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Peterhead History

Peterhead Bar

Peterhead Bar was built round about 1770

Most iconic structures Peterhead Bar was built round about 1770

One of Peterhead’s most iconic structures, the building housing what we knew as the Union Bar was built round about 1770 by Alexander Elles.


One of the Baron Baillies, a respectable pillar of the community and solicitor by day, Elles was the most prolific smuggler in North East Scotland by night !

He picked the site of his house carefully so that he could have an uninterrupted view of the sea from his attic and watch out for the ‘Crooked Mary’, the most notorious smuggling lugger on the coast, his cellar was built especially to hide contraband in (mainly brandy & rum), he was even known to hide smuggled goods (tea) in the Town house itself (buried under the floor apparently)

Anyone familiar with the geography surrounding the Union Bar will know that it used to back on to Flying Gig Wynd, home of the Flying Gig Inn, the favourite smuggler’s hangout in Peterhead, just a coincidence ??

Alexander Elles died in 1791 and left an estate of £15000, an absolute fortune for the day, smuggling must have been a profitable business indeed !

The building’s exciting history was added to during WW2 when the Norwegian Secret Service used the basement of the building as a base for their operation in the North Sea.

Credit by Kenny Bruce


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Peterhead Bar
Peterhead Bar was built round about 1770

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HMS Peterhead minesweeper

New HMS Peterhead minesweeper, Royal Navy during the WW2

HMS Peterhead was a Bangor-class minesweepers built for the Royal Navy during the Second World War.

HMS Peterhead J59 So far she has been the only ship of the Royal Navy named after the Scottish town of Peterhead.

She was built by Blyth Shipbuilding Company, of Blyth, Northumberland and launched on 31 October 1940.

HMS Peterhead min 1
Pics by Stefan Girling

Under the command of Lt Cdr David Croom-Johnson RNVR (later Lord Justice Croom-Johnson), she took part in Operation Neptune, the assault phase of the invasion of Normandy and was mined off Utah Beach on 8 June 1944.

Croom-Johnson was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross for Peterhead work in Operation Neptune.

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Pics by HMS Peterhead in the Bay of Biscay on 30 December 1943

Peterhead was declared a total loss, and was sold for scrapping on 1 January 1948. She was broken up at Hayes, of Pembroke in May 1948.


Scotland roads

Scotland roads, ancient and perhaps the most intriguing.

Scotland has many ancient roads, and perhaps the most intriguing are the coffin Scotland roads.

The coffin Scotland roads were often just rough tracks through glens and mountains, but they were vital for transporting the bodies of the deceased from remote locations to consecrated ground for burial.

Some can still be traced today, one such road is St Edderens way, which traverses Aberdeenshire’s Mormond Hill between the villages of Strichen and Rathen.

The corpse were transported over the hill from Strichen to Rathen, as Strichen did not have a kirk or cemetery when it was built. Mormond Hill itself is a place steeped in myth and legend, one one side is a giant white horse made of stone, on the other side a giant white stag

On top of the hill stands the ruin of a hunting lodge, the date stone bears the legend “Rob Gibb commands 1779” Rob Gibb was Charles the Second’s court jester and it’s thought the inscription is a veiled Jacobite toast to the Stuart dynasty.

On the coffin road are many ancient sites of interest, in particular the Resting Cairn, where the coffins of the deceased were rested on the stones until the pall bearers felt refreshed enough to continue their journey.

Perhaps the greatest enigma of a Mormond Hill is that some historians have theorised that it may be considered as the site of the fabled battle of Mons Graupius between The Picts and the Romans.

I make no such claim, Mons Graupius has been attributed to locations all over Scotland !

All the photographs are Kenny Bruce.

Author Kenny Bruce