Stonehaven and District Probus Club welcomed Alan Bisset as a guest speaker at their last meeting, who spoke about the town’s fortunes.
Though not born in Stonehaven, Alan grew up in the town. After graduating he worked here and served as a councillor, which gave him a unique opportunity to chart Stonehaven’s changing fortunes.
Members learned, for example, that the town Hhll very nearly became a supermarket when, in 1987 ,its leasehold expired.
Back in 1970, the town still had a distillery, a tannery and a mart.
It was still very much a holiday destination for folk, especially from the Central Belt.
Boarding houses did good business as did now defunct hotels such as The Bay (now Clashfarquahar House), St Leonards, County, Mill Inn, Heugh, Star Inn, White Heather and the Eldergrove.
The Commodore came and went, a victim of poor architecture. It was estimated that there was a hotel or pub for every 50 inhabitants. The town even had an entertainments officer!
There were still several fishing boats sailing out of the harbour. There was no recycling scheme but a similar result was achieved by the frequent jumble sales.
The town library was well used and you could easily find a space on the High Street to watch the fireballs.
There was little out of town shopping, though Boots now is the only shop to be still located on the Square but the town still has Waldies and Guillanotti’s.
In 1961, Stonehaven’s population was approximately 4500.
There was a 25% increase between 1971/76 (the beginning of the oil boom) and today it stands at over 12,000.
The bypass, completed in 1983, took an enormous load off Stonehaven’s overcrowded roads - especially Allardice Street - but, of course, it also kept many vistors away from the shops.
So, the town along with others has become a dormitory for Aberdeen but, as Alan pointed out, on the plus side it now had a world famous Hogmanay ceremony, the Horizon Group, Friends of the Pool, a Folk Festival, Beer Festival, and the spirit was still there as witnessed in the tremendous way that people rallied round to help others after the recent flooding.
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