Glimpse into lives of hardy “Bennachie colonists” to be explored in new app

Remains of a colony house at Bennachie.
Remains of a colony house at Bennachie.

They were the hardy crofters who made a living off the unyielding terrain on the slopes of the Garioch’s most iconic hilltop.

And now, a conservation group has unveiled plans to create an app which would help visitors explore the unique lifestyles of the Bennachie Colonists, who flourished under the peak in the 1800s.

The Bailies of Bennachie have received a £10,000 boost from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards developing the software, which would allow people to explore the virtual history around the Mither Tap.

The app, which could be accessed from smart phones, would tell the story of the 19th-century colonists who called the landmark their home.

The technology will include stories and literature about the historic community. It follows a project between the Bailies and Aberdeen University into the lives of the colonists called the Bennachie Landscape Project.

The residents of the hillside were scattered on both sides, with the majority close to the current Bennachie Centre.

There are believed to have been about 60 people living at the latter spot across eight houses around the “peak” period of the settlement in 1850.

Chairwoman of the Bailies of Bennachie, Jackie Cumberbirch, said the lives of the colonists can still be seen in the land around the hill.

She added the app would also be informed by a drama about the colonists, due to take place in September.

Local school pupils and the Inverurie Youth Forum are helping the Bailies draw up the interactive programme.

Ms Cumberbirch added: “In the 1800s, it was rough ground, and rough grazing. The estates weren’t interested in Bennachie.

“People had moved to the slopes of Bennachie, they were called the colonists. They were crofters, some had jobs, some were dykers and some quarrymen. Some were fish sellers and others did laundry.

“They were sort of self-employed, they built these houses free of charge, then the lairds divided the land and charged rent.

“At the moment, you see the pattern of the stones (at the ruins) but don’t understand how these people lived. Part of the idea with the app is to get glimpses of that.

“We hope to have Doric poems, little films from the drama. We want signposts of what colony life was like and the history of the families.”