Boddam, Aberdeenshire

Boddam is a coastal village in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. It is 29 miles (47 km) north of Aberdeen and 3 miles (4.8 km) south of Peterhead. Sea cliffs rise to 200 feet (61 m), south of the village: a coastal path leads along these to the Bullers of Buchan.

Location within Aberdeenshire
Population1,290 (2012)[1]
OS grid referenceNK134422
Council area
Lieutenancy area
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtAB42
Dialling code01779
EU ParliamentScotland
UK Parliament
Scottish Parliament

The adjoining settlement, on the Aberdeen to Peterhead road, was for many years known simply as Stirling: in 2004, it was renamed Stirling Village, to avoid confusion with the newly granted city of Stirling.


There is vicinity evidence of prehistoric man, particularly slightly to the southwest of Boddam where a number of prehistoric monuments including Catto Long Barrow,[2] Silver Cairn and many tumuli are found. In that same vicinity of the Laeca Burn watershed is the point d'appui of historic battles between invading Danes and indigenous Picts.

While human occupation in the vicinity of Boddam is attested to from Neolithic times with the quarrying of flint deposits at the Den of Boddam[3] and in more recent times by the fortified remains near the islet of Dundonnie just south of the modern-day village, for much of the early historical period there is little or no record of habitation in the location of the fishing settlement which grew up later.

Boddam Castle was built in the late 16th century by the Ludquharn branch of the Keith family, whose other strongholds in the area are at Inverugie Castle and Ravenscraig Castle, west of Peterhead. Sir William Keith, Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania and Delaware, was born here in 1669.[4]

During the First World War about a hundred German prisoners were sent from Stobs Camp to work in the granite quarries nearby[5].


Like Peterhead, Boddam grew as a fishing town during the 18th century but until 1831, when the first of two harbours was constructed to the north of the lighthouse, boats had to be hauled onto shore by hand.

A marine villa, known as the Earl's Lodge, was built in 1840 for George Hamilton-Gordon, Earl of Aberdeen (later Prime Minister) and in 1842 he initiated construction of the second harbour situated next to the first, leading to a considerable increase in the local fishing industry and Registered Port status in 1845. By the mid-1840s the population of the expanded and improved village had grown to 526 inhabitants, with 22 haddock boats and 23 larger herring boats working from the harbour for the seasonal fisheries (March to July, and July to September respectively). 12 boats were employed during the winter months in the cod and white fisheries.[6][7]

Harbour widening followed in 1878, and by 1881 there were 200 drifters based at Boddam. However, in an ironic twist this very growth led to an inevitable decline as Peterhead lying just to the north benefited from the far greater harbour space available for the continually growing fishing fleet.

On 4 October 1881 7 fisherman, including the skipper, William Walker, were lost on the "Alice" in the storm generally referred to as the Eyemouth Disaster. Their bodies were washed up in the Firth of Forth and they are buried together in Inveresk churchyard.

Buchan Ness lighthouse

Buchan Ness Lighthouse
Buchan Ness Lighthouse
Coordinates57.470449°N 1.774452°W / 57.470449; -1.774452
Year first constructed1827
Constructiongranite tower
Tower shapecylindrical tower with balcony and lantern
Markings / patternwhite tower with a red band, red balcony, black lantern
Tower height35 metres (115 ft)
Focal height40 metres (130 ft)
Light sourcemains power
Range18 nautical miles (33 km; 21 mi)
CharacteristicFl W 5s.
Admiralty numberA3280
NGA number2740
ARLHS numberSCO-024
Managing agentBuchan Ness Lighthouse Holidays [8] [9]

The area around the headland of Buchan Ness was for many centuries the point from which trading and whaling voyages departed across open ocean, bound for Archangel, Greenland and Spitsbergen amongst other destinations.[10]

Over time, many vessels had been run aground in poor weather and in 1819 petitions were sent to the Northern Lighthouse Board to erect a lighthouse in the vicinity. As Engineer to the board, Robert Stevenson decided upon the present location; the granite-built construction being completed in 1825 and the light established in 1827.[11]

The red band was painted in 1907 to help passing ships determine their location and for many years a foghorn (locally known as the Boddam Coo or also as the Boddam Bear, prior to reequipping in 1978) was installed, this being officially turned off in 2000.

The lighthouse is 118 ft (36 m) high, flashing a white light every 5 seconds which with the current lamp is visible for 28 nautical miles (52 km).

Peterhead granite

Quarrying and crafting of high-quality "Peterhead granite" from Stirlinghill above Boddam developed on a commercial scale during the 18th and 19th centuries, being used not only locally but further afield in many public, private and church buildings.

Examples from London include extensive use in Australia House, the former Stock Exchange building, India Office, Covent Garden, the Carlton Club and the original fountains in Trafalgar Square designed by Charles Barry and built by McDonald & Leslie, Aberdeen (one of which is now in Confederation Park, Ottawa and the other in the Wascana Centre, Regina, Saskatchewan following remodelling in 1939).[12][13][14][15]

The quarry officially closed on 16 June 1956, due to inability to compete on an economic basis for bulk construction requirements, rather than the more traditional architectural usages for which it had become so well known in the 19th century.[16]

Arrival of the railway

Although the railway reached Peterhead via Maud in 1862, it was not until August 1897 when the Boddam Branch from Ellon to Boddam via Cruden Bay was constructed by the Great North of Scotland Railway Company.[17] The success of the line for both Boddam and Cruden Bay was, however, short-lived and the line was closed to passengers during the Great Depression in 1932; Boddam Station finally being closed to all traffic in 1945.[18]

Prior to the arrival of the branch from Ellon, the Government had constructed a line covering the two and a half miles between Peterhead prison and the Stirlinghill quarries in order to obtain granite for construction of the breakwater across Peterhead Bay. At the time, prior to the creation of British Railways in 1948, this was the only state-owned railway in the United Kingdom.[19]

RAF Buchan

Following the opening of the nearby radar station at RAF Buchan in 1952, a domestic camp was opened on the site of the former railway terminus. The domestic camp was closed in 2005 and the site was sold to a private company.[20] The RAF Buchan operational camp is retained by the Royal Air Force and known as Remote Radar Head Buchan.[21]

Peterhead power station

Adjacent to the north side of the village is Peterhead power station (generating capacity: 2,390MW, limited to 1,550MW) on which construction commenced in May 1973, being brought into operation in 1980. Originally intended as a gas-powered station, it was later converted to burn gas or oil and is currently powered by the entire gas supply of the Miller Field.[22]

Sea bass may be caught in the vicinity of the warm water outlets, to which they are attracted.

Present day

Today, Boddam serves largely as a commuter settlement for Aberdeen and Peterhead although an involvement in the fishing industry still continues on a small scale, in particular for lobster.

Despite Boddam and Stirling Village possessing three hotels or inns, tourism in the area is at a low level.

The remains of Boddam Castle lie in a ruinous state, although Earl's Lodge which had previously been gutted in a fire was repaired as a private home in 2006. Information boards for the castle have recently been erected and Clan Keith reunions from America have been invited to visit whilst in the area.[23]

The village has yet retained public facilities such a Post Office, two Hotels and an Inn, a Library, Fish and Chip Shop, local shop, two Car Garages, a Public Hall and a local Primary School.[24]

An innovative carbon capture scheme at the power station which had previously been shelved was brought back onto the agenda in late 2007 with the hope of new jobs for the local populace.[25]


A traditional song relates how a monkey was the only survivor from a local shipwreck and thus the villagers of Boddam could not claim salvage rights as those only applied when all had perished. One version of the first verse thus relates,

A ship went out along the coast,
And all the men on board were lost,
Except the monkey, who climbed the mast,
And the Boddamers hinged the monkey O!
- Traditional[26]

The recently renamed "Noose and Monkey" pub in Aberdeen recalls this event rather than the infamous monkey-hanging stated to have occurred in Hartlepool during the Napoleonic Wars. Indeed, Fiona-Jane Brown of the University of Aberdeen, has suggested that the Hartlepool tale actually originates from an event in Boddam in 1772. She claims that a popular song about the Boddam incident was adapted over many years as it travelled down the east coast, eventually spawning a Hartlepool version.[27]

The song relating to the latter dates no earlier than the 1850s, from famous Geordie comic singer Ned Corvan who had toured the Scottish Lowlands and may have used the Boddam tale as his basis, perhaps influenced by the intense rivalry between Hartlepool and Old Hartlepool, at the time a separate settlement, to deride the latter.

Indeed, Boddamers for many years after the event were often (and sometimes still are) taunted by the cry "Fa hangit the monkey?!" ("Who hanged the monkey?") from residents of Peterhead.[28] [29] [30] [31]


  1. Estimated population of settlements by broad age groups, mid-2012
  2. C. Michael Hogan. 2008. Catto Long Barrow fieldnotes, The Modern Antiquarian
  3. Aberdeenshire Council - Flint Mines Archived 19 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  4. Graeme Park People: Sir William Keith Archived 12 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  5. "Newspaper of the German Prisoner of War Camp at Stobs in Scotland 1915-1919, Military #22(36) July 1918". Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  6. Lewis, S. (1846). "A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland". S. Lewis & Co., London. Retrieved 10 November 2007.
  7. Graham, A. (1976). "Old Harbours and Landing Places on the East Coast of Scotland" (PDF). Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Edinburgh. 108:332-365. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 June 2007. Retrieved 10 November 2007.
  8. Buchan Ness The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 9 May 2016
  9. Buchan Ness Northern Lighthouse Board. Retrieved 9 May 2016
  10. Defoe, D. (1726). "A tour thro' the whole island of Great Britain (vol. 3)". G. Strahan, et al. London. Retrieved 10 November 2007.
  11. Lewis, S. (1846). "A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland". S. Lewis & Co., London. Retrieved 10 November 2007.
  12. - peterhead Resources and Information. Archived 11 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  13. Pall Mall, South Side, Past Buildings - The Carlton Club | British History Online
  14. The Art Fund - A Pair of Fountains from Trafalgar Square
  15. Timbs, J. (1855). Curiosities of London: Exhibiting the Most Rare and Remarkable Objects of the Metropolis. David Bogue, London. Retrieved 12 November 2007.
  16. - peterhead Resources and Information. Archived 11 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  17. Longhaven To Boddam Archived 6 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  18. Boddam Branch (Great North of Scotland Railway)
  19. - peterhead Resources and Information. Archived 11 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  20. The Buchan Observer
  21. "Radar Flight North". RAF Boulmer. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  22. Overview of Peterhead Power Station
  23. New Page 1
  24. Aberdeenshire Council - Boddam School Archived 12 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  25. "Power station's upgrade welcomed". BBC News. 1 October 2007. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
  26. (posted by Caroline Seawright)
  27. Study queries monkey legend roots, BBC News, 13 January 2009
  28. Woolford, Jack (26 April 2000). "Mythical monkey". Independent, The (London). (retrieved from archive 2007-11-11)
  29. Port Cities: Traditions and folklore - The Monkey legend Archived 22 June 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  30. Port Cities: Traditions and folklore - The Monkey legend Archived 18 September 2004 at the Wayback Machine
  31. Monkey Hangers! « The BS Historian
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