Posted by: christinelaennec | July 2, 2011

Thrifty uses of granite

When I was a graduate student, I was friends with a wonderful bookbinder named Polly Lada-Mocarski.  At that time she was in her mid-80s, but walking down the street behind her you would have thought she was 40.  One of the things she said that has remained with me was:  “The older I get, the more I’ve come to appreciate vellum.”  She explained that this fine leather used in medieval manuscripts was one of the most hard-wearing materials you could make a book out of, and will last far longer than paper.

Well, to paraphrase Polly, the more I live in Aberdeen, the more I’ve come to appreciate granite.  It will probably outlast even vellum!  Much of the architecture here shows how varied and interesting this stone can be.  But what I’d like to show you today is how builders in Aberdeen also recycled granite in walls.  It’s not uncommon to pass a wall, like this one, that has pieces of polished granite incorporated into it:

Wall in Aberdeen: note the three pieces of polished granite that the builders incorporated. The reflection of a nearby red car is visible in the second piece along.

I presume that such pieces of polished granite – sometimes they are much less regularly shaped than these squares – were spoiled by a monument-maker.  I had wondered whether the carving of Christ on the Spital might have been one such “rescue”.  It’s great that they’ve continued to have a life.  And some of them are very beautiful indeed.  The three in this wall are all a special kind of granite, perhaps Norway Blue?  (My neighbour, Mary MacDonald Morrison, would have been able to tell me.)  Look at the depth and the colours in it:

Close-up of the polished granite in the wall. Aberdeen, June 2011.

The colours and the light shift as you move past – it’s really beautiful.

I hope you are finding beauty in everyday things this weekend!



  1. Fascinating – both the photos and your words! And yes, come to think of it I am finding lots of beauty this weekend. It’s quite easy doing that in Stockholm, not least summer mornings and evenings. Thanks for reminding me of paying attention to everyday beauty.

  2. it’s interesting that Aberdeen has such a rich granite history. i will have to look into that more when i get a chance. we were at a wedding of a cousin’s son yesterday and everything just glimmered and shone .. it was very beautiful. i was happy just to enjoy the excitement of the couple getting married. thanks for the reminder that it’s good to count our blessings and to appreciate even the little things.

  3. It is interesting to see the beautiful stonework….recycling at it’s best! A nice reminder to pay attention to life’s surroundings and find the beauty. Thank you for the reminder and a lovely glimpse into more of Aberdeen.

  4. In praise of granite! I especially loved Aberdeen in the winter – granite sparkling in the frost. I remember one particularly frosty dusk, when a rose light suffused the granite buildings.

  5. Lovely and inspiring photos Christine. A lot of ideas come to my head on how to put these into knitting 😉

  6. Dear All,

    Thank you for the comments! Once again I’m amazed that these little things I find interesting should also be of interest to others.

    Asplund – I would love to visit Stockholm, but in the meantime I will have to enjoy photos.

    ajb – the wedding sounds wonderful! Yes, Aberdeen actually had a Granite Festival earlier this year but I kind of missed it… I’ll have to hope they do it again.

    Karen – glad you enjoyed this glimpse into the minutiae of Aberdeen!

    Linda – yes indeed, the Silver City is particularly beautiful on those pink frosty days. I’ve tried many times to capture the glinting granite with a camera, and have never really succeeded in doing it justice. But I haven’t given up!

    Knitsister – ha ha! Well if anyone can use granite as an inspiration in their knitting designs, it’s you!

  7. Dear Christine,
    What a beautiful post! I’ve always had granite around me and it’s one ingredient of my happiness, particularly in its motley, rough-cut varieties. Brittany has a wonderful stretch of coast called ‘la côte de granite rose’. A reddish granite is also what you find in Eastaquorthies. The stones from that circle apparently came from Bennachie, which is quite a distance! So back then, too, folk must have found it very special.

    • Dear Clemence, [Wordpress seems to be rebelling against ALT+ accents tonight, sorry]
      I’d forgotten about the “Cote de la granite rose”. Of course Cornwall is full of granite as well, and I suppose at one time Brittany and Cornwall were joined? Anyhow, yes, pink granite is lovely. People must have prized it to carry it for miles and miles. I will post about granite again!

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