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Step back in time: Celebrating the thrills of bygone Bonfire Nights in Aberdeen

Kim Leslie and brother David enjoying sparklers at the Springhill display in 1990.

Once the festivities of Halloween are over, many people in Aberdeen start to look forward to Bonfire Night.

The annual celebration sees skies across the north-east light up with fireworks and flames.

In Aberdeen in days gone by, health and safety went out the window and bonfires would be piled high in communities across the city.

Unfortunately the much-anticipated displays in Aberdeen and Elgin have been called off due to Covid concerns this year.

But join us on a step back in time as we reminisce about Bonfire Night in happier times in Aberdeen.

These days it is highly unlikely you’d let primary school aged children handle fireworks, but there were no such concerns in Aberdeen in 1952.

These youngsters were admiring the top fireworks of the day, which included the ‘glittering cascade’, Roman candles and rockets direct from renowned firework firm Brock of Crystal Palace in London.

Work on this big bonfire at Craigton Road in Aberdeen in 1954 started on October 30, ahead of November 5.

In this action shot, above, schoolboys Ronald Dyer, John Urquhart, Tuenis Arie Van Gelderen and John Rhind were hard at work stacking up sticks and branches.

Traditionally there was always a good Bonfire Night knees-up at Sheddocksley in Aberdeen.

This atmospheric photo from 1970 shows the guy perched precariously on top of this giant pile of wood and flames near Springhill Road.

It was one of the city’s most popular organised displays and busloads of Aberdonians would travel to the outskirts of the city for an evening of fun.

There was a very enthusiastic turn-out at Aberdeen Links and Parks Committee’s best guy competition at Union Terrace Gardens in 1972.

Each year children across the city would be invited to design and create guys, with the best ones chosen to be put on bonfires at the council’s three supervised displays at Springhill, the old tram track at Queen’s Links and Inverdee opposite Duthie Park.

Fireworks again lit up the sky above Sheddocksley in 1976 and the bonfire was a roaring success with a big turn-out.

That year Grampian Fire Brigade urged the public to attend the event at Springhill instead of holding their own after incidents in previous years.

The plea followed at incident in nearby Mastrick two years before when people put empty oil drums on a bonfire which exploded, then “cannoned across a waste ground” before crossing a road.

In 1978, Bonfire Night in Dyce was saved by Good Samaritans Mike Reid and George McGill after vandals ruined the bonfire in the days before November 5.

The two employees of Dyce-based firm Plessey EAE made a new bonfire to cheer up the community’s youngsters after the original bonfire was set alight prematurely by yobs.

Mr McGill said: “We read about the kids’ disappointment in the Press and Journal and thought we would help out.”

The spectacular Queen’s Links bonfire was stockpiled with brushwood and pallets ahead of the public display in 1978.

The bonfire was so big it dwarves the council workers building it in this photo above – and it was to get bigger still before the touchpaper was lit on November 4 that year.

The evening promised plenty of thrills with mortar shells, streamers and parachute rockets lined up to illuminate the sky above the beach.

The pupils at Kirkhill Primary School with their entry in the 1984 best guy competition run by Aberdeen City Council.

Pupils worked hard on their guy – a likeness of Mr T from the 1980s hit TV show the A Team – which would be competing with entries from schools across the city.

That year there was a first prize of £12 available for the best guy, as well as the honour of having it incinerated on one of the city’s three bonfires.

Taking safety more seriously than their firework-handling counterparts in the 1950s, Kim Leslie, 10, and her six-year-old brother David enjoyed fun with sparklers in 1990.

They had been attending the bonfire celebration at Sheddocksley which was marred in controversy by a rogue rocket which exploded near the crowd.

Sadly the days of the display at Springhill were numbered; council cuts in 1998 saw Aberdeen’s Bonfire Night offering shrink from three to one.

The bonfire at Sheddocksley was axed and all efforts were concentrated on one display at Inverdee.

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