Jul 122013

In part one of a feature on the terror caused in summer 1940, when Luftwaffe bombers unloaded their murderous payload on our streets and lanes, Duncan Harley offers his critique of the contemporary written media.

There was a time a few years ago when local newspapers reported on real news events. Not of course, the likes of that old hoary tale from 14 April 1912 when, four days into the crossing of the Atlantic and about 375 miles or 600 km south of Newfoundland, the RMS Titanic hit an iceberg. Marconi had a wireless set on board, but what can you expect from a man whose second marriage was witnessed by Benito Mussolini as best man?

The Titanic only carried enough lifeboats for 1178 people which, it seems, was slightly more than half of the number on board and a third of her total passenger capacity. The sinking caused 1502 deaths in one of the most fatal peacetime maritime disasters of modern times and led to the production of many books, films and tales of sacrifice.

The myth, which still haunts that local Aberdeen daily paper, is that when the steamship sank with such great loss of life, the headline for the day read something like, ‘RMS Titanic sinks with great loss of life, local Aberdeen man loses ten shillings in Broad Street incident’.

The coverage of events local and international leads me to think of the reports about the Zeppelin bombing of Old Rayne and Insch in 1916, the Great Moray Floods of 1829, the Turra Coo debacle of 1914, and of course the famous Fraserburgh harbour whale incident of more recent years.

We now have a divided press. On the one hand there are the good and great heavies like The Times, The Independent and The Guardian. The Daily Mirror, Sun and Sunday Post offer platitudes, of course, but mainly fail to deliver the news of the day. Then there are the locals. Some, such as the Hamilton Advertiser deliver local news and comment about murders and drug barons.

Others such as the Banffshire Advertiser carry a mix of local news and the adverts for local services. If you need a chimney sweep or a clock repairer, take a look. Good honest reportage from a local perspective.

This week’s Advertiser features Buckie Community Warden Andrew Mackie who has been at the forefront in challenging fly tipping in Findochty. Seemingly, the good folk of Findochty have been bothered by an elusive dumper with a penchant for ditching two or three black bags full of bottles of Albali Rose each week for a year or so. Following an expose by the local paper, the dumping has ceased and Andrew is quoted as saying_

“I’m delighted to report that since I highlighted this in the Advertiser, there have been no more problems. It just stopped dead.”

That’s the sort of news reporting which is well and good in a local context. Today’s Evening Express headline features a man who crashed his glider, with an inside page reflecting on something about Piper Alpha.

I have so far failed to check out the Press & Journal but no doubt it will have a front page devoted to something about a bypass or a very dead donkey.
In next Friday’s thrilling Aberdeen Voice episode we look at the events of July 12 1940 when news was news and the North East was under attack by Nazi invaders from Norway. No place was safe, as this image of bomb damage inflicted on gravestones in Aberdeen’s Trinity Cemetery shows.

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  One Response to “The July 1940 Blitz In Aberdeen: Part 1”

  1. Even as a kid in the mid 1950,s Aberdeen,the back door of 44 Union Grove where we stayed was partly broken by a world war 2 German bomb.

    I,ve long left Aberdeen in 1957 and often wonder if the gate is still there today with the relic scar of that distant war and 75 years gone by since the last German raid on Aberdeen in 1943.

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