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The streets we live in reveal the secret past
beneath the skin of the present.
Here is our kitchen, which was the operating theatre of the hospital.
There were families that didn't have toilets.
There was many a visit to the drains in the middle of the night.
Our memories are rendered in the bricks and mortar that surround us.
Just behind you there was where we all danced.
Our streets chart momentous social change
and the ebb and flow
between enormous wealth and terrible poverty.
Pretty grim, isn't it?
Dirt, filth, stench everywhere.
They reveal the changes that have shaped all our lives.
And make the story of our streets the story of us all.
It's a nice view, isn't it?
Aberdeen, Granite City on the north-east coast of Scotland.
Hub of the global oil industry.
But long before oil arrived, fishing was king.
Here you'll find the Fittie Squares,
purpose-built enclave for fisher-folk.
They're just a mile from the city centre, but a world apart.
You were being taught at an early age
that the demon drink was bad for you.
Fittie was regarded as kind of a strange place, a closed community.
This is our living room.
It's like a boat.
I don't see it like that but you do get comments like that.
This is the story of how this traditional community
was forced to adapt in the face of seismic change.
These people have been sacrificed to oil interests.
Down by Aberdeen harbour lies a narrow spit of land
between the beach and the quayside.
It's an unlikely place to find a community.
But here you'll find three squares.
They're at the heart of an old fishing village called Footdee,
better known to the locals as Fittie.
The squares are designed with the houses looking inward,
making for an unusual sense of intimacy.
If you're sat on a bench outside your front door you're probably
only a couple of metres from the person next door
sat on their bench outside their front door.
So, you get to know people a lot more that way.
And you tend to know what's going on at all times for a lot of people.
The squares fill a tiny footprint.
There are 80 dwellings here,
crammed into an area less than 200 by 100 metres.
They're a unique remnant of Aberdeen's past.
They're surrounded by industry and yet they feel like a separate world.
A quieter, quainter, more eccentric place.
We were kind of like a little bubble
that's existing in this kind of oil mad city.
These days, many people in the squares are incomers.
White collar professionals from all over Britain.
But for generations Fittie was made up of the same group of families
who lived together, worked together and intermarried.
In South Square, number 13 belonged to Robertina Baxter
and her daughter Ruby.
Ruby's daughter Norma Reid grew up here in the '50s,
surrounded by her relatives.
This is the one my Uncle John lived in.
He was a Baxter.
The one at the end is still my Uncle Henry's.
This was my granny's house.
It still is in the family, but it's my cousin Ian has that house now.
That was my granny's shed.
It was really pretty. She loved her garden.
She'd be turning in her grave if she saw it now.
There was a few families that were quite strong in the village.
Most people can say, "I'm related to a Baxter."
And if you go back a few generations, you find that they're all related.
I think maybe fisher-folk are like that
because my understanding is that they married their own kind.
They didn't marry outwith their own kind.
In Norma's day, over half of residents worked
directly or indirectly in the fishing industry.
My Uncle Jim, who was a fisherman,
his boat sometimes landed just round there and he would come round with
a fry of fish and Granny would be distributing it within the family.
Before the oil was discovered,
you could have crossed the harbour just standing on the boats.
You would never have got your feet wet.
While the men went to sea for weeks at a time, the women worked at home
shelling thousands of mussels to use for bait and braiding fishing nets.
For these hard-working people,
the squares were a practical live-work space.
This bit wasn't as nice to look at here
cos there was no grass.
It was all black earth.
And you would see maybe creels
and different pieces of fisherman's equipment.
You'd have boats and that lying about.
And this here was Mr Stout.
He used his washing line
but mostly he was noted for hanging his fish on the line.
Pegged all the fish up and dried them.
Didn't look very hygienic with all the flies buzzing around.
But that was the way they would have cured their fish.
But now the fishermen have left Fittie,
the squares have become a historical curiosity.
From late spring through the summer months,
they fill up with tourists from all nations.
-Why did you come here today?
-Just to visit and see.
This contains the old Scotland houses and everything.
So we just wanted to see how it looks like.
Just a small village on the seashore which has lots of artistic things,
so we just wanted to explore it.
It's a more authentic area here in Aberdeen.
Local people, and maybe how it used to be before.
A lot of the tourists come around and say, "Is this a holiday village?
"Do people just live here in the holidays?"
Or, "Who lives in the sheds?"
On a weekend it's nonstop.
Busloads from Spain and Italy to Germans.
You name it. They come round in their droves.
Which can be irritating.
Sometimes you get a whole coach load, so you get 30 or 40 people.
Some will be a German party or a Spanish party.
If they don't have a guide, then it's easy
because you can tease them, you know?
"Not fishing today?" I say, "No, day off. We never fish on the Sabbath."
Sometimes we dress up and we mend our nets.
The history of the squares begins in the early 1800s,
when Fittie was just a cluster of hovels
near the mouth of the River Dee,
set apart from the town.
They may well have stayed there if the city hadn't realised
that the village was in the middle of some prime real estate.
The old village of Fittie has been there since the 12th century.
There was a little community there
separate from Aberdeen proper. And...
..it's described as being very insalubrious.
There were piles of rotting fish and all sorts of stuff.
The houses were ancient and basically clapped out.
So the council decided, "We'll condemn this place,"
but I suspect, as always, the real reason was they were wanting
rid of it so that they could develop this area.
Get rid of these houses and put them down at the point where
they were as far out of the way as they could possibly be.
The next place is Norway.
You can't really get any further out of Aberdeen than this point.
The city chose a sandy site just south of the existing village
and commissioned architect John Smith to come up with
a scheme for 56 houses which he called Fish Town.
He drew out a radical design of two equal squares.
The idea of the square, based on the classical Roman forum,
was much in vogue at the time,
but was usually reserved for more rarefied architectural schemes.
The concept was really for gracious living
and the square was meant to be a grassed amenity area
that you could wander about on a Sunday afternoon
or something of the sort.
And it was a communal garden really rather than anything else.
This was a workplace, which makes it even more interesting.
It's unusual for fishing houses because most fishing communities,
like this one at Torry at the other side of the river,
is made up of rows of houses.
A row of house, a lane, a row of house, a lane.
And this is right up the coast.
Right around the north-east, so to have a square was a new idea.
And they were in fact the first council houses in Aberdeen
paid for by the council.
The layout may have been elegant
but the houses were built for practicality.
They were based on a traditional but and ben design.
Two rooms, the but's on the left-hand side,
the ben is on the right,
but ben the hoose is going through the house.
And they had clay floors, very primitive clay floors.
Simple house for simple people.
The squares were officially named North and South Square.
And the fisher-folk from the old village,
along with a few families from Torry, moved in.
Oil geologist and mum-to-be Natalie Farrell
lives in one of the tiny but and ben houses.
This is the living room.
It's quite small, but it fits me and my husband.
And then this is the kitchen.
Which is also quite small.
We have a microwave cooker because we can't fit a real cooker in.
We have a bathroom in the middle.
Which miraculously has a bath.
There's no upstairs. We've just got a little loft.
But we do have a really good-sized bedroom.
This is where the baby will sleep. We've got enough room there.
All the books are going to have to move.
So they're going to move and be replaced by all this baby stuff.
Muslins and all sorts, and nappies, and things like that.
My cello can only stay in here because it can't go in the shed.
I should have given up and started playing the violin instead.
But when I get back to writing my PhD,
at least I can put the baby to sleep and write so we'll fit in.
The only problem is, when the baby's crying at night
and one of us wants to get some peace,
there's not really anywhere you can go and take it.
I think one of us will have to go out into the village
and walk around with the pram.
Natalie's problem isn't a new one.
Her cottage was once lived in by a family of five.
And the pressure on housing was even worse in the 19th century.
The fishing fleet grew nine-fold in the square's first 60 years.
And as a result, houses were packed full.
Two families to each but and ben cottage.
To alleviate the overcrowding,
in 1837 the council built seven new houses across South Square,
named Middle Row.
Another house was added to the entrance to South Square.
And in North Square, a school.
But with such a rapidly expanding population,
these additions still weren't enough.
In 1855, the city paid for another row of houses,
creating Pilot's Square.
These were two-storey houses of better quality
than the but and bens.
They were intended for the pilots of Fittie,
boatmen who guided vessels in and out of the harbour.
The original 56 houses had now become 80.
But space was still at a premium.
To make the most of it, the fisher families began to improvise,
filling the common ground in the middle of the square
with sheds made of driftwood.
They preserved the wood with tar and I had a cousin who, a schoolboy,
and in the summer he would earn money by tarring these sheds.
And his nickname was Tarry Biler.
And he would do lots of these old sheds.
I couldn't imagine that being allowed now.
Going up a step ladder with this boiling tar
and brushing the roof and the planks.
Yeah, I don't think they'd be allowed to do that now.
In the 1870s, Aberdeen Council, keen to cut costs,
began a sell-off of the houses in the Fittie Squares,
predating the right-to-buy scheme by over 100 years.
Tenants were given the chance to buy their homes in instalments.
Houses were auctioned off in numbered lots
with their own sheds included in the title deeds.
The deeds specified that new owners should rebuild their old tarry sheds
in solid masonry within two years.
Most people ignored this ruling, but a handful of sheds,
like Natalie Farrell's in Middle Row, conformed to the pattern.
This is a shed which I think, space-wise, is bigger than the house.
Because it's got a downstairs...
This is really embarrassing, it's so full of stuff.
It has quite a big downstairs and it also has an upstairs
so by area it is much bigger.
But it's great having a shed.
Once the sell-off was complete, the new owner-occupiers wasted no time
in making the houses their own.
They began to add new dormers and storeys.
The squares, once uniform, took on an off-beat, individual character.
You can see that was originally a but and ben.
You can just see where the roof was.
In 28 North Square, the owner built three extra floors
to accommodate his growing family.
That's an old one there.
That's what we called in the village the Tower of Babylon.
It's quite steep stairs. And it looks like it would be, you know?
And in my granny's day it was a school.
Children used to go to school there.
Despite the various improvements and extensions,
the Fittie Squares were far from luxurious.
The water supply was erratic
and cholera a regular visitor in the early days.
Piped water was only brought to the squares in the mid-19th century.
And the water pumps, known locally as the "wells",
remained in use well into the 20th.
Each square had its own "wells" and when you were a kid, you could,
if you got sand in your feet, before you were allowed in the door
you would turn on the water and clean your feet there.
When we went to our house, there was no water, there was no running water.
So you would get your water in big jugs from here.
And they would brush down the gutters.
You never had any weeds growing. It was pristine.
The toilet facilities, too, remained basic.
My granny, we shared her toilet. It was on the shed outside.
It wasn't indoors.
But there were families that didn't have toilets
and you can use your imagination what they had to do.
But there was many a visit to the drains in the middle of the night.
Just a stone's throw from the squares were the shipyards.
Hall's in Fittie, Hall Russell in York Place
and John Lewis across the harbour in Torry.
Albert Swinborn was a boy in the '20s
and lived within earshot of Hall Russell's yard.
In the quiet of the night, especially if they were working overtime,
you heard the bomp, bomp, bomp, the riveters hammering together.
It was teamwork, you know?
The holder up, the two riveters.
And the man that was heating the rivets would throw the rivet to him.
And he used to catch it in this box
and they used to flatten the rivets down.
I used to say, if I throw this piece of metal into the water now
what does it do?
Sink to the bottom. How can all these big sheets of metal keep afloat?
The weight should take them down to the bottom, but no.
I could never understand that.
The shipyards have left their mark on the Fittie Squares.
They provided all manner of materials.
Teak for people's front doors and paint for sheds and fences.
88-year-old Betty Kay from North Square
had many friends and neighbours who worked in the yards.
What did people do? Did they used to take stuff, you mean?
Lassie, if the hooses could only speak.
They would tell you a lot of stories.
When Margaret and Brian Wilkinson bought their house
in North Square in 1998, they discovered a fascinating history.
This is our living room.
What was this like when you first moved in?
This was all wood panelling. All wood panelling.
I think a shelf was still up there.
The laddie who did it worked in the ship yards
and it was like a captain's cabin.
Oak panelling, oak floors, really nice.
Years and years and years ago the floors were made of sand.
Can you believe that?
I crack up if the kids come in with sand in their shoes.
It's just unbelievable, the floor was made of sand.
I think, "How did they put up with that years ago?"
But that was life again, was it?
This is my kitchen.
And it wasn't like this before.
The lady that had it had a bed in here
because it was like a kitchen cum bedroom thing, I think.
And this was their toilet. And there was a ladder here.
Like a boat ladder that took us right up to the bedroom.
This is our bedroom.
And...you used to get up from downstairs,
you came up, there was like a hatch here
and it was in two parts. The old way, it was two parts.
And the mum and dad slept at one side
and the two sons slept at the other side.
And this is our wardrobes.
-Wilkie designed this. This is our wardrobes.
Because a wardrobe you don't use the full length of it,
so Wilkie said, "Right, we'll make it like this,"
because we had no room for clothes, cupboards or whatever.
That's how they came about and that's our bed.
You know with a bed you can walk around and...
I hate that bed but we can't do anything else.
I tell everybody I've got a swimming pool
and they go, "You've got a swimming pool, Margaret?" "Aye."
"Margaret, that's brilliant."
So I tell everybody that's my swimming pool.
Lots of people say it's like a boat.
I don't see it like that, but you do get comments like that.
As well as transforming the house,
the Wilkinson's have put their own individual stamp on the shed.
Watch your head. As you probably know, the doors are quite low.
This is what they now call a man shed.
So when I'm wanting out of the house, I come in here, put my records on.
I've got my record collection
and if I want to work on the computer, I work on the computer.
This is my gaff. She doesn't get to do nothing in here.
I come in here, play Pink Floyd and sit in here for hours.
We've got heaps of drink, my picture.
-That's some spare wood so I thought I'd make a picture.
That's what a tiger would look like in the dark.
MUSIC: Breathe by Pink Floyd
While today's sheds are leisure spaces
reflecting their owner's personalities,
they once had a practical use.
Originally built to store fishing gear,
they were later used to do the laundry.
Every single Monday, the Fittie women would light
the wood-fired boiler and spend all day doing the washing.
This is where it all happened.
You would put your sticks underneath there.
You generally didn't need to buy anything like that
because you'd get it off the beach.
And you'd set fire to that
and then you would obviously have this filled with water.
You'd have your scrubbing board and your scrubbing brush.
Also your big bar of soap.
And you would proceed to wash your clothes.
And it would bubble and boil
and really get your washing pristine white.
It was hard graft.
But then they weren't so well off as we are today
so they wouldn't have had a lot of clothes.
They probably had to pry the long johns and that off the men
when they come in from the sea and get them washed.
And my mother said, when she was a child, she bathed in there.
They would heat the water for them and then stick them in there
and they would get washed.
Wash day wasn't over
until the laundry was hung out on the drying greens.
This too was always done on a Monday.
But artist Joyce Cairns, one of the first incomers to Fittie,
wasn't afraid to bend these unwritten rules.
This is me holding on to the drying green pole
and I think a lot of things happen on the drying greens in Fittie.
When I first came to the village,
everybody had their washing out on a Monday.
Apart from me, which would have it hanging outside the house.
When did you do your washing?
Whatever day suited me really.
Sunday which would have been appalling
because people didn't really do things on a Sunday.
The Sabbath was respected in Fittie.
And certain behaviour wasn't tolerated.
I hung my washing out on a Sunday when I first moved here.
And I didn't really... I think I might have hung it on the wrong line.
It was a bit confusing. And I came home one day to find
that my washing had all been posted back through the window.
Religion played a big part in the lives of God-fearing Fittie folk.
Most people attended the Mission Hall in North Square,
known locally as the Schoolie.
This part of the Schoolie is where we used to go
-when it was the Rechabites.
The Rechabites was that you abstained from alcohol.
We were only children but you were being taught at an early age
that the demon drink was bad for you.
And we went in there.
You would start off your Sunday School with singing.
And then you would break up into your little groups.
And your Sunday School teacher would take you along.
And she would tell you about the Bible.
And they always had a sweetie to give you.
My least favourite was the toffee rolls. I wasn't so keen on them.
The highlight of the Mission Hall calendar
was the annual Fittie picnic.
Everybody went to the Fittie picnic.
It was very, very important the children were turned out well.
And the girls would have bows in their hair. They were gigantic.
It was like having a hat on your head.
Fittie people travelled out to the country
for a whole day of good, clean fun.
The boys would get their new shorts and their white shirts.
"Don't you get yourself dirty. Don't you dare get yourself dirty."
You got a tea and a bag of biscuits when you got out there.
After that, you would be running, jumping, skipping.
Auntie Sally stalls.
That was our entertainment.
It was just marvellous.
With their distinct rituals and customs and the closeness
of their family ties, the Fittie folk seemed like a breed apart,
the squares as remote to outsiders as a desert island.
Fittie was regarded as quite a strange place - a closed community.
If you went through it, people would stare at you.
It did have that kind of reputation.
I never felt part of Aberdeen, really.
I always felt that Fittie was separate.
My dad lived here all his married life
and always said he was an incomer.
If the original folk are speaking, they'll say,
"Oh, they're nae Fittie.
"They dinnae really ken fit Fittie's aboot."
-Can you understand me there?
But that's what they would say, "They're nae Fittie."
So you identify this place with the people that have been here
since it was built.
There was an old saying, "Stane 'im, Jock. He disnae belang tae Fittie."
OFF CAMERA: And what does that mean?
Well, he's an outsider.
So outsiders weren't very welcome at the time.
"Stane 'im," that's throw stones at him
and get him out of the area altogether.
But the old ways could not survive forever.
There was soon to be a dramatic shift in Fittie's fortunes.
In 1969, oil was discovered 130 miles offshore in the North Sea.
Over the next few years,
new rigs and onshore facilities sprung up at dizzying speed,
as Aberdeen became aware just how much oil was out there.
'By this summer, there will be 15 rigs in the British sector,
'and by 1980, there should be over 50 committed.'
Foreign workers and their families, particularly Americans,
began to arrive in the city.
Mr Pillop, how are you?
Didn't see you standing there.
Good morning, ladies.
Welcome to the second meeting of the Women's Petroleum Club Of Scotland.
Every other voice you heard was American.
If you went into town, you heard the Americans.
There was lots of them.
Lots of them.
But then, they had the know-how -
it was just a very young industry here.
Obviously they ate different food from us, and you started to see
things like peppers and courgettes and aubergines.
"What's that?!" said I, when I first saw them!
The pace of change was so rapid
that Aberdeen's infrastructure struggled to cope.
If it was going to have its share of the promised oil wealth,
the city would have to improve facilities at the harbour.
The city began a huge building programme.
Giant oil silos were put up on the quayside next to the Fittie squares.
But when Shell UK put in a request for new wharf space,
it was clear that there was no room for them in the harbour.
Something had to give.
Planners turned their attention to Fittie and her sister village Torry.
Both communities overlooked the harbour
and sat squarely in the way of development.
There was a worry - which fishing village would go?
It was a toss-up between Fittie and Old Torry,
and obviously Fittie was close to the harbour and so was Old Torry.
The two fishing villages had had a friendly rivalry
since the squares were built in 1809.
Torry had been absorbed into the wider sprawl of Aberdeen,
and the original village on the edge of the harbour
was now known as Old Torry.
Its architecture was a mix of
traditional but and ben fishermen's cottages
and tenement housing built in the late-19th century.
Lorena Essen and her husband Sandy were both brought up in Old Torry,
and remember a tight-knit fishing community,
where families had lived for generations.
I was actually born in the same house as my mother.
My mother was born there in 1917,
and I was born in 1946.
Exactly the same house as her.
Great community spirit in Torry.
Everybody helped everybody,
and if you got a fry of fish, you took out of it what you wanted
and you passed it to your neighbours.
That was how it was in these days.
At first, neither Fittie or Old Torry had cause
to think their village was under threat.
Residents of both places
were offered council improvement grants in 1970.
They began to update their houses with new kitchens and bathrooms.
But then, in 1971, the council suddenly gave
the 350 residents of Old Torry notice to quit.
Their village, they were told, had been earmarked for demolition.
John Smith, the lord provost, was left to explain why.
The announcement of the commercial discovery of oil was not made
until earlier this year.
Prior to that time, it was in the council's mind to develop
in an interesting and imaginative way, the old village of Torry.
The oil interest was certainly considered to be
the primary factor at this time.
My information is that most residents in the area
welcome the town council's decision.
They haven't considered us in the least bit.
There's not one member of the town council has been near us.
I think they've been very shabby with us all.
Despite the residents' objections,
the council were unlikely to be swayed.
Global oil giants Shell, already leasing a plot nearby,
had already threatened to leave Aberdeen
if the land at Old Torry was not made available to them.
There was a great hue and cry about it,
but of course, it was just pointless, because the oil wanted the property
and they were going to have it.
Councillor Frank McGee voiced the frustrations of Old Torry.
I think that the council has betrayed the people of Torry.
Betrayed them! They gave their word and they've broken it.
There can be no doubt at all that these people,
no matter how poor and humble they may be,
have been sacrificed to oil interests.
In March 1974, the bulldozers moved in,
and Old Torry was razed to the ground.
Its people were dispersed to other parts of the city.
Now the harbour expansion could go ahead,
and for the time being at least, Fittie was safe.
But for the people of the squares, it was a hollow victory.
It was a relief to the folks in Fittie
that our village wasn't chosen.
But I can understand how it must have been for the other side,
for the fisher-folk in Torry.
Cos they just destroyed a community.
Old Torry was like this, and there was a rivalry,
but to lose that heritage...
They can't build it back.
Supposing, in terms of the thousands
and millions of oil that people are conjuring up,
supposing they say, "We want Fittie."
Will they take that too?
The oil industry grew and grew, creating a booming job market.
Local fishermen like Brian Wilkinson found themselves in demand.
We was in the pubs and they used to come in and ask us,
"Come and work for us."
We were fishermen, "Bugger off, we're fishermen.
"We don't want work in the oil."
Ten years later, we crawled in at the doors to get the job.
And as more and more workers arrived in the city,
the demand for housing grew.
House prices crept ever higher.
'With the oil boom drawing people
'from all over the world to Aberdeen, like a magnet,
'house prices in Aberdeen are
'basically double the national average.
'London apart, it's the most expensive place to live in Britain.
'Getting onto even the bottom of the housing ladder
'is well-nigh impossible.'
Brand-new housing estates sprung up throughout the city,
but supply couldn't keep up with demand.
Property prices were sky-high in most places, but not in Fittie.
It was cheek-by-jowl with the oil boats and the shipyards.
The demolition of Torry and the harbour development,
had left it adrift in a sea of industry.
Its housing stock was mostly un-modernised.
It was into this down-at-heel village that artist Joyce Cairns
first came in the late '70s.
She chanced upon a house for sale next to the squares,
at number 5 New Pier Road.
It was 1979, and I saw this house and I said,
"God, look at that house, it's for sale. Isn't it amazing?"
It had dark purple woodwork and it looked quite menacing.
And I just had to have that house.
It was magical.
Number 5 had previously been Fittie's corner shop,
owned and run by Jimmy Leaper.
That house, till the day I die, will always be Jimmy Leaper's.
It doesn't matter how many folk live in there, that's Jimmy Leaper's.
And if you speak to anybody that's from Fittie
and you mention that house,
they will say the same thing.
When Joyce arrived,
the shop had closed down and fallen into disrepair.
Jimmy Leaper owned this shop many years before I came on the scene.
Coming into here, into the shop, there was these beads,
like little bead curtains.
And in the shop, there was a counter that came across here.
It was riddled with woodworm, totally,
they'd enjoyed the counter so much, it had just exploded.
But the floorboards, they hadn't eaten them,
though they'd eaten the ones upstairs.
The floor coming in was worn almost to holes in it,
because of the traffic that had come in and out.
He sold everything,
from balls of string to cheese.
It was like a time-warp, to get this house,
and that's what thrilled me about it.
Nobody had done horrible things to it in the '60s.
It was just as it was.
The shop wasn't the only Fittie landmark to get a makeover.
The old Customs House building, just south of Pilot Square,
had been accommodation for the harbour boatmen.
It had lain empty for years,
when it was spotted by French chef Didier Dejean.
He converted it into a restaurant, the Silver Darling,
and brought international cuisine to Fittie.
This building was just an empty shell.
No electricity, no water downstairs.
I was just here, just the wall, practically.
It was the first business opening here.
It was such a quiet corner of the city.
-Did you have to work hard to make friends?
HE LAUGHS Yes.
Yeah, it took about a year to...for a few of them to speak to me.
But now, it's fine.
I've been here for 28 years now, you know.
So they know me.
In the beginning of the '80s, nobody ate oyster.
Mussels - nobody knew what was mussels.
Then, the oil arrived,
and restaurants started to buy all those forbidden
fish, or shellfish.
Like Didier, Joyce found her arrival in the village caused quite a stir.
I think they thought it was a commune that was moving into 5 New Pier Road,
and of course the curtains were twitching all the time,
as you can imagine.
Cos there was very few incomers at that time.
It was more closed, there weren't parties.
I know that some people do not want to be part of that,
it's just not part of their culture, they don't think
that sitting outside and drinking is such a thing that you would do.
They come out and they sit and drink and...
Oh, no, couldn't be doing with that.
It's all right having a drink, but not every other day.
Meanwhile, the fishing industry,
once the lifeblood of the squares, was in crisis.
Trawlerman Brian Wilkinson saw at first-hand
the industry's rapid decline.
Up to 1980, there was over 200 ships here,
which went from all over the place -
North Sea, Faroe and Iceland.
And it started to deteriorate very rapidly.
Quotas, restrictions and diminishing fish stocks all took their toll.
Fishermen across the UK were leaving the industry in their droves.
I was mate on an Aberdeen fishing boat,
and the boat was being scrapped.
That was about 1980.
And I was getting my fishing gear off the boat,
and I slung it down and I thought, "Well, that's it."
I had three kids, wife, and I had to make a decision.
And I thought, "Right, I'll go offshore."
In the oil industry, my mate's certificate allowed me
to go offshore as a rigger.
But, for Fittie, a way of life
which had defined the village for centuries was slipping away.
I loved it when I was trawling.
People say, "What do you see in it?"
I just loved it - the lifestyle.
You lived, drunk, fought, ate,
everything, and we were pretty close.
It was good comradeship and I've never met it anywhere else.
The shipbuilding industry had fared no better than fishing.
Across '70s and '80s Britain,
the picture was one of foreign competition,
industrial strife and declining orders.
Of Aberdeen's five big yards, only Hall Russell, in Fittie, held on.
But in 1992, it too closed.
Now Hall Russell's old wharf space is filled with oil vessels.
All the traditional industries
which had tied the Fittie families to the squares have gone.
Thelma Cooper, who's lived in North Square for 60 years,
has seen many of her neighbours move into a globalised oil industry.
They're all going to different places, and the oil takes them
to different jobs and things like that.
Some of them, their husbands went to America for the oil.
Well, they've sold their houses and went there and stayed there.
Now, the majority of people from the old Fittie families have died
or moved away, their houses sold off.
There's not so many.
I think there's only about 16, 17 people stays here,
originally born and brought up here.
Meanwhile, at the local pub, the Fittie Bar, the newcomers
are celebrating the arrival of the village's newest resident.
Your next-door neighbour.
Natalie Farrell and her husband Dave
have a five-week-old baby girl, Katrina.
The girls at the antenatal classes,
their worries were about having a support network.
I don't really have that worry because I know so many people here
will support me in different ways - there's people my mum's age,
and then people my age.
I just wanted to say thank you very much.
Thank you for all your support when I was pregnant,
and thank you so much for all the presents,
especially buckets and spades and clothes for playing on the beach.
She's a very lucky baby to be born in Fittie
and have so many nice people.
Thank you very much.
Dave and Natalie would love to put down more permanent roots
amongst their friends in Fittie -
they're rapidly outgrowing their tiny rented cottage in Middle Row.
We're going to have to move in about six months, I'd say.
If we spend another winter here, that could get quite claustrophobic.
I think we're at a stage where we'd like to buy a house
as we'd like a bit more security.
But they don't come up so often in Fittie.
But a house has come up for sale, next door to Thelma.
5 North Square is on the market, five years after the death
of its owner, George Walker, who came from an old Fittie family.
George, he worked with my husband.
He was his mate in the boatmen.
We all went to Ayrshire a holiday.
Well, there are two public rooms - this is the sitting room,
across there is the dining room.
Upstairs you have two bedrooms, and downstairs, toilet and shower-room.
And that really is about it.
There's not a hell of a lot to it.
The house is totally un-modernised,
but it's on the market for offers over £250,000...
70,000 more than the average two-bedroom house in Aberdeen.
It could be used for a variety of purposes.
It could be a holiday let,
or it could be somebody's place that they live in the city
and pop down here for a bit of leisure and recreation
at the weekend. That's possible as well.
Because it doesn't come up every day of the week,
that can result in the price running away with itself a wee bit.
Thelma has seen it all before.
Down here, it's always higher, but the houses sell well.
We know the property's not worth that, but they get the price.
Even the small ones, the but and bens,
they're going for a lot of money.
Sadly for Natalie and Dave, number five is out of reach.
We looked at it, trying to do the maths - it's a lot of money for us
at this stage. So...
Especially with me not having a job.
I've still got to finish my PhD, so...
We might have to move out of Fittie by then, but...
-How do you feel about that?
Oh, really sad.
-Yeah, we like it here.
The future of the Fittie squares may change again,
as even some of the incomers struggle to afford the house prices.
These days, more and more of the old but and ben cottages
are being made over into smart contemporary spaces.
You can see we've got some windows in the roof
which let in a lot of natural light.
This would have originally been loft space,
but they opened up this side of it.
It's all done in stainless steel,
giving it that modern feeling as well.
People will joke with me cos I'm tall, they'll say,
"How do you fit in those small houses?"
Actually, there's a lot of space when you get inside.
By them taking out the roof, it's opened it up a lot.
And by having the kitchenette and the dining area
and the living room all open-plan, it makes the most of your space.
Sometimes, if we're lucky, we can see dolphins as well.
Local dolphins like to come out and give us a show,
so we joke that it's just like being in Florida at Sea World.
And old Fittie's traditional fry of fish
is a far cry from the fine dining of new Fittie.
We put the cabbage and pancetta inside and make a ball.
And then serve it like this with monkfish in red wine.
But whilst modernity has arrived in Fittie,
some things don't change.
What attracts so many newcomers to the squares
is their old-fashioned sense of community.
They're a peaceful refuge in a fast-moving city.
People are brought together by the closeness of the houses
and the shared spaces.
There's a neighbourliness here
that's vanished from many other towns and cities.
There are a lot of people who would want something traditional
and would like to be part of the community.
And that's what you get if you do come here,
if you want to be part of a community.
People just drop in, you don't have to formally say,
"Oh, we're doing a dinner party."
People just... Things happen just by chance,
and I think that's the nicest thing that can be in your life.
You don't need to feel lonely in Fittie,
there's always something going on.
It tends to attract quite interesting, quirky kinds of people.
Unlike me, I'm perfectly normal, of course!
The rest are all quirky!
So it means you've got an interesting place,
interesting people - a recipe for delight and happiness.
As for the older Fittie folk,
who knew the squares in the heyday of fishing,
they're all too aware that the future does not belong to them.
Their homes are gradually falling into new hands.
No sentiment when the house is given up.
The skip comes to the back door and everything gets tipped into it.
Just a way of life.
I'm the last of the Kays,
so when I go it's sold.
-You'd better hang on, Betty,
cos you're the last of the Fittie folk.
There's nae much of us left. No.
As for Norma Reid,
although she visits the squares every week
to care for her elderly mother,
she now lives away from Fittie,
seven miles west of Aberdeen.
Fittie, for me, is up here and in here.
And the Fittie that we have now is not the same place.
It's very nice and the new people that come in love it.
But, for me, Fittie was more than just the houses -
it was the people that lived there.
I don't know if I could feel quite as at home now...
..as I did as a child.
As you get older and your memories get stronger of the past,
I think I might be disappointed.
So I think I like to remember it as it was.
If you want to learn more about social change
and issues such as poverty, class and housing,
the Open University has produced a free publication.
Go to bbc.co.uk/ourstreets
and follow the links to the Open University,
or call 0845 271 0018.