This Story is about an area of Banff which used to be known as “Painted Effie”.  The first record found of this name is in the Burgh Records for 1763 when the “Magistrates and Council, considering the necessity for the town having a washing-green and washing-house for the conveniency of the inhabitants” named a Committee to execute this plan “adjacent to…Painted Effie).  Most houses at this time did not have their own water supply, instead there were a number of springs and wells from which people had to go to get their water; occasionally a cistern – a tank – was installed so that it could fill slowly and provide a buffer supply.

There were at least two springs at Painted Effy, or Painted Effie.  By July 1765 a Washing House had been built “with four fire places and a separate room for keeping clothes”, plus four bleaching greens, “with proper reservoirs of water and everything necessary for the convenience of those who incline to wash there”.  A description by Sheriff-Clerk Gordon Hossack in a paper given to the Banffshire Field Club described Painted Effie as it was when he was a youngster in the mid-1800s: “a pretty green grass park intersected with several canals of sparkling pure water supplied from a dome shaped cistern called ‘the fountain’”.  It was this structure that gave the name to today’s “Fountain Street”.  From 1780 one of the Painted Effie springs also supplied water to the Banff Brewery – located where the “Meadowlands” shop is today.

A “bleaching green” is an area of open land where clothes could be laid out and whitened by the sun. No suggestion has been found it was part of the older linen industry in Banff.

A house was also built for the person who looked after the wash house.  The first person to do this was a Jean Milne.

The earliest map that has a building on the site is dated 1775; the next detailed map is the first Ordnance Survey map of 1868 which names the area.  The road shown down to Painted Effie is today Wood Street; even into the late 20th century this was a roadway which led to Scotstown, but today it is just a footpath.

As can be seen on this map, Painted Effie was out of town – the road called “Rope Walk” on this map is today’s Campbell Street.  When the Wash-house was first built in 1765 the only houses in this direction were along St Catherine Street, so Painted Effie really was out of town.  The town was growing fast and by 1902 Wood Street and Fountain Street were in place and the wash-house at Painted Effie was not in use, because generally houses had their own water supply and a communal wash place was no longer needed.  The last record that can be found of “Painted Effie” being officially used as a placename was in 1930.

Today small elements of the original 1765 Wash-House exist, but the building was extended in 1902 to form what is today 8 Fountain Street – the FWB above the door standing for Frances W Bruce.  Part of the original Wash House wall can still be seen today, in a private garden, as just a wall, extending out from the present house.  The Wash House – by then a shed – was replaced in 2006 and is now part of the house.  An old fireplace was found – but it is unclear if that was original or not.

The whole subject became a substantial debate in the newspapers in 1990 over the derivation of the name “Painted Effie”, or as on the OS map “Paintedeffie”.  There is a story, recounted by Gordon Hossack, that his mother told him it was named after a Euphemia, a name commonly shortened to Effie.  While certainly there were several people called Euphemia living in Banff in the 18th and 19th centuries, none are listed as living in this part of town, although of course she may have been there before printed records.  The story goes that the “Painted” came from Euphemia being so careful and precise that the local word “pointed” was given to her, which got changed over time to “painted”.  However even in the 1763 Burgh records Painted Effie was an established placename; it is doubtful therefore that such derivation is more than a local tale.

Other derivations suggested during this debate 30 odd years ago included:

  • “Pen-dau-alvie” – celtic, even pictish, words, meaning “Headland of two Rocks”; this does sort of fit, not today, but think of the Elf-Kirk Rock – that used to be one of two rocks until the railway blasted it away; a similar derivation has also been suggested for the harbour head, Meavie Point, possibly derived from “Pen-mi-aivie”, headland of the single rock.  One 18th century record recalling the name as “Pentit Effie” has been found, and Scotstown was sometimes called Painted Effie, both of which may support this derivation;
  • “Pant na Feidh” meaning “marshy hollow”;
  • From the middle English word “Affere” meaning a display – for the beautiful sunsets; although others suggest that our ancestors rather looked out to sea to keep a watch for the dreaded Viking longships.

We’ll never know the true derivation, but it will no doubt remain an intriguing name.

Black and white image from a wood cut

Recently, reading a local diary yet to be published, the writer makes an observation about his day of Sunday 2nd August 1874: “pretty well churched today”!  In all the writer had attended five services that day, three in Banff, one in Macduff, and one in the open air in the Duff House Park. This “revival” was due to a mission to the area by two American evangelists, Dwight Moody and Ira Sankey.  Mr Moody was the preacher and Mr Sankey was reported as an especially good singer.  The visit is also referred to in the biography of the Rev Bruce of Banff.

Colour image of a painting
Rev Dr Bruce, Banff Minister 1873 to 1925, painted 1924 by Souter (now in the care of Aberdeenshire Museums Service)

Combining these two sources it seems the visit started with a service in Banff Parish Church.  As their skills as orators and singers had been widely broadcast since they had been in Edinburgh and then Glasgow for over 3 months, it seems the church was packed out – more than packed out as “half of them did not get in”.  In the afternoon Sankey gave a recital, but there were so many people that most “heard little of him” – plus the fact it was a really windy day!

Then it was back to Banff Church, before going to Duff House Park.  At that time the grounds to the north of Duff House – between the House and what is now New Road, but then was the private Duff House drive – were more open; there was no golf course and less trees, so perhaps it was here that the assembly was held.  Fifteen thousand people are said to have attended.

And once again back to the church.  Rev Bruce describes Mr Sankey’s singing as having a “sweetness of the fine baritone voice, combined with a certain manliness of tone and look, simply overpowered the people.  My choir broke down and could not sing…  The whole congregation were so subdued that we called on two members to offer up short petitions, and then Mr Sankey sang his second solo:

There were ninety and nine that safely lay,

In the shelter of the fold,

But one was out on the hills away,

Far off from the Gates of Gold.

Away on the mountains wild and bare,

Away from the tender Shepherd’s care.”

Rev Bruce had never in his life seen “a congregation so swayed and moved, liked a field of corn beneath a breeze of wind.”  “We remained for five minutes in silent prayer and then recovered ourselves.” One or more of the above services (although definitely not the morning one which was definitely in the “established” church) or perhaps during the following week, was also held in the Trinity Church, then a Free Church – now part of the River Churches.