Some remarkable characters have walked among the streets of Banff and Macduff, bringing legend, adventure and intrigue to the towns.
The best known is the poet George Lord Byron, whose early experiences in Banff helped shape his literary genius. Byron spent his childhood summers in Banff, his mother’s home town, where he was related to a network of families. The young Byron tormented genteel Banff society with his antics and even fell in love here for the first time.
Macduff was the home of Walford Bodie, the celebrated but controversial hypnotist and magician who influenced Charlie Chaplin and Houdini. His wife and sisters-in-law were part of The Bodie Show, which included mock electrocutions. Bodie funded public baths in Macduff and supported the creation of Tarlair Golf Club. The Bodie fountain and memorials in the churchyard recall this extraordinary family.
Legends surround James Macpherson, one of Banff’s romantic heroes. He and his followers were said to steal from the rich and give much of their plunder to the poor. Captured and sentenced to death, he played his Rant at the foot of the gallows then broke his fiddle in two. Robert Burns, visitor to Banff, heard the story and published a version of Macpherson’s Rant.
Less well known is Thomas Edward, the Banff naturalist. He lived much of his life in hardship and poverty, but his keen observation of the natural world eventually gained him widespread recognition and respect.
Other famous visitors to Banff include Samuel Johnson and James Boswell, who stayed in the Black Bull Inn in 1773, and John Wesley, who drew huge crowds when he preached in the town.
Thomas Edwards, Banff’s Naturalist