Friday, 27 January 2012


The foreign accents were a bit of a giveaway, as was the fact that they were consulting a map and looking lost. Added to which, in this small Scottish fishing village, any strangers would stand out like a sore thumb. The year was 1940, the place Portgordon's railway station, where the station master's suspicions were aroused by a couple attempting to buy railway tickets for a train heading south. In fact, the couple in question were Nazi spies who, along with one other, had been brought from Nazi-occupied Stavanger in Norway and landed on the north-east coast of Scotland, where they tried to make themselves out to be German refugees. Finally, the station master's misgivings led to him slipping out to alert the local bobby, who arrested the couple. The female spy, the Serbian-born Vera Eriksen, was the only one who was spared execution, and there is speculation that the reason she was spared was because she was carrying the love child of a British VIP.

Portgordon was named after the 4th Duke of Gordon, who established the village in 1797. Fishing became the mainstay of the village's economy, and in the 1880s Frances Groome's Ordnance Gazeteer of Scotland noted that the village had 99 fishing boats employing 200 men and boys. The village was once dubbed "Paraffin City" due to its unusual form of street lighting powered by paraffin, lovingly tended by the local lamp-lighter, who would go around the village at 10 o'clock every night extinguishing all the lights. The nickname stuck even after the arrival of electricity in 1937. A campaign is underway to restore the harbour, organised by the Portgordon Community Harbour Group, who hold an annual Gala Day each summer to raise funds for the project.

Map of the area.

© 2008 Ann Harrison, via Wikimedia Commons


  1. Hello from one 'Edge' to another! Just saw this post on Twitter - really enjoyed. Love the harbour and the history.

    It's interesting that at both ends of the country locals are trying to raise money to improve or restore the landscape. Here the main projects are painting the lighthouse and a new lifeboat is forthcoming.

  2. Thank you Wendy, glad you enjoyed the piece. It's nice to hear about people banding together to improve their surroundings, especially in these grim economic times.

  3. Yes I think there is a lot to be positive about. We've only just moved to the coast but wouldn't want to be anywhere else now.