Sep 192018
 

By Duncan Harley.

The four-star Maryculter House Hotel was today the venue for the Scottish Samurai Awards.  Scotland and Japan have long enjoyed both trade and cultural links – well for just around 150 years in truth.

Japan sent many students to the UK between the late Edo period (1603-1867) and the early Meiji period (1868-1912) in order to explore and import Western technology.

The various international trade exhibitions of the 19th and early 20th Century provided useful platforms for the sharing of both scientific and aesthetic ideas. 

Cities such as Glasgow and Aberdeen provided ripe-pickings for the aspiring technologists and alongside acquisition of new skill-sets the two nations exchanged cultural and artistic aesthetics which continue to create broad-ripples to this day.

Japan, of course, had participated in the second Glasgow International Exhibition in 1901.

The Japan Pavilion was located near the main exhibition hall at Kelvingrove and there is a likelihood that Rennie Mackintosh and many other influential Scottish designers of the day would have visited and been influenced by what they saw there.

Some 11.5 million visits were recorded during the eight-month span of the exhibition and surely Mackintosh would have been one of those tempted to return again and again to absorb the sights.

Contemporaries of Mackintosh certainly visited Japan at about this time and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum hold a collection of so-called ‘Industrial Art’ collected by Glasgow born designer Christopher Dresser who visited Japan in 1876 or thereabouts.

Aberdeenshire, of course, has a splendid claim to the forging of the Scottish-Japanese relationship and one man in particular played a pivotal role. Variously known as the Scottish Samurai or The Scot who shaped Japan,

Thomas Blake Glover was probably born in Fraserburgh in 1838.  His father worked as a coastguard officer and the family lived at various locations along the Aberdeenshire coastline including Sandend, Collieston and at Bridge of Don.

On leaving school, Glover began work with the trading company Jardine, Matheson & Co and quickly progressed to the Shanghai office before taking up a post in Japan. 

His role in Shanghai has often been glossed over in order to present a popular image of Glover as an enlightened trader intent on hauling an impoverished Japan into the industrial age. In truth however, Jardine Matheson & Co were happy to trade in everything from silks and tea to guns and opium.

Glover excelled in his role as trader and alongside making vast amounts of profit for his employer he soon started taking a substantial cut for himself.

His move to Japan, in 1859 age 21, came at a time when various rival clans were warring for control of the country. For more than 200 years, foreign trade with Japan had been permitted to the Dutch and Chinese exclusively.

However, following an episode of gunboat diplomacy in 1853, the US Government had persuaded the Japanese to open trade up with the West. 

Glover arrived in good time to use his proven skills to exploit the situation.

Soon he was supplying both sides in the civil war with guns and munitions. Before long he was taking orders for the building of warships, to be built in Scotland, to arm a fledgling Japanese Navy. The market for weaponry however soon became saturated and he turned to mining to maintain his by now dwindling fortune.

Glover is often credited with importing the first steam engine into Japan.

Demand for coal had surged as steamships began to proliferate in Japanese waters. Glover, in partnership with a Japanese clan, invested in developing the Takashima coal mine on an island near Nagasaki in 1868. 

The mine was the first in the country to employ Western methods. Mitsubishi acquired the Takashima mine in 1881 in the organization’s first main diversification beyond shipping.

Glover is often credited with importing the first steam engine into Japan and being instrumental in the formation of the Mitsubishi conglomerate. Japan also lacked modern facilities for repairing ships. So, Glover imported the necessary equipment for a dry dock in Nagasaki in 1868.

He later sold his share to the government, which leased the dock to Mitsubishi as part of the shipyard in 1884. By 1905 Japan had, according to many accounts, become the 3rd largest naval power in the world.

There are many enduring myths surrounding the life and career of Thomas Blake Glover.

One involves the notion that his Japanese wife Tsuru was somehow the inspiration for Puccini’s opera “Madame Butterfly”.

There appears to be little substance to this idea. A booklet produced by Aberdeen City Council to publicise the areas links with Glover asserts that:

“the association of Glover Garden in Nagasaki and Madame Butterfly no doubt relates to the fact that American soldiers after the Second World War dubbed the house Madame Butterfly House.” 

Thomas Glover eventually became famous in Japan and was the first non-Japanese to be awarded the Order of the Rising Sun.

today’s event saw some 23 or so Samurai and Shogun awards made to a broad range of recipients

When he died in Tokyo in 1911 age 73, his ashes were interred in Nagasaki’s Sakamoto International Cemetery. Fraserburgh Heritage Centre host a permanent exhibition celebrating his North-east links and his former house in Nagasaki attracts two million visitors each year.

Founded and overseen by Aberdonian and OBE Ronnie Watt, the Order of the Scottish Samurai is an award inspired by Blake Glover and those admitted to the Order are encouraged to use the letters OSS after their name.

While Ronnie actively heads the Order, he is supported by patrons, members and recipients – many of whom, such as Lord Bruce and Joanna Lumley take an active interest in the progression of the historic relationship between the two nations.

Opened by Ms Masami Fujimoto, Deputy Consul General at Consulate-General of Japan in Edinburgh, today’s event saw some 23 or so Samurai and Shogun awards made to a broad range of recipients.

Two previous Lord Provosts, Margaret Smith and Margaret Farquhar received Shogun awards for services to Aberdeen while Duncan McPherson and Robert Boyd received Legendary Samurai Awards for services to the Japanese Martial Arts.

Terry Boyle and Tyrone Smith were awarded OSS Shogun and Becca Hobart – alongside delivering a splendid display of Highland Sword Dance – collected up a well-earned OSS Hatamoto for services to the Order of the Scottish Samurai.

Previous recipients of the various Scottish Samurai Awards have included Ian Wood, Alex Salmond, Charlie Abel, Len Ironside (for services to wrestling) and film producer Compton Ross. So it looks likely that Becca Hobart is in fairly good company.

Words and images © Duncan Harley – Inverurie September 16th 2018.

  • Duncan Harley is author of The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire plus the forthcoming title: The Little History of Aberdeenshire- due out in March 2019
Feb 252016
 

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

!cid_09815cd1948a4527a96e35e13ba3e785@Open-XchangeFred the Aberdeen Voice editor is furious that we didn’t win a single award at the North Press ball thingy that Sarah Malone went to earlier this month, and he’s making some changes around here. We’re going to follow Aberdeen Journals Ltd’s lead, and start having a smart, successful newpaper. In that spirit, before we get to this week’s definitions, just a few words.

I am pleased to announce the Old Susannah column now has an official spokesperson. Buff McCracker, pictured, is our newest hiring. He is last year’s winner of the ‘Face of Moneymusk’ competition.

Buff has a high school diploma (nearly) and has worked as a personal fitness trainer at ‘Fancy a Kip?’ Lodge. Personal trainers from Kip Lodge have gone on to get into all sorts of fascinating positions, and I am sure Buff will do the same.

I am sure you will welcome him to the column, and in his role as spokesperson, you will look forward to hearing his in-depth analysis of local, national and world socio-political issues of the day.

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£1,999 per person.

Showbiz Exclusive!  Local sleaze merchant shares lift for 2 minutes in Los Angeles with Rock god David Grohl.

Tony Cockroach says he’s met every A-List celebrity there is, possibly even Sarah Malone. Gosh I’m jealous. He’s been in the same lift as David Grohl! Result!!!! Did they have a conversation? No, but. Did they have anything in common? No, but. Was Grohl impressed that the man in the lift was from Aberdeen AND owned strip joints? No.

Singha SteveBut he was from Aberdeen, and he was in the same lift as David Grohl.

Full story and pictures on pages 2,3,4,5 and 27.

(Old Susannah was formally introduced to Mr Grohl on the occasion of the first ever Foo Fighters UK show, at the Brixton Academy, quite a while ago. He was cool. Old Susannah was – until now – being cool by not making a big deal of it. But we did briefly speak. In today’s modern newsroom, clearly this is big stuff by EE standards. So now you know. And no, I wasn’t so crass as to start photographing or filming the man).

Read more about it here! Really! Tally ho!

Send us your story – sheep on the road?

Did your daughter come in 7th place in a spelling competition? Did you get your heid stuck in a bin? Did you find the image of Kate Dean in your buttery? Anything like that with pictures – call us and we’ll put it in the next paper. Up to £2 per story paid.

RowiesRollsPancakesthmCompetition! Aberdeen’s Prettiest Rowie!

Send in your Rowie photos, and the most beautiful Rowie will be bronzed, and kept forever as a beautiful keepsake! Your photo with your Rowie will appear in the next issue!

You can vote for your favourite Rowie by calling our special hotline – calls charged £0.99 per minute!

And with that, one or two definitions

Pro Lifers:

Who’s against life? Why no one I know, except for some zombie films, it’s safe to say many people are in favour of living. But the pro-lifers have some ideas they want the rest of us to sign up to, and I thought I’d best get their unbiased, professional advice.

I looked for them at the anti-war demonstration. But they weren’t there.

I tried to find them protesting the nuclear weaponry we’ve stockpiled which would wipe out half the planet. But they weren’t there.

I thought I’d find them helping to save the refugees drowning in the Med, but there was no sign of them there.

I thought they must surely be protesting the death sentences carried out in some countries, but there was no trace.

I thought they would be in the drought-stricken countries trying to feed the starving, but they were not there.

They were at the abortion clinic. They were at the family planning centres. They were at the chemists where women can get the morning after pill.

It’s not the living they want to save. They want to tell women not to have sex. They want to tell people not to use contraception. They want women to bear children whether or not the women are able to look after these children, can afford them, are adult enough to be responsible for new lives. They want the raped women to carry their children.

They don’t want you to do anything that doesn’t adhere to the moral codes they have signed up to, and they want to make you bend to their will. They don’t acknowledge that each and every single pregnancy is life-threatening to the mother. They don’t want you to know that women from prehistory to the current day engaged in family planning by taking herbal medicines to terminate unwanted pregnancies.

Pro life? Absolutely! Some might think this lot are a bunch of would be controlling, nosy, women-hating dictators who were not interested in the living whatsoever and hated sex and didn’t want anyone to have any. But they’re just telling us what the right thing to do is, and I’m sure you’ll give their message all the attention it is due. http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/14210094.display/

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Feb 112016
 

Old Susannah aka Suzanne Kelly tackles timely topics in the Granite City. From Marischal College to the hallowed halls of the Town House, it’s all one big love-in this Valentine’s Day.

DictionaryTally Ho! It’s Valentine’s Day (almost). Love is in the air! It may be hard to sniff out over the smell of pyromaniacs burning the gramps down, or the smell of marine diesel at the harbour (you know, the thick black stuff that you can taste in your throat, which the Harbour Board says isn’t as bad for you as car exhaust or plutonium).

But love is all around. I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes… it must be love. Or it’s arthritis and the gout.

Before a few love-laden definitions, the Highlands & Islands Press Awards Ball took place on 5 February.

All of the best reporters and public relations press release writers (is there a difference?) were there in their finery.

It must have been a particularly glamorous, vibrant, dynamic evening, as according to the headline it was,

ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL AND LUCID OCCASION AT HIGHLANDS AND ISLANDS PRESS BALL AND MEDIA AWARDS” 

Successful AND Lucid occasion. And I didn’t even know occasions could be lucid, I thought that applied to people. I guess they meant the great and the good were lucid. I’m sure some of them were just as lucid as ever, and as lucid as their prose. It must have been great for the public relations professionals to be able to drink alongside the journalists who print their press releases; that won’t be something they do every day, will it?

Among the literati glitterati in attendance were Damian and Sarah Bates, Aberdeenshire’s own high-flying power couple; our own Kardashian and Kayne.

Alas! Old Susannah’s invitation to the ball didn’t manage to arrive on time. Lots of great journalistic achievements were rewarded. Rightly so the reportage on the increased frequency with which Highland police now carry guns on routine patrols and calls. This was in truth a great bit of work.

I guess no one else is bothered that public relations firms are now on even footing as reporters. These PR gurus slavishly work on the writing element of being a journalist, freeing up a writer’s time for more important pursuits. I did try, but somehow I couldn’t find any categories for campaigning journalist on the awards list; guess that kind of thing doesn’t rate as well as the ability to cut and paste a press release into an article.

The list of sponsors looked more like the collection of institutions on my ‘To Investigate’ list (with the exception of the National Union of Journalists). This night to remember was sponsored by Diageo; Highlands and Islands Enterprise; the National Union of Journalists; Lucid PR, Events and Marketing; Highland Opportunity and Bord na Gaidhlig.

When not trying to turn the Highlands into launching pads for satellites, Highlands and Islands Enterprise wants to make sure area businesses are respecting the environment and adhering to some kind of moral code. Highlands & Islands scrape by on somewhere above £61 million a year to come up with schemes like that; I can well see what they were doing trying to enforce principles at this gathering. H&I might do well to start on its moral crusade by having a word with fellow sponsor, Diageo.

It must have been nice to see Diageo handing out awards to people who won them, instead of trying to doctor the results. BrewDog fans will remember well when Diageo tried to fix the results of a competition so BrewDog would have lost when it actually had won. Alas! Diageo were rumbled. (BrewDog’s revenge is at hand btw).

Having Diageo drinks flow at the Ball must have been a nice touch. Highlands & Islands must be very proud of the big fish in attendance, Aberdeen Journals Ltd. Their unflaggingly independent investigative journalism has turned out very well indeed for Donald Trump, advertiser, and employer of P&J’s editor in chief’s wife, Sarah ‘Face of Aberdeen’ Malone Bates. She too graced the awards I’m told.

Clearly a press awards ceremony is the right place for unelected quangos, publicity firms, and others who are similarly reproach. I guess that falls outside of the H&I accountability; corporate responsibility, corporate sponsorship, and forelock tugging is the new journalism.

You might enviously think this is the award ceremony and the in crowd to be in with; you’d of course be right. But for those that didn’t make the shortlist for a Highlands & Islands Press Award, there are lesser awards out there. The Paul Foot Awards are Private Eye’s celebration of those who actually get their hands dirty and investigate news, not regurgitate press releases. Winners have looked into all forms of bribery and corruption from Fifa to Saudi Arms sales.

Aberdeen Voice editor Fred Wilkinson didn’t take any of my calls on the night of the Highlands and Islands Press Award gala. I can’t help but wonder whether he went there on his own.

Oh well, there’s always next year. Who knows? Old Susannah might stumble on something worthy of notice by her journalistic betters before the next award ceremony.

And now for some lovely definitions.

May to December Romance: (Compound English noun) when a couple have a large age gap but are still in love.

I’m sure some of the high profile May to December couples have wonderful marriages, I guess not all of them can be as romantic as Jerry Hall marrying the Dirty Digger, or Damian and Sarah – or even Donald and Melania. Here’s a cautionary tale of broken hearts and dreams. And no one could possibly have predicted the outcome of this sad tale.

Little Claire met the Mr Darcy of her dreams in Mr Forrester, her teacher. This was ages ago in Torry. And the happy couple (minus the blessings of the girl’s parents who were being real mean, and treating their child like a child) sailed away into the sunset to begin married life. Mind,that was after the police investigated, charities condemned him, and she proved her maturity by running away from home.

A children’s charity called the wedding an ‘aberration’ and said it went against ‘moral codes of not only his profession, but of society’ I guess they just didn’t recognise real true love when they saw it. I’m sure that he always had her best interests at the forefront of his words and deeds. Ah, young love.

Alas! Perhaps Claire’s endearing young charms faded from view. Anyway, they split up, after having a few children. Apparently, she’s not crazy about him any more. No wild weekends with mates in Ibiza for Claire; no fun road trips; no partying. But she was a grown up – so the couple claimed – knowing exactly what she was doing. Sure she did.

If only there had been a Named Person scheme running then! She could have told her appointed teacher that a teacher was her husband to be, and that she was a grown up. Then the school could have thrown them a bash, and hopefully got her parents into trouble for being mean and objecting.

While not-so-little-now Claire puts her life back together, what of the father of her children? Mr Forrester is now happily ensconced at Auchenblae Primary School on the Parent Teacher Association. Will he teach again?  Will he be a Named Person? Why ever not? Wouldn’t you want him questioning your daughter about how happy or otherwise she is? PS – he apparently cheated on his first wife with – a school girl.  He was being supervised after that while teaching in Kincorth – that worked out well.

I’m just as pleased the authorities decided a prosecution wasn’t in anyone’s interest, otherwise Forrester wouldn’t have been free to be a Named Person – and we need as many people experienced with young people in the NP role as we can get. Perhaps soon he will find love again. My guess is she’ll be 16.

As to the school who hired him and the prosecution which decided there was nothing going on in the public interest? Let’s hope that just because history repeated his cheating on his first wife with a young girl, and then marrying and leaving a young girl, there is nothing in the prurient suspicion he has a thing for young girls. Heaven forfend.

Sometimes an unhappy ending is unforeseeable, just like it was for Claire. Such is this next case.

Hippocratic Oath: (from Ancient Greek) A code of ethics governing how ethical medical practitioners interact with patients.

Poor George Osborne; he had it all – beloved Cabinet member, part of the most popular British Government ever, and all-round nice guy. Alas! A patient has tarnished the Osborne silver. A woman mistook his brother Dr Adam Osborne’s professional interest in her for a two-year affair. I’m sure the good doctor was just displaying good bedside manner.

Of his breaking off the affair by text, well, a busy man sometimes has to be a bit firm, even with vulnerable people in their care.

Old Susannah just wonders how long it will take for the poor doctor’s broken heart to mend, and for him to get appointed to a nice cushy government post. This could take days; even weeks. I am sure you are as upset for Adam as I am.

There is a valuable lesson here for those pesky junior doctors who are threatening to strike for decent pay and wages. Don’t go into medicine unless you have a wealthy family and a trust fund to fall back on, just in case you are the victim of an injustice like Adam was. As to dating patients, consider that just one of the perks.

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Jul 032015
 

Scottish Samurai AwardsBy Charlie Abel.

Aberdeen City Council treated the 2015 Scottish Samurai awards to a special civic reception at the town house on the 20th of July 2015. The Lord Provost, George Adam, welcomed distinguished guests and opened the awards with a very well received welcome speech.

First to collect an award was Benedict Bruce, the youngest of this years recipients was awarded the Scottish Samurai – Order of merit and was also presented with his WKC Shodan certificate by Dr. Fritz Wendland, the President of the world karate confederation who travelled from Germany.

Mr Hajime Kitaoka, the Consul General of Japan in Edinburgh was awarded the Scottish Shogun Commander for his work in promoting friendship between Japan and Scotland. Mrs. Kitaoka was also given a special presentation for her part in helping his work.

Ian Kirk, a well-known business figure in the Aberdeen Oil Industry was awarded The Scottish Samurai award for forty years of training in a Japanese martial discipline (Karate). Bill Berry MBE, a very well respected Judo master (7th Dan Judo) presented Ian with the award. Bill Berry himself was also promoted to Shogun. As was a previous Samurai winner Mike Mitchell, star of the silver screen and five times world body building champion.

Two world-renowned sculptors, Hironori Katagiri and Kate Thomson were awarded the Scottish Samurai Award for their contribution to fine art.

The Lord Provost, George Adam collected an award on behalf of Aberdeen City Council for their part in helping with the hosting of the 2015 Samurai Awards and for Aberdeen, being the spiritual home of the Scottish Samurai.

Scottish Samurai Awards 2015 – Aberdeen Town House

The ceremony concluded with a thank you speech from the founder and president of the awards, Ronnie Watt OBE ORS (8th Dan) who celebrates 50 years of Karate in 2015 and also 20 years of running the Scottish Samurai awards.

Links:

Scottish Samurai Awards Website.
Facebook Page.

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Nov 142014
 

ADELLE IMG_4323With thanks to Eoin Smith, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR

Adelle Chessor, 24, Digital Marketing Executive at VisitAberdeen has been named as one of three nominees for the title of Young Ambassador in the Aberdeen City and Shire Tourism Awards. The award, which will be announced at a ceremony in January 2015, recognises that young people are the essence of the future of the tourism industry.

Adelle joined VisitAberdeen in June 2013 with the remit to make VisitAberdeen the most digitally engaged destination marketing organisation (DMO) in the UK.

Her role involves ensuring that digital activity is at the core of all marketing of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

Her work has resulted in the unique visitors to the VisitAberdeen website rising by more than 23,000 in less than a year; Facebook likes rising by nearly 10,000 and Twitter followers showing a five-fold increase in the same period.

The digital marketing of VisitAberdeen also includes the maintenance of Aberdeen’s most comprehensive website. Part of Adelle’s role is to create content which is dynamic and engaging to promote the city to leisure and business visitors. This has also included the creation of dedicated campaigns for specific events such as the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open which took place in the city in July 2014 and the creation of hashtag campaigns for Twitter.

When Aberdeen won the Scottish League Cup, the team created the hashtag #sheepdeals to share city promotions

Adelle says of her nomination:

“I’m flattered that I’ve been recognised in this way. I’m committed to showing that digital marketing can really deliver results for tourism businessesand recently I’ve been working to develop training materials for all levels to allow local tourism-related businesses to deliver real business benefits for them using extremely cost effective digital tools.”

The awards are supported by the Aberdeen City and Shire Hotels Association and take place at Ardoe House Hotel on Friday 30 January 2015. The awards celebrate and recognise excellence in the region’s hospitality and tourism sector. The Young Ambassador in Tourism award is sponsored by the Marcliffe Hotel and Spa. Stuart McPhee of Harding Ltd and Craig McDonald of Glen Tanar Estate are also nominated in the Young Ambassador category.

VisitAberdeen is a partnership between Aberdeen City Council and the industry including Aberdeen City and Shire Hotels Association and Aberdeen Inspired. For further information contact VisitAberdeen on 01224 900490 or visit www.visitaberdeen.com.

 

Mar 082012
 

Fridge Magnets are beginning to get the notice and acclaim they deserve. Music companies are getting interested, and the act has just won a major music award. Magnet Steve Winton tells Aberdeen Voice about that experience.

The awards are the Scottish Alternative Music Awards created by Richie Muirhead in 2010, and the only awards of their type in Scotland. The chosen venue for the annual ceremony this year was The Garage in Glasgow.
Nominees are selected by a panel chosen from throughout Scotland and ranging from gig promoters to Radio DJs.

We were nominated for Best Electronic Act with four other established Scottish acts. It then went to public vote on the SAMA website. Over 18,000 votes were cast for the whole competition, double the number of the previous year.

We were delighted when our name was read out as winners, and to be honest we were shocked. The other acts, notably Rustie and Discopolis had an amazing year in 2011 and we really didn’t think we would win.

We were also fortunate to be asked to perform at the awards. There was a 700 capacity sell out and we played in front of heavy-hitting Scottish music industry people such as Radio 1’s Ally MacRae, Vic Galloway and In:Demand presenter Jim Gellatly. All of them commented on how impressed they were with our performance and all three subsequently played our track on their radio shows the following Sunday and Monday.

It was a great opportunity for us to play in front of a crowd that hadn’t seen us, in some cases hadn’t even heard of us before, and we seemed to win them over. The Facebook and Twitter pages were going crazy the following day, commenting on how well we did. We then went on to play the official after-party at a smaller venue in Glasgow and sold it out as well. It was probably the best experience we have had thus far as a band.

We are extremely grateful to everyone who voted and we’re delighted with the win. Our next gig in Aberdeen is at The Tunnels on March 24.
To whet appetites before then, here are two Fridge Magnets videos

Death of Rock N Roll
Feeling Grows  

Mar 012012
 

With thanks to Dave Macdermid.

Winning Wheels, the wheelchair tennis club based at Craiglockhart Tennis Centre, is pleased to announce that they have secured funding from Awards For All to support travel and hotel expenses for Scottish players travelling to the second Edinburgh Wheelchair Tennis Tournament.

The 2012 tournament being held on 14th and 15th April, is part of the Tennis Foundation’s development series. Entry is open now, with a closing date of March 22nd.

Please contact tournament organiser David Hogg for details:
davidhogg472@gmail.com or 07835222533.

Keith Thom (pictured) from Dumfries, last year’s inaugural series winner said:

 “Having the Awards For All funding to support Scottish adult and junior players will hopefully encourage more disabled people to travel to this event and also help raise awareness of wheelchair tennis throughout Scotland.”

If you would like to try wheelchair tennis, weekly coaching sessions take place in Aberdeen, Stirling, Edinburgh and Glasgow. New players are always welcome, and all equipment is available at the tennis centre. For more information and details of sessions please contact:

Andrew Raitt
Andrew.raitt@tennisscotland.org or 07908091820

Feb 232012
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

Electro wizards Fridge Magnets have been nominated in the Best Electronic Act category at the Scottish Alternative Music Awards.

Fridge Magnets have already shared big stages with Calvin Harris, Alex Metric, Japanese Popstars and Burns and have played at T in the Park and Rockness.

With this nomination, they appear to be going from strength to strength. Their early demos have already been featured on Radio 1 and the Glaswegian/Aberdonian outfit are attracting attention from some big London labels.

The Scottish Alternative Music Awards ceremony takes place at the Garage, Glasgow on 1 March and you can cast your vote at http://officialsama.co.uk/vote/ by clicking Fridge Magnets in the Best Electronic Act category.

See them live:

March
1st – SAMA Awards and after-party, Glasgow
16th – Doghouse, Dundee
24th – Tunnels, Aberdeen
30th – 20 Rocks, Falkirk

April
13th – Chambre69, Glasgow with Hot Chip DJ Set
18th – Death Disco, London
21st – The Nest, LondonMay
5th – Hootenanys, Inverness

June
1st – Devils Disco, Edinburgh

View videos: 

Death of Rock N Roll video http://bit.ly/dornrvid
Feeling Grows video http://bit.ly/feeling_grows

For further information:

Barry Saint
Studio 11
10 Acklam Road
London
0208 968 8236
barry@distiller-records.com
www.facebook.com/TheFridgeMagnets

Oct 282011
 

There are sure to be fireworks when leading Newcastle blues group the Lyndon Anderson Band conclude Aberdeen Blues Club’s 2011 season of shows at The Blue Lamp on Saturday 5 November.  With thanks to Chris Simmonds.

When it comes to blues, this vibrant and exciting 4-piece band has all bases covered.

Whether it`s 1950s Chess classics, New Orleans funk, Texan blues shuffles, West Coast swing or their own well-crafted material, they play it with style, authority and taste.

Harmonica player Lyndon Anderson is regarded as one of the UK’s very best and his deep soulful voice evokes the Mississippi cotton fields rather than industrial Tyneside.

Lyndon’s band members are seasoned veterans who have come through the ranks of Newcastle rock, blues, soul, punk and rockabilly bands and share their frontman’s vision.

The band has released two highly acclaimed CDs to date – Take My Order and The Groove-O-Matic Sounds of The Lyndon Anderson Band.

Support is provided by local 4-piece The Malpaso Gang, who play a mixture of old-style country and blues. The band won the award as Best Band in the local Fudge Awards last year whilst their lap steel player Son Henry has won Best Instrumentalist at the UK National Blues Awards two years running.

Doors open at 7:30pm with the first act on stage at 8pm.
Tickets priced £6 are available in advance and will be available on the night at £8.

For further info:
www.l-a-b.net
www.themalpasogang.posterous.com

Sep 302011
 

In last week’s Voice, we carried part one of A Change of Name, a chapter from Dr David Kennedy’s forthcoming book in which he outlined how significant pressure had been applied to merge The University of Aberdeen with its perceived less-worthy educational neighbour, RGIT. In the second part of the chapter, we hear of the passionate fight to preserve RGIT and have it elevated to university status in 1992.

So, here we were in 1991 with the prospect of merger very much as proposed by our old friend from Napier way back in 1989. All of the older central institutions were under threat, but the greatest injustice was to those that already had delegated powers from the CNAA to award their own degrees: the technical institutions in Dundee, Paisley and Aberdeen.
Had the Secretary of State inverted the position of the five technological institutions in Scotland, leaving Napier and Glasgow at the bottom, he would have been much nearer the mark in everything but size, and size was simply due to an accident of location.

I know the advertisers tell us that size matters, but quality is even more important.  Small can be beautiful.

This massive injustice needed to be fought and the battle for the survival of the Institute was on.  I prepared a document setting out the very powerful case for the Institute and then went to see a group of members of the Aberdeen District Council.  They were impressed by what they read and the answers given to their questions.  Once they were clear about what was at stake, they readily agreed to ask their Council to support our case.

An all-party group from the District Council gave enthusiastic support and decided, if necessary, to lobby Parliament in our favour.  Money was set aside for this to happen.  The Council also sent a formal request to the local enterprise company seeking its backing for the institute.  While the board members of the company fully supported the request, its chairman (Ian Wood – a local businessman) felt the issue was too political and should therefore not be supported.  Due to the diplomacy of its chief executive, a letter of support was suitably worded and sent off to The Scottish Office.

Copies of the campaign document were sent out far and wide, including the Prime Minister and most of his senior cabinet colleagues.  The response was overwhelming. 

Although some quangos were unwilling to commit themselves because of their fear of government reprisals, ordinary people had no such qualms and responded in their hundreds and perhaps even thousands, across all walks of life and across all generations.  From across Scotland the letters poured into The Scottish Office, many being copied to me.

For the first time, I realised just how much an educational institution can mean to a community.  John Gray, who had founded the Institute in 1885, had done them a great service and they greatly valued what he had done.

Many of the letters were very eloquent, some were very moving, but I think the one I treasured most came from a very special person, a honest man who was courageous and true, and sadly, something of a rarity among politicians: Alick Buchanan-Smith.  Alick wrote on 26 August to give us his full support, just a day or two before his premature death.

There were many other letters of support, including a senior government minister, Michael Howard, who knew personally of the work of the Institute.  The Prime Minister did not reply in person, but nor did he dismiss it out of hand.  My letter eventually found its way down to The Scottish Office for reply.  The Head of the Higher Education Division wrote: 

“You now have a reply from Mr Michael Forsyth … and there is little I can usefully add.  I would, however, re-emphasise that it is not right to suggest that a decision has been taken on this matter when the intention is in fact to take decisions only after consultations and careful consideration of the arguments”.

Once again, the point was being deliberately ignored.  Decisions had been taken.  Napier had been allowed to call itself a polytechnic and no reply was ever given to my queries about the criteria applied, when these criteria were determined and by whom, nor of the purpose of the exercise, remembering that it all took place in 1988.

If criteria existed for this, why were they not publicised and applied to the other Scottish institutions with degree-awarding powers?  According to Mr Forsyth’s letter, “explicit and well-defined criteria” exist which justify according degree-awarding powers and university status to Napier and Glasgow polytechnics, but not to any other grant-aided college in Scotland.

I noted that the Minister had not said these were the criteria that WERE USED in the case of Napier, only that criteria NOW exist that would justify the decision taken by The Scottish Office.  This was simply tricky-micky, political evasion.

A press conference launched the Institute’s campaign.  The launch was extremely well attended and the arrangements made by our Press Officer were excellent.  We got off to a brilliant start.  The problem then was, how to keep up the momentum and stop the campaign running out of steam.

At this point I told him very bluntly just what I thought of his threat to hurt students as a way of trying to coerce me.  

Our Press Officer, June Davis, better known a year or two earlier as the ‘Torry quine’, was superb.  She arranged interviews with a long sequence of North East notables who had responded to our request for support.  These interviews were written up and fed to the media, so that rarely a day went by without some comment of interest and support.

Then there were the visits to the Institute, not from supporters, but from The Scottish Office.  They came on the flimsiest of pretexts to see what was going on.  I received a phone call from another of The Scottish Office worthies.  He told me in a very brusque manner that if I kept on with my campaign I wouldn’t get an honour.

In language only slightly more moderate than that used to me by the oil company chiefs at the time of the Piper Alpha disaster, I told him how much I longed for an honour and how worried I was at the prospect of not receiving one.

Being a civil servant, he couldn’t understand my levity.  He then said that they could easily have me sacked.  I told him that I hoped to leave the job anyway and that my Governors were not too happy about my going at such an early age.  He then threatened to make the institution suffer financially.  At this point I told him very bluntly just what I thought of his threat to hurt students as a way of trying to coerce me.

The untimely death of Alick Buchanan-Smith meant a by-election in his North East constituency of Kincardine and Deeside.  This was a difficult time for the Government.

Disbanding the Gordon Highlanders; de-commissioning of the fishing fleet; and the creation in Aberdeen of the first of the hospital trusts that was widely perceived as some kind of attack on the health service caused some disaffection.  Of all these issues, the one that could be resolved with least cost was to settle the future of RGIT.

MPs kept up the pressure in the House, harrying the Minister about the criteria for degree-awarding powers.  At last, the Secretary of State and his Minister saw that they would have to concede.  The Scottish Office suggested I might invite the Minister to come to the Institute and meet with senior staff.  I readily agreed and arrangements were made for him to attend our annual management conference.

When the Minister came into the room to address the staff he ostentatiously ‘left the door open’.  Although he made no unequivocal statement about degree-awarding powers, it was abundantly clear that that was the burden of his message.  It was exactly one week before the by-election for the Kincardine and Deeside seat.

The battle had clearly been won.

Although the battle was now over, this was by no means the end of the matter.  New articles and instruments of governance had to be drafted and submitted for vetting.

The acid test would be whether our university remained true to its traditions and mission

Whereas most statutory instruments are drafted by civil servants, in this case it was for each institution to propose the powers it wished to exercise and to set these out in an appropriate fashion.  This was an extremely important task, since it laid down the pattern of governance that, once settled, could not easily be amended.

After twenty years of senior management in education there were aspects in the existing arrangements that I believed could be improved upon.  I did not favour the division of staff into academic and non-academic.  All had a part to play in creating a successful organisation.

One of the problems is how to exert enough control to safeguard public funds, without becoming excessively overbearing and in effect, usurp the authority of those appointed to exercise it?  Although important, systems alone are not enough.  So these were the things I had in mind while writing the draft articles and instruments.

Although approved by the Governing Body, it was not acceptable to The Scottish Office.  I was forced to follow the existing model, which had been designed by civil servants many years before.  Being accepted by them meant that it was also acceptable to the Privy Council, and so at last the job was complete.

On Friday, 12 June 1992, the Institute formally adopted the name of The Robert Gordon University. Aberdeen, once again, had two universities.

The acid test would be whether our university remained true to its traditions and mission, or whether, like so many before, it adopted the traditions and mission of the old universities.  If it adopted their values then, without doubt, our own had been vanquished and they had won.

Who can say what the future will bring?  In order to at least make clear what I believe RGIT stood for, what the former mechanics institutes had stood for, what the old crafts and trades had stood for, we had a parchment prepared that set out our mission.

The Robert Gordon University is pledged to produce versatile and resourceful practitioners who are relevantly qualified for their chosen professions and vocations within an educational environment that fosters innovation, enterprise and an enthusiasm for excellence”.

This was formally presented to the City of Aberdeen as an earnest of our intentions.  No doubt it is mouldering somewhere in a basement of one or other civic building, but perhaps many years into the future someone will come upon it and know just what we stood for on that memorable day.