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John Wilken

John Wilken has written an invaluable book for us. He was born and brought up in the farm of Broomfield on the outskirts of Ellon. He wrote his book in the 1920s when he was then in his 80s. He spent the majority of his adult life in Canada and when he returned he was shocked by the scale of change. He recalls the Ellon of his youth some 80 years back in the 1840s. In detail he recalls all of the houses and shops in the Square and who lived and worked there. He describes the extent of the town which stretched from the Manse (now Riversfield House) in the East to the New Inn on the western border. The south edge of the town was the river and the north where the entrance to the Health Centre is today. He remembers being given a day off school to see the foundations for the new castle being laid in 1850. He quotes A H Charteris (the biographer of Rev Dr James Robertson) talking of Ellon in 1863 with its turreted castle rising above terraces and trees in feudal state. He observes the manse with its willows and the large barn-like Presbyterian Church with its contempt for any ornament. He also talks of the Episcopal Church (not the present beautiful building but its predecessor) to be the rude

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result of parochial masonry. At that time too, the field to the west of the New Inn was where the Highland Games were held each year.

His book entitled Ellon in Bygone Days and Buchan in Grandfather’s Time gives a tremendous and detailed picture of the village in the 19th century. It can be found in Ellon Library.

William (Bulldog) Smith


The Boot Factory was built in 1892 in Commercial Road, Ellon by William (Bulldog) Smith. It was called the Ellonbank Works. It employed at that time 70 staff and they produced on average 1000 boots a week. His first factory started in 1864 in Bridge Street was originally in a small way but expanded over the years. On one visit to Peterhead, Mr Smith gained £80 worth of orders - a quite remarkable achievement more than 100 years ago. He also built a mansion house which he called Gareta Hill and which was later called Auchtercrag


The picture above shows William Smith and the picture to the right shows his house (Auchtercrag) and his boot factory. You will note that there are no houses in front of or near the factory. In due course the factory was taken over by a family called McLaren. Eventually it was part of the tractor works of Neil Ross and the house was occupied by his employees.