Downies is a typical, cliff-top village, and its harbour
very small. It proved difficult to link both Downies
and Portlethen to the mains water and sewage systems.
The local residents of both villages demanded them,
and both won their case.
A Downies boat, the “Isabella” was swamped
in the great storm of 1880. The entire crew of Moses
Wood, his sons James and Moses (both unmarried), his
nephews James Wood (unmarried) and George Wood (leaving
a wife and 10 children), John Wood, another George
Wood (married only a fortnight) and another James Wood
(married with a family of seven) all perished. The
bodies were never recovered. A relief fund was launched
for the victims and for other losses from Skateraw
(the extended Christie family suffering similar tragic
losses, including two fathers and their sons) and a
boat from Footdee.
Portlethen is now largely a dormitory town for Aberdeen,
but there has been a settlement here for over 200 years.
The name is reputed to be derived from “Port
Leviathan” because of the whales that were beached
there from time to time.
The local church history is interesting. William Law
was born in 1797, the son of a Kincardine O’Neil
farmer. After graduating from Marischal College, he
was schoolmaster at Maryculter for 25 years. Appointed “missionary” at
Portlethen in 1827 on a salary of £30 per annum,
he was presented with a pony for travel to work! It
was not until 1840 that he moved to the manse at Portlethen,
where he lived until his death in 1870, aged 73. His
wife Isabella died on their 31 wedding anniversary.
The minister’s daybook provides a fascinating
insight into parish life. He was present at the opening
of the new, wider Bridge of Dee in 1842. He records
that 90,000 were present when Queen Victoria and Prince
Albert passed through Aberdeen in 1848. And in 1866
there was “a grievous plague (Rinderpest) amongst
the cattle which no precautions of efforts or human
skill have been able greatly to mitigate.”
The 1 April 1861 census states that 1,688 people lived
in the Parish of Portlethen, in 333 inhabited houses.
There were 280 children at school, and the villages’ population
were Portlethen 291, Findon 253 and Downies 180.
To the east of the dual carriageway lies the Portlethen
retail park, now with Asda, Homebase, and Matalan. In
2004 more shops were opened to supplement those at The
Green. There are two primary schools and a couple of
pubs. A major extension to the Academy is underway, and
that might help develop the “heart” which
the community dearly needs. To the west lies Badentoy
Industrial Estate, the local base of international oil
companies. The green belt to the North and South is doing
a little to prevent coalescence with other communities,
but the growth of new housing, already evident to the
west of the A90 in Hillside , is bound to follow a final
decision on the siting of the Aberdeen “ Western
Peripheral Route ” designed to bypass the town