Blackie’s Quay

Provost Blaikie’s Quay


John Blaikie

SirThomasBlaikie.jpgBlaikie Brothers were Ironfounders, Engineers, Millwrights, Boilermakers, and general Blacksmiths operating from Footdee Iron Works adjacent to St Clements Church.  A notable piece of work they carried out was the renovation of Crathie Suspension Bridge near Balmoral Castle in 1885. This work was contracted by Queen Victoria.  Devanha House was later owned by the Shipbuilder, John Blaikie, who, with 2 of his 5 brothers, founded the Footdee firm of Blaikie Bros., Engineers & Iron Founders.

Sir Thomas Blaikie – was both the Managing Partner of Blaikie Brothers, Iron Founders and the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Aberdeen Railway Company.  While he was acting as Chairman, Blaikie “entered into a Contract on behalf of the Company with his own Firm, for the purchase of a large number of iron chairs at a certain stipulated price.”  In Scotland and England at that time, statutes applicable to Companies Incorporated by a special Act of Parliament provided that no person interested in a Contract with the Company would be qualified to be a Director, and any Director who entered into such a Contract was deemed to have vacated his Office.  The Contract was deemed unenforceable.   Sir Thomas Blaikie (11 February 1802 – 25 September 1861) was a Scottish magistrate.  Born in Aberdeen, he was the son of John Blaikie (1756–1826), a Plumbing Merchant and his wife Helen Richardson (1765–1844). His older brother was James Ogilvie Blaikie (1786–1836).  He was educated at Aberdeen Grammar School and then went to Marischal College. Blaikie was elected Lord Provost of Aberdeen 5 times and served from 1839 until 1847 and again from 1853 until 1856. In the latter year, he was created a Knight Bachelor.

James Ogilvie Blaikie of Craigiebuckler, elder brother of fellow Provost Sir Thomas Blaikie, (20 May 1786 – 3 October 1836). Buried St Nicholas, Aberdeen. Provost of Aberdeen 1833-1836.


The Hydraulic Swing Bridge


Sail, Steam & Snow – Horses and Carts – a rare 2 Wheeled Horse Cart – these were still well in use in the 1940’s ans the driver stood up always clad in a leather collarless jacket.  Provost Blaikie’s Quay was extended downward 200 yards, reaching to the Dock Gates.

HarbourQuaysMap.gifThe Construction of the Quays

Aberdeen had a Tidal Harbour at the time Abernethy arrived c.1840 and as Engineer for the Aberdeen Harbour Trust, he spent a year dredging and building Embankments to improve the Access Channel.  In the following year, a competition was held for the design of an enclosed Dock, and his design was selected.  An Act of Parliament was obtained to implement the design, but Abernethy 1st had to convince an Independent Assessor in London of its soundness. The meeting was inconclusive, but the Chairman of the Harbour Trustees was satisfied, and Tenders were sought for Construction. The lowest tenderer was given the Contract, but could not complete it, and Abernethy took over after a year, using direct labour to finish the work.  When it was built, the entrance lock was the largest in Britain, measuring 250 by 60 feet (76 by 18 m), with a navigable depth of 22 feet (6.7 m) at high water.


James Abernethy found the depth of the Harbour at high water of mean spring tides to be 17 feet, and below water, he found by boring – sand, 2ft; sandy clay 4ft; soil and vegetable matter (peat-moss) 2ft; and gravel beneath it.  At Regent Bridge he found 6 feet of moss at 12 feet below the bed of the Harbour, where the depth of water was 15 feet; and there the peat-moss was found in excavating the foundations of the Piers of the 1st Regent Bridge. With such a backing to the 1st built part of Waterloo Quay, there was a great danger of leakage at neap tides, without the possibility of replacing it for several Ships of great draught might have grounded.  Market Quay was built; the whole area of the wet Docks was deepened by dredging, so as to give 18 feet of water; rails were laid around the Docks; and besides the old sewer, made along the east side of Waterloo Quay in 1811 to take up the sewerage of the Powcreek open drain, a new sewer was laid from Poynernook along the Quays to the Tidal Harbour below the Dock Gates.  In constructing this sewer in 1844 the old original Quay Wall of unknown age, but certainly older than 1400, was found opposite the Weigh-House, which stood on the west side of Weigh-House Square.


Ellis & McHardy Coal Merchants of Trinity Quay in 1932 decided to replace a previous cargo coaster of the same name.  ‘The collier ‘Spray‘ will reach a total of 500,000 tons of coal carried when she completes her next trip. Captain Joe Andrews, an Aberdeen man, has been in command since the ship was built. He was mate on the old ‘Spray‘ (a cargo steamship).’  The firm was established in 1880 by John Ellis & Charles McHardy to supply household coal, industry, and steam vessels sailing from Aberdeen. The company purchased its own Collier in 1887, a pattern which continued until the last of 5 Ships were sold in 1973. Ellis & McHardy was registered as a Public Company in 1928 following the death of John Ellis.  They also had Coal Distribution premises in Blaikies Quay.









A small steam Locomotive of Caledonian Northern Scottish Railway pulling empty coal trucks at the junction of Blaikies Quay and Blacks Lane.  Ellis & McHardy Coal Merchants yard and buildings on Blaikies Quay, young boy with handcart in the foreground, and Coal being loaded in bags on to flat bed horse-drawn carts.


This picture is taken at Provost Blaikie’s Quay.  Near the J & A Davidson’s Coal Merchants and the Bon Accord State Yard.

SS TORQUAY (1914) Collier. Builder: Crown, Sunderland for Renwick Wilton, Dartmouth. Launch: 20th July 1914 and completed August. 870 tons. Sold to J&A Davidson, Aberdeen in 1923 and served them until 1960.
Pit Props or logs sensible stacked and bonded ‘better biggit‘ probably awaiting attention form my Uncle Eddie Masson at the sawmill – aye Dod and Ali Masson were distant relatives. Eddie sawed of one of his legs one day and warmed his aluminium replacement at the fire to stop the phantom limb feeling cold.  He went on to run the Torry chipper – as it was more stationary work – then left for Canada to operate an Otis Lift.  Ali went out to visit and ripped him off heavily before disappearing into the wilds of 1950’s Canada Circa 1952.

I place this at the bridge end of Blaikies Quay and Regent Street somewhere near J & A Davidson Coal Merchants office where I paid for my mither’s Coal deliveries by the Hundred-weight – CWT (At other times she was forced to buy it by the stone but at a higher price from a ‘Closie’ Coalman in Commerce Street at a greater but affordable mark-up – the Quayside opposite was by then for Colliers only – but god help ye if you picked up any loose coal.  There was a cast iron water hydrant by the Bon Accord Slate Co where we used to slake our thirst operated by a knob with a quarter turn either way to get an oral fountain or fill a horses bucket.  Jees when a Clydesdale started pissing on the cobbles ye had tae move quick. Yet I never heard one fart ever.  The cartie driver would often give you a lift and let you climb up onto his rickety seat for a wee hurl o’er the chatterin cassies each heralded by 4 steel rimmed wheels and whip to remind the horse who was in charge.   All there was to stop them running away on a brae was a wooden brake shoe operated by a hand wound wheel.  The shires were great feathered footed gentle beasts who were housed overnight in magnificent terraced stables with ramps in Virginia Street near the Bannerman Bridge and some mature shires had full military moustaches and would eat yer ‘piece’ gladly.  When the Cartie driver went to dinner so did the horse tossing his nosebag up and doon tae get a crunchful and relieving himself in the aforesaid manner and also shedding a pile of well-rounded manure that we could use as grenades against our enemies when they had dried but slightly.

When my son Gavin was about 4,  I took him to the Shirehorse Centre a Pub near Maidenhead circa 1974 and there was the self-same Carties and those magnificent beasts – the blacksmith made a steel shoe out of a straight flat bar for those massive dinner plate hooves and gave Gavin a wee sook of his beer.  A grand day out for both of us and the anvil still rings in my ears – well it could be tinnitus.

Unloading Coal for the Scottish Gas Board using grab cranes that would drop the grab into the hold and raise it fully laden over the Ship’s bulwarks into the shunting rail wagons on the quayside and simply shed the load into the boxed interior with a fair degree of spillage.  Woe betide anyone who was tempted to pick up such residue at any time of day or night as that was considered as stealing by the Harbour Police.  Needs must when the devil drives – in a poorly insulated poverty-stricken Tenement attic and the gauntlet would be run.

SteamLorry2.jpgThe Coal Merchants delivered coal by horse and cart and later with Steam Lorries as the fuel was already on board.  The transmission was via the back axle which was chain driven – magnificent sparking, steaming, spitting old things with a chimney that ran through the cab for heating and warming up yer 3d Bradies and Scotch Mutton Pies on request or yer farthing rowies.  A thing like a crocodile toothed frying pan underneath the number plate caught the ash and over boiling water and its tongues of flame licking innards looked like the portal of a dragons mouth or the Gates o’ hell.  Note the single nearside headlamp. The Aberdeen Coal and Shipping Company Limited was founded on 07 Dec 1900 and had its Registered Office in Perth.


A Sentinel DG4 was painted up for delivery to Carriers Mutter Howey & Co of 51-53 Charlotte Street and 53 Guild Street. This type of Steam Lorry was in production from 1926 to 1935. After 1931 pneumatic tyres were optional but this vehicle had solid tyres and a chain drive. With a vertical Boiler and Duplex Engine, its 11ft 6in wheelbase could carry 6 or 7 tons.  As a result of the Salter Report on road funding, an ‘axle weight tax’ was introduced in 1933 in order to charge commercial motor vehicles more for the costs of maintaining the road system, and to do away with the perception that the free use of roads was subsidising the competitors of rail freight. The tax was payable by all road hauliers in proportion to the axle load; it was particularly damaging to steam propulsion, which was much heavier than its petrol equivalent.

Provost Blaikies Quay
This Company was formed in 1837 and carries on business as Coal and Lime Importers, Chemical Fertiliser Manufacturers, seed crushers, oil boilers, and oil refiners. The works are situated in Provost Blaikie’s Quay and occupy a space of 2.1 acres.  The power to drive the machinery is supplied by a horizontal tandem compound jet-condensing engine of 230 IHP, built by Messrs. Galloways, of Manchester. The boiler, 30 feet long by 8 feet diameter, was supplied by the same firm and works at a pressure of 160 lbs. per square inch. Economical working is secured by a Green’s economiser of 06 tubes, and a superheater capable of superheating at least 150°F a minimum of 5,000lbs. steam per hour generated by the boiler.

Aberdeen Commercial Co Ltd, Provost Blaikie’s Quay – c.1893
Seed Crushers, Oil Cake Manufacturers, Linseed and Cotton Oil Refiners, Chemical Manure Manufacturers; also Dealers in Grain, Coal, Lime, and Feeding Stuffs for Farm Stock.
George Gordon & Co, 
SawmillProvost Blaikie’s Quay
Robert Millar & Sons, Sawmill, Provost Blaikie’s Quay
Bon Accord Slate & Cement Merchant Co Ltd, Provost Blaikie’s Quay, Telephone No. 634; James F Wyness, Manager. c.1896