One memorial bench, 16 identifiable names, 13 families traced and 11 stories of life, love and loss. In her “A Place to Remember, People of Torry” series, obituaries writer Lindsay Bruce has collated a series of articles from one Aberdeen memorial bench. Here she explains how the project came about.
Uniquely special place
In one of Aberdeen’s most rugged spots near Torry Battery, overlooking Greyhope Bay, there is a once-white, well-used memorial bench.
Floral tributes are attached to the sides and faded photos are taped, and tacked, on to the chipped paintwork. There are also 17 plaques, 16 of which have names you can clearly read.
It’s no secret how passionate I am about writing obituaries – or sharing the stories of the north-east’s many memorial benches. But right away, this one was different.
Not solely dedicated to one person, or one family, men and women, young and old, on plaques of every shape, colour and style, grace this bench.
Where rust bleeds on to ageing wood and more and more plaques have been added there’s a sense that this seat and its memorials, like the bays nestled underneath it, are collectively owned by Torry and her people.
Life, loss and love
I set myself a challenge to try and find out the stories of all the people connected to each of these plaques. But let me say from the outset, I wasn’t prepared for what was to come.
From one bench there were stories of two missing people. Two families torn apart by the grief of wondering what happened to treasured loved ones.
While Adam Krzyszpin’s whereabouts still remain a mystery, we’ve been able to share the story of – and so pay tribute to – Lynne Murray, daughter of Mary Murray, the first woman who was memoralised on the bench.
A walk down memory lane
From this one bench I’ve heard recollections of life in “old Torry”. A place full of industry, where people went to Victoria Hall Sunday School, where everyone knew one another and a trip down Victoria Road would take an entire afternoon.
Gathering these beautiful stories allowed me a glimpse inside lifelong love stories, and equally a seat among stories of enduring grief.
Two young men have plaques on this bench, for example. School friends, both passed away at a young age and in tragic circumstances. Both never to be forgotten. Their loss still felt each and every day.
A picture of Torry
In penning these tales it occurred to me that the bench itself is an emblem of Torry, then and now.
Though it’s seen better days, good people remain the reason for this bench, and good people remain the cherished heart of Torry.
Every family I traced shared memories with me. They laughed with me. Some cried. All communicated a fondness for the location where this special memorial bench sits. All claimed a sense of ownership… “it’s in our favourite place…” All finding solace and comfort when sitting on those weathered slats.
It’s like a picture of true community in microcosm.
Torry memorial bench is a place to remember
Communities are places where you live together, love together, weep together and try and rebuild together. Places that makes you, shape you, and even grieve you when what once never more can be. I’ve yet to find a place that embodies this more.
This isolated, cliff-edge bench provides a place for weary bodies to sit a while but I can tell you, from my many visits there too, it provides a tonic for weary spirits also.
It should be sad – but there’s hope in that place.
Two of those named share grandchildren. The brother of one was the best man for another. There’s a mother and daughter, and a plaque added by a friend, who then passed away so the gesture was reciprocated.
The thread running through it all? Growing up, living, working and being proud to be part of an Aberdeen community called Torry.
I’ve written a lot of things over 20 plus years in journalism yet these intersecting lives, communally remembered, in a beloved place, have left their mark on me more than most.
I’m grateful for being trusted to tell these stories, but more grateful that I also get to call Aberdeen home.