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Peterhead History

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.

New HMS Peterhead minesweeper, Royal Navy during the WW2

More interesting Pictures on Peterhead Community Council Website

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 mine.

Author Kenny Bruce

Boddam Castle

Boddam Castle, Aberdeenshire

The Boddam Castle lies c 3 km South of Peterhead on a level promontory between two deep vertical sided sea inlets.

A late sixteenth/early seventeenth century courtyard castle, built by the Keith family.

The Keith’s support for the Jacobite cause saw them ruined financially and the castle was allowed to fall into decay.

The remains of the 16-17th century Boddam Castle consist of the entrance archway, surmounted by a low gable, and one or two smaller arches as well as the complete foundation.

Boddam Castle
Picture by Kenny Bruce

What may have been the hinges of a drawbridge were found when a trench was cut in front of the entrance in 1868.

Boddam Castle comprises the remains of a curtain wall, c.33.0 m square, with the entrance in the West consisting of the West gable of a building with a round arched doorway and square window above.

Three gun-loops are visible. The footings of a range of buildings remain within the enclosure against the North and South walls.

Boddam Castle
The engraving was done in 1784 by an unknown artist.

the old streets

The Old Streets in Peterhead town

One of the old streets in Peterhead town used to be called Flying Gigs Wynd

One of the old streets in Peterhead town used to be called Flying Gigs Wynd.

Located between Broad Street and the Seagate, in the 18th century it was a narrow, twisty lane, largely populated by taverns, some of low repute!

the old streets
The old streets in Peterhead town

The most infamous of these was aptly named The Flying Gig and was owned by one Michael Flanagan, an avid buyer and seller of smuggled goods, indeed Peterhead’s most notorious smuggler, Alexander Elles, has a house which backed directly on to the lane.

Where does the name come from?

The most plausible suggestions are that it either refers to the small triangular pennant flag often seen at the top of sailing ships mast, this flag was often called a gig, or if could be that the name has become corrupted over time and was originally the Flying Jib Wynd.

the old streets
The old streets in Peterhead town

No one knows for sure, The Wynd is gone now and only the entrance remains, but I often wonder what went on down that lane every time I pass.

Credit by Kenny Bruce

Music Hall

Music Hall, Peterhead was built in our town, famous throughout Scotland

In 1873 a grand Music Hall was built in Peterhead, famous throughout Scotland, it was sadly destroyed by fire in 1936.

In 1873 a grand Music Hall was built in Peterhead, famous throughout Scotland, it was sadly destroyed by fire in 1936.

Now here’s the strange part of the story, directly behind the Music Hall is a street called Tolbooth Wynd, which in the Georgian period was the home to an infamous drinking den called Clockie’s House.

Music Hall

The inn was said to be populated by people of extremely dubious morals, and was often the scene of violent altercations and brawls between the locals and the Militia soldiers who were garrisoned in the town.

Local legend always maintained that Clockie’s two daughters were not adverse to luring some of these Milita soldiers outside, where they would be immediately bashed on the head by their hidden accomplices, who would then steal the soldiers money and possessions.

As I say just legend….until February 1937, when workmen demolishing the fire ravished Music Hall to start building the shops that were to replace it discovered two skeletons with the tattered remains of military uniforms still adhering to the bones

Credit by Kenny Bruce

undersea telegraph cable

Undersea telegraph cable, which had been laid in 1868/1869

The Norwegian – Scottish undersea telegraph cable

If you happened to be strolling along the seashore in town of Peterhead.

You might just notice what look like a couple of old steel cables sticking out of the sand, these old cables are in fact the remains of the Norwegian – Scottish undersea telegraph cable, which had been laid in 1868/1869.

The building you can see on the right of the postcard is the Telegraph Station, where the first news of the Russian Revolution in 1917 was received and transmitted to the rest of the world.

More modern communication methods became normal in the 1920’s and the building was utilized as a small house, until it was demolished in the 1960’s.

undersea telegraph cable
Undersea telegraph cable, which had been laid in 1868/1869
undersea telegraph cable
Undersea telegraph cable, which had been laid in 1868/1869
undersea telegraph cable
Undersea telegraph cable, which had been laid in 1868/1869

I’m still fascinated to this day when I see these old pieces of cable.

To think that news of one of the most momentous events of the 20th century was first relayed to the rest of the world by them, via our small town on the remote NE coast of Scotland.

Credit by Kenny Bruce

The Secret Room in Peterhead

The Secret Room in Peterhead

The Secret Room: Hidden beneath a road in Peterhead harbour area

The Secret Room: Hidden beneath a road in Peterhead’s harbour area is a remnant of the town’s ancient Spa complex.

The Secret Room in Peterhead
The Secret Room: Hidden beneath a road in Peterhead’s harbour area

For about 100 years between 1715 & 1815 the town’s famed mineral wells and bathing pools were visited by Scotland’s rich and famous (Rabbie Burns was a notable visitor).

During the Victorian era the Spa fell into disrepair and was gradually built over and forgotten about.

Behind the barred windows is a corridor which leads to a large square room with a square pool in the middle of it, I know this because I played in it many times as child.

The doorway was closed off and the windows barred when the latest harbour developments took place, but it’s fascinating to know that this part of the town’s history is still there, hidden from view.

Credit by Kenny Bruce

Arctic explorer

Arctic explorer Benjamin Leigh had new ship Eira built at the Peterhead yard.

Arctic explorer Leigh Smith Expeditions on board the Eira 1880, 1881-82

This gravestone in one of Peterhead local cemeteries hides a tale of Arctic exploration and adventure. The stone commemorates Alexander Robertson, formerly a crewman on the steamship Eira, which was built by the Arctic explorer Benjamin Leigh Smith in Peterhead.

Benjamin Leigh Smith paid for Alexander’s headstone.

Leigh Smith was a wealthy man and travelled extensively to the Svalbard and Spitsbergen regions between 1871 and 1882. In 1880 he had the ship Eira (a screw barquentine) built at the Peterhead yard of Messrs Stephen and Forbes. The whaling family, the Grays, helped with the building, with David Gray assisting in the drawing up of specifications. Leigh Smith made his next voyage to the Arctic in 1880, departing Peterhead on board Eira on 22 May.

On this expedition he took William John Alexander (Johnny) Grant as the official photographer. Grant had established a reputation as a polar photographer, having been on many polar expeditions and exhibited his photographs at the Royal Photographic Society, as well as being a Fellow of the Society and of the Royal Geographic Society.

Leigh Smith and his crew of 24 (mainly Scots and Shetlanders as was common for Artic exploration at the time) aimed to explore Jan Mayen but this was covered in mist. On 11 July, Eira met up with the Peterhead whalers Hope and Eclipse led by John and David Gray.

The crew of the sailing ship ‘Eira’ dismember a polar bear on the ice at the bows of the ‘Eira’ which is moored to the ice. A crew member stands on deck watching.

Arctic explorers
From left to right are: David Gray at the helm (Capt. Eclipse), Benjamin Leigh-Smith (Capt./owner Eira),  Arthur Conan Doyle (Surgeon Hope), John Gray (Capt. Hope), Dr.Walker and Dr.Neale, and William Lofley (ice master Eira) right at the stern. Pictures: Public Record Office of Northern Ireland

They were finally rescued by the Dutch ship Willem Barentzs and transferred to the Peterhead whaler Hope for the journey home. It’s thought Alexander Robertson died of the privations his body had suffered on the ice.

Part of information credit by Kenny Bruce

Peterhead History very rich and interesting

Peterhead History, everything that is possible you didn’t even know

The Plague came to town of Peterhead in 1645, it allegedly arrived in the town via a trunk of clothing that was sent to a maid servant working in the town.

Such was the fear of the plague that the sick and dying were transported to wooden huts, then outside of town, and left to die.

After several weeks the bodies were thrown into large pits full of lime and the huts were burned to the ground, it’s said no one went near the place for a hundred years!

New Peterhead

The old map shows the location of the plague huts, the modern day photo shows the general area where the huts stood.

Credit by Kenny Bruce