Feb 102012
 

The uncertain fate of the ancient elms in Union Terrace Gardens is highlighted by Mike Shepherd.

There are 77 mature trees in Union Terrace Gardens and a few more along the adjacent railway line. It is not clear how many of these will be felled during the construction of the proposed City Garden; however most will probably go. An Evening Express article suggested that they will all be removed, whilst it was mentioned at the January council meeting that some of the trees in the north-west corner may be kept.

Rather bizarrely, the same Evening Express article mentions that the wood from the Union Terrace Gardens trees could be recycled for the construction of the City Garden, that is for paths and the wooden roof of the outdoor stage, “keeping them in the garden”.

It is proposed that the new trees in the City Garden will comprise a “mini-forest” of 186 trees, mostly Scots Pines.

The fate of the twelve elms in the park is a highly controversial issue. A handful of these trees are considered by the council to be at least 200 years old. They may be even older. A report gives mention to the planting by the Town Council in 1764 of a thick woodland on the hillside to the west of the Denburn.

The trees in the park are disease-free. Occasional comments made by certain ill-informed councillors that Dutch Elm Disease is present in the Gardens are not true. The trees are inspected from time to time. The symptoms of the disease show up in the summer when leaves turn yellow and fall off early. This has not been seen in any of the Union Terrace Gardens elms.

 As far as mature trees in the city are concerned, the council can do what it wants.

The disease, a fungus carried by bark beetles, has devastated elm trees throughout most of the UK. It is estimated that more than 25 million elms have been killed by the disease with very few mature trees left.

The disease spread to the north of Scotland only in the last twenty years and pockets of relatively disease-free elms have survived here. Aberdeen city is one such pocket. The disease has been recorded in only a few trees in the west end of the city, but it is generally absent.

Elsewhere in the north-east, Dutch Elm Disease has recently been killing large swathes of elms. Most, if not all, of the elm trees on Drum Castle Estate have succumbed, for example. It is to be hoped that the city stays relatively clear of the disease for as long as possible.

Aberdeen is said to have “possibly the largest remaining population of elms in Northern Europe that has not yet succumbed to the deadly Dutch Elm Disease.”
http://frontpage.woodland-trust.org.uk/ancient-tree-forum/atfgallery/galleryphotographers/geoffbanks/images/geoffproject.pdf

The mature trees in Union Terrace Gardens have been assigned Tree Preservation Orders by the Council. A document is available online which explains the policy towards protected trees in Aberdeen. The following are quotes from the document:

“A tree preservation order (TPO) is an order made by us, giving legal protection to trees or woodland. A TPO prevents cutting down, uprooting, topping, lopping, wilful damage or destruction of trees (including cutting roots) without the council’s permission.

“The purpose of a TPO is to protect trees that contribute to amenity and the character and attractiveness of a locality. Other factors such as heritage and wildlife value can be taken into account. A TPO gives the council an opportunity to assess the impact of work to trees or proposals which may affect them.” However, it goes on:

“The existence of a TPO can not in itself prevent the development of land taking place, but the council, as planning authority, has a duty to have regard to the preservation and planting of trees and the likely effect of development proposals on trees is a material consideration.”
http://www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/nmsruntime/saveasdialog.asp?lID=25378&sID=13464 

In other words, as far as mature trees in the city are concerned, the council can do what it wants. A tree preservation order on the Union Terrace Gardens elms does not necessarily protect them.

The result of the referendum on the Gardens in March will also decide the fate of the elms. For some in the city, it is a major issue. They see the removal of the trees in Union Terrace Gardens as a crime against nature. These are amongst the last surviving mature elms in the country, Europe even.

For many it would be a sad day if and when they are chopped down. There is an online petition to save the 200-year old elms:
http://www.petitiononline.co.uk/signatures/save-the-200-year-old-elms-in-union-terrace-gardens-aberdeen/4168

Feb 032012
 

With thanks to Kylie Roux.

YOUR LEANING NECK – SONG AS PORTRAIT – Steven Anderson

Based on an event from November last year at The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Your Leaning Neck is a performance project that aims to challenge institutional representations of national identity by giving voice to non-institutional values.

A silent video installation showcasing last November’s event from two perspectives will be shown in the Peacock gallery.

Saturday 18 February – Saturday 10 March 

– Live Performance

Starting off at Peacock’s gallery then moving onto the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St Andrew, visitors will be treated to a live re-contextualisation of the performance event created as a site-specific response to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery’s collection of portraits from the Scottish Enlightenment. Within the performance, oral tradition singers are presented alongside contemporary artists who also use their unaccompanied voice as a means of expression.

Friday 24 February | 7 – 9pm | Peacock Visual Arts | FREE 

GIG IN THE GALLERY – Martin John Henry

Recently praised by Sound-Scotland, as “one of Scotland’s finest songwriters”, Gargleblast Records and Peacock Visual Arts present Martin John Henry.

The Lanarkshire born singer songwriter is best known for fronting Scottish Rock Band De Rosa – critically lauded and championed by John Peel and Steve Lamaq – as well as writing, recording and playing with many of Scotland’s finest musicians including Barry Burns (Mogwai), Robert Johnston (Life Without Buildings), King Creosote and Malcolm Middleton.

Saturday 4 February | 8pm | £8 on the door 

RESIDENCY/PERFORMANCE – ONE MAN UNIT – Paul Wiersbinski and Wieland Schönfelder

ONE MAN UNIT is a hybrid of man and sculpture. Through a variety of outputs, audiences are invited to interact with and experience the spontaneous and unexpected developments of this creative beast, as it evolves during the artists’ two-week residency at Peacock.
You can follow the construction of this half man half machine via their daily blog on Peacock’s Facebook page. The ONE MAN UNIT will then be let loose on the public on two occasions:

Saturday 28 January – Friday 10 February

– Note: Aberdeen Voice updates Peacock info periodically, but there may be recently added events not included in this post. Please contact Peacock direct for the latest information.

Peacock Visual Arts
21 Castle Street
Aberdeen
AB11 5BQ
Tel: 01224 639539
Mob: 07947 490626
e: kylie@peacockvisualarts.co.uk
Website: www.peacockvisualarts.com
Online Print Store: www.peacockvisualarts.culturelabel.com

Nov 252011
 

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look at the week that was in Aberdeen and beyond and concludes that this is no country for old men (nor for old women, people with special abilities, school children and infants or animals either).

Old Susannah has been busy this past week.  There was an excellent two-day conference at Fyvie Castle.  The speakers seemed to believe our heritage, buildings, archaeology and environment are being affected by something they called ‘climate change’. Hard to believe, but some of these speakers think that our weather and climate are changing.

I’ve no idea why they would come to such a conclusion.  There was some person from the Met Office (whatever that is), who seems to think a case can be made for climate change because he has statistics that show it’s happening now.

Stranger still, he thinks this climate change might be somehow linked to people burning lots of ‘fossil fuel’.  If anyone hears any news about this unlikely story, please let me know.

The general thrust of the conference was that our ancient buildings are under moisture and temperature stresses they’ve not faced before, and many are at risk of actually crumbling.  Something called ‘Skara Brae’ in the Orkneys might get washed out to sea before long.

This would not be a huge loss. As far as I can see, it just a bunch of old stones.  The site is crying out for a nice high rise building, holiday homes, shops and parking – if not a monolith and a giant glass worm.  As to our wildlife, seasons are getting wetter and warmer, affecting growth and breeding cycles.  This is no time to be a bird of prey (or any other type of wild creature either.  Just don’t mention deer).

Despite the fact these animals are protected, we still have people who poison, shoot, and loot eggs.  Mixed with the changing seasons and related change in availability of food, things look rather bad for these creatures.

This two-day course was run at Fyvie Castle by the Scottish Traditional Building Skills Centre, an organisation which trains people (of all abilities) in the skills needed to maintain our historic built heritage.  The Traditional Skills people seem to think preserving Scotland’s historic buildings and monuments is a worthwhile thing to do.  (If certain local developers have their way, this centre won’t be needed much longer).

Further information is available on their website:
http://www.traditionalskills.com/

We must have skilled craftspeople in future who can ensure the glass worm/teletubbieland, concrete ramps, etc.  will remain beautiful, as I’m sure they will be when they are built.

I couldn’t help going away from the conference thinking what I’d do if I had £50 million burning a hole in my pocket.  It might involve a little bit of BrewDog, but it would not involve getting rid of listed trees to build a carpark with decorative worm.

It would have been very hard for staff to figure out that this frail woman had a wound so deep you could see her bone

I was glad of the two-day course and its speakers, if for no other reason than there’s not much else going on in the wider world for me to write about this week.  I think I heard something about an American policeman offering some protesters a peppery snack treat, and there may be one or two minor problems in Europe and the Middle East.

I also get the feeling that there might be some financial issues concerning our European economic paradise.  Other than that, I’ve not much to say just now.

Close to home, news these past few weeks has been short on happy endings.  For one thing, the Monolith was not shortlisted as a Union Terrace Garden design.  But looking through recent news items, I conclude this is no country for old men.  Or old women, women, people with special abilities, school children and infants.  And this is definitely no country for animals.

For example take the case of 87 year-old Jamesina Mackenzie who died from a bedsore which became so exposed you could see the bone.  This didn’t happen in the ‘dark’ or middle ages; it’s just happened.

So let’s move on to a definition or two.

Bedsore: (compound noun, English) A type of pressure sore caused by the sufferer lying prone in one position without movement over time.  A wholly avoidable type of ailment.

The owner of the Highland ‘care home’ where Ms Mackenzie suffered with the sore that killed her told an inquiry into the death that his staff ‘did the best they could’.   According to this  manager, the problem was that ‘…there had been some errors in staff’s record keeping’.  What would have been the result if they were negligent or slacked off, Old Susannah wonders.

I was glad to hear the staff did the best they could.  After all, paperwork can be pretty heavy going.  It would have been very hard for staff to figure out that this frail woman, who must have been in excruciating pain, had a wound so deep you could see her bone.  You would have to have some kind of medical background to work that out.

Older people are always happy to sell up their own homes

My granny had been head nurse of a hospital in Massachusetts.  The old-fashioned, primitive way to prevent bedsores was to encourage movement and if necessary, actually help people to move.

This hospital was very inefficient in that it had more nurses and doctors than managers.  Far too much money was spent on patients’ food, and far too much time was spent on actually caring for people.  I’ll bet the place didn’t even have a good profit margin.

Care Home(compound noun, English) a residential institution dedicated to long-term care offering rest and re-cooperation of infirm people, usually elderly.

‘Care home’ – the word even sounds warm, safe and snug.  The problem is running these homes costs money which could be put to other use.  Older people are always happy to sell up their own homes so they will be able to afford a care home of the type which looked after Ms Mackenzie so well.

Saving money and keeping a home in order to have something to leave to your children is so passe.  Sure you might get one or two dozen stories a month about older, frail people being abused in care homes, but who are you going to believe – them and their relatives, or the highly-paid (sorry – highly-trained) caring staff who run these places for profit.

Since most regional authorities and councils decided to ‘outsource’ their care responsibilities, there may have been a few minor hiccups or injuries and deaths.  But outsourcing is here to stay.

Still our City council knows best, and despite the collapse of a major private care home operator, Aberdeen is still looking into privatising more of its homes.  Which leads me to a definition I might have already done, but seems to need updating.

Outsourcing: (noun; modern English) To take a service or operation away from its parent/owner and have it run by a third party.

We are desperate to save money in Aberdeen (those portraits and jeans for the Lord Provost don’t pay for themselves, you know) and in order to do so, we are giving our money to consultants.  The totally impartial consultants come in and look at your business.  They decide which services should be outsourced, and then the money saving starts instantly.

clearly they just want to give the best care possible to your grandparents or children.

Coincidentally, they often want to outsource the same services that they are able to provide.  Old Susannah has yet to hear of a consultancy saying ‘let’s hire more people so we can run things better and have nicer schools and care homes’.

This just proves that the consultancies are impartial businesses which have to make tough choices.  It must be very hard for them indeed.

After the consultants have been paid a modest sum for their expertise, the city fires/lets go/lays off its existing staff who initially performed the services.  That’s a saving right there in salary expense.  In the case of childcare or nursing homes, this may upset the clients initially (the word ‘client’ as used by the City is an old, infirm or young human being to the rest of us).

The ‘clients’ may lose any relationship they’ve built up with their previous carers, but never mind.  If you play your cards right, you might even fire enough people to pay part of the consultant’s bill.

The economics of outsourcing get greater for the city involved.  Now that they are no longer providing a non-profit service with taxpayer money, they turn the taxpayer money over to people who exist to make a profit.  It might seem as if these private operators would cut a corner or two to make money, but clearly they just want to give the best care possible to your grandparents or children.

In the old days you might have thought the purpose of paying tax was so that the government could provide you the services you needed, but which were not designed to be money-making businesses.  If we read the odd case of an older person abused (or given a salt shaker instead of an asthma inhaler as happened recently), then that’s the breaks.  The other breaks often involve bones.

Thankfully in these modern, enlightened times, we realise that making money is more important than anything else.  Including poor Mrs Mackenzie and the other stories that don’t make the paper.

Stop Press!  Aberdeen City Council has approved its budget! Read all about it here in this unbiased City Council report:  
http://www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/CouncilNews/ci_cns/pr_budgetrevcap_100211.asp

It’s all central government’s fault for not giving us lots more dosh.  This might be in part because we waste so much of the stuff on monolith research, portraits and so on, but hey.  You will I’m sure be happy to know that only a few hundred posts will either go unfilled (keeps the existing staff busy covering lots of jobs – they enjoy it) or will go altogether.

Re-roofing an unfit building makes as much sense as anything else going on here

We’re holding on to teaching assistants, which is interesting because we’ll be cutting expensive, boring music and art lessons for children.  If you don’t have time to visit the city’s website, then just rest assured of one thing:  the 50 metre swimming pool is still very much in the cards.  Result!

We may pay for it from the Common Good Fund (remember the good old days when this was c. £35 million? Things have changed).  To help balance the books, it looks as if Tullos Swimming Pool will stay shut.

Old Susannah is told that it recently had brand new lights installed, and its roof is brand new.  Which is odd, because the city now say the building is unstable.  Re-roofing an unfit building makes as much sense as anything else going on here.

Consultants have also produced a brilliant 10 page report (took about a year to do, as you can imagine), showing that Aberdeen has many more swimming pools per population than other parts of Scotland.  Of course these consultants counted in all the pools we’ve got:  Ardoe, Palm Court, etc. etc.  I guess the families of Torry will just have to hop into their BMWs and pay to swim for a day at a hotel pool once Tullos is gone.

Still, we’ll have saved money, and we may eventually produce a swimmer who may win a shiny medal.  If Aberdeen wins an Olympic medal in a few decades, we’ll all agree it’s been worth it.

Oct 142011
 

With thanks to Kylie Roux.

Exhibitions:

The Black And White Show – Various Artists
Preview Friday 9 September, 6 – 8pm, all welcome!

A monochromatic medley of prints. Enzo Mari, Mike Giant, Scottie Wilson, John Byrne, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Donald Urquhart, Adam Bridgland, David Shrigley, Kenny Hunter, Rob Churm, John Bellany, Jock Mooney, Shepard Fairey and Alan Davie. Not to be missed.
Exhibition runs 10 September – 22 October 2011

Inchoate Landscapes – Toby Paterson
Preview Friday 9 September, 6 – 8pm, all welcome!
Toby Paterson’s Inchoate Landscapes draws around his newly completed suite of seven prints, creating an exhibition that sets them in the broader context of his practice and interest in the built environment.
Exhibition runs 10 September – 22 October 2011

Events:

Peacock @ Multiplied Art Fair, London
Friday 14 – Monday 18 October –  Christie’s South Kensington, London 

Peacock are one of only 40 galleries from around the world that are going to be exhibiting at this the UK’s first and only fair devoted exclusively to Contemporary Art in Editions, Multiplied Art Fair at Christie’sPeacock will be showcasing Inchoate Landscapes, a new seven-piece suite of prints by award winning artist Toby Paterson, as well as works by Kenny Hunter, Donald Urquhart and Adam Bridgland all recently completed in our printmaking workshops. 
Opening Hours –  Fri & Mon 9am-5pm, Sat & Sun 11am-6pm.

FREE entry – all welcome!

IMP Presents SOUND @ PVA
Fri 28 – Sun 30 October (Fri 7.30 – 11pm, Sat and Sun 3.30 – 11pm)

A festival within a festival. Not so much boutique as ‘guest house’.

Some of the best new music in Scotland (and some from further afield) over 3 days in the intimate surroundings of our gallery.  
Tickets available from One-Up Records (01224 642662)
& Aberdeen Box Office 01224 641122/ 
boxofficeaberdeen.com

Hurricane Lamb at Duff House
Ongoing until  31 October at Duff House, Banff.

Hurricane Lamb is a collaborative project from Gray’s School of Art (RGU) and Peacock Visual Arts. Inspired by Duff House and its history, the exhibition features new work by Michael Agnew, Andrew Cranston, David McCracken, Georgia Russell, Lennox Dunbar, Paul Housley, and Donald Urquhart.
Exhibition runs until 31 October 2011

 Get Creative:

Peacock VIsual Arts – Summer Animation Classes
October 12, 19 | 10 – 4pm | age 10+ | £35/session

Ever wondered how Wallace and Gromit move? Or what makes Pingu go?
Well this summer we’re planning some animation workshops to show you just that!
Each class is £35 and a one off – but if you’re keen to keep coming back, you’re more than welcome to book on as many as you like!
Call 01224 639539 for more information or to book a place.

Open Submissions – The Winter Exhibition at PVA
It’s back! After a 2 year break, we would once again like to invite artists to submit work for the Christmas show. Previous years proved to be hugely popular, attracting many visitors and making it is a fantastic opportunity to have your work seen. And this year there are prizes on offer so even more reason to submit. Visit www.peacockvisualarts.com for more details.
Submission deadline Saturday 5 November 2011

Note: Aberdeen Voice updates Peacock info periodically, but there may be recently added events not included in this post. Please contact Peacock direct for the latest information.

Peacock Visual Arts
21 Castle Street
Aberdeen
AB11 5BQ
Tel: 01224 639539
Mob: 07947 490626
Sep 122011
 

With thanks to Kylie Roux.

Exhibitions:

The Black And White Show – Various Artists
Preview Friday 9 September, 6 – 8pm, all welcome!

A monochromatic medley of prints. Enzo Mari, Mike Giant, Scottie Wilson, John Byrne, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Donald Urquhart, Adam Bridgland, David Shrigley, Kenny Hunter, Rob Churm, John Bellany, Jock Mooney, Shepard Fairey and Alan Davie. Not to be missed.
Exhibition runs 10 September – 22 October 2011

Inchoate Landscapes – Toby Paterson
Preview Friday 9 September, 6 – 8pm, all welcome!
Toby Paterson’s Inchoate Landscapes draws around his newly completed suite of seven prints, creating an exhibition that sets them in the broader context of his practice and interest in the built environment.
Exhibition runs 10 September – 22 October 2011

Events:

Hurricane Lamb at Duff House
Ongoing until  31 October at Duff House, Banff.

Hurricane Lamb is a collaborative project from Gray’s School of Art (RGU) and Peacock Visual Arts. Inspired by Duff House and its history, the exhibition features new work by Michael Agnew, Andrew Cranston, David McCracken, Georgia Russell, Lennox Dunbar, Paul Housley, and Donald Urquhart.
Exhibition runs until 31 October 2011  

Get Creative:

Peacock VIsual Arts – Summer Animation Classes
October 12, 19 | 10 – 4pm | age 10+ | £35/session

Ever wondered how Wallace and Gromit move? Or what makes Pingu go?
Well this summer we’re planning some animation workshops to show you just that! Each class is £35 and a one off – but if you’re keen to keep coming back, you’re more than welcome to book on as many as you like!
Call 01224 639539 for more information or to book a place.

Open Submissions – The Winter Exhibition at PVA
It’s back! After a 2 year break, we would once again like to invite artists to submit work for the Christmas show. Previous years proved to be hugely popular, attracting many visitors and making it is a fantastic opportunity to have your work seen. And this year there are prizes on offer so even more reason to submit. Visit www.peacockvisualarts.com for more details.
Submission deadline Saturday 5 November 2011
Etching Weekend Workshop
17 + 18 September | 10 – 4.30pm | £130/95 conc.

Learn the techniques and processes involved in the traditional art of etching. No experience required.
Call 01224 639539 for more information and to book a place.

Bookbinding Weekend Workshop
24 + 25 September | 10 – 4.30pm | £130/95 conc.

Learn how to create your own hand-crafted notebooks and journals that make colourful and unusual gifts. No experience required.
Call 01224 639539 for more information and to book a place.

Note: Aberdeen voice updates Peacock info periodically, but there may be recently added events not included in this post. Please contact Peacock direct for the latest information

Peacock Visual Arts
21 Castle Street
Aberdeen
AB11 5BQ
Tel: 01224 639539
Mob: 07947 490626
Sep 082011
 

With Thanks to Dave Macdermid.

In conjunction with this year’s Enchanted Castle event at Crathes Castle, which will run from Wednesday 23rd to Sunday 27th November, there are a number of fantastic prizes up for grabs in a new digital photography competition which is launched today. The competition is open to two age groups, namely 15 and under, and 16 and over.
You can enter both competitions online, via a link on Carlton Resource Solutions Ltd’s website at www.carltonrs.com/castle  and all entries for both categories will be visible so entrants can weigh up their competition!

The theme of the competition is ‘The North East’s Natural Beauty’ and, as Gerry Muldoon from EC organisers GM Events outlines, this can encompass a wide range of subject matter.

“Entries can be anything from landscape shots to wildlife or even the sky at night, the only prerequisite being that the image can be sent digitally.

“The winners will be  selected by Logan Sangster of Deeside Photographics in early November. 

The photographs will be on display throughout the five days of the Enchanted Castle at the Milton Gallery in Crathes and at Crathes Restaurant.  Huge thanks are due to recruitment specialist, Carlton Resource Solutions Ltd, the lead sponsor of the Enchanted Castle, for co-ordinating the photo competition and also to the organisations that have donated fantastic prizes for the winners.” 

Prizes for the senior competition include a family meal at The Milton Restaurant, an overnight stay at the Raemoir House Hotel and a £250 voucher for Deeside Photographics for a full family portrait.

The  organisers hope to see local schools getting involved and for everyone to delight in the region’s top photography talent and share their entries with their friends and family. Among the prizes for the junior competition is a new digital camera, courtesy of GM Events and family membership to the National Trust for Scotland.

The Enchanted Castle event itself will see the grounds of Crathes Castle transformed thanks to cutting edge light and sound technology and stunning choreographed effects, moods and backdrops that will be a ‘must’ for family members of all ages. 

An evening walk will take place in a truly magical ambience, and a host of complementary, themed attractions including storytelling sessions, fire breathers and jugglers, magicians and children’s enchanted craft activities, will all add much to the magical experience.

Tickets for the November event are now on sale at:
Aberdeen Box Office,
Music Hall,
Union Street,
Tel 01224 641122
www.boxofficeaberdeen.com
– and at:
www.nts.org.uk

Inclusive tickets for all the attractions cost £10 for adults, £8 concessions, £5 for Under 16’s and free for Under 5’s. Ample free car parking is available at Crathes Castle.
Full details can be found on  www.theenchantedcastle.info

In addition to Carlton Resource Solutions as headline sponsor, Scottish Enterprise, Aberdeenshire Council, Rural Aberdeenshire LEADER Programme, EventScotland, Royal Deeside and the Cairngorms DMO have all assisted in ensuring the Enchanted Castle will be one of the winter’s major events in the area.

Aug 042011
 

Continuing on from Part Two of Blood Feud, Voice’s Alex Mitchell offers the final tranche of his account of Scotland’s troubled and violent history.  Last week Alex looked at how the fortunes of Clan Gordon changed in the turbulent times of Mary, Queen of Scots.  In the concluding part religious and political tensions erupt, James succeeds Mary, and the ancient clan feuds continue.

Lord James Stewart, Earl of Moray, became the first of four Reformation Regents.   He later became known as the “Good Regent Moray”, not least in contrast with his successors.   He was much better equipped for the responsibilities of kingship than was Mary Stuart, but, being of illegitimate birth, was ruled out of the succession.

He could attain kingly power only by becoming Regent for the infant James VI, which meant that Mary had to be removed, one way or another; and Mary, now widely denounced as an adulteress, a French/Papist whore and a husband-killer, had already self-destructed.

 But Moray himself was assassinated in Linlithgow in January 1570, aged 39, having been Regent for less than three years.

Normal hostilities were resumed.   An attempt had been made to end the ancient feud between the Gordons and the Forbeses by means of a marriage between the Master of Forbes and Lady Margaret Gordon, sister to the 5th Earl Huntly.   But the union was a failure, ending in divorce, and relations were more embittered than ever.   Following a running fight at Tillyangus near Alford in 1571, the Master of Forbes went south to look for allies.

Whilst he was away, the troops of Sir Adam Gordon, the victor of Tillyangus, attacked Corgarff Castle with the intention of claiming it for the deposed Queen of Scots.   Meeting with firm resistance, Gordon set the castle ablaze, and Margaret Forbes, being the wife of Forbes of Towie, and her children and servants, amounting to 24 persons, all perished in the flames.   This was a conspicuously dreadful deed, even by the standards of those times.

Infuriated to the point of madness by the cruelty of this act, the Master of Forbes lost no time in pursuit of his enemy.   He now had the support of the new Regent, the Earl of Mar.  

Forbes advanced northwards to Aberdeen.  

The Burgh was occupied by the Gordons, who received intelligence of Forbes’ approach and positioned themselves near what is now the top of the Hardgate, where it crosses Bon-Accord Terrace, whilst a party of musketeers were hidden in the hollow a little further west, now called Union Glen.   These last were instructed to wait until battle commenced, then to attack the Forbeses from the rear.

The conflict, since known as the Battle of the Crabstane, on 20 November 1571, lasted about an hour.   Finding themselves under attack from both front and rear, the Forbeses were thrown into confusion and were forced to withdraw, defeated, leaving some 60 persons dead and the Master of Forbes a prisoner of the Gordons of Huntly.

For the next 18 months,Aberdeenwas the base of Sir Adam Gordon’s operations in support of the captive Mary Stuart, held prisoner by her cousin Elizabeth Tudor for some twenty years until her (Mary’s) execution in 1587.

the last of the four Reformation Regents, the Earl of Morton, took a hostile attitude to the citizens of Aberdeen

Sir Adam Gordon subsequently fled toFrance, but only narrowly escaped an assassination attempt by the Forbeses whilst in Paris.   Gordon had been given 600 merks to leave Aberdeen, which was by now shifting away from its traditional reliance on the (Catholic) Earls of Huntly in favour of the (Protestant) Earls Marischal, to whose stronghold at Dunnottar Castle the Burgh’s title-deeds were sent for safe keeping in 1572.

But the last of the four Reformation Regents, the Earl of Morton, took a hostile attitude to the citizens of Aberdeen, whom he regarded as “art and part” of both the Gordon Rising and the Battle of the Crabstane.   In 1574, he imposed a fine of 4,000 merks on the Burgh and demanded assurances that, henceforward, the Burgh would be ruled by sincere adherents of the Reformed faith, which, in principle, would have ruled out both the Gordons and their long-standing associates, the Menzies family of Pitfodels.

The Battle of the Crabstane was so-called because there lay nearby a large stone, irregularly square in shape, known as the Crab Stane, which relates to an Aberdeen mercantile family descended from John Crab, a 14th Century baillie of Flemish origin.   Not far off was a longer, more slender stone, appropriately named the Lang Stane.   The two stones may have been march-stones (or boundary stones) from their Crabstone Croft.   It may be that the stones were once part of a stone circle.

They provided the names for two streets now in the neighbourhood, Langstane Place and Craibstone Street.   The Lang Stane may be seen at the east end of Langstane Place, i.e., at the south-east corner of the first house in Dee Street.   The Crab Stone abuts upon the pavement on the south side of the Hardgate near where it crosses Bon-Accord Terrace, close to where the battle between the Gordons and Forbeses took place in 1571.

The ongoing feud between the Gordons and the Stewarts flared up again in 1592 with the sensationally brutal murder at his mother’s house at Donnibristle near Culross of James Stewart, the 2nd Earl of Moray, son-in-law of the late Regent Moray, by George Gordon (1562-1636), the 6th Earl of Huntly.

Moray’s mother had a portrait painted of her son’s mutilated body, the famous ‘Death Portrait’, which depicts the ‘Bonny Earl o’ Moray’ as having been shot several times, hacked about the body and slashed twice across the face by sword.   The situation was that King James VI had asked Huntly to arrest the troublesome 5th Earl of Bothwell (nephew of Mary Stuart’s Bothwell) and his associates, of whom Moray was one.

There was some evidence of a ‘hit-list’ of the King’s enemies.   Certainly the King took no action against Huntly, who was never brought to trial, and in fact received a Royal Pardon a week after the murder.

However, after Huntly and his ally Francis Hay, the 9th Earl of Erroll, attempted a Catholic rebellion in 1594, King James felt obliged, for the sake of appearances, to have their castles at Strathbogie and (Old) Slains blown up; and Huntly and Erroll were forced to depart Scotland for France.   But they were soon pardoned and back home, and in 1599 King James promoted George Gordon to the rank of 1st Marquess of Huntly and the major responsibility of Lieutenant of the North.

Unlike his mother, Mary Stuart, King James knew who his real friends were, and kept them close, to the occasional extent of letting them get away with murder.   The Gordons had come through ‘interesting times’ and had survived, but they were never again to be as ‘gey’ as in the glory days of George Gordon, the 4th Earl of Huntly.

Contributed by Alex Mitchell.

Jul 292011
 

Continuing on from Part One of Blood Feud, Voice’s Alex Mitchell offers up yet another slice of Scotland’s troubled and violent history.  Last week Alex looked at The Gordon, Forbes and Stewart Families in the Time of Mary Queen of Scots and King James VI  This week we see how the fortunes of Clan Gordon changes in the turbulent times of Mary, Queen of Scots. 

The Gordons, for their part, held back until the Earl of Huntly was ‘put to the horn’ or outlawed and rendered fugitive on a trumped-up charge of refusing to answer a summons from the Protestant-dominated Privy Council, of which he was still a member.

Huntly marched towards Aberdeenwith a force of about 1,000 men, almost all of them Gordon kinsfolk and dependents; no other gentry families joined his campaign to ‘rescue’ the Queen.

He mistakenly believed that many of the Queen’s troops would join his side.

He took up a commanding position on the Hill of Fare, near Banchory, but his men melted away.   His troops, now reduced to about 500, were assailed by some 2,000 men under the command of the Earls of Moray, Morton and Athole, and were forced down on to the swampy field next to the Corrichie Burn.
The Earl of Huntly, aged 50, corpulent and in poor health, and suffocated by his heavy armour, suffered a heart attack or stroke, and dropped down off his horse, dead.

Huntly’s body was thrown over a pony and taken to Aberdeen, where it was put in the Tolbooth and gutted, salted and pickled.   The body was then taken by sea to Edinburgh, where it was given a more comprehensive embalming.   After lying unburied in the Abbey of Holyrood for some six months, the mummified corpse of the one-time Cock o’ the North was brought in its coffin before the Scottish Parliament on29 May 1563 on a charge of  High Treason.

The coffin was opened and propped up on end so that the deceased Earl could stand trial and ‘hear’ the charges against him.

Those present included the Queen and Huntly’s eldest son George, himself under sentence of death, later repealed.   A sentence of forfeiture was passed, stripping the Gordons of all their lands and possessions, which reverted to the Crown and were redistributed amongst favourites, not least the Earl of Moray.

The Gordon armorial bearings were struck from the Herald’s Roll and the once-great dynasty was reduced to “insignificance and beggary”.   Huntly’s body lay unburied in Holyrood for another three years until21 April 1566, when it was finally returned to Strathbogie and interred at Elgin Cathedral.

It has to be said that Mary’s behaviour at this time makes little sense.

Two days after the Battle of Corrichie, Huntly’s son, young Sir John Gordon, aged 24, was ineptly beheaded in front of the Tolbooth inAberdeen, to the visible distress of Queen Mary, who was in residence just across the Castlegate and was seen to observe the proceedings from an upstairs window.

It had been rumoured that the Queen and Sir John Gordon were lovers, although this is unlikely given that Mary was constantly under the guard of the Protestant Lords.   They had achieved their twin purposes of destroying the Gordons of Huntly, the leading Catholic family inScotland, and of reassuring those Protestant Reformers suspicious of the Queen’s own Catholic leanings.

It has to be said that Mary’s behaviour at this time makes little sense.   She was a devout and observing Catholic herself, yet she acquiesced in the legalised persecution of fellow-Catholics and the forfeiture and redistribution of their land and property.

The assumption has to be that she was not in control of events, partly because she was young and inexperienced and was disorientated by her return to Scotland, a country she had departed for France at the age of five; but also because she was fatally uninterested in the processes and responsibilities of government, seldom attending meetings of her own Privy Council at Holyrood.   The judicial destruction of the Gordons of Huntly meant that Mary Stuart had lost her most substantial and dependable base of support, and put her thereafter in the grip of her political and religious enemies.

Mary Queen of Scots was made, probably unlawfully, to abdicate her throne on 24 July 1567, in favour of her infant son James, born 19 June 1566, by her second husband (and cousin) Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, from whom she was already irretrievably estranged.   Mary’s effective reign had lasted just six years, and was over before she reached the age of 25.

The birth of a male heir to the throne meant that she had served her purpose, was now surplus to requirements and was in any case by this time dangerously out of control, having fallen under the destructive influence of James Hepburn (1535-78), the widely-detested 4th Earl of Bothwell, a Protestant, but intensely hostile to England.

The Queen’s remaining authority was destroyed by the sensational murder of her husband Darnley, not yet 22 years of age, at Kirk o’ Field on10 February 1567.   Bothwell was instantly identified as prime suspect and the Queen as obviously complicit, an accessory, having gone to great lengths to seduce Darnley away from the protection of his Lennox Stewart relations in Glasgow and back to Edinburgh.

But how much did Mary really know?   She would not have stayed overnight in the house at Kirk o’ Field, just inside the Edinburgh city walls, only two miles from Holyrood, if she had known that its foundations were being stuffed with gunpowder.   To the end of her life, Mary Stuart was convinced that the plot had been to blow up her and Darnley together.   This is unlikely, given that the explosion, which literally blew the house sky-high, took place after Mary had left Kirk o’ Field for Holyrood, which most people took to mean that Mary must have been party to the plot to murder Darnley.

But was she? And which plot? Or whose plot?

No-one as unpopular as Darnley was going to survive very long in 16th centuryScotland; but why murder him in such a sensational, attention-grabbing manner, when he could have been quietly dispatched back at Holyrood?   Whatever the case, the ensuing scandal was hugely compounded by Mary’s subsequent marriage to Bothwell (in a Protestant church) on 15 May 1567.

Prior to all this, on 8 October 1565, Mary had restored George Gordon, the eldest surviving son of the 4th Earl of Huntly, to most of his father’s titles, including that of Lord High Chancellor, and some part of his former lands and property.   This was little more than two years after the deceased 4th Earl had been found guilty of High Treason, his son George imprisoned and put under sentence of death, and his entire family reduced to “insignificance and beggary”.

Mary was presumably trying to rebuild her support in the North-East, but it was too little, too late.   On top of everything else, the 5th Earl’s sister, Lady Jean Gordon, had made the mistake of marrying the Earl of Bothwell at Holyrood on24 February 1566.   She was cruelly thrown aside and divorced within the year in order that Bothwell could marry his Queen.

Coming in Part 3:   Alex Mitchell analyzes the changes sweeping through all aspects of Scottish life – dynasties rise and fall, clans battle for power and dominance, and religious conflicts dominate.

 

 

Jul 222011
 

Voice’s Alex Mitchell offers up yet another slice of Scotland’s troubled and violent history in the first part of Blood Feud: The Gordon, Forbes and Stewart Families in the Time of Mary Queen of Scots and King James VI

Following the death of her first husband, King Francis II of France in December 1560, the young Mary Queen of Scots, born 8 December 1542, resolved to return to Scotland.

Whilst still in France, she was visited by a deputation of Scottish Catholics, headed by her cousin, George Gordon, the 4th Earl of Huntly (1514-62). They entreated her to land at Aberdeen, where she was promised an army of 20,000 men under the leadership of Huntly himself, ready to protect her and convey her in triumph to Edinburgh. This would almost certainly have led to civil war between Catholic and Protestant factions in Scotland.

Instead, Mary chose to take the advice of her post-Reformation Parliament. She landed at Leith on 19 August 1561, and thereafter depended on the support and advice of her half-brother Lord James Stewart (1531-70), the illegitimate son of King James V and Margaret Erskine.

His two fixed principles were his support of, firstly, the Protestant Reformation of 1560, which sought to displace and abolish the Catholic religion, and secondly, closer relations with England rather than with England’s enemies France and Spain.

To these ends, Lord James insisted that Mary, herself a devout Catholic, should respect the Reformation and defer to ‘moderate’ Protestant opinion rather than that of Catholic Earls, such as Huntly and Erroll. In return, Lord James would use his contacts in England to secure from Queen Elizabeth recognition of Mary’s claim to be her legitimate successor. Mary was a grand-daughter of Margaret Tudor, elder sister to King Henry VIII, whose six wives between them produced only three surviving children, Mary, Elizabeth and Edward, none of whom had any children of their own.

Lord James Stewart favoured a middle way in religious matters, acceptable to mainstream opinion in England.

He tried to fend off the more radical Presbyterian reformers like John Knox, who intimidated the Episcopal Church of England. Similarly, he set out to crush unrepentant Catholics like the powerful George Gordon, 4th Earl Huntly, The Cock o’ the North, whose opposition was substantially based on his justified resentment of Lord James himself.

Mary’s elevation of Lord James to the vacant earldom of Mar in 1562, which he then resigned in favour of the earldom of Moray in 1563, both of which had been effectively under the control of the Gordons of Huntly, obviously threatened that family’s long-standing domination of North East Scotland. Moray then, of course, was a much larger territory than it is now. Lord James, for his part, was fearful of the stated intention of Sir John Gordon, Huntly’s violent and unstable third son, to marry the 19 year-old Queen Mary. That he was already married seemed not to concern him.

Aberdeen regularly paid the more powerful and aggressive of the local gentry families large sums of money  

The Gordons had ruled the North East like provincial kings for about 250 years, having been granted the lands of Strathbogie by Robert the Bruce in 1307. They were an enormous kindred, with cadet branches throughout the North East, and prolific; George, the 4th Earl, had nine sons and three daughters.

The original expression the Gey Gordons (note spelling) is a reference to this sense of the House of Gordon as being literally overwhelming, unforgiving and dangerous. They were also rich, and lived like princes; the 4th Earl rebuilt Huntly Castle as a splendid Renaissance palace. He had been created Lord High Chancellor in 1546, being a trusted supporter of Mary’s redoubtable French mother, Mary of Guise, who ruled Scotland as Queen-Regent from sometime after the death of her husband King James V in 1542, until her own death in 1560.

At a time when Aberdeen regularly paid the more powerful and aggressive of the local gentry families large sums of money in the hope that they might then leave the Burgh alone, the Gordons were undoubtedly the family to have on your side – rich, numerous, widespread, possessed of great political influence and close to the Throne. Hence the close relationship between the (burgess) Menzies family of Aberdeen and the (gentry) Gordons of Huntly, to the occasional extent of inter-marriage. In fact, in 1545, Thomas Menzies resigned as Provost to allow George Gordon, 4th Earl Huntly, to succeed him, albeit for a period of only two years.   George Gordon was the only Peer of the Realm ever to be Provost of Aberdeen.

There was intense hostility between the Gordon and Forbes families and their respective allies, the feud extending over some 200 years.

The Forbeses, as one of the few authentically Celtic of the twelve main land-owning families in Aberdeenshire, resented Norman-French incomers such as the Gordons, Hays, Burnets, Bissets, Frasers and Keiths.

They were now Protestant, and allied to the Ogilvies, with whom the Gordons were in a separate dispute. These were violent times.

In 1527, Alexander Seton of Meldrum, an ally of the Gordons, was murdered by the Master of Forbes in Provost Menzies’ house in the Castlegate. A Commission was appointed, but it reached no conclusion.

As described, Huntly and his allies had expected the young Queen’s support for their proposed Catholic uprising against the Reformation, to commence in Aberdeen. He and Mary were cousins, both being grandchildren of King James IV. But the Queen withheld her support.

In August 1562, Mary toured the North East in the safe keeping of the Protestant Lords of Moray, Morton and Maitland. They went out of their way to insult and provoke the Gordons, snubbing their invitation to visit Huntly Castle. The Royal party feared, with some reason, that the Gordons planned to capture the Queen, murder her Protestant minders and forcibly marry Mary to young Sir John Gordon.

On 27 August, the Queen’s party, returning from Inverness, reached the Kirktoun of Aberdon, lodging at the Bishop’s Palace in the Chanonry – the Bishop of Aberdeen remained in post for a good twenty years after the Reformation. In Aberdeen itself, the Queen was warmly received by Provost Thomas Menzies but, perhaps significantly, was accommodated in Earl Marischal’s Hall on the south side of the Castlegate, and not in the adjacent Pitfodel’s Lodging.   Around this time, Lord James Stewart married Agnes Keith, daughter of the Protestant 1st Earl Marischal.

Alex’s insight to those turbulent times and bitter familial relationships will continue in future editions of Aberdeen Voice.