Jul 142017
 

European beaver (Castor fiber) swimming at dawn, Knapdale Forest, Argyll, Scotland.

With thanks to Chris Aldridge.

A family of beavers found living on a river in the Beauly area in the Scottish Highlands are to be trapped and put into captivity following a decision by Scottish Government Ministers.
Trees for Life, the charity which discovered the group, says the family should either stay where they are or be relocated locally.

Film from camera traps set by the conservation experts from the charity in mid-June clearly show the presence of a mother and at least two young kits swimming and playing with their mum.

Trees for Life shared news of the discovery with Scottish Natural Heritage and made a case to Scottish Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham that the family be allowed to stay.

Alan McDonnell, Conservation Projects Manager at Trees for Life said:

“It is disappointing that government is already starting the process of trapping this family without considering other options. Whilst we understand that the Minister wants to address the concerns of landowners in Tayside, the situation here is very different and we think it is possible to consult and negotiate with landowners in the immediate vicinity of the family and upstream to find an alternative outcome for the animals.”

Beavers have sparked controversy and concern from landowners in parts of Tayside where there is intensive arable farming. In contrast, much of the land neighbouring the newly confirmed beaver home in the Highlands is used for livestock farming.

Alan McDonnell said:

“We think these beavers have been active at this site for at least five years without any local concerns being raised. Which just goes to show that in the right location, beavers and other land use interests can co-exist successfully.”

Richard Hartland, local resident added:

“Many people in the local community have no idea the beavers are there and they’re having very little impact on their surroundings. Why can’t they be left alone?”

Shortly after finding the family, Trees for Life wrote to the Scottish Environment Minister to ask that they be left where they are, or failing that, moved upstream into Glen Affric, above the Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhoin hydro dam on the basis that they would have minimal impact on land use.

(Beaver photo image. Copyright – Peter Cairns, SCOTLAND: The Big Picture.)

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Jul 142017
 

With thanks to Yvette Rayner, PR Account Manager, Frasermedia.

Aberdeen athletics coaches gathered at a leading sports facility this week to celebrate the work of an early 20th century sporting official at a unique historical presentation.
Aberdeen Sports Village, based on Linksfield Road, held the opening ceremony in honour of the work of Andrew Ross Scott (A R Scott), a former Scottish Athletics judge.

Mr Scott’s great grandson, Andrew Walker, visited Aberdeen Sports Village with his wife, Hilary, to see the display featuring A R Scott’s original timepiece, a unique athletics record book, and the medal awarded to Mr Scott by Queen Alexandra, at the 1908 Olympic Games in London.

Mr Scott was a Scottish Athletics official for over 15 years, taking on the role of president of the organisation in 1903. The Summer Olympics of 1908 was to take place in Rome, but due to an eruption of Mount Vesuvius, the venue was changed to London, with each of the UK nation’s supplying officials.

The final of the 400m was declared void due to elbowing, and the final was rerun with only one runner, after the other athletes refused to take part. Wyndham Halswelle, a Scot, ran the race to win gold, becoming the only athlete ever to win an Olympic gold medal by a walker. A Ross Scott was one of the judges for the rerun.

Mr Walker was given his great grandfather’s memorabilia by his mother, and approached a current Scottish Athletics coach, Alex McGregor to find the best way to display the unique pieces. Mr McGregor decided to approach ASV, having run on the original Linksfield Stadium ash track as a boy over 60 years ago.

Several seasoned officials from Aberdeen Athletics Club met Mr Walker to hear the unusual story, which is now on display in a specially produced pod at ASV.

Duncan Sinclair, CEO ASV, said: 

“The story of A Ross Scott and Wyndham Halleswelle is unique, and so we are delighted to display the beautiful timepiece, book and medal at our facility. It is fascinating to hear about sporting endeavour from over one hundred years ago, and it was a great pleasure to meet with so many experienced judges and coaches who came to welcome Mr Walker to Aberdeen.”

Mr Walker commented:

“The display pod is everything I could have wished for. My mother and my great grandfather would be very proud to be part of this tremendous facility, encouraging young people to achieve their best.”

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Jul 032017
 

With thanks to Yvette Rayner, PR Account Manager, Frasermedia.

One of Scotland’s top swimming coaches is to head up a new high performance swimming team in Aberdeen, aiming to produce medal-winning swimmers. Patrick Miley, father and coach of Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Hannah Miley, will train elite swimmers for the newly formed University of Aberdeen Performance Swimming programme.

UOAPS is a new partnership between the Aberdeen Sports Village, Aberdeen City Council, Scottish Swimming, the University of Aberdeen and seven of the city’s swimming clubs.

The programme has been established to grow on the rich crop of swimming talent to have emerged from the north-east in recent years, including Hannah Miley, David Carry and Robbie Renwick.

Swimmers across the city will try out to join Team Aberdeen, training with Mr Miley and his team at the Aberdeen Sports Village Aquatics Centre, in order to form the elite UOAPS competition squad.

Mr Miley said:

“With the financial investment and commitment from our partners we have an incredibly exciting opportunity to develop a strong performance pathway for swimming in the north-east.

“Our aim is to build a world-class performance swimming programme, and I am confident we have the backing, the will and the talent to succeed.”

University of Aberdeen Principal, Professor Sir Ian Diamond, said:

“As a University we are committed to helping our student athletes reach their full potential, both academically and in their chosen sport. 

“The University of Aberdeen Performance Swimming programme is yet another example of how we are working alongside our partners to bring through the next generation of world-class athletes, right here in Aberdeen.” 

Duncan Sinclair, chief executive of Aberdeen Sports Village, said:

“In the past, our home grown swimming talent had to move to the central belt or an English University to advance their swimming careers. 

“However, the city now has an Olympic standard Aquatics Centre at Aberdeen Sports Village, and with this new performance programme, Aberdeen offers a real alternative and opportunity to our local athletes. 

“ASV is now classed as a Performance Centre by Scottish Swimming, in recognition of the excellent level of facilities and training we provide.

“Our aim is for Aberdeen to be seen as a world class destination for performance swimming, which will retain our best swimmers in the north-east, and attract athletes to study, live and compete here.”

Aberdeen City Council’s education and children’s services committee convener, Councillor John Wheeler, said:

“By working in partnership, we created the state-of-the-art Aberdeen Sports Village including a world-class aquatics centre, with its 50m pool, to give local people the opportunity to participate in swimming and water sports, to maximise the social, educational and physical opportunities for everyone in the city. 

“The launch of the University of Aberdeen Performance Swimming programme and the recruitment of Commonwealth Games coach Patrick Miley, highlight that, by working together, we are creating opportunities for local elite swimmers. 

Instead of having to travel great distances, or move away entirely to get access to the best facilities and coaching, they will be able to try out for a place on Team Aberdeen. By providing these opportunities we will be able to nurture future swimming sensations who will represent Aberdeen, the north-east, Scotland and the UK.”

Ally Whike, performance director of Scottish Swimming, said:

“This programme has been established through the hard work of the University of Aberdeen, local clubs, Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeen Sport and Leisure, highlighting the importance that a strong partnership approach brings to delivering high performing environments.

“Scottish Swimming looks forward to the continued development of the programme, and its positive impact in taking swimmers through the pathway and onwards to international level.”

Jul 032017
 

David Innes reviews  St Valéry And Its Aftermath by Stewart Mitchell.

Although it is almost inevitable that events are overtaken by time, and that the effect of history on localities dissipates, the name St Valéry-en-Caux, a small Normandy fishing village, continues to resonate in NE Scotland, even 77 years on from the scenes that accord that tiny French port a special place in Scottish military history.

It is said that there is scarcely an NE family which hasn’t been touched in some way by the events of June 1940, the surrender of the stranded and embattled 51st (Highland) Division, and the incarceration of thousands of Scottish soldiers in prisoner of war camps for the duration of the Second World War.

These were our forgotten casualties of that conflict, and it was a gross unfairness and insult to these brave, fortitudinous men who suffered the privations of capture, forced march and imprisonment to be described as having enjoyed an Easy War.

Stewart Mitchell, who named the Gordon Highlanders’ Museum’s excellent 2011 POW exhibition The Easy War, re-tells the story of the lead-up to Dunkirk and St Valéry, using personal accounts, some of which are now in the public domain for the first time, without resorting to military tactical terminology and technical jargon, often confusing to the lay reader.

Those of us who have had a long fascination with this episode of military and social history will have read accounts of the 51st’s manoeuvres, capture, treatment and liberation and of the social outcomes of returning home after half a decade of imprisonment. Tony Rennell, Sean Longden, Saul David, Alan Allport, Julie Summers, and Banffshire’s own Charles Morrison have all contributed to building a picture of a time of uncertainty, fortitude and, all too often, personal and familial misfortune.

It is in the re-telling of personal accounts that Mitchell excels, and he succeeds in making St Valéry more than just another military history. We hear of regular soldiers, Territorials and militiamen called up to serve when war was declared in September 1939, their backstories often of innocent city, village and country loons thrown into the jaws of an unforgiving mechanised conflict, and losing some of their most promising youthful years behind barbed wire.

Yet, there are personal recollections of derring-do, heroism, resourcefulness, smeddum and survival against heavily-stacked odds, told in fitting tribute to often forgotten men.

The volume’s appendix is unique in imbuing a personal touch to what is a harrowing, yet spirit-affirming story. Mitchell’s painstaking research has seen him identify from military records, every Gordon Highlander captured or killed in France in 1940.

My own maternal grandfather, army number 2870474 among the oldest of the Territorials called up at 37, who was 38 by the time of capture, and 44 before he was liberated, is included. That that saw my emotions well up 77 years after that fateful morning in Normandy, verifies that this a book that goes way beyond normal military history, as a chronicle of a part-generation of NE men. For that, it deserves your support.

Stewart Mitchell is making a generous contribution from the book’s sales to the Gordon Highlanders’ Museum Appeal. Please consider giving this splendid local cultural venue your support too.

STEWART MITCHELL
St Valéry And Its Aftermath
The Gordon Highlanders Captured In France In 1940
Pen & Sword Military
235 pp
Hardback ISBN 978 1 47388 658 2
£25.00

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Jun 232017
 

Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) in autumn colours, Scotland

With thanks to Chris Aldridge.

A new book, The Red Squirrel: A Future in the Forest, by award-winning wildlife photographer Neil McIntyre and author Polly Pullar, is helping to support the return of one of Scotland’s best loved animals to the Highlands of Scotland.

The book’s publisher, Highlands-based social enterprise SCOTLAND: The Big Picture, has pledged to donate £10 from books purchased with a special code to Trees for Life’s work to re-introduce red squirrels to the western Highlands. 

Peter Cairns of SCOTLAND: The Big Picture hopes the book will raise fresh awareness about the plight of the reds as well as cash to help save them.

He said:

“Neil’s beautiful images and Polly’s words have helped to highlight how important the wild forest is to squirrels. We love what Trees for Life is doing to bring back both the forest and the squirrels and are pleased to be able to support them in this way.”

Trees for Life is an award-winning charity working to restore the native Caledonian Forest and its unique wildlife to the Highlands of Scotland. Conservation experts at the charity have been carefully relocating red squirrels from healthy populations in Inverness-shire and Moray to forests in northwest Scotland, where the species is currently absent despite suitable habitat. The Red Squirrel Reintroduction 

Project has so far established four new populations in the northwest Highlands, significantly increasing both the numbers and range of the red squirrel in the UK.

Becky Priestly, Wildlife Officer with Trees for Life, said:

“We’re hugely thankful to SCOTLAND: The Big Picture for its generous offer to donate to our Red Squirrel Appeal from sales of the book. These donations will help us continue our work to reintroduce this much-loved animal. Local communities are monitoring the introduced squirrels and are now reporting sightings of young squirrels for the second year running, so we know they’re doing well.” 

To obtain a copy of The Red Squirrel: A Future in the Forest and help support Trees for Life, order online at Scotlandbigpicture.com. Use the special code STBPTFL10 to have £10 donated to Trees for Life and to save 10 percent. Alternatively, you can donate to the appeal directly at Treesforlife.org.uk/donate  

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Jun 232017
 

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

A donation from a global financial firm will provide access to audiobooks for people in the north east of Scotland suffering from visual, physical and learning difficulties. Aberdeen Asset Management’s Charitable Foundation has donated £1,350 to Listening Books, which
will be used to fully fund access for the charity’s users in
Aberdeen.

Offering over 7,000 titles, Listening Books provides audiobooks as downloads, mp3 CDs and via streaming services for anyone who struggles to read print due to conditions including arthritis, dyslexia or glaucoma.

Around 50,000 people across the UK use its services. In addition to supplying the most popular fiction titles, the charity also provides educational texts across a range of subject areas, ensuring pupils who experience difficulties reading can keep up with their studies.

Robert Marchant, development and office manager at Listening Books, says,

“For many of our older members with physical or visual impairments, our service not only provides a link to the wonderful world of books but is often a relief from pain, boredom and loneliness. The service helps many of our young members to realise their full academic potential and can foster a lifelong love of reading.

“We charge a subsidised membership fee to those who can afford it, but many cannot. We are very grateful to everyone at Aberdeen Asset Management for their support in fully funding free access to our service for Listening Books members in Aberdeen.”

As part of its Sound Learning initiative, Listening Books uses its in-house recording facilities to produce educational titles which are not commercially available in an audio format. The charity also commercially produces books for authors and publishers, the profits from which are funnelled straight back into its services.

Claire Drummond, head of charitable giving at Aberdeen Asset Management, says,

“Aberdeen Asset Management is committed to helping improve the lives of the people who live in the communities in which we operate. It’s easy to take for granted the simple pleasure of reading a good book, but thousands of people around the UK are unable to do so due to illness, disability or learning difficulties.

“Getting lost in a good book is a joy that no-one should be denied, and Aberdeen Asset Management is pleased to be able to support Listening Books users in Aberdeen.”

The Aberdeen Asset Management Charitable Foundation was established in 2012 to formalise and develop the Group’s charitable giving globally. The Foundation seeks partnerships with smaller charities around the world, where funds can be seen to have a meaningful and measurable impact and the firm encourages its employees to use their time and skills to support its charitable projects.

The main focus of the Foundation is around emerging markets and local communities, reflecting the desire to give back to those areas which are a key strategic focus of the business and to build on the historic pattern of giving to communities in which Aberdeen employees live and work.

For more information about Listening Books, visit www.listening-books.org.uk  

For more information about the Aberdeen Asset Management Charitable Foundation, visit www.aberdeen-asset.co.uk/aam.nsf/foundation/home

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Jun 082017
 

With thanks to Ross Anderson, Senior Account Manager, Citrus:Mix

One of the north-east’s leading law firms will host a lunch and learn session in Aberdeen this month for those who want to find out more about employment law updates and modern practices.

Mackinnons Solicitors will hold the free event, which is open to all, at the firm’s headquarters at 14 Carden Place, Aberdeen from 12.30pm to 2pm on Thurs, June 15. For catering purposes, those wishing to attend should register with Employment Partner Nicola Gray who will cover updates in employment law and examples in the field.

Miss Gray is looking forward to the event and anticipates significant interest from the north-east business community.

She said:

“Employment law is a continually evolving field and it’s important to stay abreast of recent changes to be within the rules and legislation set out by the government.

“It is always a hot topic for most employers and I know many are keen to learn more about issues such as contracts, disciplinary, grievance and capability issues, and what not to do too.

“The lunch and learn will be useful to those who want a refresher of the field and to learn more about important updates and current practices.”

To register to attend the Employment Law and Practices Lunch and Learn, please contact Employment Partner Nicola Gray via (01224) 632464 or email: nicolagray@mackinnons.com

Mackinnons also offer bespoke legal services for residential property, personal advice, wills and estate planning, commercial property, business and corporate matters, renewables and dispute resolution.

The firm, which also has offices in Cults and Aboyne, is also well known and internationally recognised for its long-standing expertise in fishing, shipping and marine law.

The firm’s experienced team of solicitors provide professional, pragmatic, bespoke advice for clients, whether they are multinational corporations, local businesses or individuals.

As part of Mackinnons’ 175th anniversary celebrations the firm is raising money for The Fishermen’s Mission throughout 2017.

For more information about Mackinnons Solicitors and its range of legal and financial services, please visit: www.mackinnons.com

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May 252017
 

With thanks to Gemma Setter, PR Account Executive, Frasermedia.

Former Oil and gas worker Mark Cran undertook a barbering course at the Scottish Barbering School.

A former oil and gas worker has made the cut in a new barbering role at an Aberdeen-based luxury gents barber after being made redundant from his previous job.

Formerly a workshop technician at an oil and gas company, Marc Cran, from Insch, now works at Huntsman Barber after completing a specialist six-month course in barbering.

The 27-year-old is now a stylist at the city centre barbers, after he approached owner, Kyle Ross, on completion of the course.

Mr Cran worked in oil and gas for seven years, but lost confidence in the industry after he was made redundant from two separate companies within the space of six months. When deciding what career to pursue next, barbering immediately stood out to him, due to its creative and hands-on nature. 

To help improve his employability and skillset, he then undertook a barbering course at the Scottish Barbering School.

This involved living in Glasgow for three days a week and spending the remaining four days working at a local supermarket in Huntly.

Remarkably, he managed to juggle this heavy workload for four months without any days off, alongside looking after his two-year-old daughter. It was this hard work and dedication that impressed future employer, Mr Ross, and subsequently landed him the job at Huntsman.

Mr Cran said:

“I have really enjoyed my first couple of months at Huntsman, I am getting busier with clients every week and learning new skills on a daily basis. I am very grateful to Kyle for giving me the opportunity to progress within the barbering industry.

“It was the impact of the downturn that gave me the final push to try something different and take up a completely new career. I am actually really thankful that it did, as I am enjoying work a lot more and meeting new people every day. I get such satisfaction from seeing people leave my chair with a new-found confidence after getting their hair cut, I have never had that before.”

Mr Ross said:

“Marc is getting on really well at Huntsman, as he is both confident and competent in the role. I am very impressed with everything he has displayed so far and how quick he is to learn new skills.

“He has an eye for detail and is a complete perfectionist, which serves him very well in his new career as a barber. Our clients have really warmed to him and he is certainly a welcome addition to the Huntsman team.”

Huntsman is open from Tuesday to Saturday.  For more information on the hair salon visit:   

www.facebook.com/HuntsmanAberdeen 
www.twitter.com/huntsman_abrdn 
www.instagram.com/huntsman_aberdeen

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May 252017
 

With thanks to Clare Scott, Communications Consultant, CJS Communication & Marketing.

A long trip south proved more than worthwhile for a group of north-east wrestlers, with several among their number ascending all the way to the medallists’ podium.

Wrestlers from Oldmeldrum-based V Wrestling Academy won a number of medals at the recent English Junior Wrestling Championships at Thames Valley Athletic Centre in Eton.

11-year-old Colby Taylor struck gold in the 41k category. His fellow club members Leon Etko and Erin Mortimer added to V Wrestling’s medal haul taking silver and bronze in the 37k and 67k categories respectively.

There was further success for V Wrestling Academy in the Veterans’ Championships, which took place over the same weekend. Club member Keith Mortimer returned to Aberdeenshire with a silver medal in the 90k category.

Head coach Vio Etko accompanied the team along with his fellow coach Nicolae Cojocaru.

He said:

“This was a long trip to make for some of our younger wrestlers but they certainly rose to the occasion.

“As well as showing commitment and focus while competing, they all demonstrated great team spirit and camaraderie. The medals are the icing on the cake of a really great developmental experience.”

Leon Etko (12) repeated his silver medal success with a second placing in the 35k category of the recent International Tournament Calarasi Cup in Moldova.

Leon’s achievement in Moldova replicates that of his father and coach Vio Etko, who won the silver medal 25 years prior in the same event.

V Wrestling Academy is based at ETKO Sports Academy in Oldmeldrum. Head coach Vio Etko is a seven-time British wrestling champion and the current Commonwealth Games bronze medal holder. He is also a former winner of Aberdeenshire Sport Council’s Coach of the Year award.

Further information on V Wrestling Academy’s coaching programmes is available by calling ETKO Sports Academy on 01651 873876.

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May 192017
 

Duncan Sinclair, ASV CEO

With thanks to Yvette Rayner, PR Account Manager, Frasermedia.

A leading sports facility is forecast to bring over £2million to Aberdeen this year, as it welcomes high-profile national and international events. Aberdeen Sports Village (ASV), which is based on the city’s Linksfield Road, is holding four national and international competitions in 2017, which are predicted to bring the significant economic boost

Each year, ASV holds over 200 events at the prestigious venue, from local festivals to international competitions, by working closely with community leaders and national sporting bodies.

The first of this year’s prominent events, the Scottish National Age Groups Swimming Championships (SNAGS), took place at ASV at the end of March.

The event, one of the largest under 18 swimming event in the UK, brought an estimated £1million of economic benefit to the city. 1000 of the best swimmers in their age group competed, from over 90 clubs across the Scotland. For many, the prestigious event offered the chance to gain consideration times for the Commonwealth Youth Games, taking place in the Bahamas in July.

Netball Europe, which came to Aberdeen between 11-14 May, saw eight national and international teams compete in a series of matches, with spectator seats sold out for most matches. The four-day international under 21 championship featured 100 competitors from England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, as well as an open challenge section, introducing teams from Bermuda, Gibraltar, Israel and The Republic of Ireland.

ASV won the right to host Netball Europe after a sustained campaign by Aberdeen Sports Village and Netball Scotland, supported by VisitAberdeenshire.

In June, the British Masters and Senior Age Group Championships  will be hosted at ASV’s Aquatics Centre, featuring swimmers from the across the UK. Over 800 competitors will take advantage of ASV’s impressive 50m pool, competing in a series of races, medleys and relays.

The busy swimming season culminates with the Scottish National Open Swimming Championship between 27 June and 2 July, showcasing the best of Scottish swimming, with over 300 current and future champions competing at ASV.

Duncan Sinclair, ASV CEO, said:

“ASV has been able to attract this year’s national and international competitions by working closely with VisitAberdeenshire, Scottish Swimming and Netball Scotland. VisitAberdeenshire has calculated the swimming and netball events alone will bring an estimated £2million in financial benefit to Aberdeen, proving that leisure and tourism activities are a vital  part of our local economy.

“The Aquatics Centre is now classed as an official Performance Centre by Scottish Swimming, as ASV can confidently deliver large, exciting swimming events.

“ASV is ideally placed to host high-profile competitions, and we are proud to welcome teams and their supporters from across the world to our outstanding facility.”

ASV boasts a state-of-the-art gym, sports hall, indoor and outdoor athletics facilities, indoor football pitch, and a range of exercise classes, as well as the Aquatics Centre, which includes an Olympic standard 50m pool and 25m diving pool.

For more information, contact a member of the team at ASV on 01224 438900.

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