Cove Bay is a suburb on the south-east edge of Aberdeen. Prior to 1975 it was a village in the extreme north-east corner of Kincardine, governed from Stonehaven. Though simply referred to as Cove, in the 19th and early 20th centuries it was known as the Cove, becoming Cove Bay around the turn of the century.
The village itself sprung up around the fishing, with the boats berthed on a shingle beach, a gap in the rocks that afforded a natural harbour. In the mid 19th century the fishing was at its height, which, over years, has included cod, haddock, salmon, herring and shellfish; the piers and breakwater being constructed in 1878. At the end of World War I the fishing began to decline. At present only a couple of boats pursue shellfish on a part-time basis.
GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, History of Cove, in Aberdeen and Kincardineshire | Map and description, A Vision of Britain through Time.
Moreover, Cove has been noted for other industries such as granite, which was quarried in several locations to the south of the village. Owing to its close-grained texture, Cove granite was one of the hardest in North-east Scotland and proved highly resistant to frost, making it ideal for causeway stones or cassies used in the construction of roads. It was widely exported to cities in England, including Billingsgate Market in London. Another industrial claim to fame was by way of a fishmeal factory, located at the edge of precipitous cliffs. Producing first class manure and exporting to both Europe and America, the Aberdeen Fish Meal Factory was in existence from 1894 to 1937, and became locally known as the stinker because of the obvious processing smell. In fact, it was the late, great Aberdeen entertainer Harry Gordon who made it famous – or rather infamous – in a parody entitled A Song of Cove. There was also the railway station, which opened in 1850, closing its doors in 1956.
Though much of the past no longer survives, some architectural interest may be found on Loirston Road, such as the compact St Mary’s Episcopal Church and the coastguard cottages with their gothic-style windows, dating from 1821. Then there is the coastline, where, on the path heading south, the cliffs can be seen in all their rugged glory, and the old village tumbling towards the sea. Of course, a visit to the picturesque harbour, too, will capture the sea, in all her majestic moods.
Today Cove is a popular residential location owing to its village-like status and the nearby Altens and Tullos Industrial Estates, affording ample employment opportunities; in turn there is a quick and easy access to the A90. Amenities include several shops, two primary schools and a bus service to and from the city centre. There is also the newly constructed Cove Bay Health Centre and a state-of-the-art library, with a blueprint in place for a sports centre later in the year. A drink may be had at the long established Cove Bay Hotel, or at the Langdykes, a public house to the west of Loirston Road. Other facilities include a bookmaker, hairdresser, pharmacist and Chinese takeaway. It can also boast evening classes, a drama group and two football teams in Cove Rangers, currently a member of the Highland League, and Cove Thistle, who hold amateur status.
The bustling community is far removed from a sleepy fishing village in the 1790s of less than 300 souls – it most certainly has grown, and is growing, as housing development creeps steadily to the south and west. Indeed, the census records of 2001 indicate 7,157 being resident in the area, which, given the ongoing construction, would now exceed 8,000 of a population. However, it may be said that those who have settled here, from urban locations, are on the whole delighted at the open surroundings and freshening winds, therefore it may be fitting to revert to Harry Gordon’s “A Song of Cove”, taking literally the opening lines of the chorus:
Oh tak me back tae Cove, tak me back tae Cove, far the air is as strong as can be
Douglas W Gray