"Ellon: A Photographic Journey" is a wonderful book for anyone who lives in, has ever lived in, or knows anyone who lives in Ellon, in Aberdeenshire. The book itself is something of a surprise. We rather expected to find a book of old photographic views of Ellon and the area, perhaps set alongside similar shots taken in more recent times. There are shots within this book of what Ellon used to be like, and one of the book's ten chapters, "Around and About" is entirely devoted to views of the town and its surroundings. But by far the majority of the photographs in the book are of people, and the slightly surprising effect is to bring the past to life in a remarkable way.
What really helps this process is that these are not just pictures of anonymous individuals or groups of nameless people. In the majority of cases, the names of those who are shown in the photographs are given in the captions, ensuring that this is not just a book about a place and its people, but it is also in a small way a lasting memorial to all those who appear between its covers. It is impossible to browse this book without wondering what became of the people in the pictures. How about little Valerie Duncan, who looks to be about three or four in the photo taken of her at the Ellon Show in 1955/6? Assuming the very large tiger she is standing next to and patting in the photograph is stuffed, then she is going to be around 60 by now: if, on the other hand, it was a real, live tiger, it seems unlikely little Valerie lived to be much older...
The book is divided thematically into chapters covering topics such as churches; education; farming; businesses; transport; plus events, social activities, sports, and "Just Folk". Some of the images that do show Ellon are fascinating. We spent some time wondering why a photograph of a cinema had been included in the chapter on churches before doing the obvious and reading the caption: to find the only example we've seen of a church being converted to a cinema (and, sadly, later being demolished).
"Ellon: A Photographic Journey" is less a photographic journey than a lovingly collated family album, covering the very extended set of families who have lived in Ellon during the photographic era. And as noted above, it should be read and enjoyed by anyone who is in, or knows, the family.