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Blade 17

Graveyards and Gardens

The Merchant Maiden Company of Edinburgh had replaced the York Building Company as Feudal Superiors in 1728, when they bought the lands of Peterhead, sight unseen. Sadly, they had paid rather more than the town was worth after many years of neglect. Early relations with the people of the town were fraught, with legal battles over unpaid feu duties and struggles for power with the Bailies but over time things did improve. The Feuars Managers made significant contributions to the development of Peterhead.

Landale Road was named in honour of one of the Merchant Maiden Company’s factors. The garden was laid out some time after the street was developed, but were a popular place for recreation from the 1920’s. In recent years, the garden had become a bit neglected and overgrown. However, in 2014 a community group was formed with the aim of restoring the garden to its former glory. Local people have given time and energy, and were rewarded with a blaze of summer flowers. The group hope to take the garden into community ownership for future generations to enjoy.

Next to the garden is the Constitution Street Cemetery, last resting place for Peterhead people from all walks of life. Here the victims of the James Street bomb lie alongside well known characters such as Provost William McDougall Gordon, whose memorial is in the form of a lighthouse; Colin McLean, a seaman on the whaler “Hope”; Captain David Gray, the “Prince of Whalers” and a 13 year old Inuit boy from Greenland, Jacob Johannes, who had travelled back to Britain with Captain Gray where he soon succumbed to a common infection to which he had no immunity.

The cemetery was created at the expense of the Governors of The Merchant Maiden Hospital in Edinburgh, and was formally opened on the evening of Friday the 28th of July 1869. Escorted by a guard of honour and with a band playing, guests took part in a procession from the front of what is now the Palace Hotel. Those taking part included the Governors of the Merchant Maiden Company, the Provost, Magistrates, and Ministers from the town’s churches and everyone who thought they were anyone in local society. Reaching the cemetery, they marched to an ornamental plot near the centre, and solemnly watched as the foundation stone of a monumental memorial was laid. Along with the stone was deposited a glass case containing the Peterhead newspapers and the Scotsman, a plan of Peterhead, some coins and a list of the names of those present. The ministers planted a cypress tree and some shrubs.

The cemetery is still used today, although all 5,277 lairs were sold long ago.

It is itself a monument to the past, and these peaceful grounds hold memories of the many ordinary people who lived their lives in Peterhead, and left their own mark on the town.