Jan 282018
 

Mike Shepherd reviews Duncan Harley’s ‘The A-Z Of Curious Aberdeenshire: Strange Stories of Mysteries, Crimes and Eccentrics’

Tucked out of the way in the far reaches of the land, behold Aberdeenshire, a place that can boast the forlorn reputation of being largely unknown to the population at large. Edinburgh yes; Glasgow yes; and lots of tourists nip up the west coast of Scotland, but Aberdeenshire?

If the area registers at all in the national consciousness, it’s a vague awareness of something to do with North Sea oil, whisky, farming and a bit of fishing.

Otherwise nothing much ever seems to have happened there.

Then along comes Duncan Harley’s new book to challenge these perceptions. Much in the way of odd and curious things did indeed take place in that north-eastern corner and the world hadn’t known about it until now.

The book follows an alphabetic format starting with A for Aberdeenshire Art and ending up with Z for Zeppelins. Now that last section I found the most curious. During the First World War a German bombing raid went astray as the Zeppelin got lost somewhere over Aberdeenshire.

As Duncan notes:

‘Wildly off course and completely disoriented, the L20’s  sixteen-strong crew flew inland, bombing Craig Castle at Lumsden before overflying Kintore, Old Rayne and Insch, where they dropped bombs and a flare on a field at Hill of Flinder Farm, Mill of Knockenbaird and nearby Freefield House were also targeted. Amazingly though, there were no casualties and next day, curious locals went in search of souvenirs in the form of bomb fragments.’

Crazy or what? – yet fairly typical of Duncan’s fascinating book. Here’s how it came about. Duncan was asked by the History Press to write the book.

They had been aware of his articles in Leopard magazine, now subsumed into the Scottish Field. Duncan is a known wordsmith having worked for a time on a newspaper before turning to freelance writing. He has also contributed to the Aberdeen Voice which as he writes in the introduction deserves special recognition for their support.

To whet your appetite here’s some more curiosities that you might want to read more about in Duncan’s book:

– Buffalo Bill’s trip to Peterhead and Fraserburgh with his Wild West Show.

– How the Beatles, then the Silver Beetles, were nearly wiped out in a car crash on the road to Fraserburgh.

– The German spies who landed at Crovie during the Second World War.

– The royal wee… Queen Victoria’s toilet at Ballater. And on a similar theme – how a German U-Boat was sunk by its toilet near Cruden Bay.

– The Stonehaven Railway Riot in 1848 during the construction of the line to Aberdeen when over 200 navvies rampaged around the town.

This and so much more – an alphabet soup for the curious. Highly recommended – The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire is on sale in bookshops around Aberdeen and the Whisky Shop in Inverurie – where signed copies are to be had. Do have a look.

Mike Shepherd.

Dec 082017
 

By Fred Wilkinson.

“Aaaah Grasshopper, you still have much to learn … you must first try to listen … and feeeel!”

Once upon a time there was a young man who fancied himself as the rebranded Anarcho Dennis The Menace.

Unfortunately, he did not have the means to put enough calories into his person in order to avoid being laughed and sneered at by the bespectacled Walter and his crew of ‘softies’.

So he developed a defiant, unflinching pose in order to look hard.

He got a punk band together and generally scared the crap out of folk … his relatives mostly,

Then he got a wee job doing sound for a band called Mabel Meldrums Ceilidh Band.

Working alongside his chum, and punk band colleague Frank Benzie, nephew of Mabels’ guitarist and vocalist, Ian F Benzie, the young man in question came to know and refer to the Benzies as ‘Frunk an’ Unc’ – which neither ever objected to.

But their influence on the stoic, stripey one was not only significant, but equal and opposite!

This brought about much confusion. Whilst Frunk would lead young Dennisesque astray, and goad him into strange and perilous situations, Unc would be much more a source of a calm and enlightenment – particularly with regard to the realm of music. 

Words of wisdom were dispensed freely:

“If the music is ‘at loud ye canna hear yersel think, then how d’ye ken yer actually listenin tae music?”

“The words ‘I love you’ should be spoken close up, and whispered ….. if ye scream them oot til there’s snotters comin oot yer mou’, yer likely tae get a blind date wi fower or six coppers wi big sticks in the back o’ a van”

“It’s nae jist the notes min, it’s the space in atween”

And ither such hippy stuff and fluff.

However, it sunk in eventually, to the point that young hardened cynic began to appreciate the understated and the subtle alongside the “in yer face wi a big slab ya ****” aspects of music and art.

But then, not long after, Ian F Benzie, along with Mabels’ bassist/banjo plucker Buzzby McMillan parted company with Sandie Wyles (fiddle/mando/vocs), Andrew MacDonald (keys/concertina/caller) and Ian Wilson (Bodhran/ percussion/whistle), and went on to form the notorious Old Blind Dogs.

Sandie continued playing with a new Mabel Meldrums line up with a very different approach and sound.

As for that defiant, unflinching, skinny, stoic, cynical, spikey, stripey, cartoon character wannabe, tribute act? Well that was me (still is I suppose) …. your Aberdeen Voice editor.

Which brings me to the purpose of this one off spontaneous and unusual Aberdeen Voice article.

In the last few hours, I discovered a forgotten, presumed lost (or borrowed and not returned) cassette tape which was recorded by myself and Frunkie B from the mixing desk we were charged with the task of operating … or at least, preventing teuchters from plonking/spilling their beer, or stubbing their fags out on.

And so, 30 odd years later, I decided, if I had gone to sleep when I should have … like about an hour before I found that ‘lost’ tape … it might become ‘lost’ again ….. maybe forever!

And so, instead, I lashed a load of wires and boxes together, and now have a digital copy of the whole gig, which I hope to share soon.

However, I felt, when listening to one particular track, which was not part of the band’s set, but performed ‘off the cuff’ while some technical problem was resolved, that there was a wee bit of magic which transcended the background noise and the tape hiss.

Therefore, I felt compelled to ‘splice’ it out, and with the bare minimum of processing, offer it here without any further delay. 

Westlin Winds by Ian F Benzie. Live at Premnay Hall, 86/7 … as part of Mabel Meldrums’ (ceilidh band) show.

Nov 082017
 

With thanks to Roger White.

A prestigious North-East Scotland magazine of new writing and the visual arts, Pushing Out The Boat (POTB), is reminding young writers and artists in the North East and
beyond that they’ve got less than a month left to submit entries for their new online venture, ‘ePOTB’.

ePOTB will be the magazine’s first e-zine and will be devoted entirely to work by young people aged 12-17.

Like its parent magazine, ePOTB submissions will be subject to the same distinctive ‘blind selection’ process, which ensures that work is selected on merit alone.

Prize-winning author Juliet Lovering, chairing the ePOTB team, said:

“We know there’s a wealth of young writing and artistic talent out there but this is the first time we’ve given young people the chance to shine in their own publication. Three prizes of £50 are also on offer for the best contribution in the prose, poetry and art categories.”

The ePOTB team encourage anyone considering entering to read previous editions of the magazine, which are available on its website, to understand the variety of work accepted in years gone by.

Young writer Hannah Kunzlik, one of POTB’s previous contributors, said:

“I was published in POTB when I was 16 and it remains one of my proudest moments. Submitting a piece is something I would advise any young person to do with even a passing interest in writing or art. Apart from the creative fulfilment, it’s like gold dust on a CV for college or work.”

The call for submissions to ePOTB opened a month ago. Full details and registration are available at www.pushingouttheboat.co.uk.

The deadline for submissions is 30 November 2017 and the e-zine will be published on the Pushing Out The Boat website in Spring 2018.

Nov 082017
 

By Duncan Harley.

Freedom of speech is a fragile thing. Often hard won, it can be taken away at the stroke of a pen as an Aberdeenshire head teacher found to his cost in 1940.
Various Emergency Powers (Defence) Acts came into force in the early months of WW2.

Some, such as Defence Regulation 18B, provided a framework for internment of enemy aliens while others, like the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1939, gave the State wide-ranging powers to prosecute the war.

Aspects of life in the UK came under State control including the “apprehension, trial and punishment of persons offending against the Regulations.” In short, anyone suspected of acting against the national interest in any way whatsoever might suffer the indignity of a pre-dawn knock at the door.

The village of Oyne was of course quite distant from the battlefields. It had narrowly escaped being bombed by a German Zeppelin in a previous conflict but in the big scheme of things Oyne was not a front-line target. Nor was it a hotbed of pro-Nazi sympathy.

This was 1940 however and a paranoid nation was smarting from the military defeat in France. Invasion loomed and an aerial bombing campaign had begun. Towns across the North east had been attacked and coastal shipping had been sunk by German planes off both Stonehaven and Peterhead.

The newspapers of the time are filled with reports of arrests for the offence of “Careless Talk.” A meter reader from Oxford was detained after alleging “we should be just as well under the Nazi’s as we are now!” A Dorset policeman was jailed for expressing similar sentiments and a Peterhead plumber was fined £5 for “careless talk on the phone.”

Headmasters appear to have been at particular risk of prosecution. Overheard warning pupils that following imminent invasion they would have to resort to eating cats and dogs, a Lanarkshire headmaster found himself before a Hamilton Magistrate and at Oyne, George Hendry the local Primary School Headmaster, received the dreaded knock on the door in the late afternoon of June 24th.

The unwelcome visitor was Detective Inspector McHardy of Aberdeen City Police and, after suitable interrogation, Hendry was arrested on matters relating to the Defence Regulations. Lurid headlines followed and public interest was aroused.

Initially there was just the one charge. This related to statements made in the Union Street grocer’s shop of Andrew Collie & Co. Witnesses alleged that Mr Hendry expressed the view that Neville Chamberlain had sold the country down the river and should be placed against a wall and shot. The King, he said, was off to Canada leaving the country “Holding the baby” and Hitler seemingly had sufficient Torpedo Boats to sink the entire British Navy.

Oyne Primary School.

Following arrest, Hendry was released on bail of £60. On Monday July 15th the curious of Aberdeenshire queued to witness what promised to be a juicy trial at Aberdeen Sheriff Court.

Mr Hendry by now faced four charges – the police had been busy.

Alongside remarks about the King and Hitler’s naval prowess, there were allegations of him spreading alarm by remarking on Britain’s unpreparedness for war.

One prosecution witness termed Hendry a fifth columnist and had ordered him out of her shop but under cross-examination admitted she had in fact been joking and considered him simply a leg-puller. Another witness told the court she had discussed the war with him on several occasions and that despite their differences, there was no bad blood between them.

Finally, the case against the Oyne headmaster boiled down to one very simple issue: the spreading of defeatist talk. In a fine piece of courtroom theatre, Mr Blades for the defence lured the manager of Collie’s grocer shop into admitting that the case would never even have been brought had he himself not spread gossip about Mr Hendry’s statements to a crowd, including a policeman, at the public bar of the Royal Athenaeum.

Sheriff Dallas had clearly heard quite enough. A verdict of Not Proven on all four charges was greeted with applause from the crowded courtroom.

George Hendry, a graduate of Aberdeen University, became Headmaster at Oyne in 1927 having previously taught in Forres.  After the trial he returned to his post until his retiral, due to ill health, in 1963. He died in 1966 age just 63.

Duncan Harley is a writer living in the Garioch and author of the soon to be published A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire: https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/publication/the-a-z-of-curious-aberdeenshire/9780750983792/

‘Hitler’s Headmaster’ was first published in the April 2017 edition of Leopard Magazine.

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Oct 132017
 

With thanks to Martin Ford.

Two planning enforcement notices have been served by Aberdeenshire Council on Avant Homes in respect of the former Kingseat Hospital development near Newmachar.
The action by the Council’s planning service follows a report on Kingseat, instigated by East Garioch councillor Martin Ford, that went to the Garioch Area Committee in June.

Cllr Ford has welcomed the decision to serve enforcement notices. He said:

“I am very pleased by the response from the Council’s planning service to the Member Promoted Issue report on Kingseat discussed at the Garioch Area Committee in June. Actions are now being taken that will put real pressure on the main site owner to complete at least some of the outstanding planning requirements.”

The planning enforcement notices served relate to the storage of spoil and materials and failure to install a play park, required from the developers as part of the overall Kingseat planning permission. The developer has 12 weeks from 20 October to clear the spoil storage area and create a new open space including play equipment.

If the developer wishes to appeal the enforcement notices, it must do so by 19 October.

Cllr Martin Ford said:

“Under the Councillors’ Code of Conduct, councillors are not allowed to press for particular planning enforcement actions. Such decisions are for officers in the planning service. The decisions officers have now taken regarding Kingseat have my wholehearted support.

“I do think Aberdeenshire Council was far too passive for far too long in dealing with the stalled development at Kingseat. Of course, the Council cannot simply order the developers to complete the whole development, it doesn’t have that power. But the Council can proactively pursue obligations the developers have under the legal agreements associated with planning permissions, and take enforcement action over non-compliance with those permissions.

“There is clearly now a new determination to use the powers the Council does have to try to force the main site owner to undertake further work stipulated by the permissions granted and agreements signed. That has got to be very welcome.”

Aberdeenshire Council hopes Avant Homes will comply with the enforcement notices. In the event of non-compliance, officers in the Council’s planning service will decide what action to take. This could include the Council undertaking the work required and recovering costs from Avant Homes and reporting Avant Homes to the procurator fiscal for non-compliance.

The Council is also reviewing other options for action to get work progressed at Kingseat, including Avant Homes’ obligations under Section 75 legal agreements.

In order to preserve the historically important former hospital site, Aberdeenshire Council granted planning permission for a mixed use development at Kingseat in December 2004. The first new homes at Kingseat were completed on 21 February 2006 – so some residents have now been living in an unfinished development for over eleven years. The lack of a play park is just one very obvious failure by the main site developer.

The Council’s long-standing policy on preserving the historic buildings at Kingseat is reflected in the agreed development brief for the site.

Cllr Martin Ford said:

“The goal has to be to get the whole development finished and see the fine buildings that are currently derelict brought back into use.”

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Oct 062017
 

With thanks to Ross Anderson, Senior Account Manager, Jasmine Ltd.

A leading north-east legal firm has strengthened its teams of specialist solicitors in Aberdeen with three new appointments.
Mackinnons Solicitors, with offices in Aberdeen, Cults and Aboyne, has announced two promotions and one new appointment, each of whom will complement the firm’s existing legal teams.

Angus Easton, who recently completed a master’s degree in Maritime Law, has been promoted to the position of Associate within the firm’s commercial shipping team.

Mr Easton joined Mackinnons in January 2013 and his expertise covers areas of commercial practice with an emphasis on marine and business law.

Kim Harkness also assumes an Associate position working within the property and private client teams. She joined Mackinnons in 2013 and has worked primarily as an assistant to firm partner, Pat Gray.

Kate Longmuir has also joined the firm from Pinsent Masons and will be working within the corporate team advising on a range of commercial matters with emphasis on the energy and marine sectors.

Graham Jones, one of the firm’s senior partners, said:

“We are delighted to have appointed Kate to our commercial shipping team. She has considerable experience in legal matters relating to the marine and energy sectors and will be a great asset to us.

“As well as recruiting to strengthen the team, we are also very pleased to be able to promote talent from within. Angus and Kim have already made a significant contribution to the success of the firm and their promotions are well deserved.

“Each of these appointments significantly strengthens our teams of specialist solicitors as we look to build for the future and expand our existing client base.”

Established in Aberdeen in 1842, Mackinnons is recognised internationally for its long-standing expertise in fishing, shipping and marine law. The firm is also a leading provider of private client legal services with a team of experienced and specialist lawyers. 

Mackinnons offer a range of legal services including residential property, personal advice, wills and estate planning, commercial property, business and corporate matters, renewables, employment and dispute resolution in addition to its internationally renowned shipping law practice.

Its experienced teams of solicitors provide professional, pragmatic, bespoke advice for clients, whether they are multinational corporations, local businesses or individuals.

As part of Mackinnons’ 175th anniversary celebrations in 2017, the firm is raising money for The Fishermen’s Mission.

For more information about Mackinnons Solicitors and its range of legal and financial services, please visit: www.mackinnons.com

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Oct 062017
 

With thanks to Ross Anderson, Senior Account Manager, Jasmine Ltd.

North-east golfers have raised thousands of pounds for a leading cancer support charity at one of the area’s most prestigious courses.

CLAN Cancer Support hosted its annual golf day at Meldrum House Country Hotel & Golf Club in Oldmeldrum on Thursday, September
28.

The popular event, which was sponsored by CNR International (UK) Ltd, saw 12 teams of four compete for the winner’s trophy – raising more than £8,500 for the charity along the way.

A team from The Dunavon Hotel won the competition and prizes were also awarded for nearest the pin and longest drive during the rounds. There was also a raffle and an auction once all the teams had returned to the clubhouse which helped raise funds towards the total.

Steph Dowling, CLAN’s fundraising team manager, said:

“The CLAN Golf Day has been a great success which has raised a fantastic total for the charity.

“Congratulations to the winning team from The Dunavon Hotel and thank you to everyone who supported the event to help CLAN continue to provide support services, free of charge, to anyone who needs them.

“The team at Meldrum House Country Hotel & Golf Club did an excellent job throughout the day and looked after everyone taking part which really helped add to the spirit of the occasion.”

CLAN Cancer Support is an independent charity which provides comfort support and information, free of charge, for anyone, of any age, affected by any type of cancer. CLAN aims to support people to reduce anxiety, stress and to increase their ability to cope with the effects of a serious illness.

Based in Aberdeen, the charity covers the whole of north-east Scotland, Moray, Orkney and Shetland. CLAN has a presence in Ballater, Banchory, Buckie, Elgin, Inverurie, Fraserburgh, Lossiemouth, Peterhead, Stonehaven, Turriff, Kirkwall and Lerwick.

For more information about CLAN Cancer Support please call (01224) 647 000 or visit www.clanhouse.org

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Oct 062017
 

With thanks to Eoin Smith, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR

From channelling their inner squirrels to playing detective on the trail of secretive beasties, children from Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire required colourful imaginations as they took up the challenge to go ‘green’ at Castle Fraser.
The National Trust for Scotland property hosted a series of workshops for over 300 primary school youngsters as part of its annual environmental education event.

The historic castle near Inverurie has been hosting the Going Green initiative in partnership with Total E&P UK for the past eight years. The programme for this year’s event was one of the most diverse to date.

Castle Fraser property manager Paula Swan said:

“The workshops were designed to stimulate the imagination of children, helping them learn about important environmental issues in a fun and creative way.

“The workshops support the Curriculum for Excellence but show that learning about these topics – and promoting environmental responsibility both now and in the future – don’t have to take place in the classroom.

“Over the years that we have been hosting this event we have welcomed hundreds of school children through our doors. Who knows, Going Green may have even inspired some of our future conservationists, biologists and environmental experts.

“We are pleased that we once again hosted Going Green with the support of Total, continuing the very strong and successful partnership which sees us working together to raise environmental awareness at an early age.

“Total has been extremely dedicated to working with Castle Fraser and because of the company’s commitment to the project, thousands of primary school pupils have been able to learn about the importance of the natural world around them.”

Sandra McLennan, corporate social responsibility leader at Total E&P UK, added:

“TEPUK is thrilled to support the NTS in our combined effort to promote the benefits of outdoor learning in the beautiful setting of Castle Fraser. We are especially pleased that the NTS was able to extend Going Green from two days to three to capture the imagination of more children this year.” 

The great outdoors was the classroom for the school pupils, with activities including:

  • Buzzing with the Bees – a chance for children to learn more about the important role that bees play in the eco-system with the Kemnay Beekeepers who have hives at the castle.
  • Minibeast Masterclass – a hunt for minibeasts during which the pupils will discover what all the different beasties eat at Castle Fraser…including other species.
  • Hidden Wildlife – playing detective and finding out what animals get up to at night by looking for tracks and signs.
  • Making Music – a workshop that will hit the right note with youngsters as it allows them to make instruments out of recyclable goods before learning how to play them.
  • Secret Life of Squirrels – pupils learn if they have what it takes to make a good squirrel in an interactive workshop in which they will make their own dreys, hide and store cones, and gather their own food.
  • Can You Survive? – Mar Lodge Estate Rangers give tips on the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, and give pointers on making dens and surviving in the wild.  

There were also workshops to show how to make dens and survive in the wild, and where pupils could learn how to plant flowers and vegetables, and then nurture them.

Castle Fraser – the ancestral home of the Fraser family – is a baronial castle dating back to the 15th century.

As well as its extensive grounds which include the secret woodland garden, walled garden and estate trails, there are many highlights inside the property, such as the Great Hall, an extensive library and a room packed full of 18th century embroideries.

The National Trust for Scotland is the charity that celebrates and protects Scotland’s heritage. It relies on the support of its members and donors to carry out its important work of caring for the natural and built heritage of Scotland for everyone to enjoy.

You can join the National Trust for Scotland for as little as £7.50 per month for a family. To become a member, visit http://www.nts.org.uk/Join/Benefits/.

You can make a difference and help protect everything in our care. Donate online at https://www.nts.org.uk/Donations/

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Sep 282017
 

With thanks to Ross Anderson, Senior Account Manager, Jasmine Ltd.

A team of Methlick superheroes tested their metal on an inflatable obstacle course and raised a four-figure sum for a north-east cancer charity.

The ‘Methlick Marvels’ raised more than £1,000 for Friends of ANCHOR by taking part in the charity’s ANCHOR Wipeout event which was held in Aberdeen’s Hazlehead Park in August.

ANCHOR Wipeout, which is in its fifth year, is a key fundraising event to support the ANCHOR Unit and ensure north-east Scotland’s cancer and haematology patients receive the best possible care, treatment and support.

The team, which comprised Scott Mitchell, Michael and Claire Fotheringham, Graeme and Emma Tallis, Hugh Robertson, Alex Hall, Karen Campbell and Mick McGrath, all dressed in superhero costumes to complete the course and scored the winning points total on the Saturday competition against 27 other teams.

Each of the twelve games involved teams tackling obstacles and inflatables in a bid to score as many points as possible.

Mr Michael Fotheringham, who is a partner at James Milne Chartered Accountants, helped the team achieve their success and said they were inspired to raise money for the charity in recognition of what it has done to help a good friend.

He said:

“One of our friends, Yvonne Mitchell, is undergoing treatment for cancer and during her time in hospital she received a huge amount of support from Friends of ANCHOR. We decided to enter a team for ANCHOR Wipeout and were determined to raise as much as possible for this fantastic charity.

“Tackling the course was great fun and we must have made for a colourful sight in our superhero outfits. We scored the most points on the day which was a great feeling to end the day. The team would like to thank everyone who sponsored us to take part in the ANCHOR Wipeout, every penny counts to help people across the north-east.”

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Sep 282017
 

With thanks to Ross Anderson, Senior Account Manager, Jasmine Ltd.

A leading north-east accountancy firm is targeting further growth as it marks its one-year anniversary in Banchory after expanding in to Deeside.
James Milne Chartered Accountants acquired the business of AC Howat Chartered Accountant in September 2016 and moved into a new office in the Banchory Business Centre.

Established in 1888, James Milne has a team of 30 staff and partners across its offices in Aberdeen, Inverurie and Banchory who provide accountancy, taxation and business services to a range of business and personal clients.

The firm, which prides itself on its partner-led approach, has seen growth across all areas over the last twelve months.

Partner Richard Christie, who heads up the Banchory office, has worked with colleagues Lauren Thompson and Bill Urquhart to increase the firm’s client base in the area.

He said:

“We’ve had a very promising year since setting up in the Banchory Business Centre and the team has done an excellent job working with new and existing clients to provide a range of accountancy and taxation services.

“Being able to expand into Banchory and Deeside was a significant step for the firm and we are very excited about continuing to develop the relationships with our existing clients as well as the potential for further growth in the area.”

James Milne also provide support to businesses and are regularly contacted by people who are looking to start their own company and require advice. The firm’s range of services, includes, accountancy, business taxation, bookkeeping, payroll services and tax planning.

Bill Urquhart worked with Alan Howat for 13 years in Banchory and has helped to maintain important links with clients.

He said:

“It’s been a very quick year but it feels like there’s been a seamless transition and I’m delighted to be working with so many longstanding clients.

“We have a good team here in Banchory and Richard, Lauren and myself are on hand to assist clients with their accountancy needs and meet with people and businesses who want to find out more about our services.”

James Milne serves both personal and business clients across a diverse range of industries, from the Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire staples of oil and gas and agriculture through to retail, hospitality, fishing, haulage, trades, construction and many more. For more information, please visit: www.jamesmilne.co.uk