May 252017
 

With thanks to Clare Scott, Communications Consultant, CJS Communication & Marketing.

A long trip south proved more than worthwhile for a group of north-east wrestlers, with several among their number ascending all the way to the medallists’ podium.

Wrestlers from Oldmeldrum-based V Wrestling Academy won a number of medals at the recent English Junior Wrestling Championships at Thames Valley Athletic Centre in Eton.

11-year-old Colby Taylor struck gold in the 41k category. His fellow club members Leon Etko and Erin Mortimer added to V Wrestling’s medal haul taking silver and bronze in the 37k and 67k categories respectively.

There was further success for V Wrestling Academy in the Veterans’ Championships, which took place over the same weekend. Club member Keith Mortimer returned to Aberdeenshire with a silver medal in the 90k category.

Head coach Vio Etko accompanied the team along with his fellow coach Nicolae Cojocaru.

He said:

“This was a long trip to make for some of our younger wrestlers but they certainly rose to the occasion.

“As well as showing commitment and focus while competing, they all demonstrated great team spirit and camaraderie. The medals are the icing on the cake of a really great developmental experience.”

Leon Etko (12) repeated his silver medal success with a second placing in the 35k category of the recent International Tournament Calarasi Cup in Moldova.

Leon’s achievement in Moldova replicates that of his father and coach Vio Etko, who won the silver medal 25 years prior in the same event.

V Wrestling Academy is based at ETKO Sports Academy in Oldmeldrum. Head coach Vio Etko is a seven-time British wrestling champion and the current Commonwealth Games bronze medal holder. He is also a former winner of Aberdeenshire Sport Council’s Coach of the Year award.

Further information on V Wrestling Academy’s coaching programmes is available by calling ETKO Sports Academy on 01651 873876.

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May 122017
 

With thanks to Martin Ford.

Long-serving councillor Martin Ford was re-elected last Thursday (4 May) for a fifth term as a member of Aberdeenshire Council.

With 18 years on Aberdeenshire Council, Martin Ford is now the longest serving councillor in the Garioch Area.

Cllr Ford represented the Newmachar and Fintray ward from 1999 to 2007.

With the introduction of the single transferable vote system and multi-member wards in 2007, Martin Ford became one of the three councillors representing the East Garioch ward.

Further changes to electoral arrangements this time were down to a revision of council ward boundaries undertaken since the 2012 election by The Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland. As of 4 May, the East Garioch ward (which includes Newmachar, Fintray, Blackburn and Kintore) is now larger than it was before.

The ward has been extended to the west by moving its boundary much closer to Kemnay and Inverurie. Reflecting the increase in population, the number of councillors representing the East Garioch ward has also been increased – from three to four.

Cllr Martin Ford said:

“I would like to thank all 4,559 residents of East Garioch who voted in the election last Thursday.

“I am tremendously pleased to be starting my fifth term on Aberdeenshire Council. It’s a great privilege to have been re-elected again after 18 years as a councillor. So I would like to express my special thanks to those who put their confidence in me to continue as one of their local representatives.

“Locally, there are a range of priorities within the East Garioch ward. The Council has a key role to play in the delivery of the planned rail station in Kintore. Decisions are required about additional school capacity in Newmachar. The new school in Blackburn is due to open in August 2018.

“With the election last week, there has been a considerable change in the membership of the Council. Moving forward, I hope the Council as a whole will have effective working relationships between councillors of different colours, so there is a preparedness to accept suggestions and good ideas from all sides. There are undoubtedly going to be some tough choices during the next five years, so we need a Council that takes its decisions on the basis of evidence and in the public interest.”

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May 122017
 

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

Massed pipe bands at Aboyne Highland Games

One of Aberdeenshire’s leading traditional events is seeking the public’s input as it prepares to shine a spotlight on a century and a half of its history.

The organisers of Aboyne Highland Games are calling on the public to share their memories and photographs of the iconic Royal Deeside event as it prepares to celebrate its 150th anniversary later this year.

All of the contributions will be included in a special commemorative memory book that will be on display at this summer’s event. For visitors who wish to share their games memories on the day itself, boards will be set up to allow written reminiscences.

An extensive written and pictorial archive documenting the event’s history is held by the Aboyne Highland Games. However, the organising committee is keen to hear personal memories and see still or moving images of the games from those who have attended over the decades.

Aboyne Highland Games has become a highlight of the Deeside events calendar since its founding in 1867. It has been held annually on the town’s green for the past 150 years, with the only exception being during both world wars. This year’s event takes place on Saturday, 05 August and is once again expected to welcome up to 10,000 visitors.

The inaugural Aboyne Highland Games was held on Saturday, 31 August 1867 following just a month of planning and was well attended. The Aberdeen Journal of Wednesday, 04 September 1867 noted that:

“When the time arrived for beginning the competition, several thousands of spectators, of all classes, and all out for a holiday, surrounded the large enclosure on the muir.”

Today, the games is held on the first Saturday in August and features a packed programme of 95 traditional highland events, including solo and massed piping, highland dancing, light and heavy athletics and fiddle competitions. A popular feature is the 6.8-mile hill race that follows part of the Fungle Road and circles the base of Craigendinnie. With total combined prize fund of over £13,000 on offer, Aboyne Highland Games attracts some of the country’s leading pipers, dancers and athletes. 

After a near 40-year absence, one of the events that featured in the programme of the first games is being staged to mark the event’s milestone anniversary. Pole vaulting will be included in the Saturday afternoon programme for the first time since 1978. Once a staple of highland games events throughout Scotland, the discipline is now only contested at a handful of games each year.

Alistair Grant, chairman of Aboyne Highland Games, said:

“Aboyne Highland Games has been an important and much loved fixture of the Deeside calendar for a century and a half. We know it has played an important part of many people’s lives and are keen to hear from those with memories of the event, either as spectators, participants or involved in its organisation.

“Our minute books contain extensive written records of the evolution of the games, from the initial meeting on Saturday, 27 July 1867 where the idea of holding a highland games in Aboyne was first discussed, through to the present time. Although factual, these do not capture the people’s story of Aboyne Highland Games, which is vital for our memory book.

“Reaching our 150th anniversary is an important milestone in the history of the games. As we look back with great fondness and celebrate the history, heritage and culture of the local area, we also look to the future. To welcoming new faces annually on the first Saturday in August who can join us in making history and helping shape the future of this important Deeside event.”

The deadline for submitting photographs and memories is Thursday, 01 June and these can be e-mailed to secretary@aboynegames.com. Further information regarding sending photographs by post is available on the Aboyne Highland Games Facebook page.

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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May 122017
 

With thanks to Gemma Setter, PR Account Executive, Frasermedia.

Graeme Johnson and June Jones from ITCA, alongside four of the pupils and Turriff Academy depute rector, Jane Bisset.

A leading apprenticeship-training provider is calling on North-east schools to prepare youngsters for the workplace through an industry initiative aimed at plugging the engineering skills gap.

For the second year running, Aberdeen-based ITCA Training offered pupils from Turriff Academy the opportunity to gain an industry standard accredited qualification.

Six pupils, aged 16-18, successfully completed units in health and safety, machining, lathe work, fabrication, welding and general engineering hand skills at ITCA.

ITCA is now calling on other secondary schools to follow in the footsteps of the school by providing additional skill development opportunities for pupils.

Managing director of ITCA Training, June Jones, said:

“It is extremely promising to see a secondary school so focused on the development of its pupils. I can only hope that other schools follow suit by providing even more young people with the opportunity to gain useful skills and additional qualifications that add to their SCQF points.

“At a time when recruitment in the North-east is low, it is now more important than ever to provide promising young engineers with the skilled training and support they need to pursue a career in this field.”

Jane Bisset, deputy rector at Turriff Academy, said:

“We are very appreciative of the partnership between ITCA, Turriff Academy and Aberdeenshire Council. The initiative is very beneficial for our pupils, as they are able to gain an industry standard qualification whilst still in secondary school.

“This qualification stands alongside their academic achievements and will instantly give them an advantage over other jobseekers in a very competitive market.”    

ITCA Training, which is one of the largest engineering apprenticeship-training firms in Scotland, is situated at Howe Moss Drive in the  Kirkhill  Industrial Estate, Dyce. The base, which spans almost 22,000sq feet, includes offices, classrooms, a storage yard, and workshop space. The company has been in operation in the   North-east  since 1989, and provides training for young employees in various sectors including welding, fabrication, mechanical engineering, business administration and logistics.      

To find out more about ITCA visit www.itca-training.com  

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May 122017
 

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

Aberdeenshire’s Lonach Highlanders are set to make a mark as they debut at this year’s Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

Seventy-five of Strathdon’s kilted clansmen will travel to the capital in August to be part of the iconic annual spectacle as it celebrates Scotland’s clans.

The men have been invited to be part of the performance on Monday, 14 August by Lord Forbes, chief of the Forbes clan.

In front of an audience of around 8,500 people, including many international visitors, the highlanders will parade onto Edinburgh Castle’s Esplanade to herald the start of the evening’s performance. Dressed in full highland regalia and armed with their traditional eight-foot long pikes, the men will create an imposing sight for the gathered crowd.

With a history stretching back to 1823 when the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society was formed, the Lonach Highlanders are believed to be the largest body of non-military men to carry ceremonial weapons in Britain. Membership is drawn from residents of the local area who descend from the Forbes, Wallace and Gordon clans. Society membership currently stands at 227 men, under the patronage of Sir James Forbes, 8th Baronet of Newe and Edinglassie.

The theme of this year’s Tattoo is a Splash of Tartan, something that the Lonach Highlanders will admirably provide. To mark Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, Tattoo organisers have teamed up with The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs to celebrate the country’s clan heritage and national fabric, and their influence around the world.

Two or three clans will be represented at each performance during the Tattoo’s three-week run. On the night of the Lonach Highlander’s attendance, both the Forbes and Wallace clans will muster on the castle esplanade and their Scottish ancestry celebrated.

This is a fantastic opportunity for the society and the highlanders to help promote our history and heritage

The highlanders’ trip to Edinburgh comes just 12 days before their own annual gathering takes place in Bellabeg, Aberdeenshire.

Attracting crowds of up to 10,000 people, the Lonach Highland Gathering and Games is one of north-east Scotland’s leading traditional highland games.

This year’s event on Saturday, 26 August marks the 176th time the gathering has been held. It will once again commence with the Lonach Highlanders embarking on six-mile march round the local area, following in the footsteps of their forefathers and continuing a near two-hundred year-old tradition.

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

“The Lonach Highland and Friendly Society is honoured to have been invited to participate in this year’s Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. This is the first time that the Lonach Highlanders have been present at the event and there is huge excitement amongst those taking part.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for the society and the highlanders to help promote our history and heritage, the Lonach Gathering, Aberdeenshire and highland games in general. Television recording will be taking place on the night that we are parading. If we make the director’s cut then there is potential for millions of people around the world to learn about Lonach.

“Attending the Tattoo will be a great warm up for the 176th Lonach Highland Gathering and Games just 12 days later on Saturday, 26 August. If you think the sight of 75 Lonach Highlanders marching is special, the sight and sound of 200 of them, pikes aloft, marching through picturesque Strathdon is one to behold, and not to be missed.”

Ringside seat tickets for the 176th Lonach Highland Gathering and Games are on sale now, priced from £12 for adults and £7 for children. Visit www.lonach.org for full details.

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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May 052017
 

With thanks to Kenneth Hutchison, Parliamentary Assistant to Dr. Eilidh Whiteford.

Eilidh Whiteford with local fisherman John Clark.

Eilidh Whiteford, SNP candidate for Banff and Buchan, has renewed calls for a re-think on Aberdeenshire Council’s proposals to end Macduff Harbour’s Night Watchmen service.
Dr Whiteford joined local fisherman John Clark aboard the Banff-registered Reliance II on Wednesday night to see for herself the importance of the watchmen, and the challenges of piloting commercial vessels safely into Macduff Harbour.

Speaking after the visit, Dr. Whiteford said:

“I have already raised this issue with the council, but this evening I was able to see for myself exactly why the watchmen at Macduff need to be retained.

“This is primarily a safety issue. Even in daylight with perfect weather conditions, the entrance to Macduff Harbour is challenging for vessels. The harbour entrance can also be deceiving for skippers less familiar with the port, due to the remnants of the old harbour wall. 

“It’s also a commercial issue. Landings in Macduff have increased greatly since landing restrictions were lifted last year, and it is probably the single most important development towards regenerating economic activity in the town.

“At a time when the council has been putting huge efforts into regenerating Macduff and the surrounding area, it would be entirely counterproductive to undermine these efforts by removing essential personnel who enable commercial fishermen to land safely.”

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May 052017
 

With thanks to Aberdeenshire SNP.

Peterhead South & Cruden SNP councillor Stephen Smith has welcomed the upgrade to the footpath linking Morrison Place with Braehead Drive in Cruden Bay, an important access to Port Erroll School.

Following complaints late last year that the existing steps – which had been constructed from wooden logs by the developer of Morrison Place many years ago – were rotten and presented a slip hazard during wet weather, managed to get replacement steps installed by the council’s Landscape Services department.

Commenting, Cllr Stephen Smith said:

“This is an important footpath as it serves as a safe route to school and means primary school children avoid the busy A975 which runs through the village.

“The steps had served well since the developer installed them at the time Morrison Place was constructed but I was receiving complaints they were not only past their best but were now presenting a slip hazard during wet weather and were also rotting away.

“I contacted the council’s Landscape Services department asking them to assist and I’m pleased to say they have done a really excellent job in renewing and upgrading the steps.”

Fellow ward councillor Stuart Pratt added:

“This is a job well done and means that the most regular users of the path – the pupils and parents at Port Erroll School – can continue to have a safe route to use, away from heavy traffic.”

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May 052017
 

With thanks to Diane Smith.

The Moray Way Association has received £6000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to support the Moray Walking & Outdoor Festival and a project based along the Moray Way, Moray’s 96 mile long distance walking route.
Made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, the projects will focus on events that uncover the historical, archaeological, architectural, natural and the landscape heritage of Moray.

This year the festival, which runs from 16 June to 25 June 2017, will have a ‘heritage’ theme with more events than ever exploring Moray’s built and natural landscape.

Highlights of the programme will include two events by Moray based historian and writer of The Making of a Scottish Landscape, Dr John Barrett; Ghost Towns – deserted settlements in Strathavon, where you will be able to explore the remains of a lost culture and, A Royal Burgh: the making of Medieval Forres, a walk tracing the origins and development of the town. 

The events are proving to be popular as an extra date has been arrange for the Ghost Towns walk which was sold out in a week.

The programme has a wealth of other historical and natural heritage events organised by local community groups like Speyside Visitor Centre, Cullen, Deskford & Portknockie Heritage Group, Forres Footpaths Trust, the Dava Way, Belles on Bikes Moray and Findhorn Village Heritage, alongside organisations such as Wild Things!, Outfit Moray, Forestry Commission, Moray Council Ranger Service and Ace Adventures.

Over the 10 days there are 50 plus events right across Moray, from Tomintoul to Lossiemouth.

Back again this year is Moray Way Five Day Challenge in which participants walk the 95 miles of the Moray Way over 5 days.

The walk, which includes the Dava Way, Moray Coastal Trail and the Speyside Way, provides participants with a ‘park and ride’ service to make it easier to complete the long distance walk, with options to just walk sections of the route. Also, returning this year is the famous Dava Way Ghost Train Walk, the Secrets of Pluscarden and Secrets of Spynie which participants rated as excellent last year.

For those who are looking for adrenalin rush then Ace Adventures are running their water sports events every day of the festival at special reduced prices. You can see the River Findhorn from a different view with cliff jumping, canyoning and white water rafting. They are also running their growing activity, Disc Golf.

This year the programme has several firsts;

  • Moray Speyside Film Club are hosting a special “Outdoor” themed evening of films,
  • a Wild Swim event will be taking place in Lochindorb with Vivienne Rickman- Poole, artist, wild swimmer and listed in the top 19 San Miguel Rich List ‘alternative rich’ as well as Calum Maclean, of ‘Wild Swimming in Scotland’.
  • A unique and special opportunity with The British Biathlon Rifle Club to spend several hours learning to shoot small-bore rifles in the marvellously unique Olympic discipline of biathlon. 

As well as supporting events in the Moray Walking & Outdoor Festival the funding will also help the development of a long-term plan to increase awareness of the Moray Way. Funding will support a commission artist to work with communities along the Moray Way to gather stories which can then be used to promote the route. This project will expect to start in the summer.

Commenting on the award, Bea Jefferson, Chairperson of the Moray Way Association said:

“We are thrilled to have received support thanks to National Lottery players. Each year interest in the event flourishes and funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund ensures that we can keep growing. We look forward to celebrating Moray’s natural and built heritage through the Festival and our Moray Way project.”

About Moray Way Association

The Moray Way Association was founded in 2011 with the aim of creating Moray’s long distance walking route, The Moray Way, a 96 mile circular walking trail. Since 2012 the organisation has also organised the Moray Walking & Outdoor Festival with the purpose of encouraging walking and other outdoor pursuits in Moray. www.moraywalkingfestival.co.uk

For further information, images and interviews please contact Diane A Smith at Moray Walking & Outdoor Festival on 07764615517 or info@moraywalkingfestival.co.uk

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Apr 282017
 

With thanks to Martin Ford.

Aberdeenshire Greens have launched their manifesto for the 2017 council election.

The manifesto sets out the priorities and approach for Green councillors elected to Aberdeenshire Council this May.

The Scottish Green Party is contesting five of the nineteen council wards in Aberdeenshire. There is currently one Green councillor on Aberdeenshire Council.

Rachel Shanks, Green candidate for Stonehaven and Lower Deeside, said:

“The more Green councillors elected to Aberdeenshire Council this May, the more influence they will have. We want to prioritise investment in education, better local public transport and protecting Aberdeenshire’s special environment.

“Inevitably, Aberdeenshire Council is going to face some tough challenges in the years ahead. Green voices need to be heard in the council chamber when the Council decides how to respond. The last five years have shown a Green presence has made for a better Council. We want to build on that this May.”

West Garioch Green candidate Richard Openshaw said:

“The election on 4 May is a local election. It’s about local issues, not national ones.

“We’re proud of the Green successes on Aberdeenshire Council since 2012, like funding for youth work, traffic calming, cycling and walking. Our manifesto for the next five years sets out what we will prioritise going forward.

“The forecast rise in pupil numbers in Aberdeenshire schools means additional resources for education are essential. I was appalled at the education cuts advocated by the Lib Dems and Conservatives in their proposed 2017/18 Council budget. Green councillors will give priority to spending on schools and resist education cuts.”

Mearns candidate Karen Allan said:

“I particularly welcome the manifesto commitments on road safety and tackling climate change.”

East Garioch councillor and Green candidate Martin Ford said:

“A significant number of proposals from the 2012 Aberdeenshire Green manifesto have been agreed by the Council and have become Council policy. Greens elected to Aberdeenshire Council this May will similarly seek cross-party support to get Green proposals adopted.”

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Apr 282017
 

With thanks to Aberdeenshire SNP.

Aboyne, Upper Deeside & Donside SNP councillor Geva Blackett has written to Aberdeenshire Council’s Director of Infrastructure Services, Stephen Archer, requesting that the cost of a functional bridge on the A939 at Gairnshiel is built into the council’s Capital Plan as a matter of urgency to save the Grade 1 listed bridge currently in use.

In her letter, Cllr Blackett says:

“Almost exactly five years ago, this beautiful bridge was closed for some weeks to allow extensive – and expensive repairs – to take place and not for the first time.

“The resulting 40-mile detour caused chaos for motorists and had a severe impact on the fragile economies of Braemar, Ballater, Strathdon and Tomintoul.

“Now we find that despite the 18 ton weight limit imposed, even more expensive and extensive repairs are required in the near future and as traffic increases with the Snow Road linking Grantown to Blairgowrie gains in popularity, so too will the need for major repairs as the bridge is no longer fit for purpose”

Cllr Blackett’s letter points out that when the current bridge was built after the 1745 Jacobite uprising to form part of the Military Road, cars, coaches and 38 ton lorries did not exist. 

“Imagine for one moment a Chippendale chair” continues Cllr Blackett’s letter

You would not allow the public to continually sit on it and break it; you would say that people can look at it and admire it but if they want to sit down they should use the functional chair placed alongside. The same argument should be applied to this bridge which plays an important part of our built heritage, is of historical importance and could be a tourist attraction with picnic tables and proper parking”

Cllr Blackett’s case for an adjacent bridge is supported by a candidate from Perth & Kinross and by a candidate from Moray, both of whom have written to Aberdeenshire Council.

Alison Mullholland standing for Blairgowrie & the Glens Ward in Perth & Kinross said:

“I understand that historically, repair work necessitated by previous damage, took some weeks to be completed. During which time, the resulting forty mile diversion curtailed the number of tourists travelling along the A93 through Glenshee to Blairgowrie and west to Kirkmichael and beyond.

“Therefore I would strongly support consideration of an adjacent replacement bridge, thus facilitating the repair and subsequent preservation of the beautiful and historical Gairnshiel Bridge, whilst allowing all forms of traffic access via the new bridge.”

Angus Anderson standing for Moray’s Speyside Glenlivet ward said:

“The purpose of my writing to you today is to make you fully aware of the significant financial impact businesses in Tomintoul and beyond will suffer should the bridge have to continually close for repairs. One business owner advised me that over one hundred and fifty coaches visit his shop each year and virtually all of them arrive via the A939 from Aberdeenshire.

“There is also obviously a preservation and historical concern given the bridge’s age and status and I would urge you to consider that too. I support Councillor Blackett’s request that a new bridge be factored into the Capital Plan and thus reassure the businesses in Tomintoul and beyond that Aberdeenshire Council is taking a long term and pragmatic approach to the importance of this bridge to the Snow Road route.”

A 60 second video by Cllr Blackett is also being released on social media.

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