Jul 282017

A leading sporting facility in Aberdeen will welcome the Queen’s Baton Relay this summer with a series of events celebrating the 2018 Commonwealth Games. With thanks to Yvette Rayner, PR Account Manager, Frasermedia.

Aberdeen Sports Village

Team Scotland has revealed an exciting five-day programme of events and celebrations which will be held around the country, to mark the visit of the Gold Coast 2018 Queen’s Baton Relay (QBR) on its global tour, ahead of next year’s Commonwealth Games in Australia, including a day of sporting events at Aberdeen Sports Village (ASV) on Thursday 24 August 2017.

In Scotland from 22-26 August 2017, the presence of the Baton will bring Gold Coast 2018 one step closer for athletes and supporters, as Team Scotland aims for its best ever medal haul at an overseas Games.

The Queen’s Baton Relay is a Games tradition that celebrates the Commonwealth’s diversity, inspires community pride and excites people about the world-class festival of sports and culture to come.

The Queen’s Baton carries a message from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II that calls the Commonwealth’s athletes to come together in peaceful and friendly competition.

Designed for each Games by the host nation, the 2018 Queen’s Baton has a distinctive loop design and has been made using macadamia wood and reclaimed plastic, sourced from Gold Coast waterways, and inspired by the region’s vibrant spirit and indigenous heritage.

With only five days in Scotland this year, compared to the extensive 42 day tour of the country in 2014 as Commonwealth Games hosts, the focus is on not just passing through, but spending quality time in each community it visits. The programme includes school and community events with a strong youth and sport theme, showcasing our rich heritage, links to Australia, The Commonwealth and a number of exciting Glasgow 2014 legacy projects.

Paul Bush OBE, chair, Commonwealth Games Scotland said:

“The Queen’s Baton Relay is an iconic symbol of the Commonwealth Games and we look forward to welcoming the Baton to Scotland next month. We have had tremendous enthusiasm and support from local authorities, schools and community groups across the country, helping to organise an exciting programme of events which will use the QBR to connect their communities with the Games and embrace the values of the Commonwealth movement as a whole.

“The public support Team Scotland enjoyed for Glasgow 2014 was phenomenal and I look forward to seeing that passion sparked once again, as the Baton’s journey through Scotland marks the final countdown to the 2018 Commonwealth Games. I hope everyone across the country will get behind the athletes vying for selection for the team and play their part in supporting them as they prepare to compete with distinction on the other side of the world next April.

Duncan Sinclair, CEO, Aberdeen Sports Village said:

“Everyone at ASV is looking forward to welcoming The Queen’s Baton Relay to Aberdeen. ASV is dedicated to offering sporting opportunities for everyone, helping people achieve their very best, so we are delighted to be a part of this exciting event warm up to the Commonwealth Games.

“ASV will be getting into the spirit of the Games with a wide variety of sporting activities for young pupils from schools across the city, culminating in an exciting Australian-themed high tea.”

A summary of the programme is given below and includes a number of open events each day which members of the public are encouraged to attend. Many events will also include the participation of past or current Team Scotland athletes and the attendance of the popular Glasgow 2014 and now Team Scotland mascot, Clyde.


Tuesday 22 August – Glasgow

  • The QBR will arrive at Glasgow Airport and spend the first day visiting legacy projects and youth and community groups related to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Game, including:  
  • Welcome to Scotland at the Glasgow School of Sport, Bellahouston Academy
  • Commonwealth Games Village – Meet permanent residents of Team Scotland accommodation
  • Cunigar Loop Woodland Park – Bike Town community group bike ride through the park*
  • Emirates Arena – Schools participation event linked to the 2017 World Badminton Championships
  • The Legacy Hub, Dalmarnock – local community event *
  • University of Strathclyde Innovation Centre – Commonwealth Youth Leaders Conference
  • George Square – Starting point of the Glasgow Commonwealth Walkway. *

Wednesday 23 August – Islay

The QBR will make its first ever visit to Islay in the Inner Hebrides for a unique range of youth and community events including:

  • Bowmore – Primary Schools festival featuring the Schools Gaelic Choir and Highland Dancing *
  • Visit to the Bowmore distillery
  • Bowmore Town Square for community meet the Baton opportunity*
  • Talk at Ionad Chaluim Chille Ìle (the Columba Centre Islay). *

Thursday 24 August – Dundee, Aberdeen, Stirling 

The QBR heads to Dundee, Aberdeen and Stirling for a series of events including:

  • Clepington Primary School, Dundee – a sportscotland gold standard sports award school for Australian Commonwealth themed activity
  • Kirriemuir – a visit to the Bon Scott statue to celebrate the famous Australian-Scot lead singer of ACDC *
  • Aberdeen Sports Village – a multi-school ‘One Big Sports Day’ of Commonwealth themed activities incorporating an Australian high tea
  • Stirling Castle – Team Scotland reception & Bahamas 2017 Youth Games team celebration.

Friday 25 August – Stirling, Falkirk

A big day of school and community activities in Stirling and Falkirk before visiting the home of Team Scotland at the University of Stirling.

  • St Ninian’s Primary School , Stirling – Joining children for their Daily Mile. St Ninian’s is linked with Coolangatta State School as part of the Gold Coast 2018 Schools connect programme.
  • Helix and Kelpies, Falkirk – A multi-school Commonwealth themed festival for the schools and the community *
  • Stirling University Campus – meeting with students linked to the Commonwealth Games
  • sportscotland Institute of Sport – meeting the ‘team behind the team’ who help to prepare Team Scotland athletes for the Commonwealth Games.                   

Saturday 26 August – Grangemouth, Edinburgh

Visits to two major sports events where Scottish athletes are striving to be selected for Team Scotland for the 2018 Games. The day concludes with a visit to the Military Tattoo, an iconic Scottish showcase that is now a firm Australian favorite, broadcast to bring in the New Year down under.

  • Grangemouth – Scottish Athletics Senior Championships *
  • Portobello – Scottish Beach Volleyball Championship *
  • Edinburgh – Edinburgh Military Tattoo

For further information about the Gold Coast 2018 Queen’s Baton Relay and its journey across the Commonwealth so far visit www.gc2018.com

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Sep 122014

Policing in Britain is changing, and not for the better. Almost every newspaper seems to carry a new tale of corruption, custody death, wrongful arrest, over-policing, wrongful stop and search, ignoring reports of crimes, criminalising young children and/or institutionalised racism within the police are some of the worrying developments. When police are caught in misdeeds, sometimes of enormous magnitude, there seems to be immunity – they are the police after all.

The suggestion is not that all police are corrupt. The questions that need to be addressed include the increased powers the police have been given, often under the sweeping broad brush of ‘preventing terrorism’, how they are doing their job, and what the scope of investigation should be. Additionally, Police Scotland seems to be granting itself the right to carry guns on routine patrols.

This has happened in the Highlands without recourse to elected officials and institutions, let alone seeking a mandate from the people who are largely against this change. There are far too many problems for them to go unanswered or the situation to go unchecked. ‘Protect and Serve’ is becoming a thing of the past.  We need to talk about the police. By Suzanne Kelly.

UTG event entry securityIntroduction.

This series will look at some recent police scandals, both high and low

Police decisions, police powers (and the misuse of same), institutionalised racism, custody, cover-ups and illegal activities will be addressed.

This first in the series will look at what should have been a simple, brief (less than a few hours in duration) bright and breezy event in Aberdeen’s Union Terrace Gardens: the Queen’s Baton Commonwealth function.

This is on the one hand a very minor chapter in the problems we have with the police. On the other hand, it illustrates what some of the underlying serious issues are.

A walk in the park?

On 30th June 2014 Aberdeen was filled with police and private security. If you tried to go about your lawful business on Union Terrace such as going into your hotel or a restaurant, you were prevented from doing so before your ID and your story was checked out by private security or police. High steel partitions blocked anyone from looking into Union Terrace Gardens.

If you wanted to see into the gardens, you may as well have tried to look over the Berlin Wall. If you wanted to go in the gardens – which are common good land, owned by the people and merely managed by the city on the day? If you had a pet, a drink, or heaven forbid a plastic folding chair, you would not even have been allowed to queue in the serpentine crowd barrier maze at the only entrance that hadn’t been blocked off.

I witnessed people turning away in disgust and disappointment. What was going on?

This level of security was laid on to protect the Queen’s baton, a former commonwealth winner, some musicians and local dancers for a two hour concert. Some would say this was slight overkill. On another level, this was a display of police power over the law abiding individual, a removal of basic rights without sufficient cause, and an expenditure that was far from justified.

Fun for all the Family?

Aberdeen City  Council’s press announcement started out cheerfully enough:

“An exciting programme of dance, music and song will showcase the cultural vibrancy of Aberdeen as the Queen’s Baton Relay’s journey across the city culminates with an end-of-day celebration in Union Terrace Gardens, on Monday 30 June.” http://www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/CouncilNews/ci_cns/pr_QBReveningcelebration_250614.asp

The press release soon gets ‘round to the details of what  you are going to give up, like it or not, for this brief event and other concurrent events such as an international market and a parade or two (my comments in square brackets):

“To support the safe management and delivery of this event, a secure event arena will be constructed in and around Union Terrace Gardens from Sunday 29 June. On Sunday [29 June] the east side footway on Union Terrace will be closed to pedestrians to allow the construction of temporary fencing to ensure public safety, to protect the balustrade surrounding the gardens and to create a corridor for emergency services.  

[This temporary fencing/secure arena was a steel curtain over 6’ high – cost:  unknown at present. Why does a little local event need a secure arena?  In the event, it was clear that it didn’t. The city made a meal out of claims the balustrades around the park are unsafe during a referendum on building a horrendous giant, purposeless granite ‘web’ over the gardens. Thankfully this £140 million pound plan eventually met its match. The city finds the balustrades dangerous when it suits them; they are otherwise unguarded, repair specifics remain unknown, and the city happily allows market stalls in the arches directly under the deadly balustrades.]

“…In the interests of public safety, the pavement on Union Terrace will be available for through foot traffic only – no viewing will be allowed from this area. [First of all this was untrue:  No one was allowed to walk down Union Terrace:  it was completely shut off for free access.  I witnessed people being asked to explain why they wanted to walk down this hotel and restaurant lined street. It had been turned into an ‘overflow area’ – which proved to be wholly unneeded. ]

“Union Terrace Gardens will be closed to the public on Monday 30 June to allow preparation work including the construction of a stage. It will re-open at 5pm. [it is a large park; there would have been every chance to have people use the park, but avoid the stage-construction area. But that is far from the worst unnecessary use of muscle in this poorly managed event].

“To ensure public safety the following temporary road closures will be in place [a host of road closures were done for some parades on Union Street lasting a few hours, the baton ‘celebration’ caused closures spanning at least two days for an event which lasted a few hours, and for a market.  How public safety would have been jeopardised is unclear.  What is clear is that ‘to ensure public safety’ is now a stock phrase used whenever the police want carte blanche to carry out any operations, big or small.]

“The public is advised that:

  • there will be no disabled parking in the gardens but disabled spaces will be available at the Denburn car park on a first come, first served basis; [it is just as well the event was so very poorly attended]
  • there will be a disabled viewing area near the front of the stage on a first come, first served basis;
  • both auditoriums in the gardens and on Union Terrace are standing only – no chairs or picnic style furniture will be allowed; [a great boon to the infirm; did the police fear a plastic chair fight? Was the performance of a local choir going to be so inflammatory that rioting would break out?]
  • No animals including dogs except guide dogs will be allowed in Union Terrace Gardens or on Union Terrace during the event; [People were turned away who had dogs with them, they hadn’t seen the city’s press release and sought to use the gardens as per normal. They were in violation of now law, but this arbitrary whim stopped them exercising their rights.  I do like this phrase though ‘no animals including dogs’:  one might think it was given that ‘no animals’ included dogs.  One might also wonder if someone had planned to take their Shetland pony, cats or goldfish.]
  • the public drinking byelaw in Scotland has not been relaxed for the purposes of this outdoor, family event so no alcohol will be permitted within the event arena;
  • keep your belongings safe and close to you and ensure handbags are fastened securely;
  • the weather is changeable so remember to wear appropriate clothing; [for those Aberdonians who need nannying for a two hour event in the city centre]
  • there are no catering facilities at the evening celebration; [off topic, but this was hardly festive, was it?]
  • Aberdeen City Council, Police Scotland and event stewards reserve the right to refuse entry to anyone deemed unfit to participate safely in the event. [no explanations needed; the police and private stewards could have refused anyone entry for any reason at will.]”

The business of security.

It would seem these days that no event in Aberdeen can take place without crowd barriers, private security stewards and a host of police on foot, in cars and vans, and on horseback – and a stack of rules. It is the same in some other cities as well, but this over-policing is very much an Aberdeen phenomenon.

UTG security wallIt is no surprise that the International Festivals for literature, film and performing arts thrive in Edinburgh, not Aberdeen: you would be hard put to have our police allow swarms of tourists to wander vast areas, drink at tables outside pubs and restaurants in busy streets, crowd small public squares and in general allow crowds to freely move.

Local residents may remember the enjoyable Jubilee Tea Party (thanks to the Bothwell family) in Union Terrace

There was a good deal of rain, but lots of music, food and fun: over 3,000 people attended – more than this brief event by all accounts, as the Union Terrace overflow area went virtually unused. There have been other recent events that went off smoothly without as much security.

What entities were responsible for agreeing to the level of security hired in, the police man-hours approved, the steel barrier erected the night before, the decision to turn Union Terrace into an overflow area for 8000 people? Who approve the budget, and how much was actually spent?

One thing is certain, whether on policing, police overtime, and/or private security steward costs:  some stakeholders must have made a fair bit of money for this overly-secured event.

Private security firms are gaining more and more foothold in the public policing sector – running prisons, providing security, escorting prisoners to trial and running young offenders homes: there are millions to be made in the larger arena of private security, and the outcomes are often not good ones. More on that in a future piece.

Another Freedom of Information Failure.

Not a single entity involved in planning the baton event is willing to put its hands up and say how the security arrangements grew so gargantuan, how much of the taxpayer’s money was wasted, how it was agreed to temporarily take away our rights to go about our business and walk our streets or use our gardens.

The City Council, Police Scotland, and the Games organisers were all asked to supply their answers to straightforward questions about budget, numbers of police and private security used, how the private firm was chosen, and so on. Not one of these entities is letting the requested information out.

What correspondence took place to allow this event to be blown out of all proportion?  Aberdeen City Council at present finds it far too wide a question to answer. They were asked questions in mid-July, and there has been no movement from their 24 July position:-

“Under our duty to advise and assist, we would like to take this opportunity to advise you that the following question will likely be refused by ACC under Section 12 – Excessive Cost of Compliance  – of the FOISA, as the relevant services are concerned that the scope of this question would likely exceed the £600 limit.”   (Email from ACC to S Kelly)

The City has recently admitted in a separate FOI request that it has NO document management policy in place, despite there being a statutory duty to have one. Lack of suitable procedure in place notwithstanding, precisely  how a half-day event would have generated so much paperwork that in this electronic age it is not possible to supply the relevant correspondence for less than £600 is hard to understand.

Still, my group and I saw at least 20 police of different ranks, several cars and vans, and at least 20 private security guards. If the lowest-paid police officer is on £ 23,493 pa , the lowest-band for sergeants is £ 36,885 (£768/week), and the lowest pay for an inspector is £ 47,256 (£984/week), we can do some estimations. If that lowest paid officer was on an hourly rate it would be c. £13.97 (£489/week).

Even assuming no overtime rate was paid, then if 20 police spent say 2 hours before the event, 2 hours at the actual event, and one hour after the event (and that’s being rather conservative), then 20 officers at £13.97 per hour for 5 hours equates to  £1397 in salary.

If they had one sergeant and one inspector, at 5 hours that would be £105 for the sergeant and £140 for the inspector.   This minimum total salary figure would then be £1642. The odds are that the real cost will be far, far higher for the police – once we’re finally told what it is.

The police were once forced to disclose that it cost the taxpayer thousands when Donald Trump cancelled a visit to Aberdeen:  the actual cost of police escort from the airport to a hotel or his Menie Estate therefore must be considerably more.  However, the police have never had to explain this further.  How the police manage to skirt many Freedom of Information Requests will be looked at in a future article in this series.

Aside from the cost, it is undeniable that police were milling about to ensure the safety of a stick and some performers from threats such as pet dogs and plastic chairs, while elsewhere in the city crimes go uninvestigated, and people are told ‘there is nothing we can do’ by police when it comes to investigating thefts. Something is wrong. We do need to talk about the police.

Attendance estimates? An 8,000 over-estimate

On the day, people were harassed for trying to get into restaurants and the hotel on Union Terrace. The police had set up an arbitrary no-go zone.

UTG security railings

This was, one has to assume, based on the bizarre projection (god knows made by whom) that some 10,000 people would want to listen to Giz Giz, and see the stick.

Apparently the gardens would close after hitting 2,000 attendees, and up to 8,000 people would be so eager with anticipation for this event that they would want to fit into the giant metal fence enclosure created on Union Terrace with a giant screen on which they could see that baton, or listen to those singers.

It would be interesting to know how those claiming their desire was ‘to ensure the public safety’ thought corralling up to 8,000 people in a giant outdoor wire pen with only one access point was a great idea, or that having only one entrance to the garden open was clever.

One might have thought that some of the dozens of under employed police and guards near HMT could have manned an extra entrance or two rather than standing around idly.

It would be interesting to know how much the giant screen [which Orwell would have shaken his head at] cost the taxpayer as well.

The group I was with on the perimeter of this circus peered down into that veritable cage, and didn’t see a single person. We asked one of the private stewards (who seemed as bemused as we were and agreed it was overstaffed as events go) about it; they had a counter in their hand.  When asked how many people had gone into the overflow area, by the time the event was more than half finished, the steward replied:  15.

Fifteen people in the overflow area; and all around it probably as many more were trying to exercise the freedoms the police had decided to take from them to stage this non-event.  Even those who enjoyed the event would have to admit this was a hugely over-policed, vastly overly regulated waste of resources, namely taxpayer money.

But it served its purpose.  Police Scotland had succeeded in:

*  demonstrating their absolute power over the legitimate rights of ordinary citizens trying to go about their normal, legal business;
*  overestimating greatly the crowd size and security needed – and getting the stakeholders (ACC, games organisers) to allow them to run the show, serving to increase their perceived power and importance;
*  making decisions  impacting on the public purse without the need to explain or justify their obvious overestimation of any possible rational risk assessment;
*  having a hand in recommending private security stewards which were vastly overstaffed on the day;
*  making those who did want to attend the event comply with unnecessary, draconian demands and ingraining obedience above freedoms;
*  having a  hand in unnecessary road closures and having their advice taken, seemingly without question by the local organisers;
*  exercising an apparent desire to take more control than necessary from the public, and having this go unquestioned.

Are the police seeking to get more and more control over our movements, or did they genuinely think that terrorists were going to come to Aberdeen to make a show of power at an event of nearly no significance? If so, what was the evidence?

If security was their one and only goal, which I am sure is the argument they would make, then you have to wonder about the wisdom of corralling people into enclosed spaces with only one access point.

If anything like 4,000 people had gone into the Union Terrace enclosure, and a problem had erupted, it would have resulted in serious injury from any panic as people sought to get out of the space:  this is a very basic safety observation, backed up by past events – and yet not one the police identified. Safety? To some it might seem more like exerting control for the sake of it.

As someone put it to me on the night, ‘they do take the jolly out of everything.’

This has been a brief look at excessive use of muscle and expenditure at our expense. In fact, some of it might seem comical in a way. The following articles in this series will seem far less so.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.

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

Aug 232012

London 2012 Paralympic Games fever comes to Aberdeen this weekend, with some top class sporting action in prospect in the centre of Aberdeen. With thanks to Dave Macdermid.

On Saturday Westburn Park Bowling Centre hosts the Scottish Disability Sport Lawn Bowls Championships.

It is supported by Aberdeen Disability Sport and Sport Aberdeen, with the top 70 bowlers from around the country competing for their respective national titles. Players include members of the Scottish National Squad, ranked second in the world.

Play takes place throughout the day with the finals scheduled for 3.50 p.m. and presentation of prizes at 4.35 p.m.

Westburn’s Indoor Tennis Centre takes centre stage the following day, Sunday, with the inaugural Sport Aberdeen Wheelchair Tennis Tournament, part of the Tennis Foundation Wheelchair Tennis Series.

Four players will play a round robin singles event followed by an exhibition doubles. They are Neil Duncan from Kintore, Richard Craig from Inverurie, David Hogg from Midlothian, and last year’s UK Development Series Champion Keith Thom from Dumfries, who plays at the Winning Wheels Club in Edinburgh.

Andrinne Craig, Disability Sport Regional Manager, believes anyone going along on either day is in for a treat.

“The standard in both the bowling and tennis is extremely high and there are some fantastic games in prospect.

“While bowls is not a Paralympic Sport, it is a para sport at the Commonwealth Games and many of those playing will undoubtedly be at Glasgow 2014. We are also very grateful for the support of 30 local bowlers who volunteer at the event.

“Wheelchair Tennis is a Paralympic sport and Helensburgh’s Gordon Reid will take part in the men’s singles in the Paralympic Games at London 2012, starting on 29th August. Anyone local who is interested can get involved in the weekly coaching at Westburn, every Wednesday between 11 a.m. and noon.”

Entry for spectators at both events is free.

For further information contact Dave Macdermid, dave.macdermid@bigpartnership.co.uk  telephone 07805 436988

Image credit:  Wikimedia Commons. Licence info: File:Bowls%26Kitty.JPG

Dec 092011

Aberdeen Voice brings you the latest on the netball international test matches this weekend.

Aberdeen-born Claire Brownie has been included in the Scottish Thistles netball squad to face Wales in a three match test series at Aberdeen Sports Village from December 9–11.

23 year old Brownie, who plays at either Goal Defence or Wing Defence, was part of the squad which tasted success againstSri Lankain the city in May, seeing the Thistles rise to 14th in the world rankings.
With Wales ranked two places above the Scots, these will be closely-fought affairs and will be a crucial in preparing for 2014’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Also from Aberdeen, Emily Gray (19) and Fiona Farquharson (18) are in the Scottish Under-21 squad which will take on their Welsh counterparts before each Test match.

National Coach, Denise Holland said: 

“Three matches in three days emulates the schedule at the 2014 Glasgow Games. We have always competed hard against each other, with very little between the squads.

“It will be extremely exciting as the winners will not only score World Ranking points but will also gain confidence going into Netball Europe in May 2012, when the squads meet again.

Thistles squad: Lynsey Gallagher, GA/GS; Stephanie McGarrity, WD/C; Hayley Mulheron, GK/GD; Claire Brownie, GD/WD; Rachel Holmes GA/GS; Erin McQuarrie, WD/GD; Nicola Collins, GA/GS; Lesley MacDonald, GA/GS; Fiona Moore (Captain), C/WD; Gemma Sole, GS; Karin Connell, WA/C; June McNeill, GS/GK; Sam Murphy, WA/GA; Thenneh Conteh, GK/GD; Jenna Storie, WA/C.

Thistles U21 squad: Gillian Crozier; Amy Craig; Laura Gibson; Emily Gray; Emma Hardie; Beverly Campbell; Sarah Kerr; Fiona Farquharson; Sophie May Leyland; Nicola McLeery; Hannah McCaig; Shaunagh Mcuaig; Erin McQuarrie; Jo Pettitt

Tickets are available from the Aberdeen Sports Village on 01224 438900

Admission costs just £5 per adult and £3 per child. Weekend passes cost £12 for adults and £7 for children.


Dec 012011

Following their successful test match against Sri Lanka in May 2011, the Scottish Thistles are returning to Aberdeen for a full three match test series against Wales.  With thanks to Dave Macdermid and The Big Partnership.

The Scottish Thistles’ victorious series against Sri Lanka saw their world ranking rise up to 14th, so now the Thistles are looking to ‘slay some Welsh dragons’ in what promises to be some tense, gripping, closely fought matches, as the Welsh are currently 12th in the world.
The series will be a crucial part of their preparation for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014.

The Scottish U21s, including squad members Emily Gray and Fiona Farquharson – both from Aberdeen, are also taking on their Welsh counterparts before each Test match.

National Coach, Denise Holland said:

“The Scottish Thistles are ready to meet Wales in this back to back competition; 3 matches in 3 days which emulates the type of schedule at the Glasgow CWG’s 2014. Both sides are out to win all three test matches in Aberdeen; we have always competed hard against each other, with very little but sheer determination between the squads. 

“It will be extremely exciting, as the winner will not only gain much valued World Ranking points but will also gain confidence going into Netball Europe in May 2012, when the squads will meet again. The Thistles are ready now to ‘sting’ with some vital wins!”

David Beattie, Chief Executive of Aberdeen Sports Village said

“I am delighted to welcome the Scottish Thistles back to Aberdeen for the second time this year. We are all excited about seeing top class netball once again in the city and look forward to cheering on the Thistles as they take on the Welsh in what is sure to be three gripping matches. I am confident that Aberdeen will provide some excellent support for the Thistles and thoroughly enjoy being a part of their preparation for the Commonwealth Games in 2014.”

All 3 matches will be at the Aberdeen Sports Village from 9th – 11th December 2011. It costs just £5 per adult and £3 per child or there is a weekend pass for £12 for adults and £7 for children.

Tickets are available now from the Aberdeen Sports Village on 01224 438900.

Oct 012010

Alex Mitchell brings us the final part of his fascinating and informative series of articles on the development of Aberdeen City from its origin as two separate burghs.

Aberdeen was perhaps at its most important, relative to the rest of the world, and as a centre of trade and learning, in the early decades of the 17th century.  The population of the two burghs approached 10,000 in the 1630s; about 8,500 in New Aberdeen and 1,000 in Old Aberdeen.

The Burgh maintained close links with the seaports of the Hanseatic League, of which Aberdeen was an early member, and their hinterlands of the Low Countries, Poland, Russia, the Baltic states and Scandinavia.  Aberdeen was more open to European influences, to new ideas from the Continent, and was more diverse in its political and religious thinking, than were either Edinburgh or Glasgow.

Aberdeen (Old & New) now had its two small universities and there was hardly a European university of note that did not have an Aberdonian professor.  George Keith, the 5th Earl Marischal, had set up a new college in 1593, being Marischal College, on the site of the old Franciscan Priory, to teach a Reformed (Protestant) curriculum in rivalry to King’s College, (originally St. Mary’s College), which had been established by Pope Alexander VI (Borgia) in 1495 at the request of Bishop William Elphinstone (1431-1514).

This reflected the post-Reformation decline in the standing of the Catholic Gordons of Huntly, the de facto protectors of the two Burghs and the real power behind the Menzies dynasty, and, correspondingly, the growing power and influence of the Protestant Keiths, the Earls Marischal, with their power-base at Dunnottar Castle; George Keith had been promoted to Lieutenant of the North by King James VI in 1593.  But it was not until 1860 that the two universities of King’s College and Marischal College were united into the single University of Aberdeen.  Through King’s College, Aberdeen can claim to have the fifth-oldest university in all of Great Britain.

The Reformation had not been welcomed in the North-East, where, as late as the 1620s, the majority of gentry families led by the Gordons of Huntly and their close allies the Hays of Erroll, remained Catholics “in their hearts”.  In Aberdeen itself, this was reflected in the succession of Menzies provosts.

Scotland was effectively put under military occupation during the nine years of Oliver Cromwell’s British Commonwealth

Even as their Gordon overlords slowly weakened, so, perversely, the Menzies family tightened its grip, although their policy on religious matters might best be described as pragmatic; Aberdeen was regarded as a centre of Episcopalianism rather than of either unrepentant Catholicism or radical Presbyterianism.

By May 1638, Aberdeen was the only royal burgh still refusing, on the basis of loyalty to the King, to subscribe to the National Covenant, drawn up in Edinburgh earlier that year; but opinion amongst the townsfolk reflected the wider divisions within Scotland, between the largely Covenanting Lowlands and the Catholic and Royalist Highlands.  Aberdeen was on the fringe of both territories and was too big a prize to be overlooked.

The outbreak of civil war between Covenanters and Royalists in 1639 was followed by a succession of invasions, occupations and lootings of the two Burghs by the rival armies, climaxing in 1644 in the three-days-long massacre of the unarmed and defenceless citizens of Aberdeen known as the Battle of Justice Mills, perpetrated by the Irish (Royalist) forces of the Marquis of Montrose.  On a number of occasions the town became the battleground for the Royalists and Covenanters.  About one-tenth of the population of Aberdeen died in these conflicts; another quarter died in the last but worst-ever outbreak of the bubonic plague in 1647, despite the desperate measures taken to exclude and contain it.

The city was badly affected by the widespread famines of 1695 and 1699; the population fell from about 7,100 in 1695 to 5,600 in 1700

The Marquis of Montrose was executed in Edinburgh in May 1650.  One of his hands was sent to Aberdeen and was nailed to the front door of the Tolbooth.  It remained there until July, when King Charles II, on his way to his Scottish Coronation at Scone and briefly in residence at Pitfodel’s Lodging, just across the Castlegate, observed the blackened and decaying object and ordered its Christian burial.

Scotland was effectively put under military occupation during the nine years of Oliver Cromwell’s British Commonwealth.  General Monck’s troops arrived in Aberdeen in Sept. 1651, built their new fort on the Castle Hill, and did not leave until 1659.  The destruction during the Covenanting Wars contributed to a decline in Aberdeen’s commercial importance.  Aberdeen had accounted for 8% of all burghal tax revenues in 1635, but for only 4.5% by 1697.  The city was badly affected by the widespread famines of 1695 and 1699; the population fell from about 7,100 in 1695 to 5,600 in 1700.  It more than recovered by the mid-18th century, being estimated as 15,433 in 1755 and rising to 26,992 by the first census in 1801.

As elsewhere in Scotland, it was the rural hinterland that was worst affected by the ‘Lean Years’ of the 1690s, mainly because of the lack of overland transport and functioning markets via which food could be imported, compounded by the lack of any saleable product that could be traded for food.  In Aberdeenshire, population in 1755 had still not regained its 1695 level.  These grim circumstances at the close of the 17th century prompted the belief that Scotland could never be economically self-sufficient and had to obtain access to English markets.  Thus the Union of Crowns in 1603 was followed by the Union of Parliaments in 1707.

Aberdeen’s relative decline in economic importance continued through the 18th and 19th centuries, mainly because Britain’s expanding trade with the Americas favoured west-coast ports like Glasgow rather than east-coast ports like Aberdeen, Dundee and Leith; also because of the Burgh’s geographical remoteness from the basic resources of the Industrial Revolution, being coal and iron ore.

The ‘Wallace Tower’ in Netherkirkgate which set me off on these researches, as it turns out, had nothing to do with the Scottish patriot William Wallace (1272-1305)  since it was not built until 1588.  It was properly known as Benholm’s Lodging, being originally the residence of Sir Robert Keith of Benholm, the younger brother of the 5th Earl Marischal, and stood just outside the old Netherkirkgate Port – demolished about 1770 – at the corner of Netherkirkgate and Carnegie’s Brae; about where the M&S Food Hall is now.

Carnegie’s Brae led down to the Green via Putachieside, so-named because the proprietor of Castle Forbes, then known as Putachie, had his town house there; it was latterly a particularly miserable street of slum tenements and was obliterated by the construction of Union St., and then of Market St. and Archibald Simpson’s New Market in 1840.

Benholm’s Lodging was a unique example of a Z-plan tower-house within a Scots town, and was one of only four 16th century buildings remaining in Aberdeen.  It was demolished in 1964, along with part of the Netherkirkgate to make way for the extended M&S store, and it is unlikely that I ever actually saw it.  A replica building, incorporating some of the original stonework and features was erected in far-off Tillydrone in the same year.  This building is now empty, redundant, neglected and vandalised.

The useful suggestion has been made that it should now be moved back to its original location in the heart of Aberdeen, or at least on to our projected ‘Civic Square’ where it would complement Provost Skene’s House, also of the time of Mary Queen of Scots and King James VI.

Footnote. Aberdeen Voice is grateful to Stanley Wright for all photos associated with the above article.