Posted by: christinelaennec | October 12, 2012

A walk in Old Aberdeen, September 2012

At the end of last month I had the chance of a wee walk around Old Aberdeen, and of course dear readers, I saw things I wanted to share with you.  You might be surprised to know that the building below is a Nursery for children of staff and students at the University of Aberdeen.  The door you see here is blocked off (the entrance is on the other side), so that no small ones can bolt out into the street.  I like walking past and hearing the children inside chatting at their snacktime behind the windows.

The Rocking Horse Nursery, Old Aberdeen

We are starting to see some fall colors here in Aberdeen.  The Virginia Creeper is always beautiful.  Here is a photo of it on the building called “New King’s”:

Virginia Creeper, New King’s, University of Aberdeen, Old Aberdeen.

I had a wander through the churchyard at St. Machar’s Cathedral.  I love walking through graveyards.  There are so many interesting stories suggested by the few words on the stones, and I always feel I gain a bit of perspective on my own problems.  (You know things are bad when you go to a graveyard to cheer yourself up!)  I was struck by the American connection on this one:

Gravestone in St. Machar’s Cathedral churchyard, Old Aberdeen.

David Crichton and Isabella Rose’s son Alexander [Crichton] died in Faribault, Rice County, Minnesota, in 190?.  I wonder when he went to the States, what he was doing there, and whether he’d made a new life for himself, perhaps with a family.  I wonder whether he’d ever been able to return to see his folks in Woodside, Aberdeen?

I’ve always been fascinated by the coat of arms on the side of this house.  It looks as if it’s been placed in a niche that might originally have been for a pre-Reformation statue.  The wide doorway, perhaps to allow a coach through, has been blocked off and made into part of the house itself.  And why the wide lintel?  Answers on a postcard please.

House in Old Aberdeen.

I love the villagey feel of Old Aberdeen.  What a marvellous use of this small space some enterprising gardener has made:

Private entryway in Old Aberdeen.

I have been taking this walk for over 20 years now, and in all that time the quirky ornaments in this window seem hardly to have changed.  Whoever owns them keeps them well-dusted.  I particularly love the pig looking through the telescope:

Window in Old Aberdeen

In our age of conformity and sameness, it’s wonderful to see a building display an almost playful lack of symmetry.  Of five windows, only two look to be more or less the same proportions:

Building in Old Aberdeen with many different sizes of windows!

It’s humbling to think of the many people whose feet have trod the same cobblestones that I do along on this walk.  I love living in a place that’s steeped in history.  I just wish I understood a bit more of it!



  1. What a lovely selection of photos, I feel I’ve enjoyed a little amble in Old Aberdeen this morning. I love the wall with the different sized windows and the magnificent building with the creeper on it. I’m wondering if the library would have books about Old Aberdeen, I imagine someone must have documented these lovely old buildings. It’s great when you learn something more of the history, it really makes a place come alive when you get to know about its past.

  2. I love how you notice things that others wouldn’t. Lovely photos, full of intrigue! xx

  3. Love this post – what a lovely collection of photos!

    It shames me sometimes how little i know of Aberdeen – i’ve seen very few, if any, of these places before and really don’t pause to appreciate the city as much as i probably should.

    Thanks for that reminder. i’m glad someone has taken the time to notice these things xo

  4. I love wandering in cemeteries, too, and I do the same thing as you: imagine the past lives. Himself and I explored a cemetery on the Georgia coast, full of 18th century graves. One family had buried numerous children, all under the age of two years old. Then there was “Our Isabella,” who had died at four (or five — I can’t recall), and I said to Himself, “Don’t you just know they thought ‘Maybe this one will live’?” But she didn’t.

    Your photos gladdened my heart, as they always do!

  5. Thanks for sharing the photos! I love the nursery building! And I would not want to dust that many figurines in that other window!!!! My husband has his PhD from Aberdeen so I’ve been there once (in a terrible downpour). I’m sure I would enjoy visiting again.

  6. The beautiful stone work, the unique windows and vines creeping on the wall all remind me of the nearly 300 yr. old Stonehouse Farm where my cousins live near Boston, MA, USA. The worn floor boards and fireplaces in nearly every room storied my imagination. The fossil butterfly imprint in a stone over the front door celebrated both homely permanence and lively transformation to me. Thanks for sharing you walk with us, Christine. I have explored a few graveyards myself, too, and had similar musings as well. :)]

  7. Lovely photos, I should do the same in the Broch as there is some fantastic architecture if you look up.
    That doorway looks as if it has been altered a few times, coaches, then rounded, presumably the lintel was to support the upper story which may have been an addition. It also reminded me of the times when an off shoot of a religious sect would preach from an upper window! It does really set you off wanting to know more…

  8. Your walking tour of Old Aberdeen was wonderful! I do love the nursery, just like in a Beatrix Potter story, I should think. Your window of figurines that have kept you company all these years are quite the companions and all facing outward for passers by to enjoy! And yes, the Virginia Creeper growing up the stone building reminds me of Boston, my childhood city. Old houses and buildings really do have their own stories – so much history and life. You live in an enchanting place, Christine. Thank you for the little walk. I hope the weather holds out for you to keep walking as long as this beautiful season allows. xx

  9. Yikes! A little strange to encounter “home” in a blog post about Aberdeen, home being southern Minnesota, in the town next to Faribault. It’s an area mostly settled by Poles, Bohemians, Germans with a handful of Irish and enough Scandinavians to produce a church. Not many Scots in that area. Wonder what brought him there? Did he ever go back to Aberdeen? Are his descendants still around?

  10. the Virginia creeper is gorgeous and i like the different-sized windows as well. how marvellous to have so much history close by.

  11. Lovely! Makes me so homesick for happy years in Aberdeen. What is now the nursery was once the home of good friends of ours. He was the Norwegian lecturer in the Scandinavian Studies department. I remember it as a very cold house in winter – the hallway had a stone flagged floor. Our friends lived there with their 2 small children – one was just a baby. I remember the living room was upstairs, at the top right window. They had lots of lovely Scandinavian touches – rugs and wall hangings and I think I remember an open fire. I also remember going there for a meal and enjoying for the first and last time in my life a dish containing liver. It was cooked in the brown Norwegian goats milk cheese, gjetost.

    And your house with the intriguing coat of arms was where I lived for 4 years! Two of my good friends had the room (in succession, because it was tiny!) above the crest. The house belonged to the University, and at that time was the home of the warden of a nearby hall of residence. Four bedrooms were let out to students. The room with the bars on the ground floor in the archway was the family kitchen, which was lovely and cosy with an Aga and squashy sofa.

  12. I love graveyards too! For 20 years I worked right next to the biggest “necropolis” in the southern hemisphere…it was so good to enjoy the quietness and encouragement to self reflection at the end of the day. And as you say, so many miniature stories.

  13. Enjoyed this post so much. Thank you. Mr. Crichton died in 1902. It would be interesting to learn his story.

  14. Dear all,

    Thank you for all your comments. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who enjoys wandering through cemeteries!

    Ellen, there are some other gravestones in St. Machar’s churchyard with a similar “roll-call” of children dying. One of the questions I used to ask myself was: did parents in bygone ages love their children less than we do now because they knew the chances of them dying was substantial? I really don’t believe so. Of course this is what is happening in other parts of the world right now.

    Gracie: a butterly fossil imprint over the door – how astonishing!

    Suze, that is a funny coincidence! The world is small, both in time and in space, I find.

    Linda: well now, I was hoping someone could enlighten me but little did I think you would have such in-depth acquaintance with two of the buildings in this post! Imagine that. Thank you for your reminiscences.

    oldblack: thanks for your comment, especially at a time when graveyards are not just a theoretical consideration for you.

    Marjorie: perhaps it would be possible to do some research. Did you read the date on the stone or did you find out another way?

  15. I can’t tell you how lovely it was to see these images – Old Aberdeen still remains as one of the loveliest, most time-forgotten places to wander about in. I used to have my English lectures in New Kings and my room in halls backed onto St. Machar’s graveyard. I always tell my students about how the Scots word for a poet is a ‘machar’ – some one who crafts something out of words. Do you think you might fancy a wander down by the Brig of Balgownie sometime and take some pictures there? I would love to see how Autumn is treating the trees in Seaton park, down by the river and from on top of the bridge. Thanks so much, Judy.

    • Dear Judy,
      I’m glad you enjoyed this. I would dearly love the chance to wander down to the Brig of Balgownie and Seaton Park, but unfortunately my duties as a carer are so immense at the moment that I have very few such opportunities. I’ll keep it in mind, though!

  16. As usual, I love seeing another part of the world and hearing your thoughts on it. The stones and the walkways are so unlike what we have here in my neck of the woods. I’ve never really walked through a cemetery for pleasure, but I’m going to put it on my list of things to do…it sounds like I might benefit from a stroll through one.

    • Thanks for stopping by Lisa! I’m glad you enjoyed the little tour. Do let us know if you end up enjoying a cemetery stroll!

  17. Thanks for sharing the photo’s of your walk. I find them realy beautiful. You live in a wonderful town. I also love graveyards and especially the very old ones.

    • Carin, lovely to hear from you. Yes, it is a beautiful place. I’m glad you understand my attraction to graveyards!

  18. Neat! Keep walking. A change of scenery can be so helpful.

    The time I’ve spent in various parts of Europe has given this American such a sense of history. “Old” in Europe means something different than “old” in the U.S.. When strip malls proliferate, I love seeing roads and buildings that were built to last. I thinks that’s why I enjoyed your photos of the mailboxes so much.


    • Thank you Kelly! Keep walking is excellent advice for me just now. I know just what you mean about different “olds”. It’s all relative. As you say, it’s wonderful to see things that were built to last, no matter how long ago that was.

  19. Hello, Christine!

    I often wonder things when looking at a headstone in a cemetery, too. Who was this person; what was his life like; why did he make the choices he made? I like visiting cemeteries for this reason – makes me think. People think this is kind of a morose fascination, but I disagree. ❤

    • Hello Stacy Lyn,
      I’m so glad you understand! You have a keen eye/ear for a good story so I’m sure that’s part of the fascination for you.

      • Oh yes! I think of all the untold stories when I visit the departed. I hate to think that their lives’ stories have been forgotten. ❤

  20. Hello Stacy Lyn,
    Thankyou very much for sharing this with the world, if it wasn’t for you I would never have stumbled upon this page, you see David and Isabelle are my sister inlaws ggg Grandparents, there other son David Rose Crichton came to Australia and there are a lot of descendants from him here.
    The family didn’t know much about David and Isabelle and didn’t know about Alexander, you have given us a lead to follow, thanking you with all my Heart.

    Julie Salerno

    • I forgot to add Alexander died 15 Dec 1902

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