The Shakkin’ Briggie
At first glance, the presence of a footbridge over the River Deveron at Avochie would seem a little surprising but several factors made this bridge very popular in the past.
The first was that , of course, many more people travelled on foot than they do today and a short cut across the river could cut quite a bit of time off a journey to Kinnoir rather than the long trek via the bridge at Rothiemay.
The second was that the quarry at Avochie was a major employer in its heyday and many workers came from Huntly to work at the quarry. Before the footbridge was built they used to cross the river on stilts to try to keep their feet dry but, with the stony uneven riverbed, many a mishap left the worker with more wet than just his feet!
The third reason was the opening of the railway between Keith and Huntly in the 1850s. Stations were planned and built at Cairnie, Grange and Rothiemay but, although the railway line ran through Kinnoir, no station was planned for that community. The nearest station to Kinnoir, therefore, was at Rothiemay - on the other side of the River Deveron! (See the excellent report on the building of the railway at Rothiemay at http://www.rothi.co.uk/railway.html )
(Incidentally, although there was never a station for passengers at Kinnoir, there was a siding near the Mungo Hill which was used to load logs from the forests nearby. See some pictures of what remains here)
The site of the bridge had always been a popular crossing point known as Donaldson Ford. The first attempt at a footbridge was built around 1850 but the “shakkin’ briggie” - a suspension bridge - was built to replace it in the 1890s and endured for many decades. A suspension bridge, of course, is a type of bridge where the causeway is suspended by cables, in the style of the Forth Road Bridge or the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco although the shakkin briggie at Kinnoir was somewhat more modest!
The opening ceremony in 1896 was attended by a good assembly many of whom crowded onto the bridge presumably just to prove its durability and safety. At least 25 people can be seen on the bridge which would have added up to more than a ton in weight. I suspect the bridge never had to carry such a “payload” for the rest of its history.
The shakkin briggie helped many thousands to cross the Deveron safely over the years but by the 1960s it was starting to fall into disrepair but still used every now and again by pedestrians or cyclists taking the short cut. Unfortunately, by then, the numbers of people using the crossing was dwindling and the council did not feel that the cost of upkeep was worth it for the volumes of traffic. So, rather than repair the bridge, they put up a sign saying “You cross at your own risk”. Ultimately the lack of repair made the bridge dangerous to cross so the council eventually demolished it in 1987 - for “safety reasons” - which, if you recall, was the reason it was built in the first place!!!
Some local residents in the area did try to get the council to re-build the bridge but the fact that the bridge was in Aberdeenshire at one end and Banffshire at the other end made it a difficult “sell” as both councils pushed the problem back to the other.
So, the shakkin briggie is no more and exists only as a memory to those that used it to save themselves time - and to have fun crossing the creaky, swinging bridge!
Photo credit Jim Morrison
The Opening of the Shakkin Brig, on 24th January, 1896