A Good Walk Spoiled? Golf, Smoking, and the Birth of
The Ugie Estuary is a very rich habitat for coastal wildlife, and a paradise for bird watchers. It was here that the original settlement that was to become Peterhead first became established. Peterugie was a hamlet of Pictish origin and consisted of a few thatched huts. The name comes from the Pictish words “Pett-ayr-uisge” - “Pett” meaning homestead, “ayr” meaning near to, and “uisge” meaning water. Norman masons working for the first Lord Le Neym help the inhabitants improve their dwellings and to build a small harbour on the right hand bank of the Ugie, directly below where the Fish House is now. Peterugie was probably finally abandoned after the great storm of 1603 and the harbour left to go to ruin. By this time, many inhabitants had drifted to the Earl Marischal’s new settlement. Ferguson of Pitfour had it cleaned out again in 1796 but the sand encroached once more and the harbour was finally abandoned to the elements around 1800.
The Old Smoke House is a listed building, and is the oldest working smoke house in Scotland. Built in 1585 as a place to store and preserve game and fish, it is still in commercial use today. It is possible to visit by arrangement, and there is a shop where you can buy smoked salmon and other delicacies.
On the far side of the estuary is Peterhead Gold Club, which was established in 1841 and is one of the oldest established clubs in the world. It boasts two courses - the original 18 hole par 70 course is complemented by a newer 9 hole par 62 offering, and both provide a challenging links golfing experience. Until 1925, access to the golf course was by ferry. There had been many years of debate over building a bridge, but money was a serious issue and several committees had failed to reach agreement on an acceptable design. In 1924, Mr Alexander Birnie of Wellbank offered a large donation towards the cost of a bridge, to be dedicated to the memory of his father, George. The bridge opened on 11th April 1925. The opening ceremony was well attended, and all children present were given an Easter egg to mark the occasion. It was said that in the first 24 hours, over 1000 people crossed the bridge.
Alexander Birnie made his fortune as a pearl fisherman off the coast of Western Australia before retiring to Peterhead. Known as the “Pearl King”, he and his wife Jane were generous benefactors to the town. Their happiness in life was based on discretely bringing comfort into the lives of those less fortunate than themselves, and when they died in the 1940’s they were very sincerely mourned by the whole community.