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The meaning behind the motto - Bon Accord

Posted by Fiona-Jane Brown on Oct 3, 2013

“Bon-Accord”; whispered by the troops of Robert the Bruce as they stormed Aberdeen Castle in 1308.  A French phrase, meaning “good agreement”, was wisely chosen as the occupying Anglo-Norman garrison would not have been suspicious upon hearing their native tongue.

So runs the legend about Aberdeen city’s motto.  Bruce, who seized the throne in 1306, during the forced interregnum, did indeed attack the castle then razed it to the ground, leaving Castlehill empty for a century before the chapel of St Ninian was built there.  Letters sent by Edward II to his naval captain and the constable of castle prove that the English had lost control of the city by the end of 1308.  But why “Bon-Accord”?  And why tie it to this gruesome event?

Bruce was so grateful to the citizens for their support that between 1319 and 1320, he made over to the ownership of the Stocket Forest, his royal hunting ground and all its revenues, which provided the city with financial security for generations to come.  Thus his generous gift was as important as ridding Aberdeen of an enemy force, yet perhaps it was thought more impressive to link the motto to his victory over the Auld Enemy?

The fact that the council minutes between 1415-30, when the motto was officially chosen, have been lost means we will never know the truth, but to most locals “Bon-Accord” means a spirit of collaboration, brotherhood, and friendship.  Yet, unlike many other Scots royal burghs, this does not have a religious theme, it suggests business and commerce.  A burgh was a secular entity; tradesmen and merchants had freedom to run their affairs being answerable only to the monarch.  Thus Bon-Accord has always represented the city at work, striving to be the best it can.  What better inspiration for today’s leaders! 

©FJB 2013

By Fiona-Jane Brown