Jun 102016

Wounded veterans whose injuries have ended their military careers are rebuilding their lives by training for rewarding and sustainable employment in civil aviation with a charity that has landed £18,000 from Aberdeen Asset Management’s Charitable Foundation. With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.


Wings for Warriors student Marc Goddard and instructor Chris Kirk.

Ex-service personnel overcome amputation, serious burns, multiple fractures and gunshot injuries to be chosen for rigorous flight training, gruelling academic exams, underwater escape training and regular tests as students with Wings for Warriors.
Aberdeen’s funding package will support one ex-veteran through 18 months’ full training to become a commercial helicopter pilot, leading to opportunities with the air ambulance, coastguard, offshore operators and others.

It helps students like Marc Goddard (28) who was serving with the Royal Marines in Afghanistan when he sustained life-changing injuries whilst travelling in an armoured vehicle which hit an improvised explosive device.

Marc was among casualties airlifted to Camp Bastion where he was stabilised and flown back home to hospital in the UK with  multiple broken bones and 25% burns to his body.

The complexity of his fractures meant he was no longer fit for service,  and while jobs in offshore marine security and events management followed, neither fitted the father-of two’s lifestyle or skills.

Marc explains:

“I joined the Royal Marines straight from school and I had never known anything different.  I hit a low, wondering how I was ever going to have a job that I enjoyed again and be able to support my family.

“I grew up in Norfolk around military bases and I’d always had an interest in aviation and did a bit of soul searching. I got back in touch with Headley Court Rehabilitation Centre  and spoke to the right people and found out more about Wings for Warriors. I had no idea they could help people like me but I discovered it was open to veterans in my position.”

Marc made it  through the tough application process and has embarked on training in Aberdeen, one of Europe’s busiest commercial helicopter centres, where the Wings for Warriors’ training centre is based.

Marc adds:

“I’m very grateful for the support I’ve had in making this dream become  a reality. This is not only providing me with a future career but everything I lost from leaving the Royal Marines is being restored. It’s a second chance, a second career that draws on many of the qualities of my military training to gain commercial skills and, hopefully, a career in the offshore helicopter industry.”

Chris Kirk was just 19 years old when he stood on an improvised explosive device while on patrol in Afghanistan. Chris, then a Private with the 5th Scotland Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, awoke in hospital back in the UK to be told he’d lost his foot and his military career was over. His future seemed bleak until he discovered Wings for Warriors with an online search, “can amputees fly helicopters?”

Chris has become a fully qualified pilot and is now serving as an instructor for the charity and says:

“When I heard about Wings for Warriors I thought it was all too good to be true but I was lucky enough to be selected as one of their students. Fast forward three years and here I am as an instructor for the charity. I’ve been very lucky to get this opportunity and coming from a similar background as the students, I hope it inspires them to see just what can be achieved.

“Without support from our donors  like Aberdeen Asset Management, it would not be possible to do this and give veterans this fulfilling career that helps them and their families. I have been transformed from Chris the injured soldier to Chris the helicopter pilot and that is a massive change in my life. Wings for Warriors is helping change lives and prospects by restoring real meaning and purpose to people’s lives.”

Founded four years ago, Wings for Warriors is a registered UK charity which seeks to offer  wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women the best opportunities after military service has ended.

It sees the demanding and sustainable world of commercial aviation as an incentive to keep moving forward, rather then dwelling on the past for its students, and providing a means to continue supporting their families for years to come.

It recognises that veterans need to work for themselves and no allowances are made – each application is reviewed on a case by case basis and while some injuries will restrict opportunties, many of the attributes found in those with a military background,  including  responsibility, motivation and commitment, logical reasoning and functioning under pressure, stand them in good stead for retraining.

Through its network of volunteers and  donors, including Aberdeen, Wings for Warriors delivers professional flight training at around 85% of the costs of commercial UK flight schools.

Dominic Kite of Aberdeen’s Charitable Foundation says:

“We love this charity and what it does to offer a new start to injured veterans. For many veterans, life outside of the forces can appear daunting and uncertain at the best of times. Add a life-changing injury to the equation and the future can quickly become a depressing place.

“Wings For Warriors  provide these wounded warriors with the skills to achieve an exciting, rewarding and sustainable future for many years to come, in civil aviation. With rebuilt confidence, capabilities and pride Wings For Warriors graduates return to their communities as people to look up to instead of look after.”

Aberdeen Asset Charitable Foundation was established in 2012 to formalise and develop the Group’s charitable giving globally. It seeks partnerships with smaller charities around the world, where funds can be seen to have a meaningful and measurable impact and the firm encourages its employees to use their time and skills to support its charitable projects.

The main focus of the Foundation is around emerging markets and local communities, reflecting the desire to give back to those areas which are a key strategic focus of the business and to build on the historic pattern of giving to communities in which Aberdeen employees live and work.

For more information visit http://www.aberdeen-asset.co.uk/aam.nsf/foundation/home

More information on Wings for Warriors is available at  www.wings4warriors.org.uk

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Sep 212014

They don't like it up em6 Credit: Duncan HarleyAnnoyed by Niall Ferguson’s description of the Scots as devils in skirts, Duncan Harley takes umbrage.

Some months ago I interviewed various folk who were extremely concerned about stray dogs in far off Romania.

At first all seemed well. After all who amongst us dislikes puppies and which one of us supports the killing of mans best friends.

Dead dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu had decided to centralise the workforce and forcibly move crofters to the cities. The dogs and indeed most rural animals were left behind in the countryside.

Packs of hungry dogs ruled the streets and open bounty hunting was declared on the unsuspecting cuddly pooches.

The result was of course a wave of horror amongst animal lovers. A traffic in Romanian canines developed and, for around £600 a pop, folk in Scotland could adopt a Romanian street hound. No questions asked and delivered to your door for a fee.

Having been asked to report on the trade I soon discovered that there were insider interests at work who perhaps felt threatened by outsiders looking in. I of course backed off. At 10p a word who in their right mind wants to get shot or worse? The nutters had made their presence felt.

I digress.

Fast forward to Wednesday 17th of September.

In today’s pre-referendum debate things are hotting up in the battle for the hearts and minds of the voters of the Garioch.

A group of Better Together Campaigners are hiding up a lane near Marks and Spencer’s in the hope of ambushing affluent but undecided locals.

The No folk are nowhere to be seen having left for better climes.

A flash mob of Yes campaigners is due to assemble outside the town hall at 7pm on pre-referendum night. However, having alienated local media, they may be in danger of being completely ignored. Comments such as “prick bastards” and “won’t be helping line the pockets of so called journalists” has led to a press boycott.

Yet again, the nutters have made their presence felt.

Fast forward to Thursday 18th of September.

Wakened at dawn to thunderous drizzle.

Friend Joe needs help, cats need fed and it’s bin day.

I need a haircut and I need to vote.

Inverurie Town Hall is not renowned for good lighting so I pause to put my glasses on before writing a cross within that wee box above the no vote.

A wee box for yes and a wee box for aye came into view.

Which one should I tick?

My line to the Dalai Lama has proved fruitful. He was kind enough to say that he thought that Scotland’s future should be decided by its people and not by its politicians. What a nice man.

A friend sent me a link to McGlashan. How us Scots invented everything from chairs to frogs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zaJPOVGlEPs&feature=youtu.be

A son sent me his latest parody on the Scottish question: http://www.flockofink.co.uk/comics/67/1

And from the grave Michael Marra sang: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOwH9hmjNrM

By the time you read this it will all be over either way. The Yes and the No will have gone whichever way and the other half of those of us who make up the population of our purple and pleasant land will no doubt be feeling quite bereft.

The black vans which have been touring the land will have been stripped of their campaign slogans and placed on a forecourt near you to be sold as new to unsuspecting customers. Loudspeakers silenced and engines turned off they will be sad reminders of what could have been. Status quo or new Scotland, who can tell at this historic moment.

In last weeks Times, Niall Ferguson writes about the “Battle for Britain”. A well formed but sadly misinformed piece if ever I saw one.

Described as Scotland’s leading historian, Niall tells tales of failures to enter the world cup and suggests that the Proclaimers 1986 letter from America hit has relevance in today’s Scotland. Describing Scottish regiments as “devils in skirts” he suggests that since most Scots live abroad and claims that 6 million of us, yes 6 million, live in the USA.

Nothing of course could be further from the truth. Yes there are many Scots living abroad. Most of them are either ex-pats or second generation folk with Scottish ancestry. Can they vote for Scotland’s future? I hope not. When they left our shores most of them resigned from the voting register.

As a professor of history at Harvard, Niall Ferguson is of course entitled to have an opinion about Scotland. He is not of course entitled to tell the voters of Scotland how to vote. Neither is he Scotland’s leading historian

It has so far been a rocky ride.

Roll on Independence is all I can say.

Duncan Harley is a writer and photographer currently living in rural Aberdeenshire. Well travelled both in Europe, the Middle East and Tibet he has a keen interest in local history and is constantly on the lookout for new stories and tales to tell.

© Duncan Harley – All rights reserved

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[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]

Aug 192013

A benefit concert has been arranged in aid of George ‘Dod’ Copland whose Aberdeen home was at the centre of a dramatic armed siege on June 7. With thanks to Ruaridh McAilein.

The concert featuring Oi Polloi, Billy Liar, The Bucky Skanks and T34 takes place at Audio, 14 Midland Street, Glasgow this Friday, Aug 23.

As reported in a previous Aberdeen Voice article, much of Mr Copland’s property was damaged or destroyed as police forced entry to search his unoccupied house following what was later reported to be a hoax call.

Mr Copland is still seeking an apology and compensation from the police.

Ruaridh McAilein, lead singer of popular punk band Oi Polloi told Aberdeen Voice.

“Dod has clearly been the victim of a significant injustice here. It’s extremely disturbing to think that something like this can happen in the first place but the fact that he has still not been compensated for either the damage to his property or to his reputation – not to mention the adverse effect that this must have had on his health – simply beggars belief.

“We’ve known Dod for the best part of thirty years now and can vouch for how willing he has always been to put himself out to help other people in need both through his community work and also in his personal life – and we also know how much pleasure he has brought to others over the years through his musical endeavours with Toxik Ephex – so the least we can do is to attempt in some small way to return the favour now that he finds himself in these straits after being treated in this quite frankly disgraceful way by the police.

“It’s a sad indictment on the state of affairs in Aberdeen that the authorities appear to have done very little to put right this clear wrong and that it is left up to other ordinary people like ourselves to help someone in this situation.

“On the positive side, when we first suggested the idea of a benefit concert for Dod it was greeted very enthusiastically indeed by the many people in Edinburgh and Glasgow who have come to know Dod through his musical performances with Toxik Ephex.

“He has a lot of friends all over Scotland, and there will be plenty of us coming together in Glasgow on Friday night to not only raise some much needed cash to help Dod repair some of the damage to his house but also to enjoy a night of excellent music and partying of the kind that Dod himself has so often provided for us over the years.

“We are hoping to not only collect a decent sum for Dod but also to show him that he’s not alone in facing what’s happened and that he is held in considerable affection by a lot of people throughout the country who have come to know him through his music.

“We also hope that further publicising what exactly happened to Dod will help keep the pressure on the authorities to apologise and properly compensate him.

“We’d encourage as many people as possible to come along for a night of great live music and to support the cause of a person who has spent so much of his own time over the years helping and entertaining others.”

Bands: Oi Polloi, Billy Liar, The Bucky Skanks, T34

Venue: Audio, 14 Midland Street, Glasgow
Friday Aug 23, 8pm
£6 on the door

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Jul 012013

On Friday 7 June 2013 police surrounded an empty flat; its occupier George Copland was far away.  Reports of a gunman in the flat were obviously incorrect.  Early morning Sunday 9 June Copland was arrested at his girlfriend’s flat – police broke in, took him away, held him for c. 13 hours, and trashed the flat which they laid siege to, looking for weapons.  They found a completely legal air rifle, Copland said he’d kept it under lock and key, and rarely had it out – and had not had it out any time recently.  Copland was asked to agree if several items – remote-controlled toys and a feather duster – could be construed as weapons.  Denied his medication and medical attention, he was released.  The police have no plans to apologise or to pay for trashing his flat, although he has committed no criminal offence.  Suzanne Kelly reports on recent developments.

George Copland is no closer to having any form of apology or compensation for his broken goods and trashed flat.

The Sun newspaper took the story up, complete with a photo showing the devastation following the police search.

It can be found here: Scottish Sun Huckle-duster Gaffe

The rationale for his arrest, following the siege on his empty house, just doesn’t stack up.

If he were a dangerous gunman – then why the huge delay from Friday morning to Sunday morning to find and detain him?  Who was the anonymous tipster, how credible were they, did they know George, and precisely what did they see and where did they see it?  Since nothing illegal was found, where was any compensation for Copland?  They were also questions about the timing of events, what was confiscated and why.

The police did not respond until days later, and after the Aberdeen Voice article was published.

Police were sent some 25 relevant, detailed specific questions; they have declined to answer these.  Their spokeswoman was asked for a quote to use for publication; the reply was as follows (comment from Aberdeen Voice in square brackets):-

“Thank you for your email. I have answered as many of your questions as I can [actually, none of the specific questions were answered]…  however you will appreciate there are operational and data protection constraints which limit what we can comment on publically.”

[I wrote with Copland’s consent; he has now asked for these questions to be answered under Freedom of Information legislation]

“You mention an incident with a hostage on 7 June; at no time has Police Scotland stated that information about a hostage was received and it would be entirely incorrect to report it as such. “

[The Evening Express covered the incident on 7 June, in a piece with a quote from the police.  The article, which can be found here http://www.eveningexpress.co.uk/Article.aspx/3269715 , refers to hostage negotiators being present – which certainly implied that a hostage situation was anticipated.  There does not seem to be any record of the Evening Express correcting, or being asked to correct their story, which also referred to the tip-off as turning out to be a hoax.]

 “As per information already in the public domain, I can confirm that Police received a call at 11.25am on Friday 7 June and specialist officers were deployed to carry out a containment of the property.

 “I can also confirm that no one has been arrested or charged in connection with wasting police time and that the information provided to police was well intended but subsequently found to be inaccurate.”

[The Evening Express called the call a hoax, and reported “detained a 29-year-old man in connection with wasting police time” and many papers reported similarly.  This comment from the police to Aberdeen Voice seems to be the first such instance of police saying the tipster was ‘well-intentioned.  There is a legal difference between being arrested and detained; and although a separate Evening Express article used the word ‘arrest’ in conjunction with the caller, Aberdeen Voice has since changed the word ‘arrested’ to ‘detained’ in its article.  The real issue is why the police at the time did not correct the issues which appeared in the mainstream media, and why only now are the police saying the caller was well-intentioned]

“Police Scotland has strict procedures in place to deal with information received from members of the public. The information received was acted upon in an appropriate manner in order to ensure public safety.”

[Well, it is rather obvious the strict procedures have failed spectacularly in this case.  This paragraph is merely a sweeping statement which could be used to justify virtually any act – ‘public safety’ seems to have become carte blanche for erosion of civil rights if this case is anything to go by.]

The Voice did write for further clarification, but was told the police are not prepared to issue any further statement or information.

A Coincidence or something more sinister?  Copland stopped by police again

In the very early hours of Wednesday 26 June, Copland was with friends, and they sought to get into a local late-night casino.  Lacking photo identification, Copland and another man were turned away, and decided to go to the second man’s home in central Aberdeen.  Near the entranceway for the parking area, a police car drove up, separated the two men, and proceeded to question them.  The conversation was described by the second man as follows – the second man happening to be Fred Wilkinson of Aberdeen Voice:-

“About 3.35am, as we got to the entrance of the car park, just round the corner from my house, a police car pulled in in front of us, and divided our paths … I attempted to pass the rear of the car while Dod attempted to pass in front. The window was lowered and the police addressed Dod.

“Male driver asked if he/we had had a good night and what had we been up to.

“Dod told him we had been to the casino, but could not get in –  no photo ID, so we left.

“Female, passenger side, said she had seen us at the casino, then asked Dod what he had in the box he was carrying.

“Dod said ‘I have a remote control UFO ‘ and showed her the box (picture of the ufo flying toy on the box)

“Policewoman suggested that it was an unusual thing to be carrying around on a night out.

“Dod said something like “not for me, I like my gadgets and flying toys. What’s the problem with carrying that kind of stuff about? I’m the guy involved in that police siege in Northfield. Do you not think I’ve had enough hassle lately?”

“I added ” I’m the editor of Aberdeen Voice and we’re covering the story. Do you know about it?”

“The police claimed they did not know ( which I find quite incredible as it was an extremely high profile incident ) so I gave each of them an Aberdeen Voice card and told them “read all about it”. The police left us to go on our way.”

Let us hope this stop and question incident is a coincidental one-off.  Otherwise, it would look as if a man who is questioning the police on their unfair treatment of him is being shadowed.


George Copland advised the Voice the police have absolutely no plans to compensate him for his destroyed property, trashed flat and detainment.  The Voice will be looking into this.  Thankfully, while not enshrined in law, it would seem to be the case under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (1984) that there is a right to apply for compensation:-

“[police should be ]explaining compensation may be payable in appropriate cases for damages caused entering and searching premises, and giving the address to send a compensation application, see Note 6A; (v) stating this Code is available at any police station”

Further evidence suggests the police are normally willing to pay such compensation when a search does not turn up illegal items being searched for under the terms of a warrant.

Copland supplied the name of the officer who told him he would not be receiving any compensation; we were unable to contact her prior to publication, but will continue to try and speak with her.

Watch This Space

As this story stands today, the police seem to have carte blanche to act on the word of an anonymous tipster – which then morphs into a tipster with corroborated witnesses – lay siege to and search any premises they choose, subsequently arresting the renter/owner – even  if they are not at or involved with any siege or illegal activity.  No compensation seems to go to an innocent man who was held for around 13 hours and asked to explain toys and a duster, while going without necessary medication.

The police will be more than welcome to send a written response to this article, but at the time of writing, if you have any neighbours who have a grudge against you, if you have anyone in your area who fabricates sensationalist stories, then don’t’ be surprised if your flat is searched and you are woken by police arresting you.

Let us hope for some real transparency from the police and some real compensation for a wronged party.

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Feb 082013

Duncan Harley reflects on Life, the Universe and Everything. A sideways look at the world and its foibles.

The SS Politician – Whisky Galore

On the 4th of February 1941 during an Atlantic gale the SS Politician ran aground just off the Island of Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides.

The crew got ashore safely and the locals took them in and gave them shelter.

Now this was wartime and there was rationing of all sorts of items including eggs, butter and, somewhat crucially, whisky. When the folk of Eriskay learned from the crew of the “Polly” that the ship had 264,000 bottles of best highland malt in its hold, an unofficial salvage operation was launched.  

Word soon spread all across the Hebrides and soon fishing boats were heading to fishing grounds all around the wreck during the hours of darkness to liberate the contents of the ship’s hold before the winter storms broke up the hull and destroyed the cargo forever.  It was all quite innocent and seemingly legitimate.

But this was not the view of the local customs officer, one Charles McColl, who was incensed at the outright thievery that he saw going on.  None of the whisky had paid a penny of duty and, as he railed against this loss to the public purse, McColl whipped up a furore and made the police act.

Villages were raided and crofts turned upside down.  Bottles were hidden, secreted, or simply drunk in order to hide the evidence.

The rest is history.

The 1947 Compton Mackenzie novel Whisky Galore, which was made into an Ealing Comedy film in 1949, tells a good tale about the episode.  In reality though, many islanders went to jail for up to six weeks for offences ranging from theft, to evasion of excise duty.

I can well understand the islander’s actions though.  Faced with a gift from the sea of the water of life, known in the Gaelic as usquebaugh, what else were they to do?

In the course of that most severe of winters when the temperature plummeted to around minus 26 degrees

Many years ago when I lived in an Aberdeenshire village, I met in with a man by the name of Ronnie who lived in the croft house left to him by his mother who had been a seer.  He had two brothers who were men of the cloth and he, Ronnie, had a special relationship with the water of life.

In the winter of 1981/82 I think it was, Ronnie, who was an affable sort of chap ran out of funds and took in some lodgers in order to keep body and spirit alive.  In the course of that most severe of winters when the temperature plummeted to around minus 27 degrees in neighbouring Braemar, resulting in the deer foraging in the streets in desperation for sustenance, Ronnie was faced with a stark choice.  Either heat the house or buy whisky.

Being a clever man he found a middle way.  He burned the doors, floorboards and stairs for heating and using the income from his lodgers, bought whisky.

I drove past the scene today.  The croft house is, somewhat surprisingly, still standing and looks just as it did all those years ago.

I have lost all contact with the man but wish him well.

Chelsea Tractors

One of the hazards of living in Aberdeenshire is the proliferation of those huge Chelsea Tractor vehicles which the oil rich buy and then attempt to use on the rural roads.
With names like Defender, Land Cruiser and Outlander they are often driven by diminutive men and women who only ever drive off road on the grass verge at my local Tesco’s car park.
Some of these monsters are so long and wide that the drivers really should sit a special driving test just to get to drive them round corners.

When met on a country road they often dominate the whole road and avoid the puddles lest they get mud on their vehicle of choice.  We actually have a Humvee in my locality!  I understand the owner lives in a flat in Inverurie and commutes to Dyce each day doing 55mph at a roaring 4mpg.  The daily journey includes fuel stops every few miles and the occupants require a stepladder to get into the vehicle.

Don’t get me wrong though, these muscle cars have their place.  I well remember a desert trip North of Cairo where a pal and I travelled off road for hours exploring Roman settlements and collecting Amphora.  The North East of Scotland has both but most are well within reach of a well surfaced road.

This is a shot is of my local supermarket car park.  The grass has been churned up by 4 X 4 enthusiasts who routinely park off road then proudly load shopping into the vehicles in the hope that they will somehow appear macho.

Seemingly the driver of a towel supply company has had quite enough.  Taking direct citizen action he has used his van to block off the affected area.

I commend the drivers action and have photo shopped the van’s number plate to protect his/her identity.

The Butcher’s Arms

I find pubs fascinating.

Full of all sorts of humanity, they provide an insight into other folk’s lives which would be difficult to achieve by any other means.

You can walk in, do a bit of chat and walk right out again if you have met an axe murderer.  Easy, no worries and a good kidney flush at the very least.

A decade or so ago, I frequented a pub in Glasgow populated by a quite varied spectrum including journalists, musicians, actors, students and Spanish Civil War veterans, plus a smattering of local manual labourers which completed the mix.

It all worked fairly well, at least up until 10pm on a Saturday night at which point it was best to make excuses and vacate the premises before the inevitable football rivalry came to the fore and the glasses began to fly.

I have often wondered in the intervening years why they sold wine by the pint.  White Tornado it was called as I recall.

Glasgow also had a pub in Pollockshaws by the name of “The Office,” which was very handy indeed if you required an excuse for coming back late from work.

Then there was the Foundry Bar in Arbroath where I lived there for a while.  A lovely place, by the seaside with an unheated open air pool and a sit in chipper where you had to use an old fashioned pre-metric penny to use the loo.  Bingo on a Saturday night in the hall above Woolworth’s, boats in the harbour full of fish and a great big lighthouse flashing a few miles offshore just to keep you awake at night.

The town in those days had a mix of townsfolk, farm folk, fisher folk and Royal Marines.  Each had their own public house and God help those who dared to mix and match.  The local harbour still holds some dark secrets, I think.

The Foundry Bar however was different.  Anyone could walk in providing they could sing, play a fiddle or simply enjoy the impromptu music.  A brilliant place indeed!

No fights, no hassle and an old tea chest to sit on if you got there early enough.

There are some pubs, however, that I am not fond of.  Not because they are bad pubs or difficult establishments though.  Simply because of their names. I can cope quite happily with The Kintore Arms, The Black Bull, Filthy McNasties and even The Ploughman’s Lunch, as long as he has not eaten it already.

Sadly the Butcher’s Arms has never quite done it for me.  Connotations of those Tesco’s horse burgers perhaps, or simply an uneasy relationship with raw, bloody, meat.  I don’t really know for sure.

I often wonder if the management of this public house and the other 1200 similarly named establishments in the UK, would consider a name change to something like My Lovely Cow or even Aren’t Horses Great Ted?  But that’s just a personal preference.

Full Metal Harry

We have heard a lot from the Royal Press correspondents in the last week or so about the third in line to the throne’s prowess with a machine gun, and I for one am certainly not about to get into a debate here except to state the obvious, which is of course that such guns are banned in the UK unless the powers that be can be convinced that citizens have a legitimate reason for possessing them.

The whole sorry tale somehow reminds me of an ex-soldier I saw interviewed a few years ago on a current affairs programme.

He was jobless, having left the army after several years of exemplary service. At his Jobcentre Plus interview he was asked about the skills he had learned during his time in the army.

“Well” he said – in a Geordie accent –

“I’m quite an ace with a machine gun and I can strip one down and reassemble it in the blink of an eye, so if you want someone killing, then I’m your man!”

Needless to say the Jobcentre staff struggled to find the ex squadie a job in his previous line of work.

So what would Harry need to do to get some target practice in, on the UK mainland?

He could join an Armed Response Unit I suppose, although self restraint and maturity are normally required to be taken on in such a role. Plus of course he would need to walk the beat as a uniformed bobby for a couple of years before even being considered for the job. Being sworn in, sworn at and spat upon on a typical Friday night down on Union Street may not be his scene though I suspect.

I am guessing that Royal Protection Duties would be also be out due to protocol issues.

He could of course provoke a riot. That would do it!

Far fetched?

the troops have returned home to discover that all is not well in Scotland

Not really, look at the Miners Strike, the 2011 London  Riots which have been somewhat euphemistically called “England’s Summer of Disorder” and of course the numerous more recent examples in Eastern Europe and the Middle East where the ruling classes have fired upon the populace to make them see things their way.

In short, when the people are not happy with the governing classes, there may be trouble ahead.

The 31st of January is of course the anniversary of the Great Storms of 1953 which I wrote about last week.  It’s also the date of the demise of the Young Pretender – Charles Edward Stuart – in Rome in 1788 after a protracted relationship with Brandy.
But who remembers the Battle of George Square which took place on the 31st January 1919?

Picture the scene if you will.

The “War to end all wars” has recently ended and the troops have returned home to discover that all is not well in Scotland. There are few jobs for the returning heroes and working conditions are poor with low wages and a long working week.

The workforce which had been in reserved occupations manufacturing the arms and tools for war are unhappy with the cuts in the standard working week due to the fact that the war has ended and there is no longer much demand in France for barbed wire, bullets and explosives.

Plus of course the Bolshevist revolution has taken place leading to the early demise of the Russian Royal Family by a firing squad.

So on Friday 31st January 1919, after a general strike by 40,000 workers in the industrial heartland of Scotland, there was a mass rally in Glasgow’s George Square.  Now the aim of the rally was to hear the response of the UK government to the workers demands so the Lord Provost, Sir James Watson Stewart, and the Trades Council President, Mannie Shinwell, duly entered the City Chambers to have a wee natter.

Sadly things got out of control. As they talked, the police baton charged the assembled crowd. A magistrate tried to read the Riot Act but had the document taken from his hands and ripped up and things just got from bad to worse.

seasoned troops from south of the border were instructed to open fire if required to do so

The failure of the police to control the riot prompted the Coalition Government under one David Lloyd George to react. After Scottish Secretary Robert Munro described the riot as a “Bolshevist uprising” troops armed with machine guns, tanks and a howitzer arrived to occupy Glasgow’s streets.

The howitzer was positioned on the City Chambers steps facing the crowd, the local cattle market was transformed into a tank depot, machine guns were posted on the top of the North British Hotel, the Glasgow Stock Exchange and the General Post Office Buildings.

As is usual in such situations no local troops were used. The Scot’s battalions who had recently returned from France were confined in Maryhill Barracks while seasoned troops from south of the border were instructed to open fire if required to do so.

Amazingly, there was no major bloodshed as far as I am led to believe. There must have been broken heads and limbs via the initial police action but I can find no record of deaths.

The troops did not open fire although the tanks were deployed in Glasgow’s George Square. I can only assume that the government of the day decided that it would be a bad idea to provoke social change via bloodshed.

Mannie Shinwell and some other trade union activists were jailed for a bit and a 47 hour working week was agreed. Until the 1922 General Strike, things smouldered on of course, but that’s another story.

I have no information about what transpired in Aberdeen or Aberdeenshire on the 31st January 1919 and would ask folk to get in touch with any memories of that day. I did however find a reference to Aberdeen Trades Council discussing the issue and agreeing to mount a protest against the “continued imprisonment of the Clyde Strikers” and I have no doubt that given the politics of the time there must have been folk from the North East not only attending the demonstrations but serving with in the military in the area.

I sincerely hope that the third in line to the throne will not only read this but will have a wee look at the helicopter door gunner sequence in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket.

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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 | Dreamstime.com

Nov 082011

With Remembrance Sunday approaching fast and the wearing of a poppy being de rigueur for every stuffed shirt and empty suit on TV, Voice’s Dave Watt thinks about 11 November.  

11 November falls on a Friday this year, so the dead will have to wait until Sunday to be remembered, as the powers that be don’t seem to think that remembering them on the actual Armistice Day would be convenient.
I mean, businesses might lose a whole two minutes profit and think what a disaster that would be for our thriving economy. After all, big business interests shovel money into party funds and one and a quarter million dead servicemen and women don’t. So, balls to them.

Armistice Day on 11 November was originally meant to signal the end of The War to End Wars, back in a time when that phrase wouldn’t bring forth a cynical snigger.

In fact, on my grandfather’s medals, hanging in a frame in my hallway, it refers to The Great War For Civilisation which shows that there were politicians in the 1920s capable of coming out with the same kind of drivel as George W Bush did with his ludicrous War on Terror ten years ago.

Presumably, at some time in the future there will be a War For Straight Bananas or a War For Fashionable Sandals or something equally weird.

Hopefully, this year will not feature such irretrievable tat as the Royal British Legion inviting The Saturdays to frolic half-naked in a sea of poppies or getting the judges on X Factor to wear grotesque poppy fashion items – two tasteless frolics which inspired ex-SAS soldier Ben Griffin to describe them as ‘stunts to trivialise, normalise and satirise war’. Griffin, in fact, went on to state that remembrance has been turned into ‘a month long drum roll of support for current wars’, a point of view it is increasingly difficult to disagree with.

My grandfather joined up in 1914 in the surge of patriotism engendered by Germany illegally invading Belgium; my uncle joined up in 1939 when Hitler illegally subjugated Poland. Presumably, if Tony Blair had been Prime Minister in 1914, we’d have joined in the illegal invasion and attacked tiny Belgium as we did with impoverished third world Afghanistan, not one of whose citizens had previously done us the slightest harm.

Then again, if Tony had been in charge in 1939 he’d surely have produced some shoddy dossiers to our gullible Parliament showing how those dastardly Poles were all set to attack peace-loving Nazi Germany and that they had weapons of mass destruction concealed in Cracow and Gdansk which could be deployed within 45 minutes.

Yes, if good old Tony had been on the case then, we could nowadays watch Wellington bombers joining the Stukas strafing the women and kids in Warsaw on World at War on Yesterday – with a suitably solemn voice-over courtesy of Laurence Olivier. God, wouldn’t that make us just so proud of ourselves?

No, the bottom line is that we’re not the Good Guys helping the Underdog against the Bully any more. We’re something quite different now.

If you were wondering what happened to my uncle and grandfather in their wars, my uncle died in Normandy in 1944 after fighting in North Africa, Italy and Sicily. My grandfather survived four years in the trenches but was wounded and mustard-gassed in 1918. The mustard gas steadily and horribly eroded his lungs over the years and he eventually died in 1955 aged 56, so the War for Civilisation got him in the end.

I also had a relative on board HMS Hood when the Bismarck sank her in the Denmark Straits in May 1941. He was not one of the three survivors.

It’s interesting to think that if my three relations had survived wars and lived until now that their reward from a grateful country would be to have some pampered ex-public schoolboy Tories and Lib Dems cutting their fuel allowances by £100 this winter.

I’ll have my own two minutes silence for my relations and all the rest – the ones who came back and the ones who didn’t.

On Friday.

Photo Credits –
Row Of Crosses © Mediaonela | Dreamstime.com  
Poppy At Newe July 2011 © Elaine Andrews