This is another dip into the wonderfully entertaining source that is the Annals of Aberdeen, published in 1818 but covering a much longer and older period in the city’s history.
I was entertained to discover that in the late 15th century, there were “miracle plays” put on by the Abbot and Prior of Bon- Accord. These were religious performances and it appears that “perhaps some of the higher class of the citizens may have been the principal performers.”
However, the lower orders were clearly up for a good time too, because we then read, “in process of time, such religious exhibitions became secular amusements, and profane subjects were introduced as the favourite topic of plays, which were performed by the citizens. These recreations, it would seem, have been too frequently practised; for they were afterwards ordained, by the magistrates, to be restricted to certain days of the year, namely the anniversary of St Nicholas, the tutelary saint of the borough, the Sundays of May, and to other such festival days. On these occasions the citizens, dressed in their gayest array, assembled at the Woolmanhill and Playfield, where they received the abbot and prior of Bon-Accord with pompous ceremony. These personages, and their train of attendants, mounted on steeds, afterwards proceeded in parade through the streets of the town. The remainder of the day was devoted to mirth and festivity; to dancing; and to the exhibition of games, farces, and plays; concluding with a banquet, which appears to have been not unfrequently attended with tumult and disorder.”
In other words, the population let their hair down and seem to have had a right good time! Moreover, it seems to have been compulsory, because we then read, “To be absent, however, on these festivals, was an offence which was punished with forfeiture of the offender’s lease, if he held such of the community, or with a pecuniary fine, to be applied for the expence (sic) either of the lights or repairs of Saint Nicholas Church.”
Not much has changed, apart from the language, since then. We do know how to enjoy ourselves in north-east Scotland!
Julie Skinner, Resourcing and Benefits Specialist