Posted by: christinelaennec | January 25, 2011

Wordie’s horses

And now for a piece of Aberdeen history.  A while back, I was helping the church officer shovel the snow on the church paths.  Since the disabled ramp was put in, there’s a lot of path to be cleared – she works very hard and usually without help.  When we were done, she said something about “workin’ as hard as een a Wordie’s horses” – working as hard as one of Wordie’s horses.  She saw my puzzled and interested expression and asked me if I knew about Wordie’s, which I didn’t.

She told me that in days gone by, Mr. Wordie owned the carts and horses that worked at the harbour.  His business was located off Harriet Street, where the Bon Accord Centre (a large shopping centre) now stands.  She said that every morning, Wordie’s horses left to go down Market Street to the harbour, and every evening, up they came again at the end of their long day of hauling and carting.

Wordie’s is long gone, but it lives on in the expression “working as hard as one of Wordie’s horses” and also in the name of the Ale House on Schoolhill, just around the corner from where Wordie’s used to be.  I’d walked past this pub many a time:

Wordie's Ale House, Schoolhill, Aberdeen.

Until my friend told me what the name commemorated, I’d never understood the significance of the stained-glass window over the door:

"Een a Wordie's horses": stained-glass window over the door to Wordie's Ale House, Schoolhill, Aberdeen.

How much history goes right under our feet every day without our knowing!



  1. You’re so right, Christine. Social history seeps away as time passes. How lucky for us that some of it gets caught in corners, or leaves a mark. Luckier still, to have a person point us in its direction, with an explanation.

  2. language is so wonderful, isn’t it? i remember you recently writing about conversation you had overheard … it’s great that you take time to listen to people and not just be absorbed in your own head. the picture of the stained glass window at the pub is really beautiful.

  3. The stained glass is beautiful and hopefully will help the memory live on.
    When we came to Edinburgh in 1985 we lived at Haymarket and were wakened in the mornings by the brewery horses clopping up the street with their load of barrels.

  4. I totally forgot to wish you happy Burns night…here it is belated.
    Lots of warm hugs
    Heike x

  5. So nice to hear this anecdote about our family company. The name does still live on and fascinating that there are still people remembering so far into the past. I was introduced to an old man the other day, who immediately asked the connection. He had the memory of when he was a boy, aged 6, near Tain, and Wordies had collected the milk. Another story comes from Glasgow, about Wordie’s cavalry. To get up some of the hills they needed an extra horse, and the young lads who escorted them were paid by the journey, so they charged down the hill afterwards. Hence the phrase – beware of Wordie’s Cavalry. This I got from a former girlfriend’s grandfather, who worked for Wordies. The Railway Carriers is the story of the company, and makes an interesting read. Plenty of copies come on eBay at regular intervals.

  6. Hi Christine, lovely story to read , as are the replies….Beautiful stained-glass

  7. I love that stained-glass window!

    BTW I clean my stones by holding them (for 1 minute) under cold water, just before I lay them down, once a month, in the light of the full moon so they get there energy back.

  8. Dear All,
    Thanks for your lovely and interesting comments. Jamie, I am very honoured that a Wordie has found this post – it makes it all come full circle. I’d assumed that no-one much would be interested in hearing about this. How wrong I was! I really treasure hearing people’s stories about the past, and I love having this blog to capture them on.

    • Hello Christine……
      My uncle David Gregory used to work for the railway in Aberdeen and used to use the horse and cart known as wordies delivering the parcels from the railway.

      I used to go with him during the school holidays and help him deliver his parcels………his route was St. Nicolas Street..Schoolhil….George street..John Street…St. Andrews street….and also Loch street where he stayed at No. 72.

      When he finished his round he used to take his horse and cart back to the stables which was up the Denburn to Woolmanhill turned into John street and turned into the stables at where the locksmith was and is still there…When he retired from the railway (Wordies) he was presented with a gold watch after 45 years service…I myself is now a 71yr. old but in my young day IU went to St. Pauls street School.

      MyI thank yourself and all the people who wrote in.

      Gordon Duncan (Inverness)

      • Dear Gordon,

        What wonderful memories of your uncle! I can exactly picture your route, although Loch Street has been transformed since then. I wonder if no. 72 still exists? I will have to have a look as I often walk by there. Thank you very much for sharing this with us, and all the best to you.

  9. My mother, who’s lived in Aberdeen since the mid 50’s, used to talk of Wordie’s lorries. I assume the horses were put out to pasture and replaced by mechanised vehicles.

    Your post reminded me of another famous Aberdonian trader, Cocky Hunter, who ran a junk shop in Castle Terrace. It was renowned for being a complete hotch-potch of second-hand goods.
    People in the north-east still use his name to describe anything messy and disorganised.

    “That bedroom of yours is like Cocky Hunter’s”

  10. The horses were put to pasture, and lorries took over – until nationalisation. After that Wordie and, their Stirling rivals, Cowan went to Northern Ireland and there they had a joint venture of Wordie Cowan. When lorries of Mars bars were getting blown up, the company then closed there as well.

    It is sad, but doing family tree research one has to have a Google Alert on your own name, to see what comes up. Christine, your article was greatly appreciated.

  11. If I remember correctly, my Great Grandfather worked at Wordies, and there was a family story about my Grandfather being named after a favourite horse… 😀

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