Records of Aberdeen Journals Ltd

Scope and Content

This deposit comprises business records of Aberdeen Journals Ltd and its predecessors, Aberdeen Newspapers Ltd, and Aberdeen and North of Scotland Newspapers and Printing Co. Ltd. A full set of minutes survives for each company, though those for Aberdeen Journals Ltd have been deposited only to 1943. The survival of financial papers has been less consistent, but for each company includes a representative sample of ledgers, day books and journals. A complete series of private ledgers and journals survives for Aberdeen Journals Ltd for the period 1928 - 1969, and a series of salaries books for the period 1890 - 1943 seems to have been used by each of the companies in turn.

Records of production survive for Aberdeen Newspapers Ltd and Aberdeen and North of Scotland Newspapers and Printing Co. Ltd for the cumulative period 1912 - 1927. These take the form of volumes recording circulation, spoils and costs of production for Aberdeen Journal,Evening Express, Weekly Journal, Fishing News and Poultry News.

The records of Aberdeen Journals Ltd include a large series of subject-based files relating to staffing, finance, organisation, production, news reports and other matters c. 1930 - 1968. Topics of interest identified include the general election, 1935; Aberdeen Football Club South Africa Tour, 1937; Battle of France, 1940 - 1941; Foot and Mouth Disease, 1952; wage negotiations, 1951 - 1955; Inverness premises, n.d.; and Save the Theatre Fund, n.d.. There are also individual files for each of the newspapers and magazines printed by the company during this time.

Administrative / Biographical History

Aberdeen Journals publishes two daily newspapers, the Press and Journal and the Evening Express, and has a distribution area covering the north of Scotland.

The company can trace its roots back to Jan 1748, when James Chalmers (1713 - 1764), official printer to Aberdeen, published the city's first weekly news-sheet, The Aberdeen's Journal. His newspaper, which remained family-run until 1876, held a monopoly on newspaper sales in Aberdeen until the establishment of the Aberdeen Free Pressin 1853. The Free Press (as it came to be known) began producing a weekly news paper which matched the Journal in content, style and price, developing a solid distribution base and creating real competition in its first year of trading. In 1865 they took the bold step of increasing publication to twice-weekly, and in 1872 increased this to daily. The Journal did not have sufficient funds to begin daily publication, and in order to meet this challenge sold the paper, premises and plant to form the North of Scotland Newspaper and Printing Company in 1876.

This was the beginning of a period of nearly fifty years of direct competition between the North of Scotland Newspaper and Printing Company, and the Aberdeen Free Press. Both were now producing a daily morning paper, the Daily Journal and the Free Press, respectively; and from 1879 production also began on daily evening papers, the North of Scotland Newspaper and Printing Company leading the way with their Evening Experess and the Free Press following months later with the Evening Gazette.

During the 1880s sales of the Daily Journal slumped badly, and in 1889 the Free Press offered to buy the paper from the North of Scotland Newspaper and Printing Company for a sum of 4,000. The offer was rejected and in 1890 the company was put back on an even keel by a 10,000 legacy from the will of John Gray Chalmers, great-grandson of the company's founder, James Chalmers. This permitted expansion and development of what had become a rather old-fashioned rival to the younger and more liberal Free Press. In 1894 the company purchased new premises in Broad Street, Aberdeen, and embarked upon a process of investment in new printing machinery, advertising, and the establishment of its own delivery fleet.

After the First World War both companies suffered from falling sales, and in 1919 the Free Press building on Union Street was badly damaged by fire. These circumstances prompted their amalgamation, and in November 1922 a new company called Aberdeen Newspapers Limited was formed. The new company continued to operate from the Broad Street premises, discontinuing production of the Evening Gazette, and combining the two morning papers into one - The Aberdeen Press and Journal. The new paper had no political allegiance, priding itself on giving even coverage to all parties, and established itself quickly and well. In 1928 the new company was threatened by a hostile take-over bid from Northcliffe, parent company of the Daily Mail, who wished to expand their business into Aberdeen. Unwilling to be consumed by such a large national concern, but realising that they were unlikely to survive independently for much longer, Aberdeen Newspapers looked for a more suitable partner. They approached Allied Newspapers Limited in 1928, and in September of that year an agreement was reached: Aberdeen Newspapers Limited went into voluntary liquidation, and a new company, Aberdeen Journals Limited was formed.

Allied Newspapers invested heavily in their new subsidiary, and both staff and customers benefitted - staff from increased wages and improved working conditions, and customers from a fuller coverage of national and international news. Aberdeen Journals Limited remained at Broad Street until 1970, when they moved to new premises at Lang Stracht, one of Aberdeen's new industrial estates in the west of the city.

Two books have been published on the history of Aberdeen Journals: George Fraser and Ken Peters, The Northern Lights (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1978) and Norman Harper, First Daily: a 250-year celebration of the Press and Journal, (Aberdeen: Aberdeen Journals, 1997).


Listing of this collection is not complete. An interim summary list is available which is arranged by record type, and chronologically therein.

Conditions Governing Access

Open, subject to signature accepting conditions of use at reader registration sheet

Acquisition Information

Deposited in the University Library in March 1970 by W.P. Forsyth, Assistant Managing Director, Aberdeen Journals Ltd. Additional deposit in Apr 1978.

Other Finding Aids

NRA(S) survey list available in the Reading Room, Special Libraries and Archives, University of Aberdeen. A copy of this list is also available at the National Register of Archives, National Archives of Scotland, HM General Register House, 2 Princes Street, Edinburgh, EH1 3YY (ref NRAS 2313), and at the Historical Manuscripts Commission, Quality House, Quality Court, Chancery Lane, London, WC2A 1HP (ref NRA 14566).

Very brief collection level description available on Aberdeen University Library Catalogue, accessible online

Alternative Form Available

No copies known

Conditions Governing Use

Subject to the condition of the original, copies may be supplied for private research use only on receipt of a signed undertaking to comply with current copyright legislation.

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Head of Special Libraries and Archives (e-mail: and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. Where possible, assistance will be given in identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with normal procedures

Custodial History

The records were surveyed by Colin McLaren, University Archivist and Area Representative of the National Register of Archives (Scotland), between March and May 1970. At this time they were stored in the Aberdeen Journals offices at Broad Street, Aberdeen.


No accruals expected

Related Material

Newspapers published by Aberdeen Journals are held in the University Library, and some ephemeral printed material is held in the University pamphlet collections. Full reference details can be found in the Aberdeen University Library Catalogue, accessible online online


Graham Law, Professor in English Studies, Waseda University, Tokyo used the collection for his publication Serializing Fiction in the Victorian press (Basingstoke, Palgrave, 2000).

Additional Information

This material is original