erected to celebrate Queen Victoria's visit to Balmoral
do we know of Ballater, its dwellings and its customs in Victorian times?
was at first very simple, - much as it had been in the glens for generations.
Breakfast consisted of porridge or sowans (meal
steeped in water or milk, the solid matter at the bottom being the sowans:
boiled with water and salt, it was eaten like porridge). There was brochan
for lunch, - gruel often eaten with butter or honey or vegetables like
kale. In the evening there would be potatoes, bread, oatcakes, milk or
water and malt ale. Meat or fowl or game could be added, according to
circumstances. Once visitors began to come in numbers, with new ideas
and a more palatial life-style, locals began to copy these trends. Food
tastes gradually developed to include much of what we eat today, and advancing
trends in food preservation and treatment came to the area. Nevertheless,
diet was governed by financial considerations. In the early days of the
village a cow could be grazed on rough land for £1 per annum.
early village regulations allowed for one Established Church and one pub.
The first organised building plan involved the erection of a few thatched
houses along the north side of what is now Golf Road. The first public
house in Ballater was kept by George Clark, in a room of a private house.
material - if one could read, - was usually a shared copy of
the weekly Aberdeen Journal, price 7d. There was little money to spare
at first. In 1845 an Inspector of the Poor took over the duties carried
out by the Kirk Session and distributed help to the needy. There were
still needy people.
James Smith had moved into the area about 1807: presumably there was a
feu when he became schoolmaster. He taught in temporary accommodation
until a permanent building was erected, with school premises on the ground
level and his accommodation above. A separate school was built around
1836. He was a popular and successful teacher, a number of his pupils
qualifying in medicine and divinity. A Miss Logan opened a Female School
and ran it for a number of years. When Mr. Smith retired he was succeeded
by Mr. Murray. In 1862 Mrs. Farquharson of lnvercauld erected at her own
expense a Female School. The two teachers were Miss Clark and Miss Anderson.
They were followed by Miss Whyte, who stayed for a very brief period,
and Miss Simpson, who remained for a number of years until she married
the schoolmaster, Mr. Murray.
sisters called Ferrier had a very successful period of teaching in what
was then known as the 'Female' school. During their period of office a
disagreement arose between the School Board and a section of the community.
The board wished all teaching staff to be under the Headmaster of the
Public School while some of the community wished to retain the services
of the Misses Ferrier in the Female School. Several public meetings were
held and feelings ran high. Long-standing friendships were broken and
never restored. By 1879 the schools were amalgamated.
Mr. Murray's retiral, Mr. David Craib was appointed, He was followed by
Mr. Lawson, who was still teaching in 1901. A new school was erected after
the passing of the Education Act in 1872, but as Ballater grew rapidly
after that date extension had to be made to the building at two successive
periods. By the end of the nineteenth century there were two male and
five female teachers.
[Feu n(Scotland) Perpetual lease at a fixed rate - piece of land so
In the early days there was not really a great demand for feus within
the village, for by 1848 there were only 36 feuars in all, the duty amounting
to £40 p.a.. A professional valuation of the property was for £249.
By 1900 the feu duty amounted to £472.7s.9d. and the valuation was
almost £6,000. The 1861 census recorded 362 adults aged over 16
years resident in Ballater while in 1901 the figure was 1256. So Ballater
had grown rapidly. This rapid growth was to a large extent due to the
fact that Ballater became 'popular' when Victoria and Albert purchased
the old Balmoral and rebuilt the new one, and the coming of the Railway
to Ballater in 1866.
The Muckle Spate of 1829 did a great deal of damage. Apart from the fact
that the bridge was washed away, much property and stock was lost. About
an acre of the minister's Glebe land by the Dee was washed away and it
was necessary to strengthen the embankment. Some accounts survive to give
some indication of rates of pay at the time. Charles Paterson who was
probably the overseer, worked a 10 hour day for 2/- Others earned about
1/6. Four women also worked for 10 hours each day, but their day's wages
were only lOd. Three of them, and perhaps all four, had on at least one
occasion appeared before me Session on a charge of haughmagandy. Men with
a horse and a flat-board cart also worked a 10 hour day. Five of them
earned 5/- per day but the Manse servant seems to have earned 6/-. Alexander
Riddell, the blacksmith who was in attendance received 1/10 for sharpening
his tools. The costs were shared by the Heritors - Aboyne, Invercauld,
Abergeldie and Monaltrie.
on 'old money': £1 = 20 shillings; 1 shilling = 12
pence (1s = 12d); i.e. 240 pence to £1. 5/- denotes 5 shillings
and 1/6 denotes one shilling and sixpence.)
1838/1839 was a bad year, weatherwise. Roads were blocked for 10 weeks
and supplies ran low. Food and seed shortages were so severe that the
men were all called out to clear the road of snow at Coilacreich to enable
Braemar people to get their seed oats from Aberdeen to their homes. In
1872/73 the embankment on the Dee near the Invermuick Manse was again
washed away: 33 yards had to be renewed.
Funeral practices were, in the eyes of the Session, a cause of bad behaviour,.
The lyke wake, when friends sat up all night by the coffin, was not being
so frequently observed by the middle years of the nineteenth century,
but on the morning of the funeral the men gathered for a few drams. In
Ballater there was no great distance to carry the coffin to the church,
so no need for refreshment on the way, but this loss was remedied afterwards.
(By 1860 a more seemly approach was being adopted.)
did not go to the graveside. A bell was carried in front of the coffin
well into the 1840's and the mort-cloth for covering the coffin was frequently
used, the hire charge money going to the relief of the poor.
a waiting the arrival of the Royal Train at Ballater
In 1849 most people were still living in the surrounding glens. The only
Ballater children baptised that year were the children of five couples,
the Mackenzies, two families of Young, the Calders and the Patersons.
Two of the men were occupied as labourers, one was a servant, one a shoemaker,
and one a sawyer. Ballater was not quite 'middle class'! In the next seventeen
years, up to the coming of the railway in 1866, there was little change
in occupation. The majority of men who became fathers were labourers,
with a few plasterers, masons, carpenters, tailors, bakers, merchants,
butchers, hoteliers of one type or another, and me occasional soldier
of the 931rd. The only child who was definitely upper class was Elizabeth
Mary Harriet, daughter of the Right Honourable Lord & Lady Cochrane
of Monaltrie House. Very gradually the number of labourers decreased while
the merchants and carriers and railwaymen increased, together with the
number of those catering for the needs of visitors. The era of greater
prosperity had arrived! The old Manse by the Muick Bridge, next to the
burial ground, was demolished in the early 1850's and the stones used
to build a new Manse at Invermuick. It is interesting that a list of elders
in 1866 shows them to have become more "middle class".
A biologist of note who worked on zoological projects before doing research
in Mexico, Patrick Geddes, was born in Ballater in 1854. Hampered in his
research work by failing eyesight, he turned his attention to ecology
and the improvement of living conditions. (He is now often considered
to be the 'father' of town planning and the 150th anniversary of his birth
was celebrated widely in 2004.)
One could travel by coach to Braemar, leaving the Invercauld Arms at 10
a.m. daily, with an additional departure in the summer season. (The hotel
was formerly called the Monaltrie Arms but changed its name after the
Monaltrie line of Farquharsons died out. In recent years it has reverted
to its original name.) The proprietor of the 'coach' business was Charles
Cook. There were two carriers to Braemar, daily, with John Milne, or on
Monday, Wednesday and Friday with John Smart. Horse hirers were Dean &
Farquharson and William Paterson.
By 1890 the Fire Brigade was using the church bell to call out its men.
It seems the whole village turned out to see the horse drawn engine go
by, or to follow it to its destination.
Alcoholism, always a problem on Deeside, became a matter of grave concern,
and a Temperance Association was set up. It seems that a number of men
joined on the first night, and then went to the local public house to
celebrate their membership!
Ballater Games began in July 1864, on the green round the first church.
The games were only open to parish residents. A founding Committee consisted
of Messrs. Cook, Haynes, Ferguson, A. Reid, Glennie, Paterson, Illingworth,
Ross, W. Grant, W. Reid, Gordon, A. Grant, Smith, Massie, Anderson, and
Stewart. The committee that conceived the idea of the games was made up
of the local public-spirited men, presumably the leading men in the community,
who saw an opportunity that would be a benefit to the expanding village.
Ballater was created a Burgh in 1891. There were nine elected bailies
and a Provost, John Brebner. (The Burgh continued until local government
reorganisation in 1973.)
A Victorian account of Ballater, by an unknown author, describes the village
as a place of cheerful people. It speaks of the pleasure felt by villagers
when the Queen came, on her way to Balmoral. Locals, very much used to
seeing Royalty in the area, sent a letter of condolence to Edward VIII
on the death of Queen Victoria on 22nd. January, 1901.
must have been a very interesting place in which to live in the Victorian