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  • Writer's pictureMike Shepherd


The fisherfolk of Port Erroll (Cruden Bay) from a 1903 photograph.

When Louise Fyfe from Ayrshire read an article in the Observer mentioning my investigations into Bram Stoker’s visits to Cruden Bay, she remembered the box in her attic marked ‘Dracula’. It was full of archive material collected by her father who was also interested in Bram Stoker’s regular Aberdeenshire holidays.

Louise Fyfe and the box marked 'Dracula'

In the box was a stack of short stories written by Reverend Adam Drummond, Louise’s great-grandfather and church minister in Cruden Bay (then called Port Erroll) between 1891 and 1895. In broad Doric, the stories focus on the lives of the fisherfolk in the village, and extraordinary well written they are too. A mention of Bram Stoker in them explains the ‘Dracula’ connection. Bram Stoker visited Port Erroll three times while the minister was there, and the two of them seemingly did not like each other!

Bram Stoker aside, the value of the minister’s stories, eleven in number, lies in the picture he paints of a busy Aberdeenshire fishing community and the incredible emotional bond between everyone there – this is human closeness as close as it gets. The cosy togetherness compensated for the difficult and hazardous job undergone by the menfolk.

When I read these stories, I recognised straight away that they just had to be published; to get them out there, because they are that good. The dense Doric in the stories, and old-fashioned Doric too, might put many off reading them, I’ve translated them into modern English – and it is here that the two and half years I spent at Turriff Academy provided me with the expertise here!

Reverend Adam Drummond

I must say that Adam Drummond’s stories are much more expressive in Doric than in conventional English. There is a rhythm to Doric that emerges from the dialogue that you don’t get in Standard English. Here is an extract to give a flavour of the stories – it’s from the start of ‘How the Message Came’:

There was sore trouble and much searching of heart in the Ward [Cruden Bay]: such trouble as constantly lowers over a fisher community when sorrow is on the sea, and it cannot be quiet: such searching of heart as is common to all humanity, when the bread-winners are in peril and none can help. And to such peril had they come, for the wind blew from the north in awful gusts of terrific violence, tearing the frail roofs off exposed dwellings, scattering the sand hills over the village streets, and making strong men stagger in their steps. The brae face was studded with little scattered groups of men eagerly scanning with glasses each passing close-reefed sail as it scudded past, and ever and anon one could hear an eager word: ‘Look here, that's a Ward boat!'

‘Aye, that's Spunkie, see the white bit in her foresail.’

And then the glass would be shut with a clash, as the gazer turned away with a look of despair in his eyes saying, ‘Na, she's nae oors, she's frae Collieston.’

And I like this bit from the same story which captures the rhythm of the Doric dialect: “That's it noo,” says she, an' ran to the telegraph boxie, rowin' roon yon wee han'lie , an' writin' letters oot as they came.

I have put the stories into a self-published book with the title: The Cruden Bay Bram Stoker Knew: Adam Drummond’s stories. Apart from editing the stories, I have added four essays providing context, that is: Adam Drummond and the village of Port Erroll; A time line of events 1891-1895; Bram Stoker and the fishermen of Port Erroll; What happened after 1895. Louise Fyfe has written the introduction. And let’s also mention I’ve put in numerous photographs to provide a sense of place.

Bram Stoker also wrote about Port Erroll, his very special place he visited again and again. Taken together, the writings of both Bram Stoker and Adam Drummond provide a unique snapshot of a place, a time, and a community. These two were men on a mission: one, a church minister who shepherded his flock of devout fisher folk, and the other, an author fascinated that these same fisher folk also believed in pagan superstitions. What emerges from both sets of writing is the story of the Cruden Bay Bram Stoker knew.

The Cruden Bay Bram Stoker Knew: Adam Drummond's stories is out now in paperback on Amazon at £9.99.

Click below to find it on Amazon.

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