I was writer-in-residence, archive digger and tipsy flâneuse during the winter months as part of Secret Cities in Aberdeen. Alongside photographer Andrew Brooks I traversed the dark corners of Granite City as part of Spectra Festival. We created a newspaper and an exhibition at Marischal College.
Part of the residency involved a visit to an archaeological dig at St.Nicholas Kirk, where bones formed part of the old church’s foundations. We documented the witches’ ring, a scold’s bridle in Tolbooth, a whale’s eardrum, Houdini’s vanishing site, William Wallace’s dismembered arm and the glorious Society of Advocates Library.
One of my favourite sites was Herbert Love, pictured above… (these are the notes from my moleskin)
Herbert Love tobacconist on King Street may possibly be the last of its kind in Scotland. It opened in 1917 and this year marks its centenary. The shop’s windows are blacked out from the street, and it is only from inside that this treasure-trove of tobacco history can truly be experienced.
Glen has run the business for twenty years and the shop’s interior has not been altered since it first opened. The mahogany fittings, mirrors, glass cabinets, and even the nicotine-stained ceiling, haven’t changed in a hundred years. Bunches of old tobacco leaves adorn the ceilings, and 20th century posters and cigarette advertising are displayed. Many brands no longer exist, but 1950s posters of Gauloises and Gitanes still hang from the walls. Signs such as ‘You May Smoke Here’, ‘Thank You for Smoking’ and ‘Go Ahead, Smoke If You Wish’ are fixed to the drawers and pillars.
The shop’s name was an amalgamation of Herbert and Love, a historic chain of tobacconists in Edinburgh and Aberdeen. The grand Avery scales weigh out different types of tobacco – for pipe and cigarette, from the jars behind the desk. One brand smells of pure molasses, other varieties include cherry, vanilla, coffee caramel and coconut. In 2017 the government will outlaw all flavoured tobaccos, including menthol. Most of the tobacco on-sale is manufactured in Cumbria or in Sheffield, on Snuff Mill Lane.
Customers can still buy pipes, lighters, papers, cigars and cigarillos. Some buy herbal nicotine-free tobacco, made from natural ingredients such as rose petals and herbs. There are no e-cigarettes in here, vapes, or any sign of the digital era. It is a time-capsule that reveals the habits and tastes of smokers throughout the modern age.
You can see the full archive of Secret Cities images on Andrew’s website.