Apr 012016

Melrose Sevens, The Greenyards, Melrose, Scotland, Saturday 14th April 2013. PLEASE CREDIT ***FOTOSPORT/DAVID GIBSON***With thanks to Gemma Setter.

On Saturday 9 April, Aberdeen Grammar Rugby Club will join 23 other Scottish and international teams for the 126th annual Aberdeen Asset Management Melrose Sevens. The club will be giving it their all this year in the hopes of bringing the sought-after Ladies Cup back to Aberdeen for the first time.

Now an Olympic sport debuting in Rio de Janeiro this summer, rugby sevens was conceived over a century ago in the picturesque border town of Melrose by local butcher and player Ned Haig as a fundraiser for his team.

With its shorter length and fast-paced action, the seven-a-side sport quickly grew in popularity both in Scotland and overseas.

The annual tournament has captured the hearts of rugby fans across the globe, and 12,000 spectators will travel to Melrose to see the world’s oldest rugby sevens tournament in the flesh. For those unable to attend in person, the competition will also be broadcast live on the BBC.

Aberdeen Grammar Rugby Club will face stiff opposition on the day from around 20 eager Scottish teams, as well as international sides from Italy, France and Belgium who will all be vying for the glory of lifting the Ladies Cup in the home of rugby sevens.

Title sponsor Aberdeen Asset Management will return to support the historic rugby sevens tournament for the fifth time in 2016.

Martin Gilbert, chief executive of Aberdeen, says,

“In recent years, interest in rugby sevens has increased dramatically. From its origins in the depths of the Scottish borders to its new high-profile status as an Olympic sport, rugby sevens’ popularity and impact on the worldwide sporting community is undeniable.

“As the birthplace of rugby sevens, Melrose is still dedicated to fostering new talent and the town holds a special place in fans’ hearts. Each year thousands from around the world make the pilgrimage to The Greenyards in order to witness the sport at its roots. The atmosphere on the pitchside is incredible – unlike any other – but those unable to travel can still enjoy the action on screen.

“With the world’s attention firmly focussed on rugby sevens, the teams will be training harder than ever to lift the trophy at the tournament which started it all. Aberdeen is proud to support a sport which from humble Scottish beginnings has gripped the world, and continues to grow in popularity.”

The Aberdeen Asset Management Melrose Sevens offers fun and excitement both on and off the pitch, making the tournament an exciting experience for families, couples and rugby fans who like their sporting action fast and exhilarating. Couple that with the impressive fancy dress and electric atmosphere that fill the stands, and it makes for the perfect day out.

Tickets for the event start from £10 for children, £15 for senior citizens and £20 for adults. Family tickets are also available for £50, admitting two adults and two children.

For more information about the Aberdeen Asset Management Melrose Sevens, and to book tickets, visit www.melrose7s.com. Keep up to date with the action on Twitter @melrosevens

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Jan 192012

By Stephen Davy-Osborne

Nationwide book-retailer Waterstone’s may well be investing in the future by making the change over to e-books and readers, but the announcement that stores are soon to lose the apostrophe from their shop-fronts is what will drag the company into modern times.
– Or at least, that is the idea.

Announcing the change, which enraged the grammar police, Managing Director James Daunt said:

“Waterstones without an apostrophe is, in a digital world of URLs and email addresses, a more versatile and practical spelling.”

If the humble apostrophe is no longer good enough for a purveyor of literacy, then what place does it have in the fast food chain of McDonald’s or supermarket Sainsbury’s?

Neither of these non academic stores include the apostrophe in their website URLs, yet the apostrophe remains perched precariously between the final two letters on their shop facade, showing that these companies once belonged to a someone.

Indeed, Waterstone’s also was once a family run business, founded by a Mr Tim Waterstone a good 30-odd years ago. He no longer has anything to do with his legacy, nor is a family member at the helm in these uncertain waters. The removal of the apostrophe therefore distances the modern day company from its heritage.

Perhaps a deliberate move. Or perhaps a minimal cost PR stunt, knowing that any misuse or slight made against the apostrophe, which many would argue is integral to the English language, is likely to draw criticism and extensive media coverage. Especially from the Apostrophe Protection Society.

Professor Patrick Crotty, Head of the School of Language and Literature at the University of Aberdeen said:

“Everybody knows what Waterstone’s means, whether there is an apostrophe there or not. I don’t think that anything major is lost. I know some people get very excited about this and write to the Mail and Telegraph and so forth, but I must confess to a certain scepticism about their zeal. But when marking a student’s essay I would want the apostrophes to be in the correct place, because that is part of what we call Standard English.

“The English language has been around for a fair number of centuries, but the apostrophe rule itself has only been around for two centuries. There are some establishments, such as Kings College Cambridge which is far older than the apostrophe rule; and that has always been Kings College without an apostrophe. But these things change over time.”




Nov 132010

Voice’s Alex Mitchell tells of the scandalous dissipation of the bequest by Dr Patrick Dun in 1631. Dr Dun bequeathed the Lands of Ferryhill in favour of The Aberdeen Grammar School, the tenants of Ferryhill, and the pupils of poor homes which, if handled appropriately, would today be of immense value.

This is an account of how a bequest of great value was first diverted to wrongful uses, and then almost wholly dissipated, not by an outside body of meddlers, but by the very trustees themselves, in whose hands it ought to have been sacred.

Dr Patrick Dun was the son of Andrew Dun, a burgess of Aberdeen.   He was probably educated at the Grammar School, and thereafter proceeded to Marischal College.

In 1607, he took his Doctorate in Medicine in Basle, Switzerland.   In 1610, shortly after his return to Aberdeen, Dr Dun was appointed Professor of Logic and a Regent at Marischal College.   He was appointed Rector of the College in 1619, then Principal in 1621.   He held this office, through very troublesome times, until his resignation in 1649, and died two or three years later.

Dr Dun had an outstanding reputation as a practising doctor.   He was a man of substance, and when Marischal College was burnt down in 1639 he contributed handsomely towards the cost of the new buildings.   His portrait, by George Jameson, dated 1631, is still to be seen in the Hall of Aberdeen Grammar School.

The Lands of Ferryhill consisted in those days of bogs and whins, fit only for rough grazing, and were described by Francis Douglas even as late as 1728 as amounting to ‘little conical hills over-run with heath and furze … the flat bottoms between them drenched with stagnant water’.   The Lands of Ferryhill had belonged to the Trinity Friars, who feued them out to the powerful Menzies dynasty.   After the Reformation of 1560, the Lands of Ferryhill became the property of the Crown.

Dr Dun purchased the Lands of Ferryhill in 1629 for, it would seem, no other purpose than to bequest them, and all property thereon, by his Will, dated 3rd August 1631, to the ‘Toune of Aberdeine’ for the maintenance of four masters at the Grammar School.   Dr Dun bequeathed the whole of this extensive property to the Provost, Baillies and Council of Aberdeen for this specific purpose.   He directed that the rents obtained from these lands should be invested until enough money accumulated to buy another piece of land sufficient to yield, along with the original gift, a yearly revenue of 1,200 merks, this sum being sufficient to pay the basic salaries of the stipulated staff of four masters, including the Rector.

Pupils from poor homes, all those who borne the name of Dun and all children of tenants on the Ferryhill estate were to be taught free of charge.   Dr Dun’s Will concludes with a solemn injunction that the mortification, or charitable bequest, shall “stand unalterable, inviolable and unchangeable in all tyme hereafter for ever”.

instead of letting the lands out to rent, the Council proceeded to feu them off by public roup or auction

Dr Dun’s Bequest put the Grammar School on a sound and permanent economic footing, and provided the blessing of free education for boys whose parents could not afford to pay fees.   So what happened?

In 1653, when the Town Council assumed control of Dr Dun’s Bequest, the stock or capital in the Trust amounted to just over £74.   Rents were added until 1666, by which time the capital amounted to just over £583.   The Council considered that this was sufficient to allow them to invest in land, as per the terms of the Will.

However: instead of buying land, as the Will stipulated, the Council lent the money out, without adequate security, to various people, including some of their own number; two Provosts, one Baillie and at least two Councillors, all of whom became insolvent, so that the Trust sustained a heavy loss.   Others abstracted interest-free loans.

In 1677 the Council purchased the lands of Gilcolmston, on behalf of the town, for just over £1,444; and charged one-third of this sum to the Dun Trust.   This was wholly illegal, given that the capital of the Trust belonged to the masters at the Grammar School.   By 1681 the capital had declined to just over £469, of which £287 was earning no interest; of this latter sum, £131 was wholly lost.   The Town itself was borrowing freely from the Trust.

schoolmasters were deprived of salaries, and the benefit of free education was denied to those actual or potential pupils specified by Dr Dun

In 1752, William Moir, the tacksman of the Lands of Ferryhill, was bought out by the Council, which now entered into full possession of the property.   The income from rents had risen to £102 yearly.   However, instead of letting the lands out to rent, the Council proceeded to feu them off by public roup or auction, to the great loss of the Trust.

In 1753, the masters at the Grammar School petitioned the Council for an increase in salaries.   A settlement was arrived at, or enforced, which cancelled the Town’s debt to the Trust of £427 and ordained that the balance should be applied to building a new school – the predecessor, on Schoolhill, of the present Aberdeen Grammar School, which dates from 1867 – and establishing an endowment fund for its maintenance.   All this was utterly illegal, and contributed to the further dissipation of the Trust, the capital of which had fallen to just £100 by 1770.

The effect of this was that the schoolmasters were deprived of salaries, and the benefit of free education was denied to those actual or potential pupils specified by Dr Dun in his bequest of 1631.   Walter Thom, in his History of Aberdeen, published in1811, drew attention to the Town Council’s misappropriation of the Dun Bequest.   He wrote: “The injury sustained by the citizens of Aberdeen by the mismanagement of Dr Dun’s bequest is sufficiently apparent, and the turpitude of the crime cannot be palliated by any plea of ignorance … the disgrace attachable to those who abused this valuable institution … (etc)”.

The Education (Scotland) Act of 1872 transferred the control of the Grammar School and the other schools in Aberdeen from the Town Council to a new body, the School Board, which had to look into the whole tangled question of Dr Dun’s Bequest.   The capital at this time amounted to just over £3,623.   There followed difficult negotiations between the School Board and the Town Council, the upshot of which was that the Council agreed to pay the School Board the sum of £164 annually, being the amount agreed on as the income from Dr Dun’s Bequest, i.e., the feu duties of Ferryhill.

In 1929, the Grammar School, as with the other schools in Aberdeen, was brought once again under the control of the Town Council as a result of the Local Government (Scotland) Act of that year.   In 1934, provision was made for a payment of not less than £150 per year to be applied so as to benefit boys attending Aberdeen Grammar School.   This was all that remained of Dr Dun’s Bequest.

In 1634, when Dr Dun reported to the Town Council his intention to hand over the lands of Ferryhill on behalf of the Grammar School, the total population of the Royal Burgh of Aberdeen was only about 5,000.   The town consisted of sixteen streets, centred on the Broadgate and the Castlegate.   The lands of Ferryhill – so-named after the ferry across the Dee at Craiglug – were hillocky and marshy, of use for little else but rough grazing by animals.   Land of this kind was abundant and of little value.

By the first census in 1801, the population of Aberdeen was about 27,000; it increased almost six-fold over the 19th century to about 150,000 by 1901, and to about 213,000 by 2001.   The Lands of Ferryhill, which were wholly built over by 1901, would even then – never mind today – have been an immensely valuable property.

The Trust would have required adjustment following the advent of State-provided and State-financed education but, had it been retained intact and honestly administered by the Town Council, it is easy to imagine what a favourable position the Grammar School – or indeed the whole Burgh – could have enjoyed through the 20th century and today.   That this fair prospect has receded into the limbo of frustrated things, of “what might have been”, is due solely to the dishonesty and carelessness of successive Aberdeen Town Councils through the 17th and 18th centuries.

N.B.   This article is adapted from an original titled The Tercentenary of Dr Patrick Dun’s Bequest to the School, by W. Douglas Simpson, published in the Aberdeen Grammar School Magazine of 1934.