: George Davidson, elder bvrges of ABD; Bigit this dyk on his ovn expenses 1650.
The St Clements Church is a fine building with a tall Clock & Bell Tower with 6 pinnacles and a pinnacle at the top of each corner of the building. Among the most imminent people buried there is David Grant, the Composer of the famous Psalm "Crimond". A plaque at the door entrance gives these details, while near the South entrance there is a large Granite Coffin which is more like a Tomb, to the Duthie Family, Ship merchants and who gave the Duthie Park to Aberdonians to enjoy. Another is of the Hall family, of the famous Hall Russell Shipbuilders.
John Duffus & Co., Manufacturers of steam engines, chain cables, anchors, locks, hinges; millwrights, machinists, and shipbuilders, their Works entrance was off St. Clement Street to the left of the Graveyard. There was a large Iron Works behind the St Clements Church bordering the Links and Garvocks Wynd. The nigh square site housed a Crane, Pattern Shop, Boiler Shop, Chain Shop, Turning Shop, Fitting Shop and Store. Satanic Fires adjacent to Saintly desires. Duffus also had a ropeworks on the Links adjacent
An interesting association between Aberdeen and song, concerns the beautiful ballad, "The Boatie rows," attributed to an Aberdeen Jeweller, one John Ewen. For half a century his claim to the authorship was undisputed. Then a Glasgow writer asserted that the song had been known for a 100 years before Ewen's time (he lived in the latest years of the 18th century and beyond). It was said to have been called "The Fisher's rant of Fittie" - Footdee being Aberdeen's "fisher's town," and to have been merely "abridged' by Ewen. But no proof of these assertions seems to be offered. Nor has any other copy of any older version been found. It seems, however, quite possible that John Ewen may have taken some coarse, local rhyme, and lifted its subject to a higher level. It is hard to imagine that the name "Fisher's Rant" could ever have been given to verses so full of the simple dignity of humble life as these.
When Sawnie, Jock, and Janetie,
Hirplin - crippling
Aerial pictures of Footdee in 1938
John Ewen (1741–1821), is credited with the authorship of the well-known Scotch song, ‘0 Weel May the Boatie Row'. Ewen was born in Montrose in 1741 of poor parents, and received only a very slender education. Having saved a few pounds he went in 1762 to Aberdeen, where he opened a small hardware shop. This appears to have prospered, but the chief rise in his fortunes was owing to his marriage in 1766 to Janet Middleton, 1 of 2 daughters of a yarn and stocking maker in Aberdeen. Through her, who died shortly after giving birth to a daughter, he became possessed of 1 half of his father-in-law's property. Ewen died on 21 Oct 1821, leaving, after the payment of various sums to the public charities of Aberdeen, about £14,000 to found a hospital in Montrose, similar to Gordons Hospital, for the maintenance and education of boys. The Will was challenged by the daughter's relations, and after conflicting decisions in the Scots Court of Session was appealed to the House of Lords, who, on 17 November 1830, set aside the Settlement on the ground that the Deed was void in consequence of its want of precision as to the sum to be accumulated by the Trustees before building and as to the number of boys to be educated on the Foundation. ‘O weel may the boatie row’ was published anonymously in Johnson's ‘Scots Musical Museum.’ It is thus characterised by Robert Burns: ‘It is a charming display of womanly affection mingling with the concerns and occupations of life. It is nearly equal to “There's nae luck aboot the hoose.”
Fittie Rangers Football Club House with the fishing net repair enclosure behind well fenced off from the public. Beyond the outer metal fence was a rocky outcrop with barb Wire defence stanchions anchored to the rock - this was a route to the North pier and a source of limpets and Buckies. The fishermen would stretch out their nets like washing on long poles to repair working damage with a bobbin of Yarn and weave in and out to magically repair any rends with their deft skills. Alas all such skills have now died out.
St Clements Aluminium Cantilever Harbour Road Bridge was short lived.
Loons Line Fishing off the old wooden Jetty at Pocra for Saithes and Sole
Old Roundhouse and Custom House
The 1st locomotive for the Aberdeen Railway was built in Simpson & Co's York Place Iron Works in 1847, shortly before its closure in 1849.
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