Sep 242018

By Suzanne Kelly.

While the Spanish construction giant may be shelling out pennies to local groups, its workers have come forward with yet more alarming footage, photos and tales of safety regulations flaunted.
A further worker has come forward to say they were dismissed after wanting to register an incident in the accident log.

Aberdeen Voice has seen images of the injury to the employee who had a cut and bruise at least 8” in diameter they say they got on site.

One worker from the site said:

“It’s usual they get away with murder. Majority of workers are agency so they’re scared to say anything and I don’t blame them as that’s exactly what happened with me. I report accident and was sacked .”

The ex-employee’s word is more than supported by copious quantities of video and photographs from diverse sources. These show site operations such as scaffolding work, scaffolding erection and working in enclosed spaces being carried out with scant – if any – regard for safety.

These images cannot be shared without compromising the anonymity of those who witnesses incidents such as people in enclosed spaces with no means of exit in case of a problem, scaffolding poorly constructed, people working at height without harnesses or safety railings in place, loose and rusted scaffolding.

A scaffolding platform is seen to bend when stood on in one video. Another video shows workers inside a pit they are lining with oil. The risk of slips is evident; there is no visible means of them leaving – or as one said in the video:

“How the f*ck are we supposed to get out?”

Aberdeen Voice told the HSE’s press arm there were serious safety concerns about work in progress; we were told to go through standard form-filling channels.

This is hardly possible not having access to required data as well as our need to keep sources confidential.

Workers on site who are involved are reluctant to approach the HSE for fear of losing their current job and of future blacklisting.

We consulted an experienced safety rep who has years of field work who, after watching some of our footage, responded:

  “…they should be reviewing their working practices”

Our safety expert says they have seen much worse on some sites. Then again, this is a flagship Scottish Government project that is costing the taxpayer millions: safety should be paramount, and perhaps the government should lead by example on their projects.

With regard to the pit being sprayed with oil, we showed our expert footage where a ladder was visible; there was later footage with no means of escape from the pit.

Our Safety rep said:

“The application of whatever it is should be done from elevated position. Again it’s not clear if there’s anyone supervising the task and any work done in a confined space should be done with adequate supervision.”

With regard to some of the scaffolding photos, a safety representative we consulted said:

“The platform in the last picture doesn’t look to be in good condition. You can see rust around the welded joints and the strap* would indicate that the bar in middle is not secure.”

 A man broke his leg on site last December. A further man said he was told not to complain about scaffolding concerns and just get on with it. One person who was let go earlier this year said they felt they were dismissed for airing a number of safety and environmental concerns.

When numerous safety issues are allowed to go unchecked, where there is a culture of secrecy (‘don’t talk to the press or to anyone about your work’) and where accidents are not being logged, there is a high potential for the probability of a serious injury.

Let’s hope Dragados are taking things more seriously than they seem to be, and that some of the HSE visits will have had some impact (though workers say that HSE advice eg on scaffolding was ignored as soon as the HSE rep left the site).

Dragados had been approached to comment on the fact we had been given material showing unsafe practices; they declined to respond.

Two of those we spoke to who had been on site said they would not be surprised if a serious accident happened.

It is understood some senior staff have left the project, and that things like toolbox talks before operations are not routinely happening. Or to sum up, as one source told Aberdeen Voice:

“It’s a complete joke.”

* A different person says this is not a strap but a piece of frost blanket used to mitigate a concrete problem.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Apr 042014

crash silver beetles1 duncan harleyIn the May of 1960, Johnny Gentle – a pop star from the same stable as Billy Fury and Marty Wilde – was dispatched by his manager to tour the dance halls of the North-east of Scotland. Backing him were some youngsters from Liverpool. Duncan Harley writes.

Mention The Beatles in the context of Scotland and most folk will recall their 1963 tour.

It began on 3 January that year and included performances in Elgin, Dingwall and Bridge of Allan, before climaxing at Aberdeen Beach Ballroom, on 6 January, with the Fab Four seemingly being booed while on stage, following a reported ‘mixed reaction’ from the assembled

John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr had been billed as a supporting act for the Johnny Scott Band Show, and The Beatles’ performance of mainly Buddy Holly and Ricky Nelson cover numbers seemingly suffered from a less than perfect sound system.

After being paid a reputed £45 for the Beach Ballroom gig, the Beatles went on to play to audiences all around the globe. They never returned to Aberdeen Beach Ballroom, but did play in Madison Square Gardens and Tokyo’s Nippon Budokan, among a few hundred other stadiums. However it almost never happened…

Rewind to 1960. Page four of the Inverness Courant for Wednesday 25 May included: an advert for staff wanted at Ayr Butlins Holiday Camp during the summer season; a local Elgin car dealer’s ad listing a one-owner 1957 Jaguar 2.4 saloon for sale at a “very reasonable price” – and a Northern Border Dance advert for the Beat Ballad Show.

For just five shillings, folk from Nairn, Kinloss, Lossiemouth and Elgin were encouraged to dance the night away at the Forres Town Hall, to the beat of Johnny Gentle and his supporting group, The Silver Beetles.

Fast-forward to Keith, in the present day.

Unless you have local knowledge of the town, the St Thomas Hall is a building quite easy to walk past. Erected in 1912, the hall has a fairly modest exterior, graced only by a stained-glass panel above the plain wooden door. In sharp contrast to the copper dome atop the grand St Thomas’ Chapel nearby – the hall boasts a blue slate roof, topped with a pair of rusting ventilators, and a chimney stack with two mismatched chimney pots.

However, on closer inspection, a small blue cast-iron plaque on the wall beside the entrance reveals that the hall played host to one of the earliest incarnations of possibly the most enduring band ever to tour the world stage.

The inscription reveals that on 25 May 1960, The Silver Beetles, comprising George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Tommy Moore and Stuart Sutcliffe, played to a packed hall – almost three years before The Beatles’ memorable 1963 tour of the North-east of Scotland.

silver beetles keith3The Silver Beetles’ 1960 Scottish tour comprised a series of performances backing the up-and-coming pop star, Johnny Gentle.

In those early days, the group toured in a battered old Austin 16 van, staying in budget hotels along the way.

The group were paid a total of £60, plus travel expenses, for the entire tour and, until an hour before the first performance, they had never even met Johnny Gentle.

London-based promoter Larry Parnes had hired an elderly Scottish pig farmer by the name of Duncan McKinnon to organise the tour, and McKinnon’s apparent lack of geographical knowledge meant that the seven gigs were aligned to maximise the travelling distance involved.

The 1960 tour started at Alloa, on 20 May, with a set comprising cover versions of popular hits including: Buddy Holly’s It Doesn’t Matter Anymore and Raining in My Heart; I Need Your Love Tonight, by Elvis Presley; Ricky Nelson’s Poor Little Fool; Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry’s I don’t Know Why; C’mon Everybody, by Eddie Cochran, and He’ll Have to Go, by Jim Reeves. In short, there was not a Lennon and McCartney piece within hearing range.

The same set was to be repeated slavishly throughout the tour.

What’s more, George was billed as ‘Carl Harrison’; John as ‘Johnny Lennon’, and Paul went by the pseudonym of ‘Paul Ramone’. In the publicity material, even ‘The Silver Beetles’ name was largely unused, with the band being known simply as ‘Johnny Gentle and His Group’.

After Alloa, the young musicians performed at Inverness, Fraserburgh, Keith, Forres and Nairn, with a final gig at Peterhead’s nicely-named Rescue Hall. In all, they are said to have driven more than 600 miles, in an overloaded and antiquated 1950s Austin 16 van. This gruelling travel schedule, not to mention the late nights and early starts, nearly led to disaster – and a small autograph book holds the key to what happened.

In September 2004, Christie’s advertised ‘Lot 204/Sale 9919’, comprising:

“A very rare, early set of autographs, 23rd May, 1960, on five pages from an autograph book signed and inscribed during the Beatles’ first ever tour of Scotland, one page signed in blue ballpoint pen by Paul McCartney and George Harrison with their then stage names Paul Ramon and Carl Harrison and by John Lennon as Johnny Lennon, the page additionally inscribed in McCartney’s hand The Beatles, another page signed and inscribed in blue ballpoint pen love Stuart xx [Sutcliffe], additional pages signed and inscribed Thomas Moore, Drums; love Johnny Gentle; and With best wishes, Margie xx.”

On 29 September 2004, at the firm’s South Kensington premises, the autograph book fetched a healthy £5,019 at auction.

Seemingly, the Silver Beetles’ tour van, with Johnny Gentle at the wheel, had crashed into a saloon car outside the autograph book owner’s house, near Banff, while travelling from Inverness to perform at the Dalrymple Hall, Fraserburgh. According to one account, the band’s regular driver, Gerry Scott, had wanted a rest from driving and Johnny Gentle, with a sleeping Lennon by his side – both perhaps a little the worse for wear in those pre-breathalyser days – had driven straight into the rear of a Ford Popular at a crossroads on the A98.

silver beetles plaque beside the entrance of St Thomas' Hall, Keith - Credit: Duncan Harley.The journey had seemingly been punctuated by a lengthy stop at a North Aberdeenshire pig farm, arranged by tour manager Duncan McKinnon, which had involved copious amounts of bacon and eggs, washed down with copious amounts of Mackeson Stout.

The occupants of the saloon car were reportedly ‘all shook up’, but otherwise unharmed. The elderly husband and wife had been on a shopping trip to Aberdeen and, of course, could have had no idea at the time how near the accident had been to completely changing the course of British pop music forever.

The tour drummer, Tommy Moore, was not so lucky, however.

The crash impact had sent a flying guitar directly into his face and he was taken by ambulance to the local cottage hospital, having suffered two lost teeth and severe facial cuts.

According to the Christie’s sale brochure, John Lennon had asked the autograph book owner where the nearest chip shop was, before deciding to stay at the scene until the police arrived. The young pop fan then went off to buy chips for all the musicians and, on her return, Lennon told her to keep the change and the entire band signed her autograph book.

The “Margie” who signed “With best wishes, Margie xxxx”, was seemingly Marjorie Overall, Johnny Gentle’s girlfriend at the time, whose striking peroxide-mauve hair and matching tight mauve trousers must indeed have been an unusual look in the Scotland of 1960.

Following the accident, the dented, but still serviceable, van continued en-route to the Fraserburgh gig, arriving in the seaside fisher town at about 3pm, in plenty of time for the evening performance, but of course minus one drummer. The Silver Beetles would have probably managed to perform without a drummer, but the local organiser of the gig insisted that since he’d paid for a drummer, a drummer was what he wanted.

So the luckless, and by now semi-sedated, Tommy Moore was literally dragged from his hospital bed by his fellow band members and transported to the ballroom, where he was grumpily seated behind his drums and encouraged to perform. His painful, if not life-threatening injuries, plus his growing disillusionment with a life on the road, led him to wonder if his past employment in a Liverpool bottle factory might be preferable to a future with a travelling pop group.

The tour proceeded at a pace from then on, and, after performances in Keith, Forres, Nairn and Peterhead, The Silver Beetles decided to change their name to The Beatles, with reference to the ‘beat’ generation and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. ‘Paul Ramon’ became Paul McCartney, ‘Johnny Lennon’ reverted to John Lennon, and ‘Carl Harrison’ became George Harrison.

The rest is history and even some 54 years on, the contribution to the music scene of the first real mega-group is still being felt.

To this day, many Elgin and Forres folk of a certain age will very quickly correct any visitor who dares suggest that the Beatles ever played in Keith. They will usually assert that the Keith leg of the 1963 tour was cancelled due to a blizzard and blocked roads. They will further assert that the Beatles still owe the former owner of a local hotel for bed and breakfast, and that Paul McCartney was so skint during the tour that he played at an Elgin wedding reception to earn some extra money to pay for fuel.

In truth, however, the Fab Four played to the townsfolk of Keith well before 1963 – although given that potentially serious road accident on the road to Fraserburgh, on 23 May 1960, it very nearly never happened.

First published in Aberdeen Leopard © Duncan Harley 2014

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Nov 052013

With thanks to Suzanne Kelly. to Safe Drive Stay Alive 2013 and find out how your being in a road crash can have a massive impact on your friends, your family and the people who respond to emergencies.

In the past five years, 150 people have been killed in 134 collisions and 42 of those killed were in the 17-25 age group – don’t be next.

The event for S5 pupils in Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen City and Moray will be held in Aberdeen’s Beach Ballroom from Monday 4th November to Thursday 7th November.

A performance open to the public takes place on Wednesday 6th November at 7:15pm. It is free of charge and no ticket is necessary.

For more information, contact Kate Rigby:

Tel: 01467 628439

Images ©

Jan 062012

With thanks to Dave Watt.

There have been twenty-three acknowledged serious nuclear accidents to befall the worlds U.S. and Soviet nuclear forces.

There have been 16 crashes involving British nuclear submarines since 1998.

Despite this there appears to be a certain amount of complacency as regards the nuclear submarine base at Holy Loch on the Clyde.

The ex-Armed Forces Minister Dr John Reid said in letters to MPs:

“It is planned that potassium iodate tablets would be distributed before any release of radioactive material had occurred at a time determined by monitoring the condition of the reactor”.

“We will always get advanced warning if something was to go wrong” – Andy Moore MoD

“There has never been an accident involving a nuclear powered submarine reactor which has led to, or come anywhere near leading to, any release of radioactive contamination to the environment” – Dr John Reid, ex-Armed Forces Minister

Aberdeen CND presents :

A Nuclear Incident on the Clyde – 2nd Jan 2012 

MONDAY 9th January-  7.30 p.m. 

Belmont Picture House, Belmont St, Aberdeen

  Image credit © Rhouck |

Dec 092011

After experiencing one of the mildest Novembers on record, winter has taken a hold of the region with a vengeance, with forecasters predicting worse still to come. Voice’s Stephen Davy Osborne reports.

Rewind 12 months and you would find the region hidden under several feet of snow, with salt stockpiles dwindling.

So far this year however, December has yet to see a heavy snow fall within the city. Instead, Aberdeen and the Shire have been battered by severe gales, with wind speeds reaching up to 160mph in the highlands.
A number of homes have also been left without power as a result.

But in true local spirit, residents of the North-East haven’t let this storm get them down, and have taken it deep into their hearts; affectionately endorsing the renaming of “Hurricane Bawbag”, which now even has its very own entry on Wikipedia.

Grampian Police have put out weather warnings to motorists on a number of highland roads, and have even closed the snow gates between Cockbridge and Tomintoul leading to the Lecht Ski Centre. A similar situation can be found on the A93 Braemar to Cairnwell Road, which is also closed due to drifting snow.

The A939 between Ballater and Corgarff, and the A96 from Inverurie to Elgin have been left open, but given an advisory “pass with care” status.

Interestingly though, Aberdeen’s main thoroughfare, Union Street was not included on this list, despite a very dangerous large obstruction. A section of the much-hyped brand new Christmas lights was blown from its moorings on either side of the street and came crashing down onto the busy main street between Natwest and the Filling Station towards the west end of the granite mile.

Miraculously nobody was injured in the freak incident, although traffic was disrupted while police cleared the debris of the mangled metal lights structure.

One on-looker was very pleased to note however that local bus services continued to run, even manoeuvring around the obstruction to get to the bus stops, so as not to cause further disruption to passengers.

Whoever said that the Christmas spirit was not alive amongst Aberdeen’s public transport system?

The bad weather is expected to continue into the weekend and the start of next week, with blizzards forecasted as the cold weather sets in once again.

Jun 182011

Nuclear Power has always been a contentious issue. There have always been advocates for and against. International concerns about Climate Change, an impending energy crisis and the nuclear accident in Japan have highlighted the issues concerned. Jonathan Hamilton Russell writes.

For CND there has always been the concern of the link between the technology of Nuclear Power and Nuclear Weapons. The Sustainable Development Commission chaired, at the time by Jonathon Porrit in 2006, produced a report for the then Labour Government stating unanimously that, following a detailed analysis of sustainable development factors, that Nuclear was not the preferred option.

This followed a Government White Paper in 2003 which had concluded that Nuclear Power was not an Economic Option. Several days after the Sustainable Development Commission reported, Tony Blair announced that Nuclear Power was to be an essential component of our future Energy Provision.

Recently high profile environmentalists James Lovelock and George Monbiot have been converts to Nuclear Power given their concerns about Climate Change and the resulting requirements to cut back on Carbon omissions.

The SNP have long championed alternative energy and have been against Nuclear Power, as have the Scottish and English Green Parties, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. Jonathon Porritt, who was sacked as the chair of the Sustainable Development commission still sees alternative energy and energy conservation as the way forward.

We have had until recently a bonanza of cheap energy in Scotland and the UK and the public has become used to cheap energy and the ability to regularly drive, fly and live and work in centrally heated buildings. This situation will soon end. The reality of peak oil and the need to import Russian Gas have yet to be admitted to the public by most politicians, and the expectations of the general public is that the status quo remains.  Whatever decisions are made, there will be inevitable opposition to both nuclear power and alternative energy. Climate Change has already gone down the political agenda.

We have failed to invest and research sufficiently, concentrating our efforts on oil, gas and also nuclear

The costs of producing both Nuclear Power and Alternative Energy will be much higher than present costs and will require both increased public subsidy and will mean rising costs for the consumer. The costs are likely to reduce as we become more expert at production of nuclear or its alternatives.

The costs of South Korea’s Nuclear Reactors went down by 28% by the time they produced their 7th and 8th Reactors.

Safety measures have improved – the Reactors in Japan are 40 years old – and the safety technology no longer requires power from outside. However, the risk of human error intentional or otherwise and unknown hazards still exist. The costs of insurance are high and do not include de-commissioning. The potential hazards of storage of spent Uranium still remain to be seen. Only three councils have agreed to storage underground – all three being in Cumbria.

There is however still uncertainty of risk in relation to this method of storage. Storage and waste costs still have to be borne by government. Increased use of Uranium will lead to shortages as estimates are that about 100 Years worth still remain, and when it runs out what will happen?

There are concerns and restrictions in many countries regarding the mining of Uranium, and Kazakhstan – a Muslim country on Iran’s border – has the main stocks. The costs of Uranium are likely to increase if there is more demand. There has historically been considerable contamination of local communities when mining has taken place, and even with greater safety measures some risks will remain.

The alternative is increased energy conservation and the use of renewables. As identified by the Sustainable Development Commission the UK – and in particular Scotland – has the potential with tidal energy, wind power, carbon capture, waste and power, and solar developments to cover our energy needs.

However there are challenges. We have failed to invest and research sufficiently, concentrating our efforts on oil, gas and also nuclear. There would have to be significant resources put into research and design, and if we were also putting our efforts into nuclear then opportunities with renewable would be lost.

The recession will mean there is less money to invest. A much better use than cutting the cost of petrol in the long term would have been to use the money from taxing oil companies to pay for the development of renewable energy resources.

There would be problems both with nuclear and renewable as to where to place energy resources.

There has been significant public opposition both to nuclear and wind developments. The Crown Estate commission has powers in relation to developing resources at sea which would have to be overcome.

The North-East of Scotland has a huge potential for the development of renewable energy and the area would benefit from more focus on its development. The main problem I would suggest in relation to our future energy provision, is public expectations and politicians needs in terms of re-election. People have become used to private transport and cheap central heating and whichever way we go will be unpopular.

My own conclusion is, that spending on Nuclear Energy developments will divert money that could be spent on energy efficiency and renewable energy. There is a challenge in relation to needs in terms of peak usage – such as before Christmas – but these could be overcome by us linking into a European network of energy.

In historical terms Nuclear Power is just another short term fix whilst the opportunity of renewable energy will always be with us. In some countries which are landlocked, Nuclear may be the only possible route but given what has happened in Japan potential risks of location would have to be taken into account.

Pictures: © Mark Rasmussen |, © Devy |