May 272011

On Sunday 22 May, people gathered on Tullos Hill for the first of what will be many picnics and outings to protest against Aberdeen City Council’s proposed cull of the area’s roe deer. Voice representatives were there, Suzanne Kelly among them, and she reports.


The decision to cull deer for the next several years has caused widespread outrage for its lack of compassion, lack of scientific basis and the complete lack of any kind of democratic process.

People came by car, bus and foot (I got drenched in the rain and some unexpected hailstones – which was refreshing actually) to see for themselves why Councillor Aileen Malone and others insist that deer be killed to plant forty thousand trees.

Within five minutes of hiking up the gentle slope to the Hill, it became crystal clear to everyone present that making any change to this unspoilt, natural paradise would be nothing short of the vandalism that local arsonists are already practicing.

There were around 30 people, young and old and all had an amazing day out, despite gusty wind and showers of light rain.  The hillside was alive with flowering gorse, delicate wildflowers, and the beautiful white and blue Dame’s Violets.  Views of the city were dramatic, and the Baron’s Cairn and other bronze age tumuli reminded everyone that these features are found in few locations anywhere in the world.  This hill is Scottish Natural Heritage embodied and it should be preserved as it is.

The Council used to value this natural resource.  Last year our City Council saw fit to have tours and archaeological talks about this area, and wrote:-

“Tullos Hill has long been known as an important archaeological site because of the four Bronze Age burial cairns there: Cat Cairn; Baron’s Cairn; Crab’s Cairn; and Tullos Cairn, which are scheduled as monuments of national significance”. – Aberdeen City website

Precisely what forty thousand trees will mean to the area’s archaeology is unclear.  What is clear is that the City has decided the Tullos Hill Roe Deer must be culled (that means shot and killed to you and me) to make way for the non-existent trees.

What will become of the wildflowers and increasingly rare native orchids – and the existing trees which constitute the ecosystem that is already there?  Were these features suddenly less important than planting a tree for every citizen?  No one on the picnic thought so.

I hope these photos will go some way to making people think what is at stake here.  The views are beautiful; the plants and cairns amazing.  Those who stayed all night got fantastic sunset photos as well.

The photos of the burnt gorse are interesting.  Some of our party thought this was normal council burning – but the presence of burnt tins of beer made me think otherwise.

Arsonists have long sought out this area and it is a wonder anything survives at all.  Forty-thousand trees will make an inevitable, eventual conflagration with far more serious consequences than any previous ‘Gramps’ fire.

I personally put this eventual disaster at the door of Ms Malone and Pete Leonard of Aberdeen City Council.

There has been no word forthcoming from our City Council about the misleading consultation, the prejudice of SNH towards lethal deer control, and the undemocratic dismissal of the local Community Councils – and the thousands of petitioners pleading for the deer to be left alone – and hopefully for the area to be respected.  (see other articles in the Aberdeen Voice and other publications for details).

Since Ms Malone – arguably the most responsible party for this ‘tree for every citizen’ scheme – has not issued any explanation for her poor conducting of this affair – let alone an apology to the many people whose wishes and rights have been overwritten – it is time for more action.

I would call on everyone who loves nature to visit Tullos Hill if they can.

If after seeing this site (or just the photos if you cannot visit), you agree it should be left in peace and protected, then please write to your city councillors, your MP, your MSP and MEP and tell them what you think.

I will be sending a letter to the  Council asking for Ms Malone’s resignation.  I doubt my lone action will have the slightest impact, however – if anyone joins me there is some chance this monstrous idea can be halted. The city needs trees – but it also needs Tullos Hill’s unique oasis which supports man and nature in its current form.

The trees might have made a suitable addition to Loirston Loch’s less windswept fields – but these are now marked for another destructive scheme – a 21,000-seat stadium. That is another story altogether – one which might seem a bit quiet now, but which is assuredly going to be another hard-fought battle.

Our City’s resources are going to the highest bidder with no concern for your wishes or mine. The time to change that situation is now – and the battleground is Tullos Hill.

( Note – To fully enjoy the  photographs, click on the image to enlarge. Thanks To Suzanne Kelly and Clare Rochford for the pictures. )



May 272011

The Fire Brigades Union’s report ‘Easy Targets’ details some of the scenes their members have experienced. Bricks, bottles, even petrol bombs have been used against emergency services when they have answered calls. Voice’s Suzanne Kelly, with input from Steve Jordan, juxtaposes this sometimes-brutal reality with the excellent global work being done by Florian.

Across the UK, fire-fighters and ambulance crews risk their lives every time they race to answer an emergency call.  They rarely know exactly what they will face until they get to an incident scene.

There might be a raging fire, serious hazards and risks to cope with, and casualties may well be in the middle of such scenes.

As if it weren’t challenging enough dealing with fires and casualties, there is a very real risk of being attacked by mobs armed with bottles, bricks and weapons. This is the reality for fire-fighters and ambulance crews in the UK today.

As if the risk of physical assault wasn’t bad enough, the proposed budget cuts are nothing short of an assault on essential life-saving resources provided by the emergency services.  The Union describes the proposed cuts as:

“… nothing short of a full scale ideological onslaught on the fundamental principle of public service” (Fire Brigade Magazine, October 2010

People trying to save lives in the UK are, sadly, not given the resources and support they need.

Against this backdrop of problems, there is a group of volunteers determined to make a difference in poorer countries – countries which desperately wish they had the resources we in the UK take for granted, and even abuse. These volunteers provide training, gear and equipment, and are Operation Florian.

According to Operation Florian’s brochure, Florian was established in 1995;

“It is a UK Fire Service Humanitarian Charity working to promote the protection of life amongst communities in need worldwide, by the provision of equipment and training to improve fire fighting and rescue capabilities.”

Its roots are in the aftermath of the Bosnian war in which that region’s infrastructure was severely damaged. Fire-fighters from Manston were visiting the town of Split; they had been invited to help identify the way forward and see what could be done.

During this visit, a serious fire broke out near the town. There were simply no means to fight the fire successfully and acres of forest and buildings were lost. The visiting fire-fighters decided they had to help, and Florian was started, named after St. Florian, the patron saint of fire-fighters.

The first fire fighting truck sent abroad by Operation Florian volunteers is still in service today. It was clear in those early days that much more help was needed.

The charity is run purely by volunteers from the emergency services. Activities include fundraising, training, and supplying equipment and protective gear. When a project is identified, equipment is found, often from local authorities or sales. Everything is tested before being sent abroad, and training is always provided.

The Grampian Fire Department carried out an important project for Florian in Macedonia in 2007. A team of six Grampian area fire-fighters delivered four trucks and spent weeks training the Macedonians. In total, Operation Florian has delivered

  • 163 fire and rescue vehicles
  • 7 aerial ladder appliances
  • Over 650 breathing apparatus sets and cylinders
  • Over 3,000 sets of protective clothing
  • 40 hydraulic rescue sets
  • 110 portable pumps and generators.

Steve Jordan of Operation Florian, who was recently awarded an MBE for his services to Macedonia,  stated:

“It is vital that the work of Operation Florian continues, not only in Macedonia but across the world. I am most grateful to Grampian Fire and Rescue Service volunteers who have carried out valuable training and donated vital equipment. This year, the volunteers have carried out Road Traffic Collision training in Delcevo led by Alan Davie from Grampian Fire and Rescue Service. I would like to thank all at Grampian for giving up their time to help others within deprived communities across the world”.

Fires destroy wildlife, property, and people and ruin lives and families. Anyone who is willing to risk their own neck, time and time again, to save others deserves all the support we can give them.

If you have any help you can give Operation Florian be it funding or skills, then please do get in touch at 01304 617859 or

May 192011

By Alan Robertson.

Two separate fires broke out on Tullos Hill on the evening of Wednesday 18th May from around 8.30pm until the Fire Brigade brought them under control approximately an hour later. The fires were at either side of the hill and one of the fires stretched across an area I would estimate to be approximately 200 metres.

Despite the fact that both fire outbreaks were on green gorse land, the recent dry conditions allowed them to spread extremely quickly. Had conditions been different with a prevailing wind to assist, the blazes may have covered a far greater area at speed and caused more extensive damage.

There has been a history of wilful fire raising on the hill. At present this results in brush fires. The Fire Brigade have estimated that in one summer the cost to their service was in excess of £35,000.

These latest incidents raise further concerns about the viability of Tullos Hill for the proposed planting of 40,000 trees by Aberdeen City Council in their plan to turn the area into a forested area designated Diamond Wood status by the Woodland Trust. Should a similar fire or fires start in a large forested area, as proposed by the Council, the potential for a large scale blaze across a vast area of Tullos Hill would appear to be a real possibility.

Worryingly, Tullos Hill is an area where methane gas, produced by the decomposition of buried waste, is vented from underground using special equipment that is spread across the entirety of the hill. The potential combination of a large forested area and the continual venting of highly flammable methane gas could present a major risk to the surrounding industrial estates if a large forest fire was to take hold.

Tullos Hill is also in close proximity to Tullos Primary School.

71 fires occurred in 2006 according to Grampian Fire And Rescue Service – down from 132 in 2005.  This reduction has come about as the result of a range of measures undertaken by the Fire Service in partnership with Police, the local community, schools and media.

However the incidence and potential risk of fires on Tullos Hill will be exacerbated if the proposed extended forestation were to go ahead and this further calls into question the Council proposals to plant a large number of trees in this area.

Jan 072011

By Fred Wilkinson.

Like many of our readers I’m sure, it is with mixed feelings that I take down the tree and pack away the baubles and tinsel. The old year is out, and the new one is suddenly almost a week in the making. For better or worse, normality returns and all the fuss is over for another year. Or is it?

In the Northeast village of Burghead in Moray, residents are looking forward with anticipation to their own unique annual Hogmanay celebration. Condemned in the 18th century by the church as  “an abominable, heathenish practice”, the Burning Of The Clavie is surely one of Scotland’s most bizarre and spectacular events.

The event takes place on 11th of January every year – or the 10th should the 11th fall on a Sunday – in correspondence with what was the last day of the year before our calendars were changed in 1660.

To summarise the event as simply the carrying of a burning barrel through the town fails to convey the deep-rooted and elaborate nature of the ceremony.

Fire has strong associations with Hogmanay.

From the symbolism of a single lump of coal as a first footing gift to wish comfort, health, and/or luck – or in other words the wish that the recipients ‘lum may aye reek’ – to the extravagance of the Edinburgh Fireworks display, The Burning Of The Clavie has more in common with the former, but with detail, ambition and meaning more in common with the procession of the Olympic flame.

The ceremony commences on the night with the clavie itself – a half barrel full of woodshavings and tar, which is nailed to a post. It is believed by some that the same nail is used every year. It is carried, borne on the shoulders of a single male resident to the home of the Burghead provost so that he can light the clavie with embers from his own fire. The flaming barrel is carried in turn by around 10 men, clockwise around the town, and embers from the barrel are presented to homes/households of significance.

The clavie is then carried to the ‘clavie stone’ – believed to be the altar of and old fort on Doorie Hill, where it is set down, and more fuel is added until the whole hillside is set ablaze.

The ceremony, in a manner similar to many rituals around the world, across faiths, and throughout the ages, is completed as attendees take away embers from the fire to light their own home fires on ‘New Years Day’ symbolising perhaps the cycle of life, renewal, the passing of cold winter and the promise of spring, or simply as the tradition dictates – for good luck.

Click for more info

Dec 172010

Last week Aberdeen Voice brought you our first ever prize competition, and the time has come to announce our two lucky winners; each of whom will receive a copy of Stuart Donald’s excellent book ‘On Fire With Fergie’.

Voice’s Dave Innes reviews here.

We asked: Against which European opposition did fallen idol Mark McGhee score a Pittodrie hat trick in 1984’s European Cup-Winners’ Cup?

Of all the entries offering the correct answer ‘Ujpest Dosza’, the two winners selected at random were:

Alan McGowan, and Brian Murison.

Aberdeen Voice would like to thank everyone who entered our first competition, and  offer congratulations to the winners. To the unsuccessful entrants; better luck next time! Here’s hoping, whoever you support (other than Motherwell), that Saturday afternoon brings some consolation.

Dec 102010

David Innes presents Voice’s historic first online competition….

Thanks to a generous offer from publishers Hachette, we have two signed copies of Stuart Donald’s rather wonderful book On Fire With Fergie to give away as prizes, just in time for Christmas.

We reviewed it here after attending the book launch

We liked it a lot. So will you. In fact, why haven’t you bought it already? Time’s a bit tight, so the competition will be open for entry for one week only. Just use our contact form and send to the competition address,  with the subject of Footie Competition

So that we can remember him in happier circumstances:

Against which European opposition did fallen idol Mark McGhee score a Pittodrie hat trick in 1984’s European Cup-Winners’ Cup?

You’ll need to include a home address so that we can post the book to you if you’re a winner. And no, we can’t post it down the fibre optic cable, you gype. We won’t publish details other than your name, of course.

There, easier than Fix The Ball.

Two winners will be drawn from all the correct entries, and we’ll announce the winners next Friday (17 December), give the publishers your details and hope that Santa arrives early.

All the usual rules apply – family members of Voice regulars aren’t eligible to take part (sorry, Granny, you’ll have to buy your own copy) and we’re not open to bribery or coercion.

Good luck.