Aberdeen (St Nicholas and St Clement's)


A New History of Aberdeenshire, Alexander Smith (Ed), 1875

The etymology of Aberdeen seems to be derived from the ancient British, and the prefix, Aber, signifies the mouth of a river, or brook, where it falls into the sea, or any lake or stream. Da-abhuin, or Da-awin, the space between two rivers, which corresponds exactly with the position of Aberdeen, as it stands between two rivers-the Dee and the Don. The earliest mention of this place is in a "Roman itinerary of an incursion made by Severus into the northern parts of Scotland, early in the third century," and, in it, Aberdeen is called Devana, or city on the river Deva, or Dee. Ptolney's Devas, are the Dee in Kirkcudbright, called the Deva in Selgovii; the Dee in Cheshire, is called the Deva in Cornabbii; and the Diva, in the country of the Caristi (Wales); but he takes no notice of the Deva in Taixalium, or the Dee in Aberdeenshire.

In Gaelic, according to Thorn's History of Aberdeenshire, Aber is synonymous with the prefix Inver, and both signify a confluence. Dun, a hill, au, water, bar, an obstacle, and dun, the hill on which the castle or city stands. According to Maclachlan, the Gaelic name is Obairreadhain, pronounced Oberrayn, and signifies the town situated near the mouth of two rivers.

In Scotland, we find the Abers, or Abhir, chiefly (but not exclusively), on the east coast, and the Invers on the west, the country of the Gaelic race. But neither do the Abers nor the Invers exist on the east coast of England; and both are of doubtful existence in Ireland. On the west coast of England, in Wales, the Abers are numerous.

In Kennedy's Annals, the name is variously spelt, Aberdaen, Aberdon, Aberdin, Aberdene, and Abrydene; generally in Latin writings, it is written Aberdonia. But while Buchanan uses the name Abredonia, as applicable both to Old and New Aberdeen, he uses Abredeam as applicable only to the latter.

Some of our antiquarian writers suppose that the Picts were a tribe of the ancient Britons and if that were so, without doubt, the name is to be ascribed to them; but if the Picts were originally of Scandinavian origin, the name Aberdeen, must have been in existence before their invasion, therefore the name must be attributed to the first known inhabitants- the ancient Britons, or Welsh, where the Abers exist.

St. Nicholas, or City Parish, which comprehends the ancient Royalty,is bounded on the north by the parish of Old Machar, by the Broadford and Froghall burns, from a point a little north of Hutcheon Street (64 feet above sea level), and runs eastward by these old water courses, Love-lane (87 feet) and the Rifle-range, in a direct easterly line to the sea. On the east it is bounded by the sea. On the south, it is bounded by the flood mark of the Dee, up to the Craiglug Suspension Bridge; and on the west, by the tide-way of the river, and the old channel of the Denburn, and the parish of Old Machar, up to the Skene Street bridge (45 feet), and by the burn of Broadford to the point first mentioned.

The parliamentary burgh, which comprehends the city parishes, a small portion of Banchory-Devenick parish, at the Bridge of Dee, and that portion of Old Machar parish, which lies between the Dee and the Don, is bounded on the north, by the centre channel of the river Don, from the influx of the Scatterburn (52 feet above sea level), to the sea. On the east, by the sea, from the mouth of the Don, to the mouth of the Dee. On the south, by the centre channel of the Dee, up to an ideal point, 100 yards above the Bridge of Dee. And on the west, by an ideal straight line, from last mentioned point, to the centre of the old Deeside road, near Auchinyell, thence, northward by the boundaries between the parishes of Old Machar and Banchory-Devenick, and of 0ld Machar and Newhills, by the Scatterburn, to the Don, at the point first mentioned.

The parliamentary burgh, from the Bridge of Dee, to the Old Bridge of Don, measures about four miles, in a direct line, from south to north; and from the sea, to the north gate of Springhill, east to west, it measures about 3¼ miles. The City, or St. Nicholas parish, comprises an area of about 650 acres, and the parliamentary burgh, nearly nine square miles.

The City, or St. Nicholas parish, stands upon four hills, or small eminences, viz., the Castle hill, about 80 feet above sea level; the School hill (65 feet); the Woolman hill (58 feet); and the Port hill, which is about 100 feet, and the highest land within the Royalty. On the east of King Street, there is the Gallows hill (98 feet), and the Broad hill (94 feet); and on the west of King Street road, there is the Spital ridge (120 feet); and, west of the Old Town Cathedral (68 feet), there is the Mote hill, or the hill of Tillydrone (130 feet), overlooking the finely wooded braes of Seaton and Balgownie, and the steep banks of the Don, at the Printfield and Woodside, up to the Scatterburn. West of the Old Town and the Spital ridge, lie the pleasent undulating grounds of Powis, Sunnyside, and Berryden, rising in gentle slopes up to the rocky peaks of Hilton (300 feet), and Cairncry (446 feet), this point being the highest land within the burgh. West of Broadford, and to the north of the Denburn is the ridge of Gilcomston, and Loanhead (Mile-end 170 feet), rising westward, and termina- ting in the transverse ridge of Woodhill (340 feet), and the Stocket hill (320 feet). West and south of the Denburn valley, there is the table land of Union and Crown Terrace (86 feet), and that of Ferryhill (85 feet), south of the Holburn, the land rises with gentle slopes westward to the rocky peaks of the Rubislaw quarries, which are about 300 feet above sea level, and the extreme west point, where the burgh boundary crosses the Skene road at Hazelhead, is about 312 feet.

[A New History of Aberdeenshire, Alexander Smith (Ed), 1875]