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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Jul 142016
 
The Crew of Spanish steamer Eolo, which went on strike in Aberdeen in 1936

The Crew of Spanish steamer Eolo, which went on strike in Aberdeen in 1936.

By Nina C Londragan.

The Spanish Steamship Eolo, berthed in Blaikie’s Quay, Aberdeen Harbour exactly eighty years ago. From May – September 1936.

When its owners and Captain failed to comply with legislation granting Spanish seaman increased wages, the crew went on strike and turned off steam so their part cargo of grain could not be unloaded.

Aberdeen Dockers, in full sympathy, along with other workers and trade unionists rallied together to befriend, support and collect for the thirty three men.

Impressively the seamen held strong to their demands for higher wages, better food and working conditions for 15 weeks until full settlement had been made, cementing the Granite City’s bond of unity with Spain into the Spanish Civil War and beyond.

Surprising Sequel in Spain:

Nineteen men, strongly motivated by discussions with the seamen, courageously left Aberdeen to fight for freedom and democracy in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Five of these men made the ultimate sacrifice – giving their lives in the battle against Fascism.

Serving in the Anti-Tank battery, during the Battle of Brunete, John Londragan sustained severe wounds. Restless recuperating, he walked to a nearby village, Albares, where by amazing coincidence, it transpired that a local shop owner was the father of his friend – Juan Attaro, one of the crew from the Eolo. Juan had heard all about Aberdeen’s hospitality in “glowing terms”.

John Londragan (left) photographed in Spain 1937 with American Brigader, Peter Frye and Juan’s two daughters.

John Londragan (left) photographed in Spain 1937 with American Brigader, Peter Frye and Juan’s two daughters.

Still for me the story was not only a personal one, where my Grandfather John Londragan played a prominent role, but as an Aberdonian myself. I felt great pride in the Granite city’s demonstration of warmth and political strength, so it was a real honour to be able to compile this as a valuable piece of history to be displayed by Aberdeen Maritime Museum.

The project has gained strong support from Trade Unions, Aberdeen City Council and local media, as well as being positively welcomed by Scottish Parliament.

The opening took place on Saturday May 28th – with a very successful and well attended launch event organised by Tommy Campbell, Regional Officer of Unite.

Shades of Eolo:

Ironically the relevance of this poignant story, is still sharply reflected in current affairs today where in Aberdeen Harbour, the MV Malaviya Seven, an offshore supply vessel, has recently been impounded amid shocking allegations of “Modern Day Slavery”. Although the Indian crew are not on strike like the Spanish Seamen in 1936, they share similar issues such as working conditions and wages withheld by employers.

Again these are seamen stranded miles from home, without food or money. Luckily they have come to the right city as Aberdeen steps forward yet again, in solidarity to welcome and support them.

Remembering Aberdeen’s Solidarity with the Spanish Seamen’s Strike 1936:
Open until September 10th 2016 at
The Aberdeen Maritime Museum
52-56 Shiprow, Provost Ross House
Aberdeen, AB11 5BY

Opening hours:
Monday – Saturday 10am -5pm
Sunday 12 noon – 3pm

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Jun 102016
 

outside_cover_vol_3_Bennachie_Duncan Harley reviews Bennachie Landscapes Series 3.

In this, the third publication in the Bennachie Landscapes Series, further aspects of the story of Grampian’s favourite hill are discussed in often minute detail.

Dedicated to Gordon Ingram, treasurer to the Bailies of Bennachie until 2000, and with a foreword by Dr Jo Vergunst of the University of Aberdeen’s Department of Anthropology this publication focuses on both our historical and our modern day relationship with the Bennachie range.

Funded through the Connected Communities programme the content reflects the work of project partners including the University of Aberdeen, The Forestry Commission Scotland and The Bailies of Bennachie.

The book presents as 10 research papers, each distinct but related and written by both Bennachie experts and Bennachie enthusiasts.

The ecology and social history of the area feature alongside the geology, flora and the exploitation of both peat and stone on and around the hill. Additionally there are excavation reports featuring Colony houses and Drumminor Castle.

Several of the papers make for highly technical reading and are not for the faint hearted. Peter Thorn’s description of the geological setting around Drumminor Castle is a case in point. Other chapters such as the interim report into the excavations at Drumminor Castle are written with the general reader in mind and should be accessible to anyone happy to sit through an episode of Time Team.

The site of the Bennachie Colonists comes under particular scrutiny. Sue Taylor provides insight into the social and domestic lives of the crofters, who made a living on the slopes of the hill, through the interpretation of pottery found at the Bennachie Colony site.

The excavations during 2011 – 2013 at Shepherd’s Lodge and Hillside yielded both sponge decorated and transfer printed earthenware indicating perhaps a previously unsuspected degree of economic sophistication amongst Colony settlers who often lived at subsistence level.

Barry Foster’s introduction to the peat lands of the hill not only gives the reader food for thought but illustrates clearly, using aerial photographs, the scale of the 18th century peat cutting industry.

In 2013 a partnership between Keig School and the Bennachie Landscapes Fieldwork Group surveyed the ecology and landscape use within the Lordship of Forbes. The research report makes for fascinating reading and describes the discovery of a previously unknown water-mill in the grounds of Castle Forbes.

A dig at the Back of Bennachie by students of Kemnay Academy features alongside an investigation of the English Quarry by Andrew Wainwright and a paper, by Colin Millar, reflects on the controversial 19th century seizure and “Division of the Commonty of Bennachie” by a group of powerful local landowners.

Illustrated throughout with both images relating to Bennachie and survey maps describing the digs and investigations, this book is essential reading for anyone with an interest in the North East and clearly illustrates the value of community partnership research.

At 115pp, Bennachie Landscapes Series 3 is available from Inverurie Library and at www.bailiesofbennachie.co.uk  p
Price £10. ISBN 978-0-9576384-1-9

This review was first published in the May 2016 edition of Leopard Magazine.

Words © Duncan Harley

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Apr 292016
 

Peter_Anson__courtesy and copyright Andrew Paterson Scottish Highlander Photo ArchiveBy Duncan Harley

Born in Southsea and from a naval family, Peter Anson (1889 – 1975) took a keen interest in ships and seafaring from an early age.

Initially he sketched from photographs but at age nine, during a family holiday at Robin Hood’s Bay, Peter began drawing the Fifies’ and Zulu drifters beloved by his mother, a Scots born water-colourist. Peter attributed his status as a ‘Domiciled Scotsman’ to her strong maternal influence. She died when he was fourteen and from this point on, his naval officer father began to have more input.

On one memorable occasion Peter found himself, age 15 alongside his dad, on-board the cruiser HMS Argyll – sister ship to the ill fated Hampshire which went down off the Orkney’s in 1916 with Lord Kitchener, of ‘YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOU’ fame, on board.

This was his first experience at sea in a warship and he writes that he did not enjoy “the terrific noise of guns firing” during a naval exercise in the Bay of Biscay. Despite this, he was by now smitten by seafaring and felt himself a hardened sailor following this experience.

Private tutoring followed and in his late teens Peter enrolled at the Architectural Association School in London’s Westminster. Even here however he found that he couldn’t resist maritime subjects. He obtained a sketching permit which allowed him to wander at will, sketchbook in hand, around London Docks. Wapping, Blackwall and the Isle of Dogs became favourite haunts and Thames river traffic became his subjects.

By 1906 Peter was in touch with the Anglican Benedictine community on Caldey Island near Tenby and despite family pressure to follow an architectural career found himself drawn to the monastic life.

In 1910, he tested his vocation as a monk. Following an initial two weeks on Caldey Island he decided, at age 20, to join the Community. Many years later he writes:

“I might be giving up the world, but this would not involve abandoning the sea … I don’t think that I could have faced the latter sacrifice! It would have been too much to ask!”

For the next decade, Caldey Island became his home.

Six miles in circumference and less than a mile long, the island had been home to monks from early Celtic times. In 1906 it was purchased by a Yorkshire based community of Anglican Benedictine’s.

It is a place of jagged coastal rocks, Atlantic storms and red sandstone cliffs and it was here that Peter became firm friends with Aelred Caryle, his monastic Superior, who helped him realise the Apostolate of the Sea – a mission to attend to the moral and spiritual needs of those who go to sea in ships.

An article on the subject penned by Peter appeared in The Catholic newspaper ‘Universe’ and soon letters began to arrive from all parts of the world endorsing his view that the spiritual welfare of seafarers in general went largely uncared for. One correspondent commented that:

“the mercantile marine have no chaplains and the priests in seaport towns are too overburdened with work already to give ships much individual attention”.

Macduff_1958_image_courtesy_Moray Museums Service

The Catholic Times soon took up the issue and in 1920 the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano published a condensed Italian translation of Peter’s article. Peter had by then, as always, moved on to fresh projects. In what he later realised was an attempt to escape from monastic life and a return to the maritime world, Peter asked permission from the Abbot of Caldey to make a survey tour of the seaports of the UK.

He made many sea journeys during this period and travelled from the Shetlands to the Scillies.

He sailed in dirty colliers and smoke stained steam trawlers and at one point spent so long in an Italian cargo vessel that he almost forgot how to speak English. In Buckie he found a fleet of over a hundred brightly painted steam drifters and wondered why no artist had ever painted the confused mass of funnels, rigging and masts.

In Aberdeen he observed:

“big dirty, untidy vessels which were a stark contrast to the tidy vessels of the Moray Firth.”

Everywhere he travelled he met clergy who had largely given up on ministering to ships and abandoned seafarers whose spiritual needs were left largely neglected.

The question of what could be done for Catholic seafarers had been the catalyst for the setting up of the Apostleship however when Peter moved to Portsoy and then to Macduff in the 1930’s it was soon apparent to him that the crews of the herring drifters were made up of men from various persuasions.

Methodists, Baptists, Episcopalians and Presbyterians; Brethren, Salvation Army and Catholics were all happy to discus both the state of the tide with him and debate the finer points of infant baptism or the mysticism surrounding the crucifixion.

The painting and the sketching carried on throughout this period, as it did indeed throughout his long life. The Apostleship of the Sea had become an international affair complete with annual congresses attracting delegates from up to 14 countries. By 1936 however, Peter had withdrawn from the official life of the organisation.

Gardenstown_Image_courtesy_Moray Museums ServiceIndeed he took great pleasure in the fact that on the occasion of the Congress’s meeting to honour his colleague Arthur Gannon’s 17 years of devoted work with the award of the ‘pro Pontifice et Ecclesia’ he was pointedly busy making a drawing of a Dutch motor cruiser in Banff harbour whilst chatting amiably with its crew.

Peter had in fact resigned his position as the Apostleship’s Organising Secretary in about 1924 due both to health concerns and the feeling that he had visualised the society much as he would visualize a drawing or a piece of writing.

Once the piece was completed, he simply wanted to get on with the next project.

Travels:
Further sea journeys followed. Brittany, Vancouver and a much needed pilgrimage to Assisi were just some. In 1938 he published The Caravan Pilgrimage, an account of his year long ‘Pilgrim Artist’ journey by horse drawn caravan from Datchet by the Thames around Scotland’s North East coastline and back.

For many years Peter had been contributing a weekly series of drawings to the Catholic newspaper, The Universe featuring Roman Catholic churches around Britain. This work involved constant travelling by train; he hated road travel, which he found exhausting. One day he simply decided to divest himself of his copies of both Bradshaw and the ABC Railway Guide and purchased a horse drawn caravan.

Since he knew little about horses his next move was to advertise for a travelling companion who did. Out of almost 200 applications he chose a young Yorkshire-man by the name of Anthony Rowe who, alongside a lifetimes experience amongst horses, was a qualified farrier.

Along with horses, Jack and Bill, the pair set off on a year long journey around Britain, sketching churches and meeting folk along the way. Both Anthony and Peter recorded the journey and both published journals of the trip. Around 60 of Anson’s illustrations of the pilgrimage appear in the book of the tour including sketches of St Peter’s in Buckie, St Mary’s in Portsoy and St Thomas’s in Keith.

Along the way, Jack and Bill enjoyed the privilege of overnight grazing in, amongst many unusual locations, the grounds of Huntly Castle and Buckie FC’s football park.

Harbour Head Macduff:
In 1936 Peter moved back to Scotland. He had lately been living in Norfolk but had become weary of what he called:

“the Church of England in it’s most traditional and un-exciting manifestations.”

He had an intimate knowledge of Scottish ports having previously visited most of the forty or so parishes, including the Orkney’s and Shetlands which then made up the diocese of Aberdeen and knew many of the 50 or so secular priests who served up what he termed:

“an undemonstrative type of Catholicism.”

Ferryden 1966 image courtesy Moray Museums Service

The Aberdeenshire and Moray coastline became his home for the next two decades. Ecclesiastical affairs drifted into the background and fishing communities became his focus and his life.

The likes of Neil and Daisy Gunn, Compton McKenzie and Eric Linklater became firm friends.

Indeed both Neil and Sir Compton were to contribute forewords to his books. Compton had reviewed Peter’s writing for the Daily Mail commenting that:

“Mr Ansons books are prized possessions on my bookshelves.”

It has even been suggested that Neil’s Silver Darlings might not have reached publication if Peter had not encouraged the man to publish and be damned.

Peter wrote at the time that:

“In Scotland … so far as I could discover I was the only Papist earning a living by literary and artistic work in the vast diocese of Aberdeen.”

Soon after moving into Macduff ‘s Harbour Head the local parish priest designated Peter’s house as an Apostleship of the Sea ‘Service Centre’.  As a consequence a constant stream of mariners of all faiths and nationalities found their way to his door and in wartime, service folk on leave from the armed forces frequented his open house.

He had begun the Apostleship many years before with the vision of creating a worldwide organisation. At Harbour Head, Peter soon adopted the view that perhaps men rather than administrative machinery were required; Apostles were more needed than an Apostolate.

During this period he wrote and sketched at a furious pace adopting the practice of making at least one drawing before breakfast. He had spent six months in an earth floored fisherman’s cottage in Portsoy prior to moving to Harbour Head during which time he completed The Catholic Church in Modern Scotland. During his years in Macduff his writing included classics such as A Roving Recluse, Life on Low Shore and the best-selling classic British Sea Fishermen.

At the behest of the Scottish Nationalist Party and with a foreword by writer Neil Gunn he penned a vitriolic political pamphlet ‘The Sea Fisheries of Scotland are they Doomed’ which examined in some detail the causes for the decline in the fortunes of the inshore fishing industry in the 1930’s.

Books as diverse in nature as How to Draw Ships and the 1956 Official Guide to Banff followed and are part of his legacy alongside possibly his final work Building Up the Waste Places in which he explores the life and work of Aelred Caryle and Fr. Hopkins, each of whom played key roles in the restoration of Benedictine Monastic life in the post Reformation church.

Perer_Anson_Memorial_Sculpture courtesy Duncan HarleyA founder member of the Royal Society of Marine Artists Anson published over 40 books, and contributed to many more. His artistic output numbers literally thousands of drawings and watercolours and many of his books are prolifically illustrated with harbour scenes and pier head paintings.

In 1958 Peter left Macduff and moved to a cottage near Ramsgate Abbey. A further brief stay in Portsoy followed in 1960 and in 1961 he moved to Montrose.

Made a Knight of the Order of St Gregory by Pope Paul VI in 1966 in recognition of his scholarly work he became, in 1967, the first Curator of the Scottish Fisheries Museum at Anstruther.

His later years were spent back at Caldey Island and finally at Sancta Maria Abbey in East Lothian.

He died in St. Raphael’s Hospital in Edinburgh in July 1975 and is buried in the private cemetery at Nunraw Abbey.

Aspects of Peter’s life remain unclear and some personal diaries and correspondence remain unavailable to historians until 2040. He was seemingly barred from attending a friend’s funeral at Doune Kirkyard in Macduff, shuddered at the loss, but in time recovered and moved on.

Moray Council Museum Service hold a substantial collection of Peter Anson’s work some of which is on public display at the Falconer Museum in Forres. They also hold an archive of his letters and diaries plus his personal library. Buckie Fishing Heritage Centre and Buckie Library also hold Anson paintings.

Courtesy of Stanley Bruce, Macduff sports a sculpture in memory of Peter but perhaps the most fitting tribute to his life are in the words of an anonymous Buckie fisherman quoted on the flyleaf of the 1930 edition of the best selling classic: ‘Fishing Boats and Fisher Folk on the East Coast of Scotland’.

“Peter’s the maist winnerfu’ mannie ah ever met, well kent in scores o’ ports, a man wi’ the sea in’s bleed, a skeely drawer o’ boats an’ haibers an’ fisher fowk, a vreeter o’ buiks, a capital sailor, an’ a chiel … He’s a byordinar mannie.”

© Duncan Harley

With thanks to the Moray Museum Service, the Andrew Paterson Scottish Highland Photo Archive and Aberdeenshire Library Service. First published in the November 2015 edition of Leopard Magazine

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Mar 242016
 

GrampianTransportMuseumImage1With thanks to Martyn Smith, Marketing & Events Organiser, Grampian Transport Museum

Next of Kin, an exhibition created by National Museums Scotland, opens on 2nd April at the Grampian Transport Museum.

It presents a picture of Scotland during the First World War through treasured objects from official and private sources, passed to close relatives and down through generations.

The exhibition was previously shown at the National War Museum in Edinburgh Castle, and Grampian Transport Museum will be the fifth of nine touring venues around Scotland.

It is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Scottish Government. Each of the host venues will be adding material from their own collections to tell local stories which reflect the themes of the exhibition.

Next of Kin will tell the stories of those directly involved in the Great War, including Colonel Frank Fleming. Colonel Fleming was taken prisoner, and his experiences will now be brought to life with a number of personal effects, including his officer’s pass to leave the prisoner of war camp for recreational purposes. Colonel Fleming’s cell wall calendar will also be displayed – prisoners were denied all information including what the date was, so he kept his own record.

Canadian Lieutenant James Humphrey’s story will also be told for the first time; Lieutenant Humphrey was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry and was wounded in action. While recovering in hospital he met his future wife when invited by her parents to their home for Christmas. The Next of Kin exhibition will include items belonging to Humphreys, including his wounded man’s kit label. Invalided out and very nearly losing his right arm, he was sent back to a London hospital – just one of tens of thousands of injured soldiers.

The exhibition will be supported with further displays including a Foster Wellington traction engine, affectionately known as Olive, which was originally commissioned by the War Department. The museum’s 1914 Sentinel Steam Waggon, used by local carrier Alexander Runcie, was new at the outbreak of war and helped to provide a much needed morale boost.

Runcie utilised the Sentinel to provide excursions for local groups of children.

A horse-drawn Aberdeen tram will also be decorated in the period style, harking back to the days when such vehicles were used as recruitment vehicles.

Goliath, a 10hp McLaren Traction engine, will also be on display for the season, having been used to pull heavy guns on the Western Front. Goliath would go on to become a Showman’s Road Locomotive, before being preserved by an enthusiast from Aberdeenshire.

Grampian Transport Museum Curator Mike Ward said:

“The First World War had a profound influence on Aberdeenshire. The depopulation of the Cabrach was partly due to the rush of young men to volunteer in 1914, thinking it would be a great adventure together and that they would be home by Christmas. The war memorials testify to the losses suffered by local families, in some cases three sons from one family.

“This is a sensitive subject and the museum is keen to take a look at what happened in our locality on the home front. There are many very sad stories but also some of great relief as ‘missing in action’ became ‘taken prisoner’.”

Stuart Allan of National Museums Scotland said:

“The First World War separated millions of people worldwide from their families and homes. The impact of the conflict was felt by families and communities in every part of Scotland as individuals served in the war in different ways. For those who experienced the conflict, keeping objects was a way of remembering this extraordinary period in their lives, or coping with the absence and loss of their loved ones.

“We look forward to touring the exhibition and bringing these stories from the National collection to people across the country and we particularly look forward to the stories which our partners will tell alongside ours.”

The material on loan from National Museums Scotland looks in detail at eight individual stories which both typify and illustrate the wider themes and impact of the War on servicemen and women and their families back home in Scotland. Objects include postcards and letters, photographs, medals and memorial plaques.

Examples include;

  • Two autograph books in which Nurse Florence Mellor collected drawings, watercolours, verses, jokes and messages from the wounded soldiers in her care at Craiglockhart War Hospital.
  • The pocket New Testament which Private James Scouller was carrying the day he died at Cambrai in 1917, returned to his family by a German soldier on the eve of the Second World War.
  • Drawings and postcards by Henry (Harry) Hubbard, an architectural draughtsman in Glasgow who contracted illnesses so severe that he ended up spending 16 months in hospital.
  • The last letter home from George Buchanan, Seaforth Highlanders, a railway plate-layer from Bathgate who was killed in action on the first day of the Battle of Loos, along with his memorial plaque and service medals.
  • The shell fragment which wounded Private William Dick. He kept the fragment after it was removed from his leg, but later died from the wound.

As the exhibition tours, the host venues will develop additional content using their own objects and stories related to their respective local areas. The results of these additional contributions will be captured and preserved in the exhibition displays and a digital app interactive.

Learning activities exploring the exhibition themes will take place at each venue. School and community groups will be able to interact with a bespoke handling collection made up of original and replica objects. There will also be an associated training programme to develop new skills among the participating organisations.

The tour starts in Dumfries and then the exhibition travels to Rozelle House Galleries (Ayr), Hawick Museum, Low Parks Museum (Hamilton), Grampian Transport Museum (Alford), Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, Perth Museum and Art Gallery and the Black Watch Castle and Museum and Orkney Museum.

The full list of partner organisations and touring venues can be found here: http://www.nms.ac.uk/nextofkin

Explaining the importance of the HLF support, the Head of HLF in Scotland, Lucy Casot said:

“The impact of the First World War was far reaching, touching and shaping every corner of the UK and beyond. The Heritage Lottery Fund has invested more than £60million in projects – large and small – that are marking this global Centenary. 

“With our grants, we are enabling communities like those involved in the Next of Kin exhibition to explore the continuing legacy of this conflict and help local young people in particular to broaden their understanding of how it has shaped our modern world.”

Next Of Kin Exhibition
2nd April 2016
Grampian Transport Museum, Alford.