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Round And About 2
David Cameron MP and Slains Castle
Old Aberdeen Town House
David Cameron MP and Slains Castle
Mr Cameron's father, Ian Donald Cameron, hails from Aberdeenshire, but he left his home town of Huntly for the south of England in 1934, aged just two. His father, Ewen Donald Cameron, married Enid Levita, grand-daughter of Sir Alfred Cooper and Lady Agnes Duff, whose parents were James Duff (1814-79), 5th Earl of Fife and Chief of the Clan MacDuff, and Lady Agnes Hay (1829-69). Agnes Hay was the daughter of William George Hay (1801-46), 18th Earl of Erroll, and Lady Elizabeth FitzClarence (1801-56), who had married in 1820, both aged 19.

Lady Elizabeth FitzClarence was one of the ten surviving children of William Henry Hanover (1765-1837), Duke of Clarence, and his mistress Dorothea Bland, a (very successful) actress of Irish origin who used the stage name of Mrs Jordon, although she never actually married. Their ten surviving children were known as the FitzClarences. William, Duke of Clarence, was the third son of King George III, and succeeded in 1830, aged 64, as King William IV of Great Britain. In 1818, under pressure to regularise his situation, William had married Princess Adelaide of saxe-Coburg & Meiningen. They had two children, but they did not survive. William reigned until his death, aged 72, in 1837. He was an eccentric but popular King, not least by comparison with his predecessor and elder brother, the despised George IV.

King William IV was succeeded by his niece (by his youngest brother, long dead), the 19 year-old Alexandrina Victoria, who reigned as Queen Victoria until her death in 1901. The bizarre situation was that King George III and Queen Charlotte had produced 15 children, of whom 10 survived, being four sons and six daughters, resulting in no fewer than 56 grandchildren, but that Victoria was the only one of the 56 who could succeed to the Throne, all the others being born outside wedlock.

William George Hay, 18th Earl of Erroll, had Slains Castle virtually rebuilt over 1836-37. It was remodelled in the fashionable 'gothick' style by John Smith, the City Architect of Aberdeen. Slains Castle became a glittering centre of fashionable society, the arts and culture in the time of the 19th earl, William Harry Hay (1823-91), who played host to the most famous actors, musicians and singers of the day, including Bram Stoker, whose novel Dracula was substantially set around Slains Castle, and quite possibly around the 19th Earl himself.
2nd March 2006

Torry: Its Relationship To Aberdeen
In medieval times, Torry was a burgh of barony, which allowed it to hold fairs and markets, but otherwise it amounted only to the tiny village of Old Torry and a cluster of farms. There was no direct link with Aberdeen, other than the long way round via the Brig o' Dee. There were only the ferries at Craiglug, which gave the name to the Ferry-Hill, on the north side of the River Dee.

The Wellington Suspension Bridge was built in 1829 to allow the residents of Ferryhill to attend the large and impressive Nigg Parish Church, built in 1828 in Perpendicular Gothic style by the City Architect, John Smith. It superseded the ancient church of St Fittick at the Bay of Nigg, and its parish included Torry and the Lands of Torry. (See our page Planning Matters 5)

The southward diversion of the lower reaches of the River Dee began in the 1860s and was completed about 1880. In effect, the Dee was channelled along the southern edge of its originally wide but shallow estuary. This allowed substantial land reclamation on the north or Ferryhill side of the river, and the progressive southward extension of Market St. The Council proposed to build a new bridge over the Dee and to open up the area south of the river for residential development. The City of Aberdeen Land Association, founded by Sir Alexander Anderson, purchased huge areas of land on behalf of the Council on the perimeter of the Burgh, particularly in Rubislaw and Torry, including part of Torry Farm. At this time, the Council could have purchased the whole 115 acres of Torry Farm for �28,000. After years and decades of dithering, recrimination and vicious personal abuse, the Council ended up (by 1901) with a mere 39 acres of Torry Farm, for which it had had to pay a total of �76,500.

The necessity of building a new bridge downstream of the Wellington Suspension Bridge was highlighted during the April Holiday of 1876, when 32 people returning from a day trip to the beach at the Bay of Nigg were drowned on the overcrowded ferryboat at the Craiglug crossing. The five-arched Victoria Bridge was finally built in 1881, allowing a new suburb to develop south of the river.

Torry grew rapidly from the 1880s. Trawl fishing began in 1882, attracting fisher folk from coastal settlements in Kincardineshire and as far south as Northumberland. The closer integration of Torry with Aberdeen came about with the completion of the direct link via Market St. and the Victoria Bridge of 1881. Present-day Torry is almost entirely made up of tenements lining the main roads laid out on the north & west slopes of Tullos Hill by the City of Aberdeen Land Association from 1882 onwards. The original settlement of Old Torry was largely replaced, following compulsory purchase, by the Shell Sea Base.
27th April 2003

Old Aberdeen Town House
Aberdeen University plans to upgrade and refurbish the Town House to create a centre for exhibitions and events.

The Town House, at the north end of Old Aberdeen High St., is a quintessentially Georgian building, by George Jaffrey, dating from 1788; its image is used as the badge of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland. Solid and symmetrical in granite ashlar, it is of three storeys, cubic, the central bay with a pediment, a slate roof surmounted by a square clock tower and completed by an octagonal bell house with high dome or cupola and finial. Over the entrance door is a freestone panel showing the burgh coat-of-arms, dated 1721, with its Latin motto: "Concordia res parvae crescunt" - "By harmony small things increase". The panel's date may refer to an earlier town house on the same site. The accommodation originally included a grammar and English school and a hall for different societies. The Council chamber was on the second floor.

The ecclesiastical settlement or Kirktoun of Old Aberdeen (Aberdon?) was made a Burgh of Barony in 1498 by King James IV, after whom King's College was renamed. But the Burgh declined relative to "New" Aberdeen, mainly because Old Aberdeen was too far from the harbour; its relative decay was remarked on by Dr Samuel Johnson during his visit of 1783, whilst en route to the Highlands and Islands. Old Aberdeen lost its status as a separate burgh when it was merged into Aberdeen City in 1891. The Town House was used as a public library until recently. The former Council chamber, on the second floor, was for a long time occupied by a masonic lodge, now removed elsewhere.

The building is now in a deteriorating condition - window frames are rotting - and the interiors are much less interesting or typically 'Georgian' than one might expect; so the University's plans are to be welcomed.
18th Sept 2003

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