Buckie (Gaelic: Bucaidh) is a burgh town on the Moray Firth coast of Scotland in Moray. Buckie was the largest town in Banffshire by some thousands of inhabitants before regionalisation in 1975 removed that political division from the map of Scotland. The town is the third largest in the Moray Council area after Elgin and Forres.
Geographically the town is, broadly speaking, laid out in a linear fashion, following the coastline. There is a lower shore area and an upper area. Fundamentally Buckie itself is the central part of the community lying between the Victoria Bridge under which flows the Buckie Burn at the western end of West Church Street, the eastern end of Cluny Harbour and above the shore area. To the west of Victoria Bridge and lying above the shoreline is Buckpool (formerly Nether Buckie) and on the shoreline there is The Yardie. To the east of Cluny Harbour lie Ianstown, Gordonsburgh and Portessie (formerly Port Eassie.) These communities were, to all intents and purposes, separate fishing communities which gradually merged. A new town was laid out above the shoreline in the 19th century and this is the rump of Buckie.
Cluny Harbour is probably still the true heart of Buckie and this project was built by the Cluny family in 1877 to replace an earlier harbour in Nether Buckie which was constructed in 1857, by the same family, a mere mile or so to the west but had a tendency to silt up and become unusable. Later known as Buckpool Harbour this earlier port became something of an eyesore and the silted basin became overgrown and dangerously swampy. The decision was taken to fill in the basin and this work was undertaken in the 1970s. The resulting park includes a pebble beach and the original granite harbour walls remain completely intact.
Buckie High School is located on West Cathcart Street. Directly opposite from the original and still functioning old school building is Cluny Primary School (Buckie Primary School until 1974.) There are three further primary schools in the town - Millbank Primary School on McWilliam Crescent in the newer mid-southern part of Buckie, St. Peter's RC Primary School in Buckpool and Portessie Primary School. Additional primary schools in Portgordon, Findochty, Portknockie and Cullen contribute to the roll of Buckie High School. The small communities of Arradoul, Drybridge, Rathven and Lintmill also contribute to the BHS roll.
The Buckie Shipyard now builds and refurbishes lifeboats for much of the United Kingdom but boatbuilding was a major industry in the town for decades. Until recent years there were three quite separate boatyards building traditional wooden clinker fishing vessels. Leaving Cluny Square and heading down North High Street, or The Bus Brae, the view of the sea would have been interrupted by a huge grey corrugated iron shed. This was Thompsons and vessels were launched directly into the sea from a slipway. Heading east to Cluny Harbour it would have been impossible to miss Herd and McKenzie on the third or lifeboat basin of the harbour. Directly behind their large sheds and across Blantyre Terrace was Jones with their private harbour into which they launched their vessels. Thompsons is gone but the premises of Herd and McKenzie and Jones are part of the modern day Buckie Shipyard. It was Herd and McKenzie which built and launched the training schooner Captain Scott in 1972. At the time of its launch this vessel was the largest of its type in the world.
A significant part of the population works in the offshore oil industry although Buckie somewhat missed the boat with the North Sea oil industry. In the late 1970s there were extensive plans drawn up to extend Cluny Harbour with the intention of serving oilfield supply vessels. Nothing came of this but every now and then the idea rears its head once more to be met with great enthusiasm before failing to get off the ground again.
Buckie was home to a specialist electric lamp factory of Thorn EMI until 1982 when it was closed and production moved to a new plant in Leicestershire. All of the predominantly female staff were offered jobs at the new facility in the East Midlands but, as the vast majority of the labour force were second wage earners in families, this offer was almost universally rejected.
Buckie is home to the Inchgower Distillery which sits a mile or so inland from the town and is best known for the Inchgower Single Malt.
Portessie was also terminus to the Buckie and Portessie Branch of the Highland Railway. This line was opened in 1884 and provided a direct rail link “up the hill” to Keith. The line ran westwards from Portessie but remained on top of the cliff, passing the Pot O' Lynn, skirting the rear of Cliff Terrace and crossing Harbour Street then swinging south contributing to the curve of Mill Crescent to stop at Buckie Highland Station before continuing up present day Millbank Terrace towards Rathven. Until recent years this latter section was used as a footpath and commonly known as "The Highland Line" — it was quite possible to cycle from Millbank Terrace to the site of Rathven Station as late as the 1970s and even early 1980s — but housing development and farming interests have contributed to the virtual closure of this popular route to Peter Fair Park. The line then turned westwards again towards Drybridge and made another sweep to the south as it passed Enzie and then headed uphill, over the Enzie Braes, to Keith. This link was relatively short-lived and was closed in 1915 except for a freight service between Buckie and Portessie which closed in 1944.
It is possible to walk, or cycle along the route of the old railway from Cullen to Garmouth. This walk takes in the magnificent Cullen viaduct from which fine views of that town can be had and also the Spey Bridge.
Adjacent to Buckie High School is Victoria Park, home of Buckie Thistle Football Club. The go-ahead board has extensively developed the stadium in recent years and a function suite was built within the perimeter of the ground so that match-goers can now enjoy more sophisticated licenced and catering facilities pre- and post-match at the match venue.
Near the southern edge of town on High Street lies Linzee Gordon Park. This is home to Buckie Cricket Club, which has a very long history with numerous McAllan North of Scotland Cricket Association League titles in recent years (four in the past six seasons to be specific) on top of various league and cup wins in the 1990s including two wins in the prestigious Scottish Cricket Union Small Clubs Cup. BCC built a modern pavilion to replace their aging home and this was opened in June 1998. The construction was partly funded by sportscotland and the National Lottery. Linzee Gordon Park, also has a municipal pavilion for football use in the park.
Bowling is a popular pastime in Buckie and the town boasts two greens. Buckie Bowling Club is on North High Street and Low Street with attractive views over the Moray Firth from the clubhouse. Victoria Bowling Club sits on West Church Street adjacent to Victoria Bridge and the Buckie Burn flowing below.
Buckie has a 25m swimming pool which was built next to Buckie High School in 1975.
Buckie is at the end of the Speyside Way long distance footpath. There is magnificent coastal scenery all along the Banff coast, with easy access to areas such as Glenlivet, Speyside and the Cairngorms.
Buckie. What does the name mean? It is now almost universally accepted that the word comes from the Gaelic word boc – meaning a male deer, the word Buckie may then be seen as an adjective describing a place where male deer were known to congregate. This is more than likely to have been in the valley of the Buckie Burn.
After the Town Council came into being in 1888 they changed the name of Nether Buckie to Buckpool thereby picking up again on the word for deer and also the connection with water.
The lands of Easter or Over Buckie which had been in the hands of the Gordons for 250 years became part of Cluny Estates, another Gordon family, of Cluny Castle, Aberdeenshire, towards the end of the 18th century. They built a town house on Baron Street which still stands today. One comes across the name Cluny in many parts of the town including the Square and bears witness to the influence of the landed proprietors.
We know the term the Burgh of Buckie but when did this actually become such? In the year 1888 a meeting was called with only one item on the agenda according to the first Minute Book, this was that it was proposed to erect a burgh (a town having a charter) out of the detached hamlets that were gradually growing together. We then read further – Within the Fishermen’s Hall at Buckie in the parish of Rathven upon Thursday the sixteenth day of February 1888 at 7 o’clock in the evening and following on the formalities where the reasons for holding the meeting were clearly outlined by the Sheriff of Banff William Robert Duguid, doctor of medicine, moved that the General Police and Imperial Scotland Act 1862 be in whole adopted and carried into execution. This was passed on a majority of a show of hands. It was also agreed that a number of commissioners be appointed who would in time be known as councillors. The meeting then proceeded to choose a name for the burgh. Robert Reid, harbourmaster moved that the burgh be called Buckie, seconded by James Gibson, fishery officer.
In 1888 the Burgh of Buckie consisted only of the districts of Easter and Nether Buckie, later to become Buckpool, but through time the burgh has grown in size. Three years later the hamlets of Gordonsburgh and Ianstown were absorbed and in 1904 the village of Portessie was incorporated in the Burgh bringing the total population to around 7,000. Each of the places named came into being sometime between 1650 and the later years of the 18th century, hastened at least to some degree by the onset of the Agrarian Revolution that saw the breakup of the ferm toons that previously had dotted the inland landscape. Some of the earliest residents had previously been farmers, noticeably so in Portessie. From 1888 until 1952 the chain and badge of office worn by the Provost was a fairly modest affair made of a base metal, perhaps pewter. The badge consisted of a lifebelt surrounded by a rope with a reef knot tied at the top and a bow at the bottom. Inside the lifebelt was a model of a scaffie with its sail unfurled sailing on a stylised sea. The registration letters and numbers BF 1888 are seen both on the bow of the boat and also on the sail.
From the ‘Banffshire Advertiser’ of April 23 1951 we read - ‘During the course of the Town Council meeting on Friday, Provost Hendry intimated that he wished to present the burgh with a heraldic coat of arms. He had previously looked into the matter and explained to his fellow members that the Lord Lyon would not accept the present symbol of lifebelt and fishing boat nor the motto ‘Weel May the Boatie Row’ as pure heraldry. Although he was applauded for his kind gesture some disappointment was shown towards the refusal of the authorities to accept the old symbol and motto. At a later meeting of the council, when the matter of the coat of arms was again raised, it was generally agreed by the members that they ask that the symbol of a fishing boat be retained. It was to some degree as the coat of arms when first shown publicly in November 1951 was seen to have a boat as part of the elements, a stylised lymphad, a kind of large rowing boat, it says, much used in earlier times in the Scottish highlands. The sails are furled and the oars are in action. The coat of arms also contained elements of the sea, the fishing industry and of the Houses of Gordons of Buckie and Enzie with Hays of Rannes, two of the ancient landowners. The new motto Mare Mater, a strict translation from the Latin being Mother the Sea, was produced by the High School and signed by William W. Dickie and Thomas Laing, Head and Deputy Head respectively.
The Provosts new chain and badge of office was a much grander affair than that which it replaced. The chain is of gold with medals along its length for the names of Provosts to be inscribed. The badge itself contains a miniature coat of arms encircled with a garland of leaves with the cross of St Andrews at the bottom. This was presented to the Council by the widow of former provost Dr George Hendry in 1953. The coat of arms went into abeyance in 1974 with the reorganisation of local government and the demise of Buckie Town Council.
In 2007 Buckie Community Council was of the opinion that the town needed to obtain a coat of arms and to this end plans were set in motion. It has taken some considerable time and not a little money to arrive at the position we are in today with the Letters Patent, together with the new coat of arms, hopefully about to be presented to the chairman of the community council James Smith by Charles Burnett, Ross Herald and representative of the Lord Lyon, at a ceremony to be held tomorrow afternoon.
The new coat of arms is very similar to that given to the Town Council in 1951 apart from the new one having cones and feathers instead of turrets forming the upper part.
People are right to ask whether it has been worth the time and money spent on obtaining a new coat of arms for the town not to mention the efforts spent on the organisation of the presentation and also the publicity being given to the event when the previous one arrived with very little or no palaver. To this one has to say that we live in different times and we, the members of the community council, believe that it has all been worthwhile.
Buckie has come through a lot of tough times with the run down in such as the fishing and shipbuilding industries and all that this has entailed, not to mention the loss quite recently of the Grampian Pork factory, a major employer. Buckie is not the insular place that it once was, but has become much more cosmopolitan with the influx of foreign labour. It is to be hoped that the coat of arms will help to foster renewed pride in the Burgh of Buckie which may well have become dented by the reverses aforementioned, improve our identity on the national and international scale and altogether perhaps help to recapture the spirit known in days of yore of belonging and facing adversity together when the clarion call to all good and true Enzie folk to do deeds of valour was Tarwathie.
Note – In days of yore the district known as the Enzie stretched from Cullen to Fochabers today the area known as the Enzie is from Arradoul to the start of the Fochabers woods. This was an area covered by the Census and as the catchment area of the parish church at Broadley.