The Scottish fishing village that brought Dracula to life

From BBC - November 12, 2017

Many of us like nothing more than getting our teeth into a great novel. But in the case of Irish author Bram Stoker, it was to lead to one of fiction's most enduring characters - Dracula.

Stoker's connections with the Yorkshire town of Whitby have been well documented.

But it was his time in the Aberdeenshire village of Cruden Bay - or Port Erroll as it was known in his day - which appears to have unlocked his creative genius.

Stoker had been sitting on his definitive work for years while working as business manager for the Lyceum Theatre in London before he headed to Cruden Bay for a holiday in 1893.

He already had the plot and characters figured out - but had not made a start on the writing.

That was all to change after he started visiting the Kilmarnock Arms Hotel in Cruden Bay.

It was there, in room number eight, that the first few chapters of the book - which was finally published in 1897 - were written.

Cruden Bay resident Mike Shepherd, who is a member of the Port Erroll Heritage Group, is writing a book on Bram Stoker's links to the village, where the author was to spend most summers for the best part of 20 years until his death in 1912.

Based on his research from public sources and local archives, Shepherd believes that the village "nurtured" Dracula by giving Stoker the space, time and atmosphere to bring the character to life.

"As early as 1890, he already had the plot and characters worked out but what I think happened is that he wanted to write Dracula as a popular book," says Shepherd.

"But he was worried about the reputational issues in producing what was for its time increasing the horror ratchet of novels.

"So basically he was blocked for several years, in my opinion, and that changed when he came to Cruden Bay.

"Port Erroll fired up the boiler - it was the spark that got him going."

But there were other factors at work as Stoker sat down to bring the character of Dracula to life, according to Shepherd.

"What Stoker discovered in the village was an ambience of the supernatural," he says.

"The local people here - as common at the time - were deeply religious but they also had a large amount of superstitions and traditions that had absolutely nothing to do with Christianity.

"For example, when people were cooking they would stir their pots in the direction of the sun. To stir anti-clockwise would be asking for trouble - probably induce food poisoning.

"And at Halloween they would march around the bonfire in the direction of the sun - they would not go the other way."

Accounts from Stoker's family - including his son Noel who was present in Cruden Bay in 1895 - suggest that Stoker immersed himself in the main character of his most famous novel while he was in Aberdeenshire.


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