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The Aberdeenshire Canal
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The Aberdeenshire Canal

Historic Photographs
David Oswald
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The Aberdeenshire Canal
Historic Photographs
The Aberdeenshire Canal
This drawing shows a barge being pulled by two horses along the Aberdeenshire Canal, with the twin spires of St. Machar Cathedral in the background.

The Aberdeenshire Canal was opened in 1805 and ran for 18 miles from Aberdeen to Port Elphinstone, near Inverurie. It was first proposed in 1795 by various landed proprietors as a means of providing better transport connections for the rural interior of Aberdeenshire.

The new waterway was fed by the River Don and various streams and springs. Barges transported goods and fly boats or gig boats carried passengers.

In 1840, the goods transported included nearly 4000 tons of lime, 5000 tons of coal, 1124 tons of meal, 54 tons of salt, 110 tons of wood, 51 tons of granite, 43 tons of livestock and 8 tons of whisky. Passenger traffic was catered for by two iron boats, which made the trip twice a day in summer and once a day in winter. It cost 2 shillings (10p.) for the full journey or 2d. (about a half pence) per mile.

As a result of the number of locks to be negotiated at the Aberdeen end, passengers disembarked at the Boathouse at Kittybrewster, having completed the journey in 2 and a half hours. Goods traffic was handled by various barges, some of which belonged to the canal company. It took them 10-14 hours to complete their passage to Aberdeen Harbour. There were facilities for changing the horses at Dyce and Kintore.

In his book The Annals of Woodside and Newhills Patrick Morgan remarks that the canal "was a great convenience to the inhabitants, and a luxury to the boys for bathing in summer and skating in winter." There is no mention of girls using the canal for leisure purposes - perhaps they were required to stay at home and help with housework instead.

The canal increased the prosperity of the area that it served but it was never a huge financial success for its owners. Also it was about to be overtaken by a much speedier rival. Its demise as in other parts of the country was largely brought about by the coming of the railways. The Aberdeenshire Canal was bought over by the Great North of Scotland Railway and finally closed in 1854. The company gave £1000 as compensation for depriving the inhabitants of Woodside of the privilege of the Canal and to assist in obtaining a supply of water from other sources.

There is very little physical evidence to remind us that the Aberdeenshire Canal ever existed. However there is one quite substantial remnant which lies close to Great Northern Road - Warrack's Bridge was one of the original canal bridges and looking over the west side of the bridge the curve of the canal bed can clearly be seen.
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