Heritage – People, Language & Traditions
The Heritage of the North East of Scotland
We were delighted to interview Dr. Fiona-Jane Brown for our podcast and she shared her insights into the heritage of the North East of Scotland. Dr. Brown is a local historian, author and tour guide with Hidden Aberdeen Tours. Dr. Brown has written several books about local history including her very popular Hidden Aberdeen: history on your doorstep and under your feet. In this book, Dr. Brown explores the city through new eyes, revealing new stories from the past and bringing the modern city to life. There’s the last resting place of Robert Hitchens, who was at the wheel of the Titanic when it struck an iceberg; Royal connections including James III’s night on the town before he was crowned; the brutal murder of a monk by so-called reformers and the strange nineteenth-century animal cruelty case against the city’s Jewish community. If you would like to hear some of her stories about Aberdeen, then you can have a sneak peek preview by listening to some of her podcast stories.
In our podcast, Dr Brown talks about how the people of the North East have developed the character trait so smile in the face of adversity and strive to keep traditions alive. She also discusses how Doric is part of daily life and how local groups are preserving the oral heritage. To listen to the podcast follow the link below.
Our next episode with Dr. Fiona-Jane Brown is now available. This time we learn more about notable Aberdonians and the local Doric Dialect. We also learn about the darker side of the city as Fiona-Jane talks about her Hidden Aberdeen Tours.
History of Aberdeen
The city was originally comprised of two burghs, Old Aberdeen and New Aberdeen. Both settlements were incorporated in 1891 and became an official city in the North East of Scotland with a population of 121,623. The city went through a significant change from from the early 1800’s with large development projects such as the building of Union Street which transformed the medieval Burgh into a thriving community. The story of how Union Street was built is special as there were a variety of challenges which had to be overcome before construction to start.
The Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Archives are a fantastic resource for anyone who would like to know more about the city and the people who lived in it. Their Facebook Page offers regular stories of happenings from days gone by. Below is one of their recent postings.
What a cracking image from our colleagues in City Libraries!
Read more about the City
There are some great books you can read about the history of the city, here are a few recommendations from the Hidden Aberdeen Tours Facebook page:
Adams, Norman, ‘Blood & Granite: True Crime in Aberdeen’ (2008) (As referenced by Dr. Fiona Jane-Brown in her second episode)
Anderson, Raymond, ‘Images of Aberdeen’ (Breedon Books: Derby, 1994) (Paperback published 2004)
Bale, Bernard, ‘Aberdeen and the North East at War’ (2005)
Fraser, Hamish et al, ‘Aberdeen 1800-2000 A New History’ (2000)
Keith, Alexander, ‘A 1000 Years of Aberdeen’ (2002)
Morgan, Diane, ‘Lost Aberdeen’ (2009)
Morgan, Diane, ‘Lost Aberdeen: the Freedom Lands (2009)
Morgan, Diane, ‘The Granite Mile’ (2008)
Morgan, Diane, ‘Lost Aberdeen: the Outskirts’ (2007)
Smith, Robert, ‘Aberdeen Curiosities’ (2007)
Stevenson, Jane and Peter Davidson. ‘The Lost City: Old Aberdeen’ (Birlinn Ltd: Edinburgh, 2008)
People of the North East
There is a generic view that Scots have a strong tendency to identify as working class despite occupations and levels of education that indicate a middle class status. Scotland has a social democratically inclined middle class with a strong sense of its roots in the industrial working class and the formation of the welfare state; there is a widespread belief that egalitarianism is inherent in the national culture. This appears to be supported, again stereotypically, by a number of people we have spoken to recently.
Traditionally people worked the land or worked the sea, were used to working hard and didn’t make much fuss about those conditions. They tend to have a dry sense of humour and are not generally boastful as this was historically frowned upon due to a conservative church upbringing.
Always proud of their heritage and their roots in the region, you’ll now find the people are happy to share and talk about their experiences and memories. Their unique traditions are something to be celebrated and preserved.
Read more about the people of the North East
Northcroft, David ‘Grampian Lives, Volume 1: Early Century Lives and Memories 1900 – 1950’ (2010)
Northcroft, David, ‘Grampian Lives, Volume 2: Twentieth Century Lives and Memories 1950 – 2000’ (2013)
Doric the local Dialect
The University of Aberdeen’s Elphinestone Institute have created a 3 part video about the local Doric dialect. The first of which is linked below and the rest can be found on their YouTube Page. The local dialect has become more prominent in recent years with not only the awareness to record and preserve the oral traditions but also there are a number of efforts to encourage new outlets too. Very recently we have the addition of Doric TV on Facebook, there are Doric poetry clubs and radio programmes too. Although it may take a little while to get the hand of it, you can pick up the local language pretty quickly. Although it may never sound totally right when you try to speak it, inevitably a few words do sneak into conversation every now and again. Ye’ ken?
The language of a region is a vast topic and we may well come back with more episodes about this subject in the future. For now we trust the videos produced by the Elphinestone Institute will provide the reader with more information.
Traditions of Aberdeenshire
In the podcast Dr. Fiona-Jane Brown speaks about the tradition of burning the Clavie. Below is a video sharing this special tradition.
There are several other traditions which centre around the New Year or Christmas. There is the Fire Balls festival in Stonehaven on New Years eve which is similar in that it uses the symbol of fire to ward off the evil or negative spirits so we may start the new year with a clean slate. Just before midnight starting from the harbour in the old part of Stonehaven, a team of fireball swingers set off from the harbour, accompanied by the pipe band to walk the main street swinging flaming baskets of wood with long wire ropes over their head. They then retrace their steps and throw the still burning wood baskets into the sea.