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Pictures: Pooches, pubs and presents – looking back on December days in and around Aberdeen

Soak up the nostalgia of bygone December days in and around Aberdeen with our photos of the Salvation Army 'pub crawls', festive school dinners and dancing at the Music Hall.

Salvationist Gordon Smith takes a break from collecting and chats to regulars at the Butchers Arms pub on George Street just before Christmas in 1980. Image: DC Thomson
Salvationist Gordon Smith takes a break from collecting and chats to regulars at the Butchers Arms pub on George Street just before Christmas in 1980. Image: DC Thomson

Who remembers the packed pavements of Union Street in bygone Decembers, when shoppers picked up last-minute gifts and, laden with bags, squeezed onto busy buses home?

Our December photos evoke the warm glow of festive nostalgia that has become a little lost over the years.

Aberdeen’s Granite Mile is decidedly quieter these days than in 1971; shopping malls and online retail put paid to that.

Some of you may even recall the Salvation Army salvationists who would pop round the pubs to spread festive cheer – and a listening ear to anyone who needed them.

The Press and Journal ran a special report at Christmas in 1980, shadowing Sally Army volunteers on their rounds.

They were probably the only people in Aberdeen who went on a pub crawl every Friday night and didn’t touch a drop.

1971: Once a familiar festive scene on Union Street before malls and online shopping killed the high street – shoppers crowded the city-centre pavements on the last Saturday before Christmas. This picture was taken in Union Street opposite Back Wynd on December 18. Image: DC Thomson

Temperance and tolerance in Aberdeen pubs

Temperance and tolerance were two of the charity’s principles – they didn’t take a drink, but didn’t condemn those who did.

It was the only Christian organisation in Britain granted weekly visits to pubs, and were familiar faces in Aberdeen.

The Salvation Army had been doing pub tours since 1921. Punters would willingly dig deep in their pockets for their collecting tins in exchange for the Army’s paper ‘War Cry’.

Salvationist Gordon Smith was part of the P&J feature. He said: “The purpose of our tour is not just to sell the paper, but to meet people who might want to talk to us about their problems.”

It was a valuable part of their ministry. The object was not to “hard sell” religion, but to maintain a presence in communities in case help was needed.

Firmly putting paid to the stingy Aberdonian stereotype, Captain Ray Houghton, Aberdeen Citadel commanding officer, said despite a recession in 1970 “people in Aberdeen were just as generous as ever”.

George Shirreffs, owner of the Lochside and Harriet bars, added: “Everybody sees what the Salvation Army do in their own town or community.”

The Salvation Army’s pub visits may not have been everyone’s cup of tea (or pint of beer for that matter). But even the most staunch atheists could appreciate the festive cheer the Army’s brass band brought at Christmas time.

December memories in pictures

1980: A line-out in the Exiles v Aberdeen Select match at Seafield, Aberdeen, where Select won 28-21 on Boxing Day. Image: DC Thomson
1970: A crowd gathers to watch the formal opening inside the new Aberdeen Journals building in Mastrick. Lord Campbell of Croy conducted the ceremony in part of the machine room where a second press had yet to be assembled. Gordon Campbell, Secretary of Scotland, unveiled a plaque to mark the official opening of the new premises. Looking on were Lord Thomson of Fleet, chairman of The Thomson organisation KJ Peters, managing director of Aberdeen Journals. Image: DC Thomson
1969: Northern Co-op board chairman Margaret Grant, pours the last load of cement at the topping up ceremony on the roof of the co-op’s new building in George Street. This was later the John Lewis building. Image: DC Thomson
1984: Grampian’s top young cyclists after they had been presented with the Nixon Trophies for their performances in the cycling-proficiency test by Mr Robertson, right, chairman of Aberdeen Accident-Prevention Council. They are, front from left, Jason Strathdee; Jacqueline Sim; Martin Geddes, and Fiona Gallow, who won the team award for Portsoy School, and Lee Carroll of Greenbrae School, who won the individual award. Looking on, back from left, are senior accident-prevention officer Mr Fraser; Superintendant Sedgwick; Mr Buchanan; Portsoy School headmaster Mr Brown; Mr Senior and Greenbrae School teacher Mr Mitchell. Image: DC Thomson
1971: Prince Charles’ black Labrador gundog was not keen to board a Royal flight to London just before Christmas. The reluctant pooch needed some encouragement to board the Andover plane, which was to take the Prince and Duke of Edinburgh south following their holiday at Balmoral. Image: DC Thomson
1990: Aberdeen’s Marks and Spencer sports and social club committee had an early Christmas present for Childline – a donation of £2,735 which they handed over to Childline North East chairwoman Trish Lively. Image: DC Thomson
1976: In a scene from Christmas past, bakers in the Newton Dee bakery are kneading dough by hand. The social enterprise near Bieldside still exists and sells homemade bread today. Image: DC Thomson
1987: Class 1(3) at Bridge of Don Academy spread some Christmas cheer the 1,500 items of groceries they collected. Image: DC Thomson
1980: A crowded bar, a joke and a laugh, Salvationist Gordon Smith takes time off from collecting to share in the Friday-night mirth. The Salvation Army volunteers did not drink, but chatted to the public and offered help where needed. Bar Manager Billy Smith, of the Butcher’s Arms, George Street, pulls a pint and looks on. Image: DC Thomson
1989: Pupils of Bridge of Don Academy planted a tree in the school grounds as part of National Tree Planting Week. They were, from left, Lynne Morrison, Stephen Porter, Vikki Murray and Iain Watson. Image: DC Thomson
1991: There were plenty of smiling faces as relief cook Muriel McKilligan served hungry parents and children at Fyvie School. Grampian Direct Services invited parents, grandparents and toddlers to enjoy Christmas lunch with pupils of some Grampian Schools in 1991. Image: DC Thomson
1987: The seasonal merriment didn’t seem to be extended to dogs, as Press and Journal photographer Jim Love captured this poignant moment as one of man’s best friends waited patiently on the doorstep of Torry’s Victoria Lounge. Image: DC Thomson
1986: Proving age is just a number was this contingent of Cairnwell Drive pensioners enjoying a Christmas tea dance at the Music Hall. Dancing the night away, from left, Helen Shewan, Isobel Dalgarno, Margaret Stewart, Olive Kelman, Kathleen Adam, Jean Amaira and Violet Kay. Image: DC Thomson
1936: There was no sign of festivities in Oldmeldrum in December ’36. It was business as usual as a pony and horseman negotiated the junction of King Street and Urquhart Road. The sign to their left reads ‘road closed’. The corner site was home to James Chalmers’ shop and a distinctive dwelling above with fabulous curved sash windows. The building is still very recognisable today. Image: DC Thomson
1975: A striking view of Aberdeen Joint Station from December 1974 with the busy Freightliner terminal on the right. The Freightliner terminal is now the site of the Union Square shopping complex. Image: DC Thomson
1983: In his Smurfs Cave in Aberdeen’s Arnotts store, Santa hears the tales of how good and how bad his doe-eyed young visitors have been – much to the horror of their waiting mums. This little boy received his Santa present on December 16 1983. Image: DC Thomson

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