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
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