Banff, until 1975 the county town of Banffshire, stands on the north facing coast of Aberdeenshire. The River Deveron flows into Banff Bay here, and parts of Banff, look across the bay to near neighbour Macduff. The two could scarcely be more different however. While Macduff is a busy fishing port that has developed since the end of the 1700s, Banff has ancient origins, with a Royal Charter that was renewed in 1372: the age of the charter it supplanted is not known, though it may have dated back to the reign of King Malcolm IV, who stayed here for at least part of 1163.
The nearby presence of Macduff as a more successful commercial port allowed Banff to grow into a fine Georgian town, and the location of choice for the winter townhouses of the gentry of northern Aberdeenshire. One result of this, as the introduction to this excellent book notes, is a town with more listed buildings than any other of its size in Scotland. It was also, as the authors also note, a town whose economy was built on smuggling.
Most of the content of "Banff Through Time" by the Banff Preservation & Heritage Society focuses on the changes that have taken place in the town during the photographic era. The real strengths of this book are the truly wonderful collection of old images of Banff available to the Preservation & Heritage Society and, of course, the authors' unrivalled knowledge of their subject. Some of the modern photographs shown in the book are exact matches for historical images, allowing direct comparison, while elsewhere a more flexible approach has been taken, especially where this has allowed particularly striking images to be used.
The result is a lovely book, put together with obvious care and attention to detail, and essential reading for anyone interested in Banff. Some of the individual images are especially striking, including the relatively recent image of a policeman in the High Street, talking to a Canadian Mountie, complete with horse. Elsewhere we can begin to appreciate that, although the town is rich in old buildings, much has also been lost, including the turrets that once finished off the roof of Chalmers Hospital.