Fred Bull

A teacher, seafarer and explorer who took himself around the world recording all the places called Aberdeen

Alison Shaw

Tales of far-off lands and a nagging restlessness, so often a feature of life in seafaring communities, combined to ignite the wanderlust in art teacher Fred Bull, who has died aged 75.

As a youngster in Aberdeen, his interest in the huge world outside the Granite City was fuelled by family and neighbours' stories of adventures at sea, whaling in the South Atlantic and places far beyond his imagination.

Little did he know it then but they, along with his inquisitive nature, would help to inspire his own incredible odyssey half a century later.

In retirement, aware that many Aberdonians had forged new lives in various corners of the world and curious to discover how many Aberdeens there might be around the globe, he embarked on a mission to record them. It became something of an obsession and ended up taking him on a journey of almost 96,000 miles as he visited about 30 of the 34 communities that bear the "mother" city's name.

A book and video followed and, even at 75, he still had not finished - remaining determined to bag one of the Aberdeens that, as a result of a civil war in Sierra Leone, had defeated him earlier.

Fred belonged to a family with a rich seafaring heritage and was the grandson of a fisherman from Aberdeen's historic village of Footdee. But he followed in the footsteps of his own father, a technical studies teacher.

After graduating from Gray's School of Art in 1959 he became a teacher, taking a post at Dunfermline Academy for three years before returning to Aberdeen, where he taught art at various schools including Northfield Academy.

In the mid-1960s he moved to Troon to become a lecturer in art at Craigie Teacher Training College in Ayr, then faculty head in the 1970s. During his time there he was also involved in planning and drafting the government's 5-14 curriculum for art.

Taking early retirement at 55 allowed him to move back to his roots - not to the city but to the village of Logie Coldstone in rural Aberdeenshire.

Once retired, the idea was to get back to the easel, but he soon found his thoughts turning to places much further afield as he began researching the numerous Aberdeens across the globe.

Many of the other Aberdeens are in the United States and Canada, but around a dozen are spread from the Caribbean to Africa, Hong Kong, Australia and the Bay of Bengal. Fred formed a small film company, Rowan Films, and along with the help of professional film-maker Alan White, began his global production, visiting and filming as many Aberdeens as possible.

In 2001, over 16 weeks, they covered around 30 Aberdeens and 95,400 miles. His book, Aberdeens Around the World, was published in 2004.

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Alison Shaw

Latest stories

Schools need to be ready for any blame pushed onto teachers by unhappy pupils

GCSE results day 2021: How to handle TAG unhappiness

What should a teacher do if a student blames them for not getting the GCSE grade they think they deserve this year? Tes rounds up advice for those preparing for that possibility
Grainne Hallahan 5 Aug 2021
Teacher assessed grades, TAGs, results day 2021

SQA results day 2021: how we got here

It’s been a frenetic year – with exams were cancelled and the SQA due to be replaced – so here’s a recap of events on the road to results day
Emma Seith 5 Aug 2021
A significant proportion of students getting their results next week is considering an apprenticeship

Ucas: Half of school leavers considering apprenticeship

Over half of 17- to 19-year-olds who are receiving their grades next Tuesday, but are not intending to start a traditional degree course in the autumn, have considered an apprenticeship, says Ucas
Julia Belgutay 5 Aug 2021