Banchory Worthies



Quaint and well-known characters of Banchory....


There were many quaint and well-known characters in Banchory during the last century.

Martha Grant, The Banchory Strachan Carrier - Old Martha Grant was the carrier between Banchory and Strachan. Her "carrier's cart" was a wheelbarrow, and this she trundled full of parcels and boxes, between her home in strachan and Banchory, twice or thrice every week!

In those old days, the village barber and hairdresser was one Mrs Webster who plied her trade in Dee Lane. She was a massive woman, and possibly there are some of the older residenters in Banchory who will remember, as small boys or girls, having their hair attended to by her.

In Watson Street, near to Castle Airy, was the Wyvers' Shed, where many old fabrics were woven, and next door stood the premises of Tommy Menzies. Piles of hollow wooden trees stood beside his door, for it was he who manufactured these trees into pipes for the householders' pumps - at that time there was no such thing as "hot and cold" laid on.

Katie Bremner, The "Witch" - An old body named Katie Bremner lived near to where the railway crosses the road at the west end of the Burgh. She kept a cow, and always wore a black velvet band across her forehead. The children were convinced she was a witch. On one occasion some small boys and girls were playing on a grassy bank beside her house. They were busily engaged in blowing "off" dandelion clocks, and if you did not succeed in blowing off all the fluff at one puff, the other children would call out: "Your mother's a witch, your mother's a witch." Just as this was being called, out of her cottage ran old Katie. "Don't you dare call me a witch," she cried, and she ran towards the children shaking her stick, while they, needless to say, took to their heels.

Dr McHardy and Johnnie Mennie - The late Dr (and Provost) McHardy had once as coachman that well-known Banchory worthy, Johnnie Mennie. Johnnie Mennie had a very sharp tongue and a quick wit. Dr McHardy and he had a difference of opinion, and Johnnie left the doctor's service. A short time later Dr McHardy met him in the street. "Well," he said, "and what are you doing now?" (Johnnie was now working with a butcher). "Oh," said Johnnie, "Ah'm daein' fine, ah'm working wi' anither butcher noo!" On another occasion he had attended some meeting, and on being asked if there was a good attendance, he replied: "Oh aye, there was Mennie fae Chapel Brae, there was Moir fae Brig o' Feuch and there was Mutch fae Dee Lane".

"Postie Mary" - In the years of the nineteenth century the wheelbarrow was a far more dignified vehicle in Banchory, than it is now! Mention has already been made of Martha Grant, the carrier, and her wheelbarrow. Her Majesty's mails, too, were conveyed by wheelbarrow! "Postie" Mary, the old post-woman, did her rounds with a high-sided barrow containing parcels and packages for the country folk around the district. One cannot help feeling it is a great pity that these old relics have not been preserved in some local museum. They would be of great interest today.

It is believed that at the top of Mount Street in the Captain's Wood there stood in ancient days the grim gallows on "The Gallows Hill."

Johnnie Moir - Old Johnnie Moir at the Brig o' Feugh will be known by name to the older residenters in the Burgh. He kept a wee "Shoppie" and though blind was, like many people suffering with this great affliction, very cheerful and most independent. He had a blackboard outside his shop, and wrote various self-composed verses and rhymes regarding what he had to sell. He had lines of string drawn parallel across the blackboard for each line of verse, and thus despite his blindness, he was able to write his rhymes in straight lines by the feel of the string-lines. Many of his old verses were later published under the title of Feugh Spray.

Mr Davidson of Inchmarlo and his Flying Machine - In the latter years of the nineteenth century, Banchory was the scene of an abortive demonstration of flight. George Davidson of Inchmarlo had studied aeronautics for a considerable time, and he was convinced that a machine could be made to fly on the principle of the wing beats of birds. He would not agree that the conquest of the air could be gained by a machine with a propeller at the nose. Nothing in nature flew like that - they all need side wings - hence his argument. He invented a machine made of wood which had affixed at the sides "wings" which flapped up and down when operated by someone in the machine, rowing as in a boat.

Great was the excitement in Banchory on the day of the of the trial flight. People flocked to the site of the demonstration in the Burnet Park, and various photographers set up their cameras and tripods at different points of vantage. Upon a signal from Mr Davidson the machine was to attempt to take the air, and that was the moment for which photographers and public waited in a a state of tense expectation.

At last the signal came. Cameras clicked as the strange machine vigorously flapped its wings. Then it half rose into the air and crashed to the ground. The "pilot" was luckily unhurt, but the machine was badly damaged. Thus ended the attempt to conquer the air.

Failure though it was, George Davidson had at least achieved something. He had shown that the "wing-beat" method was not practicable, and thus stimulated later inventors to concentrate on the propeller drive which made flying at last possible.

Donald Munro and Harry Lauder, etc., - The late Donald Munro was a "kenspeckle" character in Banchory. A director and local manager of A & G Paterson's Sawmills at Silverbank, he was for many years Provost of Banchory. Donald Munro "ran" concert parties which performed all over Deeside and beyond. It was he who first brought the great Sir Harry Lauder to the fore. Harry Lauder was then comparatively unknown, and he sang his Scottish songs in the concert parties of Donald Munro. 10,000 was raised by Donald Munro and his wife for War Charities during the Great War.

The Book of Banchory
By V J Buchan Watt

Burnett Arms, Banchory