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Were you a Buchan Queen? Decades-old tradition was at heart of Peterhead Scottish Week

With their good looks and good nature, the Buchan Queen and her princesses were always important figureheads of the week-long Peterhead Scottish Week celebrations.

Images of some of Peterhead Scottish Week's Buchan Queens from 1962 to 2022. Image: Roddie Reid/DC Thomson
Images of some of Peterhead Scottish Week's Buchan Queens from 1962 to 2022. Image: Roddie Reid/DC Thomson

The crowning of the Buchan Queen has been at the heart of Peterhead Scottish Week celebrations since it began in 1962.

An event highlight for 60 years, women in Peterhead have competed annually for the coveted title, which sees a Queen and two princesses crowned.

For the Buchan Queen it’s a privilege to represent their community – and for Peterhead it represents an important tradition and link with the past.

Suzanne Murdoch was Buchan Queen in 1981, with Buchan princesses Anthea McLean, left, and Linda Robertson, right. Image: DC Thomson

With their good looks and good nature, the Buchan Queen and her attendants are the faces of the week-long celebration.

But it’s not just about being a pretty quine – the Blue Toon beauties are assigned a huge number of royal duties to be carried out during the week’s events.

From partaking in and presiding over Peterhead Scottish Week and handing out prizes to competition winners, to visiting the elderly, the Buchan Queen embraces her role as a community figurehead.

Nine Buchan Queen finalists in 1963, the winner was Ann Kidd, far left, a beautician from Boddam. Image: DC Thomson

Fashions may have come and gone, and hairstyles changed, but the Buchan Queen has been a stalwart of Peterhead Scottish Week.

No Buchan Queen for 2023

A much-loved part of gala celebrations, the 60th – and last – Buchan Queen Erika Paterson took to the throne last year.

Sadly, in recent times, it’s been harder to attract young women to the competition, so this year the Buchan Queen is not happening.

2022 Buchan Queen Erika Paterson, centre, with princesses Mellisa Watson, left, and Alana Henderson, right. Image: Scott Baxter/DC Thomson

The only other time the contest didn’t run was 2021, when Covid restrictions cast uncertainty over Peterhead Scottish Week.

This year organisers cited the lack of competitors and women not being able to take the whole week off work in their decision to veto the tradition.

Although disappointing for many, organisers have said they will look at the format again for 2024.

Peterhead Scottish Week carnival procession is headed by the prize-winning organisations – Sea Cadets, Young Unionists and Caledonian Amateur Swimming Club in 1966. Image: DC Thomson

War overshadowed Peterhead’s first ‘Herring Queen’

But it’s not the first time the decades-old competition has undergone changes.

Before the Buchan Queen launched in 1962, Peterhead had a Gala Queen in the 1950s, and prior to that, a ‘Herring Queen’ was chosen each year.

Reflecting its important fishing heritage, Peterhead’s first-ever Herring Queen was crowned during the town’s gala day in July 1939.

An advert for Peterhead Scottish Week in 1962. Image: DC Thomson

The event at Peterhead South Beach Lido attracted a crowd of 5,000 spectators – many of them holidaymakers from the south.

The title was bestowed on Peterhead schoolgirl Nancy Auld, 12, and her maids of honour Mary Smith and Madge Ritchie, by Provost Max Schultze.

Nancy’s duties that summer included attending other local events, an important one being the Peterhead Fete and YMCA Gala.

Nancy Auld, crowned first Herring Queen in Peterhead in 1939. Image: DC Thomson

Although the weather couldn’t have been better for the celebrations on August 26 1939, it was overshadowed by the clouds of international crisis.

World War Two broke out just six days later.

A photo of Peterhead fete and gala in 1939. Peterhead. Image: DC Thomson

The gala hoped to raise funds for the reconstruction of the YMCA, but with war around the corner many people had tightened their belts.

Nevertheless, £200 was raised for the cause and “in every other way the gala was a marked success”.

Herring Queen Nancy and her attendants took part in a street procession with the competitors in the fancy-dress cycle parade.

Peterhead Scottish Week advert from 1962. Image: DC Thomson

Peterhead Scottish Week planned for 1962

Elements of the Herring Queen and Gala Queen competitions fed into the Buchan Queen when the idea of Peterhead Scottish Week was first mooted in 1961.

It started when a Peterhead resident highlighted the lack of family entertainment during the summer holidays.

This coincided with a national scheme encouraging local councils to host a ‘Scottish Week’ to foster community spirit and boost tourism.

Isobel Buchan, 20, being crowned Buchan Queen by the Alexander Brothers in 1969. Image: DC Thomson

Planning began in earnest for Peterhead’s first Scottish Week the following year.

It was to run from July 17 to 22 during the town’s holiday season.

Speaking in 1961, Peterhead Councillor Robert Forman said there was already enthusiasm ahead of the event in 1962.

He added: “We’re a go-ahead lot in Peterhead and we want to let our visitors see what we can do in the way of entertaining them.”

Buchan Queen 1970 was student and champion swimmer Margaret Sutherland of Peterhead. Image: DC Thomson

Town was abuzz with gala celebrations

With more than a year to go, there was already a programme of entertainment shaping up for 1962.

Arrangements had been made for nightly dances, a car rally, a gymkhana, sea rescue demonstrations, a boxing circus, flower show, and of course, the Buchan Queen contest.

It was said the event would be “a credit to Peterhead”.

Buchan Queen 1975, student Katherine Brebner being presented with her crown by chairman James Greig alongside princesses police officer Marion Farquhar, left, and teacher Pamela Robertson. Image: DC Thomson

So, there was huge anticipation the following summer when the first Peterhead Scottish Week approached.

With displays and entertainment in place, organisers said “it is up to the public of Peterhead and district, and the hundreds of holidaymakers from Glasgow and the South to ensure success”.

The Blue Toon was buzzing with excitement when the gala week finally launched in 1962.

Paula Taylor, Buchan Queen 1983. Image: DC Thomson

The Rescue Hall was described as being “dressed up in its best bib and tucker for the occasion” for a three-day food fair and trades exhibition.

A children’s art show was held upstairs in the hall, with fashion shows and variety entertainments in the evening.

Madeline was crowned first-ever Buchan Queen

The week’s events began on the Monday with ladies’ football at Raemoss Park where Peterhead’s Dynamos took on Fraserburgh’s Real Fromac.

Priscilla Shillington was Buchan Queen in 1987 with Peter Heatly, treasurer of the Merchant Company of Edinburgh doing the honours. Princess Mary Jolly, left, with Mayor Svien Tommerdal, of Peterhead’s twin town Aalesund, and princess Shirly-Ann McDonnell. Image: DC Thomson

Events concluded on the Friday with the dance to choose the Buchan Queen at the Palace Hotel ahead of the carnival procession on Saturday.

The first-ever Buchan Queen was 20-year-old Madeline Kelman, a shop supervisor in Peterhead.

She was crowned by Provost Robert Forman and Evening Express woman’s editor Pearl Murray, and received £10.

The first-ever Peterhead Scottish Week Buchan Queen Madeline Kelman being crowned in 1962. Image: DC Thomson

Madeline’s attendants were Kathleen McIver and Sylvia Wallace, who each received £5 prize money.

The trio lead the carnival parade through the town before attending the horse-jumping competition and gymkhana.

Peterhead Scottish Week success

The first Peterhead Scottish Week was embraced by the town and surrounding communities – it exceeded expectations.

Hazel Milne, of New Deer, Buchan Queen in 1990. Image: DC Thomson

The Edinburgh-based ‘Scottish Week’ committee complemented the Blue Toon for producing the most ambitious programme of all the Scottish Weeks.

To this day, Peterhead Scottish Week remains a huge celebration that brings townsfolk together.

And is the only one in Scotland to have run consistently since 1962.

Buchan Queen Claire Stephen with princesses Kelly O’Brien and Alwyn Louise Milne in 1998. Image: DC Thomson

Peterhead Scottish Week is running until July 23. It features a host of activities and entertainment, culminating with the famous RAF Red Arrows display on Friday.

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