Posted by: christinelaennec | April 2, 2011

Education, Salvation and Damnation

The Scots are very good at finding nicknames for people, places and things.  One of my favourite examples is the nickname that Aberdonians have given to an important architectural feature of the city centre.  Across from the lovely Union Terrace Gardens (whose days may be numbered, as I wrote here) stand three buildings:  the Central Library, St. Mark’s church, and His Majesty’s Theatre.  They are known as “Education, Salvation and Damnation”.

Education, Salvation and Damnation (library, church, theatre), looking West. Aberdeen, September 2010, about 6 pm.

Education Salvation and Damnation, looking East. Aberdeen, September 2010, in the afternoon.

They’re all beautiful examples of the use of granite in our Silver City.  You can see some photographs of the inside of His Majesty’s in the post I wrote about the Christmas Panto here.  And here is a photo of the cupola at the far end of the library, in the snow:

Cupolas and towers at the end of the Central Library, Aberdeen. December 2010.

There are some beautiful lamp-posts in front of the library, which were recently restored and repainted:

Restored lamp-posts in front of the Central Library. Aberdeen, March 2011.

(I think these four photos illustrate so well the different lights we enjoy here in Aberdeen, depending on the season.  I should have had a fifth:  summer light at 10:30 pm!)

There are some other nicknames for places in Aberdeen that I like.  There’s “Split-the-Wind,” where George Street and Causeway End meet at a pointed promontory, and also the infamous “Haudagin” roundabout.  This roundabout is the intersection of two 6-lane roads and is always difficult to cross and navigate.  “Haudagin” means “Hold on again” – as in what happens when you start to cross the roundabout, but then are forced by traffic whizzing around from the other side to brake suddenly!

I would love to know about other Scottish nicknames for places, in Aberdeen or elsewhere.



  1. these buildings have been kept up so well. they look really clean and the blue on the lamp is like a robin’s egg blue. sorry i can’t think of any nicknames of places just now.

  2. Hahaha, great names, love Scottish humour … and the blue lamppost 🙂

  3. Lovely post …I don’t know any Scottish nickname, I only know my Scottish friend calls me Red ( gues the colour of my hair…)
    Hugs and take care

  4. I was just showing Mark your lovely blog and we both agree on two things: We must make a journey to Aberdeen as it seems a beautiful city and you take fabulous photographs.
    Hope all is well in Portland/Oregon

  5. “Fitty Folk, Kitty Folk,
    Country Folk and City Folk.
    Folk fae Constitution Street
    And Folk fae Rubislaw Den.
    Wallfield, Nellfield,
    Mannofield and Cattofield,
    List to local stories that professors dinna ken.”

    One of the MANY things I love about Aberdeen are the nicknames, and the really strong sense of local identity within the city. Much stronger than here in Edinburgh, in my experience. I know we have Leithers and the whole Morningside thing, but not the richness of Fitty and Kitty, Constitution Street and Rubislaw Den.
    I will try to post on some local nicknames on my blog.
    Hope things are going okay.

  6. I suppose many people who live in Aberdeen get sick of the greyness and long for bright sunshine and strong contrasts, but I just love the light that you’ve chosen for Education, Salvation and Damnation on 25 September at 6pm – the top picture. It seems to be just right for the granite of this magnificent set of buildings, so beautifully portrayed in your photograph.

  7. Dear All,
    Thanks so much for your great comments, as usual. Things in Portland are going well and I’m much reassured.
    Linda, I’ve never heard that rhyme – the last line is certainly true nowadays. I’d think there are very few professors at either of the universities in Aberdeen who are actually from the city itself. It’s interesting that you perceive less of a sense of local (micro?) identity in Edinburgh. Perhaps that’s because it is a bigger city, and a capital city?
    oldblack, I’m so glad you like the late afternoon light in the top photo. We do actually get quite a few more sunny days than places on the West coast of Scotland. But I think we would never have quite the same light as in really hot places.

  8. I suppose you’ve already heard the Glaswegians calling the Clyde Arc “the squinty bridge” and the nearby SECC auditorium is called “The Armidillo”. When I lived in Newcastle the Sage concert hall was called ‘The Slug’ by some (it’s good, I recommend you visit it if you are ever down that way) and of course in London we have ‘The Gerkin’.

    I think there is more of a tendency to nickname modern buildings than older ones in Britain. I don’t know whether that shows our suspicion of modern architecture or a sense of humour in puncturing the pretention that often goes with it.

    • Dear Purlpower,
      Those are all great nicknames, thanks. I think you’re right about the spirit of puncturing pretension!

  9. The rhyme is a very famous Aberdeen one, by Harry Gordon. He was an entertainer in the first half of the 20th century – think precursor of ‘Scotland The What’. The fictional village of Inversnecky was part of his act. Scotland The What continued this with the invention of Auchterturra, peopled by your Newmachar farmer.

    • Ah, the great Harry Gordon! I have heard of him, but didn’t know the rhyme and also didn’t realise he’d invented Inversnecky. That explains the name of the cafe at the Beach! I’ve seen clips of Scotland the What – hilarious. Thanks for explaining!

  10. These buildings take my breath away! Living in Australia we don’t get to see much of this type of architecture so when I do I am in raptures. I’d love to visit the library, I’m sure it’s also full of swirls and ornamentation. Where I live on the Gold Coast in Queensland all the libraries are modern, lots of glass windows and open plan design with self check outs.
    We also love our nicknames, everything and everyone cops it at some stage.

    • Dear Vicky,
      I’m glad you appreciate Aberdeen’s Victorian granite. I’m not sure that the inside of the library is as ornate as you imagine – I will have to take a close look next time I’m there. Another blog post, perhaps?

  11. Get fed up with the greyness of Aberdeen, not likely. Although I was I wasn’t born in Aberdeen but down the coast a bit and I spent most of my life working in different parts of the country, coming back to Silver Aberdeen, on if you are lucky a sunny day just after some rain is absolutely magic. I’m very glad that you excluded that thing they built on the end of Damnation from your pictures. The new cafe is awful, architecturally I mean.
    The weather may not be brilliant, but on the other hand we seem to avoid the worst excesses that other parts get, so I wouldn’t live anywhere else.
    We are so lucky with our architecture both external and internal, I just wish the planning department would be a bit more strict and make modern developments fit in with our heritage..

    • Thanks for your comment, Niall. I have mixed feeling about the blue glass box tacked on to Education, Salvation and Damnation (the cafe). It is a pleasant place to sit when you’re inside, but what I really dislike about it are the changing screens and projections on the side. You come up Schoolhill and wonder what the flashing blue and purple screen is looming before you…

      • Which is why I never approach it from that side 🙂
        At least it’s better than the Borg Cube ( new Kings College Library) great facilities but oh dear!

  12. Did the rhyme not include the old Schoolhill Railway Station /Restauarant as well

  13. I’ve been here a good few years but I’ve been learning a lot about Aberdeen from your current and older posts – they’re a treasure trove of delightful information, thank you!

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