Scotland is the best place in the UK to see the Northern Lights, that fantastical swirling of celestial colour that are caused by solar wind as the sun collides with magnetic particles in the earth’s atmosphere. They are usually described as being like a sheet of greenish or red hues, sometimes with arcs and rays of other colours. Aberdeen is a good place to see them, although you’re often better leaving the light pollution of the city and heading for the countryside, equipped with a warm coat, thermos flask and, of course, a high quality camera.

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 13.44.23The Northern Lights are also the subject of the best known song about Aberdeen. When you come to live and work in the city, you’re bound to hear it at least once or twice, sometimes at Pittodrie, the home of Aberdeen FC*.
The first verse and the well-known chorus are as follows:

When I was a lad, a tiny wee lad
My mother said to me
Come see the Northern Lights my boy
They’ re bright as they can be
She called them the heavenly dancers
Merry dancers in the sky
I’ll never forget, that wonderful sight
They made the heavens bright

The Northern Lights of old Aberdeen
Mean home sweet home to me
The Northern Lights of old Aberdeen
Are what I long to see
I’ve been a wanderer all of my life
Any many a sight I’ve seen
God speed the day when l’ m on my way
To my home in Aberdeen

The story behind the song is interesting. It was written in 1952, by Mel and Mary Webb, and published the same year by James Kerr, the music publisher, whose ‘Merry Melodies’ are regarded as amongst the most popular collections of Scottish tunes ever to be published. The really interesting thing about the song though (and this comes into the category of ‘not many people know that’) is that the Webbs were English and had never visited Aberdeen!

If you are interested in the aurora and all things astronomical, you can find a lot of interesting and helpful information about what you can see in the night sky in and around the city from the Aberdeen Astronomical Society (

For more specific information on the Northern Lights, Aurora Watch (, run by Lancaster University, has “aurora alerts” which you can get via Twitter, Facebook, email and various smartphone apps. One thing is essential though if you’re to become an aurora watcher out in the Aberdeenshire countryside. Don’t take a ‘normal’ torch – take a red torch instead as it will allow you to see your way around but won’t blind you from appreciating the amazing effects of the Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen.

* N.B. If you do go to Pittodrie, you may hear an alternative version, sung by opposition supporters. It’s not suitable for this audience!