The growth of printing in the 17th century led to the appointment by the council of printers to the town and the University of Aberdeen. Interestingly, given that we tend to think (generally correctly) that this was a male dominated world, the Annals of Aberdeen tell us that when John Forbes, “who had carried on the business for many years” died in 1705, “his widow was appointed his successor to the office upon the 7th of February, of that year; and, upon the 6th of December, 1710, Margaret Forbes, their daughter, who had married James Nicol, printer, was, along with her husband, nominated by the council to succeed Mrs Forbes.”
The Nicols kept their business going until 1736, when Mr James Chalmers came onto the scene. According to the Annals, “Mr. Chalmers was the first publisher in the north of the frith (sic) of Forth, of a weekly newspaper, or indeed of any periodical.”
Chalmers first realised there was a market for such a periodical when he published a “report” of the battle of Culloden in April 1746 (the battle was on 16th April). However, it took a few more years, to January 1748 to be precise, before the Aberdeen Journal really got going. The Chalmers family continued to run the business and the Journal came out weekly, at first on Monday, and then switched to being published on Wednesdays. Throughout the 18th century, various other papers tried to muscle into the local market but all failed. In 1922, the Aberdeen Journal joined forces with the Free Press to become the Press and Journal – the P&J that we all know and love today. Many other publishers have tried over the years to dent the dominance of the P&J but none has, as yet, succeeded, although it must be said that the internet and the uninterest of the younger generations in printed newspapers poses the biggest threat to our local newspaper in its history. Given the part it has played in the story of the north-east over the centuries, it would be sad if it too went the way of its competitors.
Julie Skinner, Resourcing and Benefits Specialist, RGU