Aug 112017

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

Illyria stages an open-air performance of the Gilbert and Sullivan classic opera ‘The Mikado’ at The National Trust for Scotland’s Drum Castle, near Banchory.
Performed by a cast of 6 actor-singers accompanied by a musical director on keyboards, it is produced on a stage boasting a strikingly large and authentic Japanese torii gate.

Despite the reduction in scale not a word from WS Gilbert’s libretto is cut, nor a single note or harmony from Sir Arthur Sullivan’s score unsung.  

Running time is approximately two hours including an interval and spectators should wear appropriate outdoor wear, provide their own seating and are welcome to bring a picnic supper, with hot drinks and snacks available from the tea tent both pre-performance and during the interval.

Tickets are available from and are priced £17.50 for adults, £15.00 concession and £62.00 for families (2+2).

For more information about summer events at Drum Castle – and other National Trust for Scotland properties – visit

Event:           The Mikado
Date:            Sunday, 13 August 2017
Time:            Gates open 5pm, show starts 6.30pm.
Venue:          Drum Castle, Banchory, AB31 5EY
Price:            £15-17.50

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Jul 252017

With thanks to Eoin Smith, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR

The Jaguar Classic Show returns to Drum Castle on 30 July.

The annual Jaguar Classic Show returns to the National Trust for Scotland’s Drum Castle for the eighteenth time this July, and is sure to delight motoring enthusiasts across the north east of Scotland. The castle’s expansive south lawn will become home to some of the finest examples of Jaguar engineering and design in the country, courtesy of the Grampian arm of the Jaguar Enthusiasts’ Club.

This year the JEC will also be showcasing classic Daimler vehicles, which became part of the Jaguar family after the brand was bought in the early 1960s.

The motoring showcase will also feature performances by Inverurie Pipe Band and a raffle, with every penny raised going towards charity Friends of Anchor.

Entry to this popular event costs £4 for adults or £2 for concessions. Booking is not required, and National Trust for Scotland and National Trust members go free.

Visit for more information.

For more information about summer events at Drum Castle, Garden & Estate – and other National Trust for Scotland properties – visit

Event:   Jaguar Classic Show at Drum Castle
Date:    Sunday 30 July 2017
Time:    12noon-4.00pm
Venue:   Drum Castle, Garden & Estate,
Drumoak, By Banchory,
AB31 5EY

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Apr 012017

A guitar once owned by Hendrix has been put up for auction in Aberdeen, following a council hunt for heirs. Duncan Harley reports.

When council housing officer Dennis Potter was called to the home of a council tenant on Aberdeen’s Kincorth Housing Estate he thought that it would be simply a routine house clearance.

The elderly male who had lived there for over 30 years had passed away and, with no relatives on hand to see to his affairs, it fell to the council to clear the flat and prepare it for a new tenant.

“I was pleasantly surprised” said Dennis “to find that the place was clean and in good order.”

“It’s not unusual for us to enter a property where someone has died and find that they had perhaps not been coping during what may have been a difficult end of life period. But, in this case that was definitely not the case and our tenant had taken really good care of the property.”

Initially, the council had assumed that relatives would come forward to claim possessions and see to the estate, but after a three-year hunt for heirs no-one came forward.

“We knew that Mr Brown had no surviving friends in the locality” said Dennis “but we thought that maybe he had relatives somewhere who might have kept in touch.”

“But as his birthdays came and went, there were no cards, and even at Christmas the deceased only received a few begging letters from the likes of the Salvation Army and a charity specialising in promoting paintings made by limbless artists from North Korea.”

Eventually council bosses asked Dennis to dispose of the few possessions left by the tenant and an Aberdeen auction firm was asked to provide a valuation.

“We needed to cover the costs involved” says Dennis.

“There was a very small amount of outstanding rent, but on top of that there was the matter of the burial; and we felt we had a duty to recover what we could to protect the public purse.”

The valuation, however, far exceeded expectations, for in amongst the few possessions left by Mr Brown there was a guitar.

“I had assumed that it might be worth just a few pounds” said Dennis.

“I mean, it was badly scratched, the frets looked worn and the strings had seen better days. But you never know at auction since maybe someone is looking to get a real bargain.”

The auctioneers were initially unimpressed with the item and consigned it to the weekly general sale in expectation that it might be worth something to someone willing to restore the neglected instrument. However, and quite by chance, musicologist Jim Hawsworthy came to preview the lots for sale.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes” he said “at first I thought I was dreaming, but there right in front of me was a genuine Strattofaster!”

“I mean these instruments are the Stradivariuses of the guitar world. There are probably only around fourteen known examples worldwide, and this one is completely genuine.”

Seemingly Jimi Hendrix owned two of these instruments, but after his death aged 27 in September 1970, it emerged that one was unaccounted for.

In a strange twist, it transpired that Mr Brown had been drinking red wine with Marmalade stars Gary Farr and Jimmy Cregan, together with Eric Clapton at the Scotch of St James bar in Mayfair on the night of Hendrix’s death.

“When Jimi came in” said Clapton “he had no dosh and neither had the rest of us.”

“So we asked Bennie the roadie to bung us a few quid – just to keep the party going you understand. By that time the bar bill was astronomical and to be honest we were all a bit keen to get more wasted, so to calm Bennie Brown down, I suggested that we bung him a guitar as collateral. That’s how it all happened really. He was pleased as punch and went off strumming Jimi’s guitar.

“I know that ‘cause I was there. Or at least I think I was. That is until I awoke to find that Jimi had, well you know – gone off somewhere and died basically. Never forget that night really. What year is it today anyway?”

Be that as it may, the auction of the Hendrix Strattofaster takes place at Aberdeen Auction House on East Silver Street on April 1st with all proceeds going directly to the council.

The sales catalogue reads as follows:

LOT 405
Serial number CZ510969, maple tarnished finish, maple neck with skunk-stripe routing, red paper dot on back of headstock beside “Sandy Klaus Fender Custom Shop” transfer, twenty-two fret fingerboard with dot inlays, three pre-Vintage Noiseless pickups, three rotary controls, selector switch, tremolo/bridge tail block and white pick guard; and a black Harry Fender hard-shell bright-contour case with black plush lining and cream cloth sticker inscribed in hazy purple felt pen “Good luck Jimi from your good old pals Otis, Eric and Shanker” and tie on paper label inscribed on both sides in black felt pen “FENDER STRAT CZ510969 MAPLE  1”, one red and one green paper dot on two case latches.”

A reserve price of £2,500 has been placed on the item and international interest is expected.

Words and images © Duncan Harley
Additional reporting by April McGinty

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Feb 202015

Reviewed by Duncan Harley.


Daniel Betts as Atticus Finch in ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ at HM Theatre Aberdeen until Saturday 21st February.

“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird” says Miss Maudie in the 1960 Harper Lee classic.

In this, Christopher Sergel’s stage adaptation of the 55-year-old story, the central tenets of the novel, innocence and generosity, are well portrayed indeed.

From curtain rise to final bow, this production will delight theatre-goers and, crucially, fans of Harper Lee of all ages. It might even bring on a tear or three.

From the moment in Act One when the cast walk on stage, via the auditorium, the lights remain virtually undimmed; signalling to the audience that a degree of unbridled participation may be required.

Crucially, that participation does not require prior reading of the novel. All that is required is some attention and some imagination as the story unfolds.

Readings from the original novel are intertwined with the plot and the theatre-going audience is drawn seamlessly into small town Alabama in the steamy heat of the Depression-hit summer of 1933.

It takes but a few minutes to realise that this is a production like few others.

The set is almost bare aside from a few weathered chairs, some chalk-drawn town boundaries and an old rusted corrugated iron fence.

While novelist Harper Lee’s narrator Scout, played by leading lady Rosie Boore, swings on an old car tyre hung from the solitary tree in the Eastern corner of the yard, cast members recite extracts from time battered copies of the original novel.

This is the US Deep South at its most formidable. A place in time where racially-charged prejudice sits unmoving alongside a slow but inevitable force for reform. A story of injustice is about to be played out and only a very few could fail to be moved.

The tale is well known.

Local black man, Tom Robinson, played by Zackary Momoh of Holby City fame, is falsely accused of the rape of a white woman, and Scout’s dad, Atticus Finch, played by Daniel Betts, defends him despite the foregone conclusion of guilt due to simply being a “nigger”.


Daniel Betts as Atticus Finch. Credit: Johan Persson

Robinson is of course doomed, despite clear evidence that the accusers, Mayella Ewell and her father Bob, are lying.

Bob Ewell tries to exact revenge, imagining that he has been made a fool of, and is himself killed.

Scout embraces her father’s philosophy of sympathy and understanding despite her experiences of hatred and prejudice.

There is more. The story of Boo Radley, played by Christopher Akrill, for one; the riot scene where heroine Scout pours her childish innocence on the flame of the murderous intent of the townsfolk; plus of course the unrelenting sense of the injustice of it all.

The undoubted stars of the show are of course the child actors.

Scout’s childhood contemporaries Dill, played by Milo Panni, and Jem, played by William Price describe the unfolding drama.

Faultless, they excel. Alongside Atticus Finch, portrayed by Daniel Betts complete with round glasses and linen suit, they more than satisfy the (soon to be) legacy of Nelle Harper Lee.

For those of a critical nature, the English regional accents delivered via the actor readers of the narrative passages may be an issue, especially for those of us in Scotland. After all, this is a novel with a Yankee inner voice. Aside from that it is a faultless production.

Perhaps in a decade or so Harper Lee’s forthcoming sequel ‘Go Set a Watchman’ will be dramatised for theatre audiences. Meantime this Regent’s Park Open Air production is a must see.

In fact it would be a sin to miss it.

Directed by Timothy Sheader, ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ plays at HM Theatre Aberdeen until Saturday 21st February.

Tickets from Aberdeen Performing Arts  Tel: 01224- 641122

Images © Johan Persson

Words © Duncan Harley