Two years ago, I began a post about the recently-refurbished Marischal College, and I never finished it. However, I thought some of you familiar with Aberdeen might be interested to see what they’ve done. As an academic institution, Marischal College [pronounced “Marshall”] has existed since 1593. Marischal was a Protestant institution, created after the Reformation, in contrast to the Catholic King’s College, founded in 1495 a mile and a half away in Old Aberdeen. In 1860, the two joined forces, and together they constituted the University of Aberdeen. The building you see below was designed by Alexander Marshall Mackenzie and was opened in 1906 by Edward VII. I believe it’s one of the largest granite buildings in the world:
Marischal College was used by the medical school until at least 2005. I remember going to give a workshop on memory tricks to a group of medical students in the anatomy lecture theatre there, and noting with a shudder the large drain on the sloping floor. The University of Aberdeen vacated the building and some years later Aberdeen City Council took a 100-year lease on it, and renovated it. It was very badly in need of renovation by that stage. For a while, as the mouldy rooms were being gutted and some rooves replaced, the shell of Marischal College looked pretty sad. I remember encountering a woman standing in front of Marischal in tears. She and her husband had come to Aberdeen especially to visit the place where they had studied, and she hadn’t known about the severe renovations.
The new council headquarters opened in July 2011. There’s a newly-commissioned statue of Robert the Bruce in front. He’s important to the history of Aberdeen because in 1319 he gave the Forest of Midstocket to the city. Prior to the renovation, cars and people entered Marischal through an archway, which you see just behind the statue in the photo above. Before the start of the annual Torcher Parade (the student charity campaign parade), the students used to assemble in the courtyard behind the closed gates, and rattle them until they were ceremonially allowed out to begin the parade.
That archway has now been incorporated into the building, and the opening is now a glass entryway. Once inside, looking straight ahead you see this:
The day that I visited, these doors were locked and you could only gaze through. The door at the far side of the courtyard used to be the entrance to the wonderful Marischal Museum (immortalised in Leila Aboulela’s story “The Museum”). I’m not very sure what has happened to the museum space itself, although some of its contents are now in the small King’s Museum on the King’s College campus.
Standing in what used to be the arched entrance to the courtyard, if you look left, instead of seeing a dark granite wall, you see a reception area:
And looking to the right, another public area:
Meanwhile, demolition has begun on the eyesore across the street, St. Nicholas House:
I’m sure we weren’t the only ones to be disappointed to learn that there won’t be a dramatic controlled explosion to bring it down. Such a thing would pose too great a risk not only Marischal College, but also to the lovely Provost Skene’s House, which is nestled at the foot of St. Nicholas House, now surrounded by tall hoarding. I hadn’t realised that Provost Skene’s House was to be closed for a year. By the time I went to pay a farewell visit in March, it had been shut. However, I welcome the day when it will no longer be overshadowed by this hulk of a building!
On a more personal note, packing is going well here. We “flit,” as they say, a week tomorrow. Also, I was happy to hear that the new royal baby arrived safe and sound. I was hoping it might be a girl, since she would have been the first female to be in line for the throne since they changed the rules. In weather news, although yesterday was the hottest in Britain for seven years, Aberdeen had a high temperature of 18.5C / 65F. Back to normal!