I’m looking forward to heading north to Aberdeen tomorrow. Mostly because of the Fictional First World War conference, but also because it is where my father’s family comes from. My grandfather (also George Simmers) was born there in 1868, at 191, Gallowgate. This picture, of another house in the street, probably gives an idea of what Gallowgate looked like at the time:


I should think that this view of the street is from the 1930s:


Google Street View suggests that the place now looks very different, but I’ll take a look if I can.

My great-grandfather, Jonathan Simmers, was a policeman. The address we have for him is St Nicholas, Aberdeen – now a shopping centre. George, my grandfather left school young and joined the Army.

I don’t know that he ever went back to Aberdeen. I vaguely remember my father joking that there was a branch of the family there that we didn’t speak to. I googled ‘Simmers Aberdeen’ and found several people there with my surname, including one who was the worthy organiser of the local food bank, and one who was a football hooligan.

This will be my own first visit to Aberdeen – unless you count Christmas 1944. My father was in the navy and had 48 hours leave in Aberdeen. My mother, who had never been north of London in her life, took the slow dark wartime train up there to see him. Nine months later I was born. So you can see why Aberdeen holds a significant place in my imagination.


  1. Tom Deveson
    Posted April 5, 2017 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    An entirely understandable interest!

    I hope you enjoy the conference.

    Here’s a small illumination of what Aberdeen was like twenty years after your grandfather was born:

    Click to access 18.1JamesLeatham.pdf

    I helped in a *very* minor way with the article.

    • Posted April 5, 2017 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for this, Tom. I like Morris’s perception of Scotland as ‘raw-boned’. That corresponds to my own prejudice that I am going to find in Aberdeen an impressive but rather unappealing granite cragginess.
      I once libelled the city without ever having visited it. Once in a Spectator competition for excessive similes I won a small prize for ‘Her manner became so suddenly grim it was as though she had injected all of Aberdeen directly into a vein.’
      With luck this weekend will show me that the sentence was deeply unfair.

  2. artsresearchnyc
    Posted April 6, 2017 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    So envious that you can attend this conference. Wish I was there! If you attend the nursing literature panel, will you give us an update? Thanks

  3. Posted April 10, 2017 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    I take back my aspersions on Aberdeen. In the spring sunshine, this is a beautiful city, with the light bringing out wonderful nuances in the grey of the tall dignified buildings.
    Our conference was mostly on the top floor of the rather splendid library, from which we could look out to ships passing on the sea. The most delightful library view I’ve seen.
    I shall blog soon about the conference, which was most enjoyable and stimulating.

    • Edmund King
      Posted April 11, 2017 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

      Lovely to meet you, George. I have just downloaded your PhD thesis off EThOS and will shortly commence to devouring it. Thoroughly enjoyed all our conversations over the 4 days of the conference.

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