An abridged history, taken from ‘The Villages of Aberdeen. Footdee, by Diane Morgan, 1993
Down at the Fisher Squares, two missions co-existed for a number of years.
The story begins in 1859 at Leith when a Captain Summers of Fraserburgh, along with his crew, experienced the religious revival then sweeping Scotland and became converted. Later, becalmed at Pocra Quay they held revivalist meetings in the Free Kirk School in North Square.
‘Even the rafters were occupied’, wrote Andrew Baxter in his memoir, ‘Bygone Days of Footdee’. This had a great effect on the village. Men and women who were addicted to drink became converted; cursing and swearing were exchanged for prayer and hymn singing. The whole place became a veritable garden of the Lord’.
Donald Ross, the evangelist of the north-East Coast Mission, ‘strict and rigid in doctrine, blunt and fearless in expression’ was appointed superintendant in Footdee and drew such large crowds that in 1869 Fittie folk successfully petitioned the Town Council’s Links and Bents Committee for a site on which to erect ‘a building for religious meetings and general purposes’. And so the present ‘Mission Hall’, or ‘Schoolie’ was built in the centre of North Square.
Originally, the Mission represented the Free Kirk, but services were more evangelical in style. The popular ‘Schoolie’ was requisitioned in the war and was awarded £300 to cover renovation and redecoration. Superintendant, skipper and local chronicler, Andrew Baxter died in 1977 at the age of 95 and was replaced by John Stephen until 1991.
The emergence of the Gospel Hall can be traced back to the first superintendant of the Mission, Donald Ross, who subsequently oined the Plymouth Brethren and, with some converts from the Mission, set up a branch of Brethren in Fittie.
While Ross went and pursued an evangelical career in America, his work in Fittie was continued by the Fowler brothers in the Walker Hall (The Hallie), a wooden structure in New Pier Road. A new Walker Hall was built on the same site in 1951, but closed forty years later.
The Hall was subsequently rented as a studio by artist Joyce Cairns before being bought by Fittie Community Development Trust
Way back in the mists of time, before FCDT had bought the old Gospel Hall, I was scouting around asking for stories of the old Hall and its part in the lives of Fittie folk.
I received this wonderful piece, sent in by Elma Murray. I thought I’d share this with friends of Fittie trust.
“The first meeting place at Footdee was in a wooden bothy which harbour workmen used during the week. Then they moved to the Walker Hall-this was the barrel loft of a curing shed, belonging to a merchant called Walker, hence the name.The Walker Hall was a quaint place, built of wood which had been tarred to preserve it. A steep wooded stair, old and creaking, led to the “loft” which was surprisingly roomy. Normally, part of it was cut off by thick curtains and the heating was from a heavy iron stove which glowed with red coals when it was opened up. The whole atmosphere was one of homeliness, humility and simplicity. the tuneful singing had about it the freshness of the breezes and will linger in many memories.At length, the Hall came to be in very poor condition and was demolished in 1951. The present Gospel Hall was erected on the site of the old hall and was opened in 1952 and closed in 1991.”
Many thanks to Elma, who has attended many of our ‘doos’ over the past couple of years.
If anyone knows the original source of the piece, please let me know so that I can acknowledge the author.