Expansion and Urban Sprawl are coming your way if you are in Aberdeen City or Shire. Peter Kennedy reports on the colossal proposal for the Elsick Estate which would change the complexion of Aberdeenshire forever.
I wonder if any of you have been following the proposal to build a new town at the Elsick Estate, Cammachmore. This new town could become the biggest single town in Aberdeenshire, with an estimated population of 20,000+, outstripping the likes of Peterhead and Inverurie.
This could see an extra 15000 – 20000 cars flooding the A90 corridor
In the initial plans, local residents were told the new settlement would be some 6,000 homes, but now it has come to the planning stage, it has emerged as a settlement of 9,000+ homes, an increase of 50% on the original proposal, and possibly even more in view of the elastic nature of such developments.
The proponent of this development, David Carnegie, aka Lord Southesk, on whose father’s estate he hopes to build the new town, has made much of the ‘transparency’ of these plans, though little indication is given as to where the additional 3000 homes have come from. Given that each home will have on average 2 cars, this could see an extra 15000 – 20000 cars flooding the A90 corridor, daily, at peak times.
Given their self-proclaimed reputation for unbiased reporting one might have expected that the BBC would have shown impartiality regarding this important development. Alas, this appears not to be the case.
In an interview solicited by the BBC with a local resident, David Kennedy, which was broadcast on both BBC1 Scotland news and BBC Aberdeen radio news , the editorial team seemed more interested in the irrelevance that he had been involved with “Tripping Up Trump”, by handing back his honorary degree in protest at Donald Trump being awarded one.
Although two BBC employees were present for three quarters of an hour for an interview at the Kennedy home last week, the BBCTV news only showed an old photograph taken almost a year ago this month, (28th September 2010) showing David Kennedy handing back his degree parchment – perhaps a little archaic even for a (un)biased broadcasting corporation.
The issue of what impact the new town might have on the local environment was pushed to one side. Co-incidentally, Lord Southesk was given a number of minutes to air his views and ‘sell’ his vision. According to him, no-one in the surrounding villages is opposed to the proposed newtown -though they will undoubtedly be affected by it.
The proposed site for the new town is 2000 acres of agricultural land, rather than any of the surrounding scrubland, which is more suitable for a development of this kind. Instead it is proposed to make a country park in this area of scrub land.
According to The Scottish Government paper, Scotland’s Soil Resource – Current State and Threats, published in 2006:
“Between 1970 and 1999, 25,217 hectares of agricultural land were converted to roads, housing and industry and 9,481 hectares to mineral workings (Scottish Office 1998, quoted by Birnie et al., 2002). These figures may be an underestimate of the conversion of all land to built infrastructure. In absolute terms they represent annual conversions of approximately 850 and 316 hectares respectively.”
More recent data shows that
“between 1989 and 1996, the conversion of land to roads, housing and industry was approximately 700 hectares a year. In the succeeding seven years this rose to c. 1,200 hectares per year.”
Thus, at a time as a nation we are being encouraged to grow our own crops to cut down on global warming, etc some 2000 acres (approx 810 hectares ) of agricultural land will be taken out of production.
This matter is now subject to a statutory 28 days consultation period as from Thursday 8th September 2011.
I hope people may feel able to make suitable representations to both the BBC for their biased support for the development, and the disgraceful denigration of David Kennedy; and to Aberdeenshire Council asking them to consider the impact of turning productive agricultural land over to the building of a new town.
Aberdeenshire Council’s website fails to give a specific reference number for this planning development: – Although the Area Planning Officer is listed as:
Neil Stewart, Area Planning Officer, Viewmount, Arduthie Road, Stonehaven, AB39 2DQ. Tel. 01569 768300. Fax 01569 766549. Email: email@example.com
Peter Williamson was kidnapped as a child in Aberdeen harbour and taken to the American Colonies where he was sold as a slave.
On gaining his freedom, he was kidnapped by the Indians, living with them and eventually escaping from them. He then spent three years in the British Army fighting against the French and the Indians, only to be captured again, this time by the French.
As part of a prisoner exchange he was repatriated to Britain in 1757.
In Plymouth he was released from the army with a purse of six shillings. This was enough to get to him to York, by which time he was penniless.
He managed to persuade some local businessmen to publish his book, titled The Life and Curious Adventures of Peter Williamson, Who was Carried off from Aberdeen and Sold for a Slave. This sold very well and gave him enough money to return to Aberdeen in June 1758, fifteen years after being kidnapped.
He had several hundred copies of his book with him, some of which he managed to sell on the streets of Aberdeen. The book eventually came to the notice of Councillors and merchantmen in the city, and although nobody was named, they did not like what they read. The Procurator Fiscal lodged a complaint with the Provost and Magistrates, stating:
“that by this scurrilous and infamous libel … the corporation of the City of Aberdeen, and whole members whereof, were highly hurt and prejudged; and therefore that the Pursuer (Peter Williamson) ought to be exemplary punished in his person and goods; and that the said pamphlet, and whole copies thereof, ought to be seized and publicly burnt.”
A warrant was issued for his arrest. He was taken from his lodgings and brought before a Magistrate at the courthouse. Peter was asked to repudiate publicly everything he had said concerning the merchants of Aberdeen. Until he agreed, he was to be imprisoned and his books seized. After a short time in the Tolbooth (a jail in the Aberdeen Town House), he was bailed and stood for trial. On being found guilty, he was told to lodge a document with the court confessing to the falsity of the book and to pay a ten shilling fine, otherwise he would be imprisoned. This he reluctantly agreed to, leaving Aberdeen and moving to Edinburgh.
In a ceremony watched by the Dean of the Guild, the Town Clerk, the Procurator Fiscal and the Baillies, the offending pages were sliced from 350 of Williamson’s books and publicly burnt at the Mercat Cross by the town hangman. The remaining pages were never returned.
In Edinburgh, Peter contacted a lawyer and started planning for a legal challenge. He opened a coffee shop which became frequented by the Edinburgh legal fraternity and he started to teach himself Scots law. The year 1760 saw the start of an extended phase of courtroom battles against his persecutors in Aberdeen. In 1762, he was successful in getting the result of the Aberdeen trial reversed and was awarded costs and a £100 in damages.
The results of his investigations had revealed the names of the businessmen behind his kidnapping. These were Captain Robert Ragg, Walter Cochrane (the Aberdeen Town Clerk Depute), Baillie William Fordyce, Baillie William Smith, Baillie Alexander Mitchell, and Alexander Gordon, all local merchants with a share in the ship, Planter.
Further litigation ensued. Witnesses were found and they were mainly men who as boys had managed to escape kidnapping. The father of a boy who had sailed with Peter Williamson to the Americas testified. He said that while the Planter had been moored at Torry, his son had returned to him and refused to go back. He claimed that Captain Ragg and others involved had spoken again and again with him in the street, warning him that he would be sent to the Tolbooth if he didn’t send his son back to the ship. The boy went back.
The main incriminating evidence was the so-called “kidnapping book”. This was a ledger detailing all the expenses of the slave-ship venture. It mentioned Peter Williamson by name and included entries such as:
“To one pair of stockings to Peter Williamson, six pence; To five days of diet, one shilling and three pence.”
One entry read:
“To the man who brought Peter Williamson, one shilling and six pence.”
Eventually in 1768 the case was proved. Peter was awarded damages of £200 plus 100 guineas costs.
Child slavery was endemic in Aberdeen and elsewhere in the 1700s. The plantations in the American colonies were desperate for labour. The Book of Bon Accord (Robertson 1839) records that:
“The inhabitants of the neighbourhood dared not send their children into town, and even trembled lest they should be snatched away from their homes. For in all parts of the country emissaries were abroad, in the dead of night children were taken by force from the beds where they slept; and the remote valleys of the Highlands, fifty miles distant from the city, were infested by ruffians who hunted their prey as beasts of the chase.”
Skelton (2004) mentions that it was estimated that 600 boys and girls were abducted and sold for slavery between 1740 and 1760 in Aberdeen and the North-east. On the voyage alone that took Peter Williamson, there were 69 youngsters on board.
A BBC website accompanying a radio series on the history of the British Empire fills in some background from the period:
“Most accounts of British slaving date from the 16th century with the shipping of Africans to the Spanish Main. But less discussed is what happened to English and Scots eight, nine and ten year-olds in places like Aberdeen, London and Bristol. Many from those places were sold for forced labour in the colonies.
London gangs would capture youngsters, put them in the hold of a ship moored in the Thames and when the hold was full, set sail for America. Many authorities encouraged the trade. In the early 17th century authorities wanted rid of the waifs, strays, young thieves and vandals in their towns and cities. The British were starting to settle in Virginia. So that’s where the children went.
This was a time when it was common enough in Britain to have small children as cheap, or unpaid labour. In 1618 one hundred children were officially transported to Virginia. So pleased were the planters with the young labour that the then Lord Mayor, Sir William Cockayne, received an immediate order from the colony “to send another ship load.” See: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/empire/episodes/episode_36.shtml
*Joseph Robertson: “The Book of Bon Accord”. Aberdeen 1839. *Douglas Skelton: “Indian Peter. The extraordinary life and adventures of Peter Williamson”. Edinburgh, 2004. *Peter Williamson “The Life and Curious Adventures of Peter Williamson, Who was Carried off from Aberdeen and Sold for a Slave”. York, 1757.
Last week’s Voice featured Aberdeen entertainment iconSid Ozalid, his life, his act, his impact, the release of his new book, and news of ‘not to be missed’ performances in the city. Well, If you did happen to miss out on catching Sid live on Friday and Saturday, then fash yersel not – this week we present a brief account of the missed mayhem, and a poem from ‘Mr Elastic Brain’.
Sid Ozalid jetted in from Sunny Amsterdam last Friday for a whistle stop tour of Aberdeen to promote his fab new book ‘Mr Elastic Brain – The Life and Poems of Sid Ozalid’.
The previous week he had done three gigs in London and the week before that three gigs in Holland, so he was keen to make it a hat trick and do three gigs in Aberdeen.
This meant two gigs on Friday night and a book signing/performance at 1UP on the Sat afternoon.
Below – Sid Ozalid performs ‘Tartan Underpants’ accompanied by Dave McLeod.
Lots of people made one gig, a few brave people made it along to two gigs, but apart from Sid and his lovely wife only one person made it to all three: a Mr Colin MacLean who had driven up from the Kingdom of Fife to see Sid after an absence of 26 years.
Colin and Sid had performed together in 1977 in one of Aberdeen’s first punk bands, ‘The Enormous Snakes,’ and Colin had gone on to work with Sid as one of his All-Stars over a number of years, taking in the Edinburgh Festival and supporting The Clash at Inverness Ice Rink.
The first two gigs sizzled with professionalism, wit and dancing. The 24 year-old MC at Geesalaff Comedy Night, Miss Anna Devitt said:
“I was exhausted just watching; he was non-stop, how can someone this old have so much energy? My mum is a big fan and told me to get one of his books, the book truly is amazing, so I told mum to get her own copy.”
The third gig at 1UP, the sole suppliers of Sid’s book in Aberdeen, was the most surreal by far.
Sid performed ‘Salvador Dali’s Hat’, ‘Three Fat Ladies at the Bingo Hall,’ and thrashed himself with a daisy — but nothing had prepared him for two drunk shoppers and a man in an electric wheel chair.
The drunk shoppers really giggled at Sid’s antics, but thought nothing of standing next to him flicking through CD’s and asking his opinion on Hip Hop and Jazz classics.
Sid took all of this in his stride and was set the extra challenge of being nimble on his feet when the electric wheelchair man was so taken by the performance he decided to join in, whizzing to the stage and joining Sid on the first electric wheelchair elastic brain dance routine ever seen in Aberdeen. Sid may well have been the dance teacher to the Queen at one time in his life, but nothing had prepared him for this!!
Some nice people had ordered Sid’s book from Amazon and brought it along to be signed, and other nice people bought copies of the book at 1UP, and there then followed a good half hour of chatting and book signing.
A special mention must go to Fred Craig of 1UP who had brought along one of Sid’s original book/records from 1982 ‘Songs and Stories from a Suitcase Extravaganza.’ Fred wanted this signed, and in return Sid was rewarded with a well deserved cup of tea.
The year is 1979. I am at Aberdeen’s 62 Club to watch a selection of local punk bands, and my attention is drawn to an unfamiliar name on the bill.
Sid Ozalid? A band? A guy? Pretty punk if slightly strange kind of a name though, which for an 18 y.o. punk diehard was somehow reassuring.
On stage appeared a tall, skinny, slightly weird-looking guy with no guitar. Not punk – not punk at all, which in the circumstances was all the more intriguing.
What happened next was somewhere between seeing the light and being scarred for life.
Out of a sudden discharge of nervous energy came an onslaught of surreal, silly verse spliced seamlessly with a bunch of broken anecdotes delivered at a pace leaving no pause for appraisal; accompanied by incongruous, disjointed, directionless dance moves which somehow worked – they must have worked, as somehow, he stayed on his feet.
Then it was over. I had not moved. I was still staring at the empty stage, and I remember thinking: “I hope no-one asks me what I made of Sid Ozalid.” Devoid of reference points, my thoughts were a long time coming. Yes, I found it funny, and yes I was immensely entertained – I just didn’t know why! Neither punk nor Python, neither Cutler, Cooper nor Cooper-Clarke, Sid Ozalid certainly breathed the same air, but did not walk on the same planet.
Would I perhaps find a clue to understanding what made Sid tick from his publicity around at the time? –
“Legend has it that Sid Ozalid was born sometime during an eruption of earwigs.
“Sid arrived on earth from the planet OZ in the year 1898. His spaceship was disguised as an old brown suitcase that was full of inflatable toys.
“During this period he specialised in walking backwards into hat stands.
“Six years later he split from Flying Ozalids to form Sid and Sam the Ozalid Twins. This dynamic duo thrilled audiences with their routine entitled ‘The First pickled Onion in Orbit’, but alas this too came to an abrupt end due to lack of cupboard space”
– Alas, No.
Fast-forward to the following evening.
Three troublesome fat ladies, a conductor named Russ and a womanising fire raising tortoise had taken up permanent residence in my consciousness, and it seemed that the only way to exorcise these delightful demons, and at the same time come to terms with the experience was via demonstration to the uninitiated.
And so there I was outside with my brothers and sister and a few chums, recounting those fragments of verse I could recall whilst attempting in vain to recreate those unique ‘dance’ moves.
Perhaps an observer of the ‘lite’ version would be better placed to help me understand what it was about Sid that had so affected me. No chance. They stood – as I had stood, and stared – as I had stared, and laughed. That evening, each time another chum arrived in our company came the call:
” Hey Fred, go dae yer Sid Ozalid, watch ess, it’s really funny “
The previous evening Sid had performed for around 15 minutes. Twenty four hours later, I must have performed twice as long armed with only about 30 seconds of Sid’s material. More than once, passers-by stopped on the other side of the road … then moved on when they ascertained I was not in need of medical assistance.
As I look back I realise this was a solid indication that Sid Ozalid would be around for some time to come, and would become, if not a legend, definitely an icon of the Aberdeen Entertainment scene.
I was not the only one for whom Sid Ozalid presented an enigma:
” he auditioned and was invited to perform on two different talent shows. Once again the producers liked what Sid was doing but did not know how to describe him. They settled for ‘eccentric’. ” – Douglas John Mclean Cairns
Thirty two years on, having enjoyed many more of Sid’s performances, yet being no closer to understanding exactly how to explain what it is about Sid Ozalid’s act that entertains, amuses and excites me, I find myself charged with the task of reviewing his brand new book:
“Mr Elastic Brain – The Life And Poems Of Sid Ozalid”.
Having just finished reading it, I find myself desperate to tell everyone to go get themselves a copy as soon as possible, but as with my impression of that first performance, I struggle to articulate why it will be worth more to you than a tenner. But I will try.
These days, I know Sid Ozalid by his not so ‘pretty punk, and kinda reassuringly strange’ name Douglas Cairns …. which is actually more reassuring.
So, where to start?
This is an autobiographical book in four parts, about Sid Ozalid, written by Douglas John McLean Cairns. Or is it? As with all things Sid Ozalid, it is the equivalent of an ‘any-way-up’ cup as the first part of the book demonstrates.
Even to someone as familiar with the writer as I am, It startles me to discover that the madness which fuelled the performances of Sid Ozalid and brought so much pleasure to many also had an alter ego in the shape of a mental illness which had a devastating effect on Douglas Cairns for a period in 2001 – and as a consequence, all but put an end to Sid.
“People had always told Sid he was mad. He thought they were joking until the dawning of the new millennium, suddenly he had a doctor’s certificate to prove what people had been telling him for years.” – Douglas John Mclean Cairns.
Here it is we find – in between some hilarious stories of Sid’s outrageous antics and adventures – an honest account of the extent of Douglas’ illness, punctuated by humour of a nature that can only be explained in terms of Douglas’ story being written by Sid.
It is difficult to pinpoint where ownership of the pen changed, but what results is uniquely unsettling, and simultaneously entertaining. For Sid to joke about Douglas’ dark and desperate situation is surely to run the risk being regarded as sick … but then, at the pertinent time, they are both sick aren’t they?
I don’t have the recipe, but I am pretty sure the main ingredient is his ability to appeal to our inner child.
However, at no point does the humour mask the pain, the lighter asides serving only reinforce the severity of the debilitating condition by way of contrast. It is a brave piece of writing, sandwiched between hilarious tales of the more familiar and wonderful madness of The Artist Formerly Known As Sid Ozalid.
The major portion of the book’s contents is a collection of Sid’s wonderfully bizarre and humorous poems and songs which were the mainstay of his act from 1977 to the present day. Similarities with this material and that of Spike Milligan are impossible to ignore. However, to leave it at that would be to compare a wedding cake with a rowie on account of their flour content.
So am I any closer to putting into words what is the magical appeal of Sid Ozalid?
Well I don’t have the recipe, but I am pretty sure the main ingredient is his ability to appeal to our inner child.
Didn’t we all spontaneously giggle and cackle as babes in response to the simplest and the silliest of things? A pulled face? A silly noise? The poking out of a tongue? A sudden unexpected movement or gesture? Anything at all unusual yet unthreatening? When did we stop being so spontaneously and so thoroughly amused? Did we stop giggling, or did our adult entertainers decide our needs for entertainment lay elsewhere?
If nothing else, Sid Ozalid demonstrates that our inner child is still with us and desperate for a giggle, and the mere fact he knows our tickly spot is enough to make us all the more tickly.
If there should ever be an Aberdeen Entertainers Hall of Fame, Sid Ozalid will be there. He will be neither a statue in the foyer, a framed picture on a wall, or a prized prop or instrument in a glass case. The broom cupboard will be as good a place as any to start your search, but when you track him down he will be possibly be represented by that item described within the spontaneous lyrics of a similarly strange and hilarious Scots band.
” I’ll perhaps take a piece of white bread and I’ll paint it brown so you think it is brown but when you toast it it’s actually white for the paint falls off “( from the album Hairy Scalloween by The Pendulums. )
Mr Elastic Brain – The Life And Poems Of Sid Ozalid by Douglas John McLean Cairns is published by Chipmunka Publishingwhich specialises in giving a voice to people with mental health and other issues.
The profits from sales of Mr Elastic Brain are being donated to MIND – a leading mental health charity.
“We campaign vigorously to create a society that promotes and protects good mental health for all – a society where people with experience of mental distress are treated fairly, positively and with respect.” – http://www.mind.org.uk/
Aberdeen Voice will present a sample of Sid’s poetry in the coming weeks – if that’s OK with Sid, or Douglas, or both – so you can judge for yourselves should you miss all three performances in town this weekend.
Geesalaff Comedy Night Friday, May 27 at 8:00pm
Cellar 35, Rosemount Viaduct ( Sid onstage around 21.00pm )