Origins of Kittybrewster
The name “Kittybrewster “ goes as far back as a document dated 1597. Some have suggested that grain for brewing was grown here in medieval times, accounting for the “brewster” part of the name. A local poet, William Cadenhead, believed it had been name after a real person, Kitty Brewster, of whom he wrote:
“She sell’t a dram—I kent her fine –
Out on the road to Hilton.
Afore the door there stood a sign
Ahint a lairich beltin’.
Her yaird had midden cocks and game,
And mony a cacklin’ rooster,
She was a canty, kindly dame,
They ca’ad her Kitty Brewster.”
If “Kitty Brewster” was a real person, it is possible that she was nicknamed after the area she lived in, rather than vice versa. Another, more likely explanation, is that it is from a Gaelic name meaning “stepping stones over a bog”.
The site of Kittybrewster school stands just outside the ancient town boundary. Even 50 years before the school was built, Kittybrewster was still largely farm land. It was only in the second half of the 19th Century that Kittybrewster started to grow into the area we know today. Horse trams meant that people could live further from their work. One tram route ran along Great Northern Road to Woodside. Work was also available locally with the railway yard. As people started to live in the area, so new needs were created for shops, such as grocers, shoe menders and chemists. This in turn created employment within the area. By the end of the 19th Century Kittybrewster had grown to a population of 5,000 with neither a church nor a school of its own. Powis Church at the top of George Street was built to serve Kittybrewster. Meanwhile, plans were being prepared for the school. The School Board designed the school to be larger than necessary, envisaging that the population would grow further. It was fortunate they did so, as the spare capacity was needed almost immediately and within a few years, Kittybrewster had a problem with overcrowding.
A New School Opens
Kittybrewster opened on 14th August 1899 when 570 pupils enrolled. By the end of the second day the role had climbed to 750 with a few more on the succeeding days. It is hardly surprising that the school log book entry for the 18th August reads, “The whole of this week spent enrolling pupils.”
By the end of August, Kittybrewster had 878 pupils and by the end of 1899, 955. Classes often had as many as fifty pupils and the school building itself was smaller.
Kittybrewster was an elementary school, in common with the majority of schools run by the school board in Aberdeen. Pupils could stay there until they reached the then minimum leaving age of 14, although brighter pupils could be creamed off to secondary schools.
Extracted from the Kittybrewster History created for the Centenary by Alison McCall