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Queen's Links

The Links & Stinks

‘Vpon the east syd of the cittie and of Futtie ther lyes many fair fields, fruitfull of corns, quheat, bear, oats, pease, and pot herbs and roots. Thes are marched by the fields near the sea syde called the Lynks.
Parson Gordon

The Links
With the exception of that part of the
Broad Hill which is comprehended within the limits of the Parish, the surface of the whole of the east and north parts is nearly level, and but very slightly elevated above the sea; but in the south and west parts, the ground is more broken, rising into several eminences of small height, one of which, the Heading Hill, may be said to lie beyond the limits of the town on the east side, (although a few houses are built on it, and on the adjacent grounds to the north,) while the others, known by the names of the Castle Hill, St Katherine's Hill, the Port Hill, and the School Hill or Woolman Hill, are occupied by the streets and buildings of Aberdeen.

In 1647 there was a Plague in Aberdeen resulting in over 1,700 deaths. A number of the graves of victims were found on the Links about 200 years later, during sewer laying.

In 1514, in 1546, and again in 1647, the Plague raged with considerable violence in Aberdeen, and for the safety of the other inhabitants, the sick were lodged in huts erected in the links.  Great efforts were made to ward off infection during the Plague, but the disease gained an entrance.  As soon as persons were seen to be smitten they were removed to huts in the Links, where those who did not recover were buried there.  An entry in the Burgh Records tells a sad tale.  For casting 37,000 feal to cover the graves of those that died in the infection and were buried among the sands.  In making a sewer along the links some years ago the burial-place was crossed east of the Rope Works (near Fittie), and many bones were met with. More recently many skeletons were found in the foundation of a house in Carmelite Street. Bodies of persons who died of the plague had been interred in trenches in the open grassy place called the Green. No doubt the want of drainage and the abominable condition of the Loch, polluted with 'excrementitious matters', contributed to the virulence of the plague when it broke out; but yet it seems never to have originated spontaneously, but only by contagion. In 1682 another attempt was made to get pure water, but the proposal was received unfavourably, owing to the losses sustained by the citizens in the war time and to the diminished population.

Queens Links -
O'er the
Tarry Brig above the railway that had strange carbuncles rising from the bubbling tar covering of the pavements on this all riveted webbed steel  Bridge that led from Fish Street to Bannermill Street then to Cotton Street leading to the Gas Works Sooty Steam Trains would shunt and hoot and cover you with spent steam and particles of burnt coal and show a fiery glow from their fireboxes that silhouetted drivers and stokers.  Queens Links - This was the Blasted Heath that wafted the weak Ozone through the muckle stench of Commerce.  Note the Gasometer Tanks near the railway that crossed the Fittie-bound Millers Road to reach into the ever stinking gas works. 

That isolated granite tenement house on the far side of the boulevard – is still intact – all the Victorian Bathing Machines from the beach were berthed in the yard behind and we use to play in them, stealing the 'roon' (Circular) vanity mirrors to signal to each other and blind all the passers by with the power of the sun.  Many of my school pals came from there and Cotton Street

The Pirates - a Fire Tender Reservoir where one could float a makeshift raft was just 'up toon' from it and on the opposite side in the grassy area behind the Cotton Street Backies.  The ribbon of vegetation was the Jungle on both sides of the main Beach road.  The Schools used the links in front of the gas Works as football pitches for Hanover and Fredrick Street lads.   Place yon supermarket that blitzed the old 'hooses' in the close that ran from the the Millers Road to links that we walked so often as apprentices.  

There’s the Fittie Kirk in St Clement's Ward with many a lucky Navigator or Mariner buried there instead of at sea.   Duffus Ironworks once lay adjacent to the Kirk. Can you mind the Gourock Rope Works where my uncle David worked.  Doo Dum Days indeed.  St Clements School became a Secretarial College when the area was depopulated.

My mither got pregnant at 16 while courting dad while living in Clarence Street – and a set of false teeth the same year to make her the envy of all because of her more accommodating embouchure – only a joke ma - but aye the new teeth were true and straight unlike yer bairn's.

This was the Blasted Heath that wafted the weak Ozone through the muckle stench of Chemical Industries.

Stinky Millers

"In 1857 Miller and Sons had started their work at Aberdeen where crude oil was produced from Boghead Coal (compact bituminous coal that burns brightly and yields large quantities of tar and oil upon distillation).  This work did a flourishing business in both crude and refined oils until the year 1864, in which year the work was closed, owing partly to the high price of Boghead Coal, but perhaps more particularly to the fact that Young had discovered that Miller and Sons were infringing his patents."  The works referred to by Redwood were presumably the Sandilands Chemical Works of John Miller and Sons, that opened in 1848 and were stated (in 1902) to produced Naphtha, Benzole, Creosote Oil, Pitch, Asphalt, Sulphate of Ammonia, Sulphuric Acid, and Artificial Manures, and also refines Paraffin Wax and Ozokerite. The site remained in use as a chemical works until the late 20th century.

Sandilands Chemical Works. Storage tanks for Tar / Ammonia distillate pumped from the Gas Works. John Miller and Co. started business in 1848 having the expertise to convert this distillate into various oils and other products. Gas Works had started in 1844. The tank sections are made of cast iron and were bolted together to form storage tanks. These could be dismantled and re-sited as required.

The new phosphate store (capacity 20,000 tons) at Sandilands Chemical Works, built next to the Garvock Wynd boundary wall. The phosphate rock came into Aberdeen from the Pacific Islands and Russia by ship to be unloaded at International Quay and then transferred to Sandilands (formerly Sandy Lands) by lorry. The lorries then tipped their loads into an underground hopper and conveyor system through a grid opening at ground level. The phosphate was then lifted by an elevator to an overhead conveyor from which it was tipped into the store. The material was then trimmed using a bulldozer. One operator was was responsible for the operation of unloading the phosphate including the trimming operation. The phosphate was removed from the store by means of a mechanical shovel and used in the production of phosphoric acid.

Agricultural Shows

Queens Links in 1908, when the Highland Show was staged on the Links, a special 40-second car service was successfully operated. - despite the orra stinks emanating from Gas and Chemical Works so close at hand to the Arena.  Ladies passing Webb's Prize Medal Cereal Stand who sell Farm, Clover, and Forage Seeds do not seem to be gagging.  Note the sulphuric acid Towers in the back ground.  Shirras Laing & Co. Ltd are present

Amateur footage exists of stone-clearing on a beach and shots of an Agricultural Show at Aberdeen in 1930.  It has under-exposed shots of men on beach loading stones on to horse-drawn wagons on rails - shots of bathers crossing the rails - shots of men clearing boulders from the beach - shot of boys making sandcastle on beach - brief shot of public building - shots of blacksmiths at work, possibly at the Agricultural Show – general views of the show, horses being led around showground, stalls in background including Nitram Ltd – general views of crowd watching - brief shots of cart spraying water - shot of rotary harvester on display and onlookers

Aerial view of Agriculture Show and Links Approaches and the Upper and Lower Promenades
This shows a very busy beach scene with Bathing Huts and the Old Bath Complex and its approach from Constitution Street with its Tram Depot and Trams servicing the area.  Bannermill Works survives on the corner and Albion Road leads up to the centre of the City.  The stenching Gas Works with Gasometers and Stinky Millers Chemical Factories are to the left of Cotton Street.  Behind are Castlehill Barracks with Castle Terrace to its left and Heading Hill with the old tenements of Hanover Street, Fish Lane and Hanover Lane to the left of Albion Street with Wales Street to the right.  The flat area top left is the cleared east Gallowgate near Seamount Place to the right of Marischal College.  Location of the vast temporary Lord Strathcona's Hall in 1906 above Seamount Steps and West North Street

The earliest reference to golf in Aberdeen is in 1625 and a Society of Golfers was founded in 1780. In 1875 a Mr. Bloxsom completed 12 rounds on the Links in a single day.

The Links, or "People's Park," which the line now crosses, is over 400 acres in extent, and is one of the greatest boons which Aberdeen possesses.  It is the recreation ground of the citizens par excellence, and affords in the ample space from Dee to Don sufficient room for all kinds of games. Cricket and Football are provided for, and there is a Public Golf Course of 18 holes stretching northwards from the Broad Hill. Another attraction to the Links is the handsome Bathing Station, erected by the Town Council in 1895 and largely added to in 1898. Facilities are given in the establishment for indulging in all classes of baths, while there was a large swimming pond, measuring 90 feet by 35 feet. On the beach in front is a safe  bathing ground and a supply of Bathing Coaches for the convenience of bathers. During the summer, attractions of a varied character are provided in the form of Pierrot entertainments, bands, and  other forms of amusement. Northwards from the Bathing Station  Promenade or Esplanade has been formed for a distance of nearly a mile, and it is intended ultimately to extend it to the Don, and when this is done the City will possess a marine drive which should prove an addition to the present attractions of the beach.  Looking Citywards from the Bathing Station, there will be observed, almost facing the Links, at the foot of the Broad Hill, the City Fever Hospital while southwards from the Banner Mill, which occupies the middle foreground, will be seen the Gas Works, also the property of the Corporation. It was within the grounds occupied by the Gas Works that James Gibbs or Gibb, the famous Architect, was born in 1694, at the house known then and long after as the " White House at Futtiesmyre."  South of the Bathing Station is the Battery, and the walk ought to be continued through the village of Footdee, or the Fishers Squares, to the North Pier. The keeping of the entrance to the harbour has always been a source of trouble and great expense, from the fact that a sand "bar" tends to form at the entrance. This is attributable partly to the River flowing into the Tidal waterway, but chiefly to the sandy nature of the bay and coast northwards. In 1770 Smeaton designed a breakwater for the north side of the entrance, which was completed at considerable cost, while a further extension was commenced in 1810 from designs by Telford. On 5th September, 1874, the then Duke of Edinburgh laid the foundation stone of an extensive addition made at that time with a view of securing a greater depth of water at the entrance. The North Pier forms a delightful promenade, and from the raised platform at the east  end an extensive view of the greater part of the Aberdeenshire coast can be obtained. (Alas now Closed to the Public) The south side of the entrance channel is protected by a breakwater erected in 1875.

Fish Meal for Fodder
Mair stink from fish meal at Millers – condemed fish - offal stuff in coopered barrels.  The string roon yer knees was to stop the rats seeking refuge up yer trooser leg and the risk of Weil’s disease from a rodent bite in the bollacks.  Breeches were slacker then in the interests of future progeny.  Och aye - I ken ‘im fine – he used tae work in the Fesh

One could always tell which way the wind was Blowing from the depth of the Aroma that was to sharpen my olfactory senses for life.  My nose never lies to me.

Wordies Horses now there's a tail.

Sandilands Chemical Works, c.1900.
Sulphuric Acid
absorption towers. These towers were filled with inert material (eg granite chips) over which weak sulphuric acid was sprayed from a series of lead pipes at the top of the Tower to absorb the SO2 gases which were fed in at the bottom. As a result the liquid collected at the bottom of the Tower was a strong sulphuric acid. This acid was then combined with phosphate rock to produce superphosphate fertilisers produced at Sandilands Chemical Works. (Scottish Agricultural Industries Ltd). 

Walking in the vicinity of these works which were then surrounded by high density slum tenements was to breath the most sulphurous atmosphere accompanied by yellow smoke and putrid rotten eggs stenches. Even the constant winds off the North Sea could not dissipate such concentrations of residual chemicals and unwelcome smells in what was a habitat, major recreation area and also deemed a Public Park.


Here is a picture of Chemical Work's Tradesmen proudly holding or displaying the tools of their Trades.  These artisans are wielding hammers, anvil, plumbing wrenches, taps and dies, level, boring brace, saw & chisel, coopers tools, and a barrel pump.  A geared drive shaft stands on trestles with a belt pulley below.

The Sandilands Chemical Works, begun in 1848, cover 5 acres, and employ over 100 men and boys, at £90 to £100 weekly wages. Here were prepared naphtha, benzole, creosote oil, pitch, asphalt, sulphate of ammonia, sulphuric acid, and artificial manures. Paraffin wax and ozokerite are refined.

An Artesian Well within the works, 421 feet deep, gives a constant supply of good water, always at 51º Fahr.

Kings Links

The capacious links bordering the sea between the mouths of the two rivers are largely resorted to for open-air recreation; there was here a rifle range where a "wapinschaw," or shooting tournament, is held annually

Traces of the foundations of recent structures can be seen in the low-lying flat links land - now a cricket pitch - beneath the Broad Hill. The area was heavily militarised during the 2nd World War, reflecting one of its historic uses as a convenient open and flat place to hold wappenshaws - "weapon-showings" - mustering of men under arms to satisfy clan or feudal lords that a suitably large, fit, well-equipped and bellicose corps of men could be gathered to execute their war-like bidding.

The marks we see are the outlines of Military Camp Structures, Nissen Huts and Emplacements, and the more conducive sporting and leisure uses of these Links areas, which have included horse-racing, livestock shows, football, golf, galas and markets. Some of the markings seen in the photo from the Bbroad Hill are of a hockey pitch the circle and the 25 are clearly discernible. Some of the other lines are probably cricket boundary lines from different seasons.

Gordon's 3rd Battalion at Kings Links with the Broad Hill in the background

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Last modified: 01/09/2013