Posted by: christinelaennec | September 9, 2010

Old Aberdeen: Seaton Park and St. Machar’s Cathedral

At the beginning of August, Michael and I suddenly found ourselves in the decidedly disconcerting circumstance of being free of parental responsibility one Sunday evening at 6 p.m. It was a beautiful end of a summer’s day, and so we went for a walk in Old Aberdeen.

Old Aberdeen used to be a separate township from Aberdeen City a mile and a half to the south.  The Old Aberdeen town hall is still there, though it’s now owned by the University of Aberdeen.  Although Old Aberdeen is now rather centrally located, with the city sprawling out for miles on three sides  (if they could build on the sea, they would I’m sure!) it still feels like a village.

We walked up the street called The Chanonry (so called because the Cathedral’s Canons lived there, I believe):

The Chanonry, Old Aberdeen

And we peeked in the gates of the Mitchell Hospital.  These cottages built around a small courtyard were originally alms-houses.  Someone had a peat fire on that evening:

Mitchell Hospital, the Chanonry, Old Aberdeen. Originally built as an alms-house, in 1801.

We continued past St. Machar’s Cathedral:

St. Machar's Cathedral, Old Aberdeen

St. Machar’s means a lot to us.  My sister was married there, and both our children were baptised there.  When we lived nearby we used to walk to church on Sundays, up the beautiful Chanonry.  St. Machar’s has a long history.  Legend has it that Machar, a contemporary of St. Columba, was guided in a dream to build a church where the river had a bend like a shepherd’s crook.  It’s believed that there has been a church on the site since the year 580.  The current cathedral is a medieval building that survived the Reformation relatively unscathed – the back half of it was lopped off, but honestly you’d never notice now.

Because the Sunday evening service was in full swing, we kept on going, down into Seaton Park.  And here we seemed to be entering another kind of cathedral:

Another cathedral: Seaton Park

During term-time, the park is constantly traversed by students walking from Hillhead Halls to the King’s College campus of the University of Aberdeen.  But on this August evening, we seemed to have the entire place to ourselves:

Floral parterres, Seaton Park, Old Aberdeen

Scottish saltire executed in bedding plants: Seaton Park, Old Aberdeen

On our way back, we went through the churchyard at St. Machar’s.  I liked this headstone with the friendly-looking angel:

Wedderburn headstone, St. Machar's Cathedral churchyard, Old Aberdeen

The headstone reads:  “To the Memory of WILLIAM WEDDERBURN, Late Gardener at Foresterhill who died 26 December 1764 aged 74 years.  Also his Spouse ELIZABETH EDWARD who died 7 January 1769 aged 77 years.  Likewise ELIZABETH WEDDERBURN Daughter to JAMES WEDDERBURN, Gardener at Crabstone, who died 21 July 1795 aged 22 years.”

I presume James was William and Elizabeth’s son, and therefore Elizabeth was their grand-daughter?  Perhaps some Wedderburn genealogists will know.  I like how even on more modern headstones women are referred to by their maiden names in Scotland.  And I like the thought of the two men who were gardeners.  At that time, Foresterhill (where the hospital is now) and Craibstone must have been large estates.  I imagine this headstone would have been a big investment for the family.

And so we were at the end of our walk, and our time travels, and we went to pick up the Dafter.

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