A Description of My Native Place: A Short Essay by Margaret Dey

Laura, from our Glucksman Conservation Centre was cleaning a volume when she came across a short essay that took her back in time to her own childhood.

When you are surface-cleaning a volume page by page, you concentrate on the physical aspects of the item, rather than what’s written on the pages. Occasionally, a word will catch your eye before you turn to the next page, and last week I spotted the word ‘Peterculter’. The volume in question was created by Margaret Dey, a then student at the Aberdeen Church of Scotland [teacher] Training College, 1901-1903, certified in 1905.

M Dey
Class photograph from ‘Aberdeen Church of Scotland Training College, Classes XXII to XXXIV’ LAa N3.1 T.C.2

The following is a transcript of the page (MS 3826/1/4)

“Essay: Description of my native place

My native place is the Anguston district in the parish of Peterculter. It is a quiet retired place but with very beautiful natural scenery. The land is for the most part cultivated, though in some parts we have still tracts of heath. The first object remarked by a stranger is the little stream, Gormac which rises far up among the hills and flows in a winding course to the east. It is a pretty little burn with a gentle current of clear water. On a summer evening nothing could be pleasanter than a walk along the burnside. Pasturage is abundant and cows may be seen quietly feeding. For a short distance the wood of drum stretch along the left bank. The Gormac shorty unites with another stream – the Leuchar which rises in Skene. The two then flow together for a while, finally entering the Dee. Plenty of flowers are found in the locality – primroses, water lilies, queen of the meadow, ragged robin, thyme, etc. and the braes in summer are a pretty site. In winter the whole aspect changed. The burn is frozen, the ground looks bleak, and the flowers are gone. Yet there is beauty in the scene. We see the rugged nature of our district best in winter and we like the dull rush of the burn under its icy covering. Then away to the south stretches the great mountain range of the Grampians, purple in summer with heather and white in winter with snow. They are very stubborn objects and we admire and love them.

Our district produces corn, barley, rye, potatoes and turnips, the land being divided into crofts and farms held from the “land”. Some hilly parts have not yet been “taken in” and these are fed on by sheep and cattle. Three varieties of heather grow there in summer and autumn. The “Scottish Blue-bells” also flourish here.

No manufacture is carried on in our immediate neighbourhood, hence the air of peace which hangs over everything. About ten years ago the Anguston quarry was worked and then there was a greater stir in the place. The quarry is no longer worked, the only industry being farming. The village of culter is one and a half miles away. There the paper manufacturer is carried on and there is a large population. Not far away we have a meal mill, two husking mills and a saw mill but as they are small and carried on by private enterprise they do not increase the population.”

When I was little, my family used to take our bikes and cycle from the Duthie Park along the ‘railway line’ – more commonly known as the Deeside way – to Peterculter and back at the weekend. It is a fantastic rail trail route, along a greenbelt near the river Dee, with sections of birch trees, the old platforms and even a few station buildings. In the 1980s-90s – before the new Holburn bridge was built – you used to have to go down onto Holburn street and cross the road to continue the route. I remember in the spring, if you stood on the pavement, next to what was left of the original rail bridge, the wall had small gaps, at the perfect height for children to peep into, you could see the busy nests of Blue Tits inside. The memory I just recounted is almost 100 years later than Margaret Dey’s essay, but I adore how she described the area perfectly, and I could visualise being back there. Though sadly, I have forgotten a lot of the names of the flora. Something to work on this summer!

2 comments

    • Thank you, Maggie! It has spurred me to dig out the old Collins ‘Wild Flower’ book and I’ll be taking it with me for future Aberdeenshire walks 🙂

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