In Autumn 1979, I moved to Aberdeen to start work on a new project mapping seabirds at sea. Aberdeen was booming due to the North Sea oil industry, and an amazing amount of offshore construction was also occurring. The concern about the effects of offshore oil spills had generated my job. The pedal north from Montrose was fast as it was partly on the main road that bought all the materials and personnel northwards in the 1970s and 1980s, but is now far less used. Aberdeen was also a major fishing port with a daily fish market. There are more or less no fishing vessels working from Aberdeen these days.

Aberdeen had a large fishing fleet in 1980
Stonehaven on the way to Aberdeen
Possibly Stonehaven’s greatest recent export….!

In 1979, our team of four working on seabirds at sea were allocated a basement in the Nature Conservancy Council office. I spent a lot of time at sea, but on land I initially shared a flat in Colville Place with Tim, a friend of mine from Hedon who was studying at Aberdeen University. Shortly after we moved in, I went to a party of one of Tim’s friends at the University and met Anne. A very good introduction, that has lasted!

My desk in the Aberdeen basement in the early 1980s. This was a heavy, well-built post war civil service issue desk that survived until we moved to a “standard open plan office in 2012. I liked it! Note lack of computer, the dial-up phone, the card indices, film canister, large amounts of paper etc
1 Colville Place in 2019
My green Morris 1000 van parked in Colville Place, December 1979
Anne, December 1979

In the early 1980s, I moved into Anne’s flat in Nigg Kirk Road. My main memory of that time was trying to produce maps of our seabird observations using Aberdeen University’s mainframe computer. I had written a long Fortran computer program to do this, but it needed all of the resources of Aberdeen University’s computer to run, and thus had to be run at the dead of night. I had to use a dial-up modem with a telephone coupler on a portable terminal that used thermal paper (no screen) lying on Anne’s living room floor. I could not see the results until the next day when I would pedal across to the University computer centre and collect the maps. Of course I made many mistakes, which meant yet more work in the middle of the night.

Nigg Kirk Road flats – no change!

After a while, Anne brought a house in Abbey Road, while I moved to a house to the north-west of Aberdeen – Hillhead of Clinterty. This was owned by an Aberdonian Heather, who was an art lecturer in Manchester. John (who I visited in Silverdale) had a link to Manchester and we could rent the house for most of the year, except the summer holidays when Heather would use it. It was a very fine location, but could be very cold.

John outside Hillhead of Clinterty in the early 1980s
Hillhead of Clinterty through the trees
The view from Hillhead of Clinterty towards Aberdeen Airport and the North Sea
Hillhead of Clinterty now – the inhabitants did not respond to my letter so I could not get closer/see around, but it has been considerably extended both in front and to the back – the surrounding fields appear to have been taken into its grounds and there was plenty of evidence of horses.
Another view of Hillhead of Clinterty now, 100% more tarmac than was there in the 1980s!

In summer time I would either stay with Anne in Abbey Road, Torry or for one year in a flat owned by my friend Hew also in Abbey Road, but for much of the time I was away at sea.

Hew’s flat upstairs in Abbey Road, Torry
The cream coloured, 66 Abbey Road, Torry. This was Anne’s house. While we renovating upstairs, someone broke in (while neither of us was there) and set fire to the house. The fire damage, coupled with that of the water used by the fire brigade to put the fire out, destroyed many of our possessions. The house was rebuilt better than it was before.

Just around the corner from Abbey Road lies the current JNCC Aberdeen office in Inverdee House. Being the middle of the seabird counting season (and a Friday), only a few staff were in when I called by – luckily one was my friend Sonia. We had a tea and lunch together.

Saying hello to Sonia outside Inverdee House

Regrettably I could not stay long because, as I was entering Aberdeen, I had hit a pothole very badly (I could not swerve to avoid it due to traffic). That pothole broke my rear wheel (two spokes pulled right through the rim), and I was keen to try to get it replaced while I was in Aberdeen. After two “we are too busy” phone responses, Holburn Cycles said that they could probably help – and help they did. John, the mechanic there, found a second-hand perfect replacement rear wheel in his workshop and within 20 minutes of arrival I was back on my way again. Exemplary service once again from the cycle shops of Britain. Holburn Cycles are going to get more trade from me!

Detail of a wrecked rear wheel before it went in the bin

4 thoughts on “Aberdeen

  1. Mark – I am SO enjoying your blog vicariously. You are inspiring me. And if an 81 year old woman can do that trip that is even farther, maybe there is hope! Anyhow, thanks so much for creating the blog. Good coffee break reading at work.

    best, Pat

    Patricia Baird, Ph.D. Vancouver, BC, Canada Fax 604-689-1051



    1. Dear David

      Thank you for your note, and well found in the dim distant recesses of the web!

      I did indeed rent Hillhead of Clinterty from your aunt Heather – a very fine lady and I still have a sketch by her of the bird table that I put up in the garden there on my wall.

      I rented the house from her over the winters from 1980-81 to 84-85 I think. She used to come up from Manchester in the summer. It was a very fine place, but cold as hell in the winter.

      I lost touch with Heather after a few years – I visited her once in Edinburgh after she moved there having sold Hillhead. I often wonder how she is or what became of her. If she is still with us, please give her my best wishes

      With all good wishes to you and your father

      Mark Tasker


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