Aug 252017
 

With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

The Bell Type 47G helicopter apparently being jump started by a car in Bellabeg, Strathdon, Aberdeenshire

The story behind a mysterious photograph unearthed last year has finally been uncovered as an Aberdeenshire community prepares to stage its annual Highland Games.
Amongst a bundle of old slides donated to the organisers of the Lonach Highland Gathering and Games was an intriguing picture of a helicopter apparently being jump started by a car on the A944, the main road through the village of Bellabeg where the gathering is held.

Now months after calling for the public’s help and having explored a number of leads, the tale of the baffling picture has been revealed. 

And a member of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society was the person who held the answers to Strathdon’s curious chopper case.

In 1974, James McIntosh, who was brought up in Strathdon and runs The Lecht Ski Centre, was working for Sunningdale-based Yellow Bird Air Services which owned the Bell 47G-5 helicopter.

The firm was contracted to spread fertiliser on young trees on the Isle of Mull and as the helicopter was due a service, James and American pilot Don Ambabo decided to head to Strathdon for the weekend and carry out the service there, before they flew to Mull.

Assisted by the local policeman, who held up the traffic, the pair landed on the road on the Friday evening before wheeling the helicopter to the cover of the local garage.  Over the weekend, James and Don serviced and washed down the helicopter with the help of fellow Lonach Highlander Archibald Stuart.  When they manoeuvred it back out on Monday morning for take-off, things didn’t quite go to plan.

James said:

“We wheeled the chopper out onto the road and went to fire up the engine and there was nothing.  It was a piston driven engine which can sometimes be difficult to start, especially after being hosed down and cleaned.  Knowing that the local bus and other folks would be needing past soon we had to act quickly.

“As the battery on the helicopter is fairly small a car can jump start it, so I hijacked my father Gibbie’s Rover.  The road was at a standstill for about 10 minutes while we got the helicopter off the ground.  There were a few bemused drivers and some of the locals were peering out their doors to watch proceedings.  It’s not every day a helicopter uses the main road through Strathdon as a helipad.

“After a brief stop in the Lonach games field, Don and I headed for Mull where we spent about four months spreading fertiliser.  The helicopter was also used for crop spraying in other parts of the UK and we had many great flights.  I don’t think we ever caused the same commotion as when we landed in Bellabeg.”

This Saturday will see a different spectacle take-off along the A944 in Strathdon when around 170 Lonach Highlanders undertake their annual six-mile march to the Lonach Highland Gathering and Games. 

Setting off at 8am, the men will visit a number of local properties to toast the health of their owners and the local area, continuing a near 200-year-old tradition. The Highlanders’ arrival onto the games field at one o’clock heralds the official opening of the Highland Games.

It’s a route that James has trod many times, having taken part in the march for 51 years as a drummer in the Lonach Pipe Band.  He first marched aged nine, before joining the Lonach Society at 16, eventually hanging up his drumsticks in recent years.

Forty years ago, after a spell in the Fleet Air Arm and flying helicopters privately, James set up The Lecht Ski Centre alongside Pieter du Pon, Ronnie Winram and Professor Jim Petrie.  Since its founding in 1977, the centre has grown to become one of Scotland’s main ski centres and a year-round activities destination.

Jennifer Stewart, secretary and chief executive of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, said:

“It is brilliant to be able to discover the story behind the photograph, as it certainly had us scratching our heads when we found it.  Being confronted with around 200 men in kilts carrying pikes isn’t unusual on the road in Bellabeg, but a helicopter certainly would have been.

“Stories and unusual events such as this are part of the fabric of our communities and it is important that we record them where we can.”

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Aug 042017
 

With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

Massed pipe bands at the 2016 Aboyne Highland Games

Thousands of visitors are expected to descend on Aboyne Green this Saturday as the town holds its annual highland games. Founded in 1867, this year’s Aboyne Highland Games will mark the 150th anniversary of the popular Royal Deeside event. 

Up to 10,000 people from around the world are expected to attend the event, which is held under the patronage of Granville Gordon, the 13th Marquis of Huntly.

A packed programme of 98 traditional highland events will be held throughout the day, including solo and massed piping, highland dancing, light and heavy athletics and fiddle competitions.  Over 80 trade stands, children’s races and a funfair also feature.

To commemorate the games’ milestone anniversary, organisers have created a memory book containing old photographs from bygone years. The book also includes written contributions from members of the public who have spectated or competed at the games, or been involved in its organisation. It will form part of a display of games memorabilia which is expected to prove popular with visitors.

Among those visiting will be hundreds of representatives from the 10 Scottish clans featured in the event’s Clan Village. This year the clans that will be represented are Burnett, Cochran, Findlay, Forbes, Fraser, Gordon, Hay, Leask, Leslie and Strachan. The Burnett clan is expected to have the largest presence, as around 200 clan members are travelling to the north-east from around the world as part of a week-long gathering.

Events on Saturday get underway at 10am, when the massed pipe bands march through the town and onto Aboyne Green, heralding the start of the day’s competitions. The games will be officially opened at 11:15am by the Marquis of Huntly, at which time the chieftain’s banner will be raised.

Aboyne Highland Games 1871: One of the earliest pictures of the event.

A number of competitions will be watched with keen interest throughout the day by the assembled crowd.

Four events that have been a fixture of every games have this year been classed as Gold Events.

Boasting increased prize money and newly commissioned trophies that have been designed by local teenager Angus Fraser, each event is expected to be fiercely contested.

The open caber toss will see the usual feats of strength and balance from the heavy athletes.

However, with the winner gaining the opportunity to toss the new 23ft 6in (7.15m) long anniversary caber, a close competition is predicted. A field of up to 150 runners are expected to take on the challenging 6.8-mile hill race, which last year was won by Kyle Greig in 42 minutes 58 seconds.

One of the events that made up the programme of the inaugural games is also making a spectacular return after a near 40-year absence. Pole vaulting, once a staple of highland games across Scotland and now only staged at a handful of games, will grace Aboyne Green for the first time since 1978.

Alistair Grant, chairman of Aboyne Highland Games, said:

“Aboyne Highland Games has been an important part of the local community for 150 years, attracting visitors from around the world and occasionally, British and European royalty. Saturday is an opportunity for us to pay homage to our history, celebrate the achievements of today’s competitors and look ahead to the future. It is set to be a special day, which we are marking in a number of ways.

“Seeing Aboyne Green come to life on games day is a fantastic sight. It is the beating heart of the town with plenty going on to entertain all the family. Alongside the usual mix of events, there will be 10 pipe bands performing, a new caber event, the presentation of four stunning new trophies and pole vaulting. The crowd is certainly going to be very well entertained as Aboyne Highland Games celebrates its 150th birthday, and we’d encourage them to be here in time for the opening ceremony at 11:15am.

“Highland games such as ours would not be possible without the hard work that so many volunteers put in throughout the year and the support that we receive from numerous local businesses. We are indebted to them for that continued assistance.”

Aboyne Highland Games takes place on Saturday, 05 August on Aboyne Green, with events getting underway just after 10am. The official opening ceremony commences at 11:15am and events run throughout the afternoon. Those planning to attend Saturday’s event are encouraged to be there in time for the opening ceremony.

Founded in 1867, Aboyne Highland Games is a traditional Scottish highland games held annually on the first Saturday in August. The Aberdeenshire event, held under the patronage of Granville Gordon, the 13th Marquis of Huntly, attracts crowds of up to 10,000 people each year.

Featuring a programme of traditional highland games events, including highland dancing, tossing the caber, piping and fiddle competitions, the event on the town’s green attracts visitors from around the world and makes an important contribution to the local Deeside economy. Further information on Aboyne Highland Games can be found at www.aboynegames.com.

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Aug 042017
 

Isie Caie (left) from Cove In Bloom.

By Duncan Harley.

Isabella Catto Caie was well known in Cove and well known in Aberdeen. In the days when catches were bountiful, she could be seen hawking her wares at The Green. Later, as landings of fish at Cove declined, she took to buying from middlemen at the Market in Aberdeen before taking up her usual stance on the cobbles.

She had her regulars and, in the early days at least, could be easily spotted walking the six miles into Aberdeen, carrying a creel loaded with fish on her back to sell. Latterly, in old age, she took the bus to town.

According to legend, it might take two men to lift the heavy creel laden with fish on to her back before she set out on her journey into the city centre.

Latterly, folklore led to some late-fame and alongside a few pictures in the press she featured, at least the once, in a Press and Journal Calendar celebrating the heritage of the North-east.

Today, on a wind swept winters day, we had come to find her grave.

We parked just outside the church at Nigg and, as horizontal rain arrived to welcome us, threw on jackets and set off on foot around the graveyard. We fully expected a fruitless hunt; we had after all just trudged round St Fittick’s kirkyard following a misdirection. But, by now, Albertino was firmly in search-mode and nothing, not even a freezing February storm, was going to get in his way.

Within minutes a cry of “It’s over here Duncan” rang out and I made off in the direction of the shout.

There, arm outstretched and touching the gravestone of Isie Caie was a slightly distraught Albertino.

“How do you feel?” I asked.

“Emotional” came the reply.

“I feel very emotional now that we are here, I feel a connection.”

Brazilian Sculptor Albertino Costa had of course already established a connection with the lady known locally as Isie Caie.

Having lived and worked in Aberdeen for over 20 years, he had been commissioned by community group Cove in Bloom to design and create a sculpture commemorating ‘the spirit of the fishwife’.

Rather than simply create a romanticised studio based life sculpture of Cove’s most famous fishwife, Albertino’s approach was much more radical – he would work in public in the open air alongside the very harbour where the fishwife’s journey began.

Permission to site the project on the harbour-front was readily granted by land-owner Pralhad Kolhe and in summer 2016 work began on the quayside where a large block of white Italian marble began to slowly morph into a vibrant piece of community led sculpture.

From the very beginning visitors to Cove Harbour took an interest.

“People cannot resist watching someone doing something creative” says Albertino,

“the work is open for everyone to come and contribute and with no pre-conceived idea of the final form, it is easy to get people involved.”

From the very start says Albertino:

“creating the work live at Cove Bay gave the people a sense of ownership and a sense of deep connection both with each other and of course with the past.”

Wendy Suttar of Cove in Bloom agrees.

“We had heard about Albertino’s previous work and although when we started speaking to him we hadn’t got a rigid idea of what we wanted; we knew however that he was the artist we wanted and we immediately started the ongoing process of fundraising the £20,000 needed to finance the project.”

As the work progressed, the conversations with spectators gave Albertino a breadth of knowledge which he has embodied in the various elements of the sculpture.

The creel, the net, the wild sea and the harvest of the sea are vividly portrayed along with, of course, the spirit of Isie herself.

Isie Caie died in May 1966 age 86.

Her grand-daughter, Chirsty MacSween records that “she sold at the Green to the end” and that she “had a reputation for always having a smile on her face, a happy woman.”

The Cove sculpture remains a work- in-progress and there is still time to make a hands-on contribution to the final form of ‘The Spirit of the Fishwife.”

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Jul 282017
 

With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

Massed pipe bands at Aboyne Highland Games

For decades, a mysterious figure from the past has looked out from the minutes of the inaugural meeting of Aboyne Highland Games. Now, a century and a half on from that meeting, today’s committee has finally been able to put a name to the person who in 1867 held the title of Lord Provost of Aboyne.

As part of celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of Aboyne Highland Games, the committee embarked on a project to identify the event’s founding fathers.

In July 1867, 20 men met in Aboyne’s Huntly Arms Hotel to discuss the possibility of staging the Royal Deeside town’s first highland games. Within weeks their vision was a reality as several thousand spectators gathered to watch proceedings on Aboyne Green.

Next month, on Saturday, 05 August, a century and a half on, those scenes will be recreated on the town’s green as crowds watch today’s competitors vie for honours in light and heavy athletics, highland dancing, piping and fiddling. The event’s success and appeal ensures it continues to be a highlight of the Royal Deeside summer events calendar.

Thanks to the work of Aberdeen and North-East Scotland Family History Society, a picture of each of these pioneering men has now been created. The professions of the men forming that first committee included a doctor, an innkeeper, a leather merchant, a flesher (butcher), a carpenter, a blacksmith, a wood merchant, a shoemaker, a gamekeeper, a railway porter, two masons and at least five farmers.

The most intriguing entry in the list of attendees was simply given as the Lord Provost of Aboyne, who was noted to have chaired the meeting. The title was most likely ceremonial as Aboyne was not a royal burgh, only a burgh of barony. For this reason, no official council records of Aboyne Town Council are held as part of Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Archives.

A newspaper article was to prove crucial in unmasking this eminent figure. The Aberdeen Journal of May, 22 1867 carried a story in which the identity of the Lord Provost of Aboyne was confirmed as a Mr William Mackintosh. This matched the name that was signed at the end of the minute of the first meeting and not listed elsewhere in those minutes.

Kyle Randalls competing at the 2016 Aboyne Highland Games.

Born in early 1830 in the Inverness-shire parish of Daviot and Dunlichity, William Mackintosh was working as an officer of the Inland Revenue in Aboyne at the time of the 1861 census. Following the death of his first wife in 1862, he married Mary Symon in 1864 with whom he had six children. He worked as a general merchant in Aboyne for a number of years before moving to Aberdeen to work as an insurance agent, dying in the city in May 1898.

Amongst the other founding committee members were local GP Dr Alexander Keith, world-renowned highland games competitor Donald Dinnie and his younger brother Lubin.

The proprietor of the town’s Huntly Arms Inn, Charles Cook, local farmers James Esson of Dess, William Grant of Mill of Coull and David Cooper from Glen Tanar, and blacksmith Alexander Gray were also among the group who helped to establish the games.

A fixture of Aboyne Highland Games, where the contribution different families have made to the local area is celebrated, is the clan village, which each year features 10 Scottish clans. This year the clans that will be represented are Burnett, Cochran, Findlay, Forbes, Fraser, Gordon, Hay, Leask, Leslie and Strachan. Aberdeen and North-East Scotland Family History Society will also be on hand to provide advice and assistance to those looking to research their own family history.

The Burnett clan will have one of the largest presences in the clan village at Aboyne Highland Games. Around 200 clan members are travelling to the north-east from around the world as part of a week-long programme of events that forms the clan’s regular gathering.

Those visitors will be among the 10,000 spectators who annually attend Aboyne Highland Games, making it one of north-east Scotland’s most popular traditional summer events. Locals and visitors will be able to toast the event’s success with a commemorative whisky – a 14-year-old Longmorn bourbon cask. Each of the 292 bottles has its own individually numbered certificate.

Alistair Grant, chairman of Aboyne Highland Games, said:

“The Lord Provost of Aboyne has intrigued us for many years and it is great to finally learn a little more about this mysterious figure, and also the other gents who helped establish the games. We are very grateful to Aberdeen and North-East Scotland Family History Society for their assistance.

“The group has done a fantastic job researching some of the family history of the founding committee, identifying where they lived, their occupations and naming their direct descendants. When you look at their professions, these men had important roles to play in the local community and would have been held in high regard.

“Our 150th anniversary is set to be a special day and is being marked in a number of ways. A book containing old pictures and the public’s memories of the games is being created, an anniversary whisky is being bottled and pole vaulting is making a return to programme. It will be great to once again see Aboyne Green come to life on games day and we look forward to welcoming visitors from far and wide to help us celebrate our anniversary.”

Bottles of the 150th Aboyne Highland Games anniversary whisky, which retail at £49.95, can be purchased from the Aboyne branch of Strachan’s of Royal Deeside.

Founded in 1867, Aboyne Highland Games is a traditional Scottish highland games held annually on the first Saturday in August.

The Aberdeenshire event, held under the patronage of Granville Gordon, the 13th Marquis of Huntly, attracts crowds of up to 10,000 people each year. Featuring a programme of traditional highland games events, including highland dancing, tossing the caber and piping, the event on the town’s green attracts visitors from around the world and makes an important contribution to the local Deeside economy.

Further information on Aboyne Highland Games can be found at www.aboynegames.com.

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May 122017
 

By Fin Hall.

Back in the mists of time, just before punk raised it’s challenging head, there existed in Rosemount Viaduct a clothes shop that sold jeans and the like. This business was called Happy Trails, possibly named after a record by an American band who went under the name of Pure Prairie League.

In the back section of the premises, by the changing rooms if my memory serves me right, there was situated a couple of stands that sold second hand long playing records, or as they are fashionably known now, vinyl.

This part of the store was run by a very affable young man who originally came from Edinburgh. This man is called Raymond Bird.

After serving his time there, as it were, he decided to open up his own shop just a short distance up the road from Happy Trails. Taking his two record stands with him, he started selling new releases, and, as punk took off, t-shirts etc.

I had been friends with Ray for some time, and it was during this period of time that I helped him out on Saturdays in the shop, which all know as One Up. We were a tight band of people working there, as well as myself and Ray, there was Debbie, a lady who stuck with him all through the different locations of One Up, and a young proper punk lad called, Scars. I can’t remember his proper name.

Debbie, who was quiet and very friendly, and often Ray’s business rock, had no apprehensions about passing the odd scathing comment on the choice of record that a customer might be purchasing. Meanwhile Scars, who looked every bit the youth of the time with his sticky up hair and his leather jacket with his name painted on the back, was ever polite to the customers. 

We were both in our twenties at the time, and he often confided in me that he was only be going to do this until he was thirty.

I remember having One Up’s first anniversary and my birthday party as a joint do in the upstairs of the also now defunct, East Neuk.

As the guests started to arrive, the owner of the bar was showing signs of great consternation and concern. The leather jackets, bright clothing and safety pins and bondage trousers worn by a good proportion of the young people, fairly scared him. He thought that trouble was on the horizon. It took some persuading by the two of us to let the party go ahead. But afterwards he thanked us and told us we were the best behaved bunch of people he had had there.

Being the punk era, and being skint, we provided the food ourselves and we both acted as dj’s on a borrowed set of decks, with records from the shop and from my collection.

As business got better, he decided to open a second shop over in George Street. And this is where long term business partner Fred Craig came in. A man I have known even longer than I have known Ray. He told me he was going to offer Fred the running of this new venture over me as, rightfully, due my family commitments, I was a single parent at the time, I couldn’t be full time. I already had cut back working in the Rosemount shop.

Ray still insisted that he was only going to keep the business going until he was 40;

This shop took off, and before long they decided to amalgamate the two shops under one roof in Diamond Street. Such was the success, that they soon needed even bigger premises, and thus the legendary One Up in Belmont Street was born. The staff continued to espouse the tight, friendly (at times), and knowledgeable style that was always synonymous with this wonderful music shop.

When it closed in 2013, Ray had turned 60.

Why this bout of, no, not nostalgia, but history you may ask?

Well recently I was in 17 Belmont Street, looking at their contribution to the Look Again art festival.

It has been transformed into an imaginary record store called, Record Store.

“Record Store is a curated project created by visual artists Chris Biddlecombe and Janie Nicoll, aka Obstacle Soup. It is a hybrid fictional record store interior that is the result of a collaboration involving the creation of over 60 fictional record cover artworks and poster works by a range of Scottish artists each of whom have a strong interest in or connection to music making.

Previously shown in record shops, Record Store in Aberdeen takes the records into the gallery, adds work by 12 artists connected to the north east to the existing 25 artists’ previous installations.

Exploring ideas of authorship and fiction, art and merchandise, shared histories, and sound and performance interpreted through the visual, the project places the artwork at the centre of the action, while the music remains entirely in the viewer’ s head.

Record Store is also a celebration of the underground and the ‘grassroots’; the fertile ground of cross-pollination between visual arts and music that has so influenced Scotland’s cultural scene, and in which independent record stores have played such an important role. Seventeen, the creative hub and exhibition space in Belmont Street was formerly the much-loved One Up Records.” – From Look Again Festival website.

I was asked to share my memories of One Up, so I thought I would share them with you all too.

Record Store is open until May 27.

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May 122017
 

With thanks to Jonathan Russell, Chair of Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and member of Aberdeen Climate Action and Duncan Hart and Michael Reinsborough who produced the youtube videos.

On March 25th Aberdeen Climate Action and Aberdeen And District CND jointly sponsored a meeting on the above.
The idea of the meeting was to share ideas of the challenges faced by diversification and to kick-start change. The meeting was chaired by Fiona Napier who is a local trade unionist and activist.

There were four speakers

  • Veronika Tudhope, Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament,
  • Jelte Hammeijer, Hutton Institute,
  • Erik Dalhuijsen, Aberdeen Climate Action,
  • Myshele Haywood, Green Party.

Each of these talks will appear in Aberdeen Voice over the coming weeks.

We started however by a film about the Lucas Plan with an introduction from Michael Reinsborourgh from Breaking the Frame.

Michael had been involved with a similar event in Birmingham and who was pivotal in making the meeting in Aberdeen happen.

The Lucas Plan was a pioneering effort by workers at the arms company Lucas Aerospace to retain jobs by proposing alternative, socially-useful applications of the company’s technology and their own skills. It remains one of the most radical and forward thinking attempts ever made by workers to take the steering wheel and directly drive the direction of change.

Today, in 2017 — 41years after the Lucas Plan — we’re facing a convergence of crises: climate chaos, militarism and nuclear weapons, and the destruction of jobs by automation.

These crises mean we have to start thinking about technology as political, as the Lucas Aerospace workers did.

The documentary is on you tube please open the link below

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pgQqfpub-c&t=341s

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Dec 162016
 

With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

The Bell Type 47G helicopter apparently being jump started by a car in Bellabeg, Strathdon, Aberdeenshire

The organisers of the annual Lonach Highland Gathering and Games are asking for the help of the north-east public to unearth the story behind a mysterious photograph.
Earlier this year, the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society asked for people to send in copies of old photographs of the event for a display to mark the 175th Lonach Highland Gathering. 

Amongst a bundle of old slides were a number taken in Strathdon in the 1960s and 70s, which illustrate how the community has changed.

One image stood out due to its intriguing subject. It features a small helicopter which appears to have landed on the A944, the main road through the village of Bellabeg where the gathering is held, and looks like it is being jumped started by a car.

The car is believed to be a Rover 2000 P6 Series 1, which was produced between 1963 and 1970 and trailing from its open bonnet are what look like jump leads. From the registration mark on its tail, the helicopter has been identified as a 1966 Bell 47G-5, which was owned by a Humberside company involved in aerial spraying.

In a second slide the car is gone and helicopter’s rotors are turning and it looks set for take-off.

The Lonach Highland and Friendly Society is now asking for anyone who can shed light on the picture to get in touch with them.

Jennifer Stewart, secretary and chief executive of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, said:

“We had a great response to our appeal for old pictures, which turned up some fantastic images.  Some were more curious than others and left us scratching our heads and asking a number of questions. The visitor response to the display at this year’s gathering provided information about some of those pictures.

“The picture in question was in a box of slides marked Strathdon and Lonach that was donated to us. The person who took the slides died a few years ago and their family had never seen the slides before so couldn’t shed any light on the image. It had us stumped.

“Did a car really jump start a helicopter on the main road in Bellabeg? It’s all very peculiar, but there must be an intriguing story behind it. These types of unusual events play an important part in the history of our local communities.

“Why did a helicopter apparently land on the main road in Bellabeg? Was it really jump started by a car? Does anyone remember it happening, if so when was it? Somebody is bound to be able to fill in all the details, and it would be great to hear from them.”

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society via its Facebook or Twitter pages, or by e-mailing info@lonach.org.

Held annually on the fourth Saturday in August, the Lonach Highland Gathering and Games is one of the oldest and most iconic traditional events in north-east Scotland.  Alongside a full programme of traditional highland events, the event features the unique march of the Lonach Highlanders, who are believed to be the largest body of non-military men to carry ceremonial weapons in Britain.

In 2017, the Lonach Highland Gathering and Games will take place on Saturday, 26 August.

Established in 1823, by Sir Charles Forbes, 1st Baronet of Newe and Edinglassie, the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society is a charitable organisation based in Strathdon, Aberdeenshire.  The society organises the annual Lonach Gathering at Bellabeg Park, Strathdon, which is held on the fourth Saturday of August.  The main attraction at the gathering is the march of the Lonach Highlanders, a unique body of non-military men.

Further information on the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, the Lonach Highlanders and the annual Lonach Highland Gathering can be found at www.lonach.org.

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Nov 042016
 

There are few people taking to social media to profess love for Muse’s Marischal Square development which is growing up and around – and now under Provost Skene House.  Photographs from the site show that far from respecting the house, it is not only surrounded by this oversized new office structure, but also digging works are also taking place which certainly seem less than safe for the Provost Skene House. Article by Jon Symons, Photographs by Suzanne Kelly of the Provost’s House as it now sits, and from Writing from Scotland – by Christine Laennec.

provost-skene-house-one-use-onlyPhotographs which have appeared on social media make it look as if the fabric of Lord Provost Skene House is not being respected by the builders. Aberdeen Voice has been promised access to the site and a statement from the builders.

This will be published in due course.

So what is it about Provost Skene House (PSH) that inspires an abiding affinity with most Aberdonians?

Is it the fact it was initially built in 1545 and is 471 years old?

Is it the fact Mary the First was on the Scottish throne when the foundation stones were laid?

Perhaps it’s because PSH is the oldest surviving house in Aberdeen and one of the few remaining examples of early burgh architecture in the city.

It has an exceptional interior with outstanding examples of 17th century plasterwork and a painted gallery with an unusual cycle of religious tempera paintings.

The first records of the house date back to 1545 and the vaulted basement is likely to be from this period.

In 1622 this former three storey house was bought by Matthew Lumsden who added a two storey and attic gabled section to the south west side. His Coat-of-Arms, dated 1626 is clearly visible in one of the dormer gables.

The house was then bought in 1669 by the wealthy merchant and later Provost of Aberdeen, George Skene of Rubislaw and he reconstructed the original house and built the square tower on the north west side.

The house is steeped in history and was used by the marauding Duke of Cumberland’s troops in 1746 and for a long time after was known as ‘Cumberland’s House’.

In 1732, the house was divided into two separate tenements but was then brought together again in the mid 19th century and later used as a lodging house (Victoria Lodging House) but thereafter it slowly fell into disrepair.

Many of the slum buildings surrounding it were demolished in the 1930s but a public campaign (purportedly supported by the Queen Mother) saved Provost Skene House from Council vandalism.

provost-skene-house-one-use-only-facadeThe painted gallery is important and unusual.

Originally depicting The Life of Christ in 10 panels the ceiling is by an unknown artist although it does show Flemish and Germanic influences.

Some of the armorial devices included in the paintings may be those of previous owner Matthew Lumsden and this suggests the ceiling may have been painted between 1622-44.

The smaller painted room depicts landscapes with figures all done in a Classical style.

The archway, now removed at Muse’s instigation, was transported from Union Terrace Gardens and rebuilt at the house in 1931.

In the sixties the then Council decided to erect the monstrosity known as St Nicholas House and PSH was virtually hidden from public view from 1968 until 2013 when the Council’s carbuncle was finally demolished.

You could be forgiven for thinking Aberdonians had forgotten about their historical city centre jewel but that was not the case. During the limited (some might say derisory) consultation with the public on what should be done with the site it became obvious that Aberdeen’s residents had rediscovered their love for PSH.

Even the present Council realised this and determined, in recognition of the importance of the Broad Street site to the future of the city centre, officers should explore the options open to the council to ensure any development was of the highest quality and sympathetic to Provost Skene House and Marischal College and ruled that should include consideration of the council developing the site through a joint venture and the possibility of a design competition tender exercise.

Of course, saying one thing and doing something completely different would seem to be the hallmark of the current Council administration and it appears they have put money and potential profit ahead of all other considerations.

The final design (Muse Developments) was supposedly chosen by an unbiased and independently minded ten person working group based on Urban Design, Culture and Heritage but only five of the group were Councillors. The other five were Council Officers and an employee of Ryden, the site selling agent and later the company Muse chose to market the property.

More recently photographs have shown the apparent disregard the contractor has shown for PSH as they appear to dig under the south west gable end foundations with no obvious support for the four hundred and seventy one year old building.

When completed the Council seems determined to dumb down the house and use some of the rooms to showcase the likes of Joey Harper, Annie Lennox and other lesser known Aberdeen celebrities.

provost-skene-house-one-use-only-detailThey have also decided not to reopen the once popular PSH tea room and this may well be because they hope to rent the ground floor retail units of Marischal Square to fast food outlets.

Provost Skene House is a national, never mind a city, treasure and most Aberdonians hoped and thought it would finally be showcased in the green grassed and tree lined surroundings it deserved.

Unfortunately it seems this Council, just like the one in the nineteen thirties, has little if any regard for the needs and wants of Aberdeen’s long suffering citizens but then again, why on earth should we be surprised?

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Oct 272016
 

By Duncan Harley, and with thanks to Erica Banks, Communications Officer, Aberdeen Performing Arts.

music_hall_emeli_sande4

Emeli Sandé has pledged her support to the multi-million pound scheme to launch the historic venue into the 21st century and beyond

Built to a design by Archibald Simpson and opened in 1822, performers as diverse as Charles Dickens, Elton John and comedy puppet duo Pinky and Perky have trodden the boards to entertain and amaze Aberdeen audiences. Politicians such as Tony Benn, Winston Churchill, and Lloyd George also put in appearances, and throughout its history the building has played host to everything from concerts and bazaars to theatre and sporting events.

Indeed many Aberdonians can still recall their shock introduction to Glam Rock when in far off 1972 a hopeful David Bowie accompanied by legendary guitarist Mick Ronson brought Spiders from Mars to a Music Hall audience.

As the “A Listed” venue begins an £8m restoration and regeneration uplift, Aberdeen Performing Arts (APA) has announced that Alford-born singer-songwriter Emeli Sandé has pledged her support to the multi-million pound scheme to launch the historic venue into the 21st century and beyond.

“The Music Hall holds so many fond memories for me” said former Alford Academy pupil Emeli,

“From the music festivals in primary school to my first tour, the beautiful atmosphere and stunning acoustics really make this a special place to perform.”

The project is spearheaded by APA, the charitable trust which runs the Music Hall, His Majesty’s Theatre and The Lemon Tree.

To date, fundraising efforts have raised a massive £6.5m towards the transformation, including major contributions from Aberdeen City Council, Creative Scotland, The Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Environment Scotland, The Robertson Trust, The Foyle Foundation, Garfield Weston, The Wolfson Foundation and The Hugh Fraser Foundation.

This week a £150,000 sponsorship deal has been agreed between APA and Aberdeen Solicitors’ Property Centre. Aberdeen Inspired has also gifted £50,000, bringing the total funds raised to just over 80 percent of the final total, £7.9m, ahead of re-opening in Autumn/Winter 2018.

Jane Spiers, APA Chief Executive commented:

“We are so thrilled to have begun the next chapter in the life of the Music Hall. This is a huge campaign that has been years in the making – it has taken many months of planning and fundraising. However, this project is about much more than bricks and mortar. The Music Hall is a national treasure with decades of wonderful history behind it.

The range and calibre of artists, musicians and events the Hall has hosted over nearly 200 years is truly astonishing and its place at the heart of community and civic life is unassailable. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who has a connection with Aberdeen who doesn’t have a story to tell about the Music Hall – a prize giving, graduation, great concert, school orchestra, a romantic encounter.

We’re delighted that Emeli Sandé is lending her support to the transformation and we are proud to be developing a venue which will be international in outlook and also operate at the heart of the ever-growing arts community in the North-east.”

Plans for the revamped Music Hall include upgrades to the historic auditorium with new seating, flooring and more flexible staging, new performance, rehearsal and education spaces, upgraded artist facilities, a new foyer, box office and café bar and new ramps and lifts to improve access to all areas.

Jane added:

“It really is an ingenious re-imagining of the space. We’re restoring and retaining the Music Hall’s historic fabric and its wonderful acoustic and at the same time we’re adding new features in keeping with the expectations of a 21st century audience … our venues are a vital part of cultural life in the city”

Aberdeen City Council leader Jenny Laing backed up Jane’s comments

“The Music Hall redevelopment is a wonderful example of projects taking place in the city centre which will deliver a positive impact”

and Sean O’Callaghan of main contractor Kier Construction commented that

“It’s a privilege to restore this historic and much loved building. Our expertise and experience in delivering a diverse range of iconic heritage projects across Scotland stands us in good stead as we renovate Aberdeen Music Hall for future generations to enjoy.”

If you would like to support the project via donations, by lending the support of your business or by becoming a Music Hall ambassador contact Aberdeen Performing Arts .

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Oct 272016
 

With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

Sir Edward Bradford

Crates of furniture, textiles and gifts are being unpacked at a Deeside castle this week, more than a century after the
owners’ forebears lost similar items when they were shipwrecked in the Mediterranean.

Kincardine Castle on Royal Deeside is being transformed into an Eastern bazaar as it welcomes Scottish home furnishing, textile and gift company The Nomads Tent.

The Edinburgh-based firm is holding a 10-day pop-up shop at the castle from Friday, 28 October.

Visitors to the Victorian property, four miles east of Aboyne, will be able to purchase a range of authentic items from the Orient.

Had a boat journey nearly 130 years ago turned out differently, those attending would have been able to see the modern objects for sale against a backdrop of Indian antiques.

On April, 17 1887, Sir Edward Bradford, the great-grandfather of the current owner of Kincardine Castle, Andrew Bradford, was onboard SS Tasmania along with his wife Elizabeth. The pair were returning to Britain with their possessions after two decades in India.

As SS Tasmania passed Corsica in the early hours it was caught in a fierce storm and struck a rock. The P&O steamship with 144 passengers and 161 crew onboard became stranded.

In the hours that followed, 35 passengers and crew, including the captain, would lose their lives. The vessel’s cargo and shipment of mail were also lost to the sea. The Bradfords escaped the wrecked steamer with their lives, but all their worldly goods amassed in India were consumed by the swell.

Sir Edward had served in the Indian Army before becoming the general superintendent of the Viceroy’s Secret Police in 1874. In 1878, he was appointed governor-general’s agent for Rajputana and chief commissioner of Ajmer, with special responsibility for relations with the Rajput Princes. Prior to their departure, the Bradfords were presented with many elaborate gifts by the Indian Princes, but within days all of these mementos would be gone.

Nicky Bradford of Kincardine Castle said:

“Sir Edward and Lady Elizabeth’s return from India is a remarkable tale. They were extremely lucky to escape from the wreckage of SS Tasmania with their lives, but there must have been great pain knowing that all of their possessions were gone. Many of these pieces would have been very ornate and a real testament to the craftsmen and women of the country at that time.”

Although the Indian furniture, textiles and souvenirs amassed by the Bradford family in the mid-19th century failed to reach Kincardine Castle, the Deeside residence will welcome modern day treasures from the Orient into its rooms until Sunday, 06 November.

As The Nomads Tent pitches up at Kincardine with an authentic range of Indian, Turkish, Vietnamese and Moroccan goods for sale, visitors will get the chance to see inside this private family residence free of charge. Sourced from markets and bazaars, the items include carpets, rugs, furniture, pottery, lanterns, Christmas decorations, scarves and jewellery.

Nicky Bradford added:

“The Nomads Tent is bringing a real taste of the Orient to Deeside with its fantastic array of textiles, pottery, homewares and gifts.  For 10 days this autumn, Kincardine will be awash with vibrant colours both inside and out. It will be wonderful to see the interior bedecked in Middle and Far Eastern objects and bring part of the Bradford family’s story full circle.

“Throughout the decades, Kincardine has come to life when it has been full of guests. Today is no different, and we’re really looking forward to opening our doors and welcoming guests into our home and sharing some of its fascinating history.”

Alongside the pop-up Eastern bazaar, tea, coffee and light lunches will be available in the castle each day during the event, while Kincardine’s monthly pop-up café with its more extensive lunch menu will take place on Friday, 04 November. Two half-day cookery classes, run by Kincardine Cookery, will also be held at the castle on Saturday, 05 and Sunday, 06 November.

The Nomads Tent Roadshow will take place at Kincardine Castle from Friday, 28 October until Sunday, 06 November, opening daily between 10:00am and 5:00pm, except on Sundays when it will open from 11:30am.

Kincardine Castle is the centrepiece of the 3,000-acre Kincardine Estate, which is owned and managed by Andrew and Nicky Bradford. The estate was bought in the 1880s by Andrew’s great-grandmother and the castle remains a private family residence. 

Built in 1894, the castle was designed by architects David Niven and Herbert Wigglesworth.

The building incorporates elements of five centuries of castle architecture in its design, starting with the 14th century style square keep tower. Kincardine Castle is available for hire for a range of events, including meetings, conferences, dinners and weddings. Sixteen bedrooms in the castle provide overnight accommodation for groups of six or more. For further information Kincardine Castle, visit www.kincardinecastle.com or telephone 01339 884225.

More about Sir Edward Bradford:

Born in 1836, Sir Edward Bradford saw active service with the Indian Army before becoming political assistant in West Malwa. 

In 1863, he was mauled by a tiger whilst hunting, which led to a roadside operation in which a surgeon removed his left arm at the shoulder. He continued to ride and whilst hunting he controlled his horse by holding its reins with his teeth. In 1866, he married Elizabeth Knight, the grand-niece of Jane Austen.

On returning to Britain in 1887, Sir Edward Bradford was appointed secretary of the Political and Secret Department of the India Office. He revisited India in 1889 to conduct a tour by Prince Albert Victor, the eldest son of the future King Edward VII. The following year he became chief commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, and during his 13 years in the role oversaw a reduction in crime levels in the capital and the introduction of the city’s first motor taxi.

Upon his retirement in 1903, and until 1910, he served as an extra equerry to King Edward VII and King George V. Sir Edward died in 1911.

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