In the 1890s, Dr Cramond made a very careful transcription of what was written on every gravestone in the old St Mary’s Kirkyard of Banff, and incorporated it in his Annals of Banff, along with footnotes about many of the historic families. The BPHS has brought out a re-publication of Dr Cramond’s list. As time and weather have taken their toll, it often means that only a few words are still legible on a stone, but Cramond has the full inscription. The book is invaluable for family historians. The Society is planning to supplement this publication with another, giving more details on the Kirkyard. The publication was possible because of a grant from Aberdeenshire Council.
The Society has devised a walking tour of Banff, and this booklet, illustrated throughout, includes a map and follows the route of the tour. Building after building has an interesting history, and you see Banff with fresh eyes. There is no better way of encountering a historic town than walking round it on foot. There are granite number stones in the pavements, coinciding with the numbers in the book. The publication was possible because of a grant from Aberdeenshire Council.
Situated at the mouth of the River Deveron on the Moray Firth, the Royal and Ancient Burgh of Banff grew up round a royal castle. Most of the historic town is Georgian, filled with the townhouses of the gentry who came from miles around to the county town. It was Jacobite and lived by smuggling, with two earls, Findlater and Fife, struggling for dominance. Banff's long heritage is evident in landmarks that date from the eighteenth century and before. The later story of Victorian Banff is very different. The town prospered through the herring trade, and was known for its wealth of shops and civic pride. This diverse history and Banff Preservation & Heritage Society's battles against thoughtless demolitions in the 1960s are presented in this unique volume of old and modern photographs. By exploring what was lost, but also what was saved, Banff is seen in a new light.
Banff is a good site for a castle, a bluff at the mouth of a river. So the royal and ancient burgh was founded because the kings of Scotland had a castle there. Edward I of England, the Hammer of the Scots, spent time in Banff Castle, and Banff was the last outpost of the English in the north of Scotland in theWar of Independence. Like several other burghs, the town's modest wealth came from salmonnetting at the mouth of the river. Banff traded with the Baltic. The core of the town plan, the remains of the castle, and names like Carmelite Street, are all that is left of medieval Banff. After the kings, the town was dominated by local noblemen, the Ogilvies, the Grants, and then the Duffs. But the Ogilvies died out, the Grants preferred Cullen, and the Duffs built Macduff as their own town, so perhaps none of them quite controlled Banff as they might have hoped. Instead in the eighteenth century lesser gentry built themselves town houses, the politics of the town was Jacobite, wanting the old Stuart kings back, and the economy relied quite heavily on smuggling. An English family, the Robinsons, started industry, and built themselves the grandest houses in town. Banff was an attractive Georgian town,where respectable ladies and half-pay offices would choose to retire. In the nineteenth century, though Macduff was much more prosperous and go-ahead, Banff did flourish. The railways came, the herring fishing prospered. There was a cultural life. The parish minister, the rector of the academy, and the editor of the Banffshire Journal were all honorary Doctors for their national quality. In the twentieth century the Dukes of Fife left Duff House, the railways closed, the industries were at a low ebb, the county of Banffshire was merged with others,and the older buildings were seedy and unloved. "Ding them a' doon". But it is still a delightful place to stay, and there are hopes of a Banff renaissance.
Dr Douglas Hunter is one of our members, now living near Newcastle-on-Tyne. He has written this wonderful book of memories going back to the 1930s. At random, he can name the boat we can still see a little bit of the wreck of in Banff Bay; he can remember the box that flashed from white to red to blue to green at the top of the Strait Path, advertising the Banff Operatic Society; and did you know Banff had its own method of steering sledges? This book is irresistible.
Banff Preservation and Heritage Society and Museum of Banff
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