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Rubislaw Quarry  /


When it was first quarried, Rubislaw was one of the largest man-made holes in Europe. It opened in 1740 and was sold by the council for £13 due to its unsuitability as a building material. It went on to become one the main providers of granite for Aberdeen. Over six million tonnes were quarried from the site, and rock from this vast hole built Waterloo Bridge, Forth Bridge, Bell Rock Lighthouse and New York Opera House.


The site was blasted and chiselled by a team of local masons who worked in this cold, dark cavern where sunlight rarely reached the bottom, and the only way out was via the Blondine cable car, which loomed ominously above them. 


Rubislaw contains Monzogranite - an igneous rock and thrawn type - which is weather resistant. It is filled with mica crystals which provide the shimmer and twinkle on Aberdeen’s buildings in the winter sun. Under a microscope the granite shows a tartan pattern of red and blue against a charcoal grey cheque. 


A metal fence and barb wire circle the perimeter. It was once known as a suicide spot or lovers’ leap and was the first place police checked for missing persons. Children often played here and peered into the ravines from precarious ledges, now fully immersed in water. 


The site closed in 1971, and gradually filled with rainwater. A crane, abandoned tools and machinery rust on the lagoon’s floor with piles of scree that are slowly turning to sediment. Old caravans, tipped rubble and stolen cars reside at the bottom of the lake, which is 500ft deep. There have been various attempts to turn it into a rubbish dump, nuclear bomb shelter, jail, stadium, and giant deep freeze. It is now a quiet place of greenery and contemplation, where nature has reclaimed its industrial past. 


This project was a collaboration with writer Adelle Stripe who explored the city with me and created the stories and histories that sit alongside the thirteen main images from the exhibition. Secret Cities Aberdeen was part of the SPECTRA Festival of Light 2017 in Aberdeen and commissioned by Curated Place. 

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