Dec 032015
 

Port Erroll SlainsBy Mike Shepherd.

Aberdeenshire Council are currently reviewing the conservation area status of Port Erroll, a village area of Cruden Bay that contains the harbour for the town.
Port Erroll is a 19th century fishing village lying beneath the shadow of the ruins of Slains Castle.

It retains much of its original character and has so far managed to avoid any unsightly new buildings.

It is therefore surprising that when the villagers were consulted about the conservation area status, they were given a questionnaire which started:

“Do you agree with the removal of the conservation area status? If not, why?”

There was little in the way of explanation as to why the conservation area status might be removed by the council.

I talked to one of the planning officers and was told that it was under consideration. For instance, there were concerns that the original character of the houses had been materially changed by the fitting of PVC windows rather than the stipulated wooden sash window design. It seems that the use of PVC in the village had either been approved by the council themselves on planning application or had been carried out without permission.

Many of the residents are upset at the idea that the consultation area status could be removed and have formed a heritage society in response. What lies at the heart of all of this is the definition of a conservation area in Scotland:

“An area of special architecture or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance.”

The implication is that if the conservation area is removed then the character and appearance of the village will not be considered desirable to preserve or enhance. The villagers share a strong feeling of both place and local pride. They feel very strongly that this would be seriously undermined if their own council judge the appearance of Port Erroll to be not worth bothering about.

If the conservation area status is removed then it makes it more likely that development in the area will go ahead. One controversial proposal for the village could be sanctioned if the conservation status goes. This is the draft plan aired by the Port Erroll Harbour Trust to build a two storey modern building on the site of the harbour drying green. The anticipated use of the building includes a tourist office, bistro, harbour office and rather ironically under the circumstances, a heritage centre.

Port Erroll is one of 41 conservation areas in Aberdeenshire and the council has plans to review several more including Buchanhaven (Peterhead) and Boddam. What the Port Erroll example shows only too clearly is the need for closer cooperation between the council and its citizens. They should work together with the aim of preserving of unique historical legacy of Aberdeenshire and to preserve its wonderful heritage for future generations to enjoy.

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Dec 032015
 

Bay of Nigg Mark MairWith thanks to The Battle for the Bay of Nigg Committee. 

As newcomers to the planning system, we are surprised at the lack of meaningful public consultation required for major infrastructure projects of national importance.

We have been advised that as the new harbour proposed for the Bay of Nigg appeared in the National Planning Framework (NPF), the community will have an uphill battle to stop it – even though the planning application hadn’t even been submitted at that point.

We would like to know what public consultation is required before projects are accepted into the NPF as no locals we know of were involved.

Also, for a £320 million project, why are the required methods of public engagement so dated/limited – a few newspaper adverts, occasional mention on local commercial radio, but no use of social media or even a local leaflet drop. The developers have not yet arranged a public meeting (as suggested by us) so that the risks, benefits and impacts could at least be fully debated, now that we finally have access to all the planning submissions and the full detail of the development.

In our opinion, the standard of consultation has been poor – for example asking people to comment on a project when they do not have facts to hand or do not have access to an unbiased, trustworthy source that they can rely on.

The Environmental Impact Assessment alone consists of 4 volumes and weighs 25kg. Yet locals are expected to read this and make informed comments within 42 days without any support from independent experts (the consultation also coincides with the run up to Christmas – very poor public engagement practice).

To us, something with this process feels broken – however we hope that there is a robust solution so the local community feels truly involved with this major planning decision that will have a permanent impact on all our lives rather than a consultation being viewed as a ‘tick box’ exercise.

We feel that public engagement in all planning processes should be in the true spirit of the recently-passed Community Empowerment Act.

More Info: The Battle for the Bay of Nigg Committee is a group of Torry residents trying to save our Bay from this disproportionate development. We have no specialised knowledge or qualifications. We are ordinary citizens trying to make our voices heard by Aberdeen Harbour Board, Marine Scotland, Transport Scotland, Aberdeen City Council and the Scottish Government.

Our Facebook pages have already attracted a following of almost 700 people, predominantly residents of Torry. For further information, please contact us at bay.of.nigg@gmail.com

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Nov 122015
 

Bay of Nigg Mark MairWith thanks to Renee Slater.

The Battle for the Bay of Nigg Committee have welcomed the publication of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and associated planning application documentation by Aberdeen Harbour Board (AHB).

It will be a difficult task for us to assimilate and analyse the content of these documents in the statutory 42 days.

At the August Torry Community Council meeting, the representatives of Aberdeen Harbour Board stated that they hoped to have the EIA report ready for the October Community Council meeting (on 15 October) which would have given us invaluable extra time to read this vital document.

The EIA comprises four volumes with Volume 2 consisting of a total of 26 chapters. We appreciate that a non-technical summary has been provided, however we feel that we owe it to our community to read this report in full.

We have previously found that the most illuminating details are often not included in the summary versions. For a major infrastructure project of such national importance, a 42-day period to examine all the associated, lengthy documents seems woefully inadequate.

The Battle for the Bay of Nigg Committee is a group of Torry residents who are trying to save our Bay from this disproportionate development.

We have no specialised knowledge or qualifications. We are ordinary citizens trying to make our voices heard by the corporate machinery of Aberdeen Harbour Board, Marine Scotland, Transport Scotland, Aberdeen City Council and the Scottish Government. Our Facebook pages have already attracted a following of almost 700 people, predominantly residents of Torry.

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Sep 192014
 

By Bob Smith.
Nigg2lo

Torry fowk they can tak nae mair
Hairbour extenshuns are hard ti bear
Bey o Nigg gyaan doon the spoot
Quality o life’ll be grim nae doot
.
Fer ‘ears an ‘ears at Nigg Bay
Fowk enjoyed thersels at play
Watchin the dolphins oot at sea
Or hittin gowf bas aff the tee
.
Marine an wild life on the brink
Fae sewage warks ye hiv a stink
Hooses they wull lose their price
Yet Torry fowk they are nae mice
They’ll fecht agin the hairbour new
An wint aabody tae pit  their view
“It’s only Torry” ye hear fowk say
Like donkeys- idiots like tae bray
.
The Torry fowk they hiv a richt
Ti live in peace, nae hemm’t in ticht
Wi industrial hairbours or shitie smell
Their lives becomin a livin hell
.
So jist stuff the new hairbour plan
Time ti derail the “developmint van”
Afore it blights the hail o Torry
Time its fowk nae mair need worry.

© Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2014

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Aug 302013
 
Stonehaven Harbour Festival Duncan Harley 115

The public turn out in record numbers for the Stonehaven Harbour Festival.

Over 2000 folk attended Sunday’s Stonehaven Harbour Festival and with sunny calm seas it looked to be a record day for the festival’s organisers, reports Duncan Harley.

Community groups and fundraisers, including Stonehaven Sea Cadets, RNLI, Newtonhill Pipe Band and HM Coastguard, had put together an exciting programme to help raise funds for a new Kidney Dialysis Unit at Kincardine Community Hospital.

The Bon Accord lifeboat was present and Mackie Academy FPs Rugby Club provided entertainment and laughs as both adults and children were encouraged to chuck some very wet sponges at the players.

The Festival’s organisers were Stonehaven and District Lions Club, the Rotary Club of Stonehaven and Stonehaven Round Table. The event was supported by several local sponsors including Survival Craft Inspectorate who recently took over the harbour’s MRI building and delivered advice and practical resources.

Despite some late afternoon fog, the day was a resounding success and the organisers intend to repeat it next year.

Following the disastrous flooding in the town in the recent past, the festival was intended as a means of celebrating what Stonehaven has to offer and as a tribute to the community effort which has put the town back on to its feet.

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Feb 232012
 

UTG Debate – Unearthing the hidden truths between the lines, or…

More puerile crap musing as to why the City Gardens Project will be the greatest thing to hit Aberdeen since the third one went in against Bayern Munich.

Dave Watt and an Italian gentleman muse on some more even-handed, totally neutral articles on the UTG debate from our two august local newspapers, The Depressing Journal and The Evening Suppository.

Col. Gaddafi was a supporter of UTG
A document has been found in a secret box in his Tripoli palace in which Col Gaddafi revealed his support for Union Terrace Gardens. The Colonel’s note admits that he did not want UTG dug up as he had a secret storehouse of Nazi gold which he used to finance the Miners’ Strike in 1983/4 buried under the grass just across from HMT.

– The Depressing Journal 02/02/12

Travellers support unchanged UTG as future camping ground
Joe the gypsy and his family have declared their support for UTG as they intend to have summer camps there for the next ten years. Joe said today,

“UTG is a great camping place and it’s only a short hop from there to the DSS where I and my family can make fraudulent benefit claims by day and roast small babies stolen from Aberdeen citizens over open fires by night”. 

– Evening Suppository 22/02/12

Indian and Aussie Tourist Boards worried about City Gardens Project
A spokesman for the Indian Tourist Board in Delhi expressed the Indian government’s worries that the completed City Gardens Project would draw tourists away from the Taj Mahal to the Granite City. Tourism Director Lal Singh said yesterday,

“This is a very worrying development indeed. If this goes ahead it will be the eighth wonder of the world, and who’s going to pay thousands of rupees to visit the Taj Mahal when something concrete built by Stewartie Milne Sahib is on offer.”

The Sydney Bridge’s Press Officer was rather more blunt, however, saying,

“Stone the crows, mate. It’s not bad enough that you whingeing Poms get off stealing our Ashes last year but now you’re going to build something that will make Sydney Harbour Bridge look like the Sheilas’ toilets in Wollamaloo. It’s enough to make a man give up ill-treating Abos and complaining about immigration all day long”. 

– The Depressing Journal 22/02/12

Dead rise ruse to praise Gardens raise
Legendary dead Aberdonians have been queuing up at dozens of reliable, scientific and not in the least bit hooky séances across the NE to endorse the City Gardens Project, the ES can exclusively reveal. Local medium, the mysterious, yet oddly familiar, Madame Ina Wood has found that local spooks are unanimous in their support for the cement vanity project. She said that famous Japanese, Kung Fu mannie Thomas Glover explained to her,

“I’m Thomas Glover and I’m dead now, but I look forward to my eternal spirit flitting hither and thither like a divine zephyr around the concrete gardens that will totally put Aberdeen on the map as it wasn’t on one before apparently.”

Long dead architect Scott Sutherland said,

“Jings I wish I’d built something half as good as the City Gardens Project. It’s going to look wonderful, and not at all be a hideous concrete abortion. I can’t wait to tell Bernini and Frank Lloyd Wright all about it at our next Jenga evening.”

Early photographer George Washington Wilson added,

“I took photos of Union Terrace in the nineteenth century and I only wish these hideous gardens had never existed. If there had been nothing there to photograph, I may have been able to follow my original dream of taking lots of photos of naked ladies for bongo mags. My spirit shall haunt the development like a bad smell.”

Madame Ina Wood told the ES,

“Cross my palm with silver dearie – about £50m should do – the spirits don’t lie. This is all absolutely true, and not a pile of hooey designed to fool the gullible. I’ll stake my hoop earrings and bizarre sideburns on it”. 

– Evening Suppository 23/02/12

Nostradamus predicted City Gardens Project
A recent study revealed that the seer Nostradamus predicted the rise of the City Gardens Project in Les Prophecies (1555) where he stated,

“A mighty stone mountain shall arise in the north like a phoenix from a deep valley frequented by ne’er-do-wells and assorted rascals in a city made of granite. The rising of this stone shall herald a Golden Age for the city. Poverty and want shall be a thing of the past and by God and Sweet Sunny Jesus, will those jammy Jock bastards be coining it in? I should f**king say so. Shekels galore, more funny black stuff than you can shake a stick at and four straight European Cup wins for the local calcio team added to a seventeen-nil home win over some recently impoverished followers of William of Orange. Go for it, you hairy kneed Caledonian caber tossers”.

– The Depressing Journal 23/02/12

City Gardens Project means absolutely phenomenal number of jobs and money for everybody
A recent study by the totally neutral Vote For The City Gardens Or We’ll Come Round To Your House, Rape Your Dog And Scatter Your Garbage Group has discovered that the City Gardens Project will actually generate jobs for around nine billion people. A spokesperson for the group told us that there was a slightly worrying shortfall with less than eight billion people on the planet at present but it was hoped that some sort of shift system might be introduced allowing people to breed during working hours.

The same study showed that the knock-on effect of this huge project would encourage tourists from all over the Solar System to visit Aberdeen with many hotels in the Granite City receiving bookings from Mars, Venus and Mercury already. With this increase in tourism plus the work situation the group also estimated that each household in Aberdeen would be £17m better off once the Project was completed.

– The Depressing Journal 24/02/12

Pro-UTG groups to establish labour camps for opponents
Reports have reached the Evening Suppository that supporters of the City Gardens Project have been subjected to threats and intimidation by shadowy figures in trenchcoats at three in the morning brandishing voting forms.

Speaking in stock ludicrous 1960’s movie German accents they have announced:

“Zat for you, Scottische schweinhund, ze Union Terrace Gartens debate is ofer” and “Ve haf vays of making you vote nein”.

If their demands have not been immediately agreed to by the unfortunate victims they have been threatened further,

“Perhaps your family und household pets vould benefit from ein kleine holiday in ‘ze camps’”.

– Evening Suppository 24/02/12

Sep 222011
 

Techfest rolled into town last week; one of its attractions was a free session of whale and dolphin watching from Torry Battery.  Ian Hay of East Grampian Coastal Partnership led the event. By Suzanne Kelly.

Torry Battery – Saturday morning 10 September: it was a bit windy, rainy and overcast – so it was almost perfect. Well, perfect for whale and dolphin watching anyway. Expert and marine mammal enthusiast Ian Hay of the East Grampian Coastal Partnership met a group which had gathered this morning as part of Aberdeen’s Techfest. And the marine life did not disappoint.
There was a small pod of dolphins – but these decided to head north along the coast just as the talk was due to start.

Those who got there early saw an impressive display, and were able to make the dolphins out as they headed away from the harbour. Ian then delivered an amazing talk; everyone present took away new information however young or old they were.

As the dolphins headed away, Ian turned his attention to the rich, varied bird life.  He pointed out the cormorants and eider ducks on a harbour jetty.  He reminded us that bird watchers from all over the world come to our City and shire for the wealth of species that are found here. Some species are protected; but he mentioned that the eider ducks (from which eider down comes) were protected since the time of St Cuthbert in the 8th Century.

Some birds travel here in the winter from the north (soon the great geese flocks will appear); some come up in the spring from the south. The lighthouse in Torry is as useful to birds as it is to ships – it serves as a beacon and aids seabirds to find land. Aberdeen also has a famous Sycamore tree loved by bird watchers – any number of rare species can make their way here.

Ian then returned to his specialist subject, our marine mammals. He rightly called this harbour:

“The best place in Europe for watching whales and dolphins.”

Ian said there are locally five predominant types of mammals:  Bottlenose Dolphins, Harbour Porpoises, White-beaked Dolphins, Risso’s Dolphins and Minke Whale.

The Bottlenose are the animals most commonly seen here; they travel in pods of upto 30 or 40; and are a coastal animal. The Harbour Porpoises are the most common species in the area – but ‘they don’t do very much’.  The White-Beaked Dolphins are very special to the area, and the Risso’s dolphins are identified by their large heads.

This species eat squid – and usually pick up a few scars in the process of catching them. The scars turn the Dolphin’s skin white, so if you see a white one, it’s going to be an older one.  This species is a bit more solitary than some of the other mammals which travel together in larger numbers.

If a Minke (or other) whale is around, a clue will be a large number of seabirds together at sea.

Their presence means a whale has found a shoal of fish and is rounding them up. Gannets, gulls and puffins will be seen picking fish up from the surface. Suddenly the birds will scatter as the giant whale’s mouth emerges to catch the fish.

Ian told us the unfortunate (if not heart-breaking) story of some humpback whales that appeared here each winter. There were a mother and her calf, and a male.  They made an impressive sight, however it is thought that the mother and calf were found on an Angus beach having become tangled in fishing nets.

Being mammals, they could not surface; they could not free themselves – and they died. Thankfully in general terms the population of the Humpback and other whales is returning. (Feel free to write to the Norwegian, Icelandic and Japanese Embassies and protest at their pro-whaling stance in the meantime).

Fisherman or not, we can all act responsibly to encourage and protect our marine life. 

For openers, don’t throw your plastic trash out near the shore, and don’t flush anything plastic down the toilet. You otherwise risk having your unwanted plastic junk (like cotton buds) ending up eaten by sea creatures that will probably die.

If you have slightly greater ambitions than not littering the sea with plastic goods, then by all means come to Torry Battery and look for marine life. Nine times out of ten, you’ll find something to see.

As our talk came to an end, the dolphins reappeared almost on cue. Many people had been surprised to know whales could be spotted, and many people planned to head back to Torry soon. I had been asking a family (originally from New York) for some comments on the morning’s activity.
The re-appearance of the dolphins left Iona and her brother little left to say except ‘did you see that one?’ ‘Amazing!’ and ‘Look there they are again!’

Things to do further afield

  • Visit Fowlesheugh RSPB site, south of Stonehaven. The quantity of birdlife (c. April to July) is astonishing.
  • Go watch the incoming, dramatic goose migration at Strathbeg
  • Join a beach litter clean-up. There is an upcoming event tomorrow – Don Mouth at 10am – and one in early December. Further information from Techfest offices – http://www.techfestsetpoint.org.uk/tis/
  • Consider joining a Norcet as ‘Citizen Scientist’ marine life observer – get a free trip to the Shetland Islands and help watch sea life at the same time – details on this opportunity and a host of other marine life issues and events from http://www.egcp.org.uk/
  • Are you a jet skier? Then please stay away from the dolphins! It’s the law: the dolphins cannot hear you until it’s too late, and they can’t get out of your way quickly. Thanks.
Sep 222011
 

On Monday the 26th September at Aberdeen harbour, the UAL Africa will be open to shippers and forwarders alike to tour on board and have a look at the newest vessel to be added to the current 16 multi-purpose geared vessels of Universal Africa Lines (UAL). With thanks to Rhonda Reekie.

The vessel was actually built in The Netherlands and is special because of the application of the Groot Cross-Bow (registered trademark), an innovative bow shape with wave piercing abilities.

This means the vessel will have less slamming and will be easier to maintain its speed compared to conventional bow shapes with bow flare.

Because of this shape, energy is saved – therefore  less fuel oil will be burned resulting in a reduction of CO2 output.

The vessel will be christened in Delfzijl, The Netherlands on the Friday 23rd September and then sails to Aberdeen, where she will set off on her maiden voyage via Antwerp to various destinations in West Africa like Takoradi, Lobito and Soyo. In the future she will also be used from the port of Houston.

UAL have been sailing from Aberdeen port now for 14 years, and Kestrel Liner Agencies Aberdeen  – finalists in the 2011 National Business Awards (for Customer Focus and Entrepreneur of the Year)  – are their liner agents . Last year they had over 30 vessels in Aberdeen for various West African destinations serving the oil and gas industry.

Kestrel will be hosting the event on Monday.

Jun 242011
 

“Which of our conflicting transport demands are most important?” asks Jonathan Hamilton Russell in this edit of his longer article, written to encourage debate on the future of personal and freight travel in NE Scotland.

Scotland has extremely ambitious climate change targets, yet we prioritise airport expansion and roadbuilding.

The NE economy needs transport infrastructure to allow movement of goods; people have to get to work with few holdups.

Meeting climate change targets means embracing sustainable transport usage by reducing car, road freight and air travel yet Aberdeen Airport has the fastest-growing passenger numbers in Scotland; public transport is the only option for many, but the majority are wedded to car use. Among Scottish cities Aberdeen car count is highest; Aberdeenshire has the highest rural area car usage; increasingly, Aberdeenshire residents drive to work in Aberdeen, exaggerating traffic bottlenecks.

Public spending cuts mean local and national governments face stark financial choices affecting resources for maintaining and enhancing transport infrastructures.

The days of cheap petrol have passed. Prices will continue to rise.

Bus fares are higher here than throughout Scotland.  Southbound buses are often of poor quality although local buses are of a high standard, and Aberdeen citizens, on average, are nearer bus stops than other Scottish cities’ residents.

Bus use in Aberdeenshire can be problematic, but could be increased by driving to stops and transferring to buses – less stressful than car travel. Council cuts to services for the disabled and elderly have made travelling significantly more challenging for such socially-excluded groups.

What can we do?

There’s general agreement that people should be encouraged to travel more sustainably. Cycling activity is increasing, although levels are lower than elsewhere in Scotland, and it needs to be encouraged as a healthy, environmentally-friendly activity.

Cycle pools, common in many European cities, could be created. Cycle routes to school, given priority, would provide more fun and health benefits for children than car travel. Cycle safety measures would need to be put in place, particularly at roundabouts, to make them less dangerous.

Park and ride schemes, particularly at Kingswells, are less successful than envisaged but remain a commuting option. Car-sharing, whilst becoming more common, is far from the norm. NESTRANS, responsible for planning and transport implementation, has suggested piloting car-share lanes.

Laurencekirk railway station has re-opened, but more stops are needed, possibly at Kittybrewster and Altens. The Haudagain roundabout obviously needs improving, with priority for cyclists, buses and car-sharing.

A new Bridge of Dee is needed – contribution to its cost from that area’s large retailers might have been written into the conditions when planning consent was agreed. Any new development should prioritise cycles, buses and car-sharing.

Aberdeen is a fairly small city and walking should always be marketed as a healthy, cheap and quick transport option.

Traffic lights in pedestrian high-use areas should give priority to pedestrians. 20 mph restrictions have improved safety, although limits are regularly broken by a minority of drivers.

Offering flexible working hours is effective in reducing peak-time traffic levels. Salary benefits for those cycling or car-sharing could be introduced, with car pools for staff who have to drive during  work time. Working at home, for at least part of the week, is an option as is business conferencing rather than travelling to meetings. Both would reduce business costs.

it is well-documented that increased road space leads to increased traffic

Will the increased price of petrol reduce car use enough, or do we need to introduce road pricing, viewed as the single measure most likely to effect change to how we travel? The increased motoring costs would make drivers consider alternatives.

Aberdeen would almost certainly benefit, reducing the numbers moving to Aberdeenshire as extra travel costs outweigh housing cost savings.  It is a hot potato, however, and would be unpopular due to the high levels of car use locally. Few politicians would have the courage to suggest its introduction, despite being effective in reducing car  dependency.

We also need to identify new means of financing transport developments and to maintain the current deteriorating infrastructure. Road pricing could raise those funds.

Some planning decisions have encouraged car use. Union Square adjoins both bus and rail terminals but it has also provided increased parking opportunities.

 It has had a detrimental commercial effect on Union Street, George Street and Bon Accord Centre shops, all more accessible by bus.

The proposed Union Terrace development would increase city centre car parking availability, flying in the face of the need to reduce car travel and move towards more sustainable transport methods.

All measures have advocates and opponents. The Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR) for example, highlights conflicting views and interests.  Newton Dee Village fought an effective campaign to stop the road encroaching on that community; Road Sense has successfully raised legal objections, forcing public inquiries, even if of limited scope.

The AWPR has both advantages and disadvantages. It would help take freight off Aberdeen’s roads although significant volumes still have to come in and out of Aberdeen.

It would reduce travel times although there are other bottlenecks further south. It would reduce congestion at the Haudagain roundabout and Bridge of Dee, but it is well-documented that increased road space leads to increased traffic. Roads in general will become more congested.

The AWPR would help businesses. It will allow more people to live outside Aberdeen as it will be quicker, at least initially, to travel into Aberdeen but will lead to an increasingly-ageing city population.

Such demographic change will leave Aberdeen City Council with less money and greater demands on resources. An excellent deal has been negotiated in terms of local authorities’ contributions, with the Scottish Government meeting 82% of costs. These, however, have already escalated and impending substantial expenditure cuts will leave less money in the overall pot.

The low level of rail freight uptake is a national scandal. Road freight transport’s perceived flexibility sees it preferred.  Historically, there were conflicts with rail unions, who, however, are now keen for freight to move to rail. This will need increased public and private investment, less likely in a period of reduced public spending, although in terms of providing work and kick-starting the economy this option should not be ruled out. This also applies to the AWPR.

There would need to be contracts developed between the Freight Transport Association, the Road Haulage Association, rail companies, unions and government at all levels.

The replacement of the freight terminal by Union Square was a setback for future local rail freight capacity.

New freight facilities have been introduced at Craiginches and at Rathes Farm but this has not increased capacity. There are sea/rail links at Waterloo Quay and freight yards at Inverurie and Huntly. NESTRANS strategy states that development of new open-access freight terminals could be explored and if transferring freight to rail becomes reality, new depots would be needed.

Aberdeen harbour is an excellent freight facility and passenger transport gateway to Orkney and Shetland, with potential to expand both services. Currently five million tonnes of freight are exported through the harbour, but the loss of rail freight infrastructure in the station interchange area was a lost opportunity to link sea freight with rail.

We have to decide on our priorities.

Are we really concerned about climate change?

Can we move towards more community-based forms of travel from those currently privatised?

Do we want a more healthy society that walks and cycles more?

Can our business needs dovetail with our environmental needs?

Is it possible to think more holistically when making planning decisions?

Aberdeen Voice would welcome contributions to this debate.

Image credits:

RAILWAY JUNCTION © Davidmartyn | Dreamstime.com
CAR INTERIOR © Li Fang | Dreamstime.com
BICYCLE PARKING LOT © Chris Mccooey | Dreamstime.com
UTG DENBURN © Mike Shepherd

Jun 182011
 

With thanks to Mike Shepherd.

Peter Williamson was kidnapped as a child in Aberdeen harbour and taken to the American Colonies where he was sold as a slave.

On gaining his freedom, he was kidnapped by the Indians, living with them and eventually escaping from them. He then spent three years in the British Army fighting against the French and the Indians, only to be captured again, this time by the French.

As part of a prisoner exchange he was repatriated to Britain in 1757.

In Plymouth he was released from the army with a purse of six shillings.  This was enough to get to him to York, by which time he was penniless.

He managed to persuade some local businessmen to publish his book, titled  The Life and Curious Adventures of Peter Williamson, Who was Carried off from Aberdeen and Sold for a Slave. This sold very well and gave him enough money to return to Aberdeen in June 1758, fifteen years after being kidnapped.

He had several hundred copies of his book with him, some of which he managed to sell on the streets of Aberdeen. The book eventually came to the notice of Councillors and merchantmen in the city, and although nobody was named, they did not like what they read. The Procurator Fiscal lodged a complaint with the Provost and Magistrates, stating:

“that by this scurrilous and infamous libel … the corporation of the City of Aberdeen, and whole members whereof, were highly hurt and prejudged; and therefore that the Pursuer (Peter Williamson) ought to be exemplary punished in his person and goods; and that the said pamphlet, and whole copies thereof, ought to be seized and publicly burnt.”

A warrant was issued for his arrest. He was taken from his lodgings and brought before a Magistrate at the courthouse. Peter was asked to repudiate publicly everything he had said concerning the merchants of Aberdeen. Until he agreed, he was to be imprisoned and his books seized. After a short time in the Tolbooth (a jail in the Aberdeen Town House), he was bailed and stood for trial. On being found guilty, he was told to lodge a document with the court confessing to the falsity of the book and to pay a ten shilling fine, otherwise he would be imprisoned. This he reluctantly agreed to, leaving Aberdeen and moving to Edinburgh.

In a ceremony watched by the Dean of the Guild, the Town Clerk, the Procurator Fiscal and the Baillies, the offending pages were sliced from 350 of Williamson’s books and publicly burnt at the Mercat Cross by the town hangman.  The remaining pages were never returned.

In Edinburgh, Peter contacted a lawyer and started planning for a legal challenge. He opened a coffee shop which became frequented by the Edinburgh legal fraternity and he started to teach himself Scots law. The year 1760 saw the  start  of an extended phase of courtroom battles against his persecutors in Aberdeen. In 1762, he was successful in getting the result of the Aberdeen trial reversed and was awarded costs and a £100 in damages.

The results of his investigations had revealed the names of the businessmen behind his kidnapping. These were Captain Robert Ragg, Walter Cochrane (the Aberdeen Town Clerk Depute), Baillie William Fordyce, Baillie William Smith, Baillie Alexander Mitchell, and Alexander Gordon, all local merchants with a share in the ship, Planter.

Further litigation ensued. Witnesses were found and they were mainly men who as boys had managed to escape kidnapping. The father of a boy who had sailed with Peter Williamson to the Americas testified. He said that while the Planter had been moored at Torry, his son had returned to him and refused to go back. He claimed that Captain Ragg and others involved had spoken again and again with him in the street, warning him that he would be sent to the Tolbooth if he didn’t send his son back to the ship. The boy went back.

The main incriminating evidence was the so-called “kidnapping book”. This was a ledger detailing all the expenses of the slave-ship venture. It mentioned Peter Williamson by name and included entries such as:

“To one pair of stockings to Peter Williamson, six pence; To five days of diet, one shilling and three pence.”

One entry read:

“To the man who brought Peter Williamson, one shilling and six pence.”

Eventually in 1768 the case was proved. Peter was awarded damages of £200 plus 100 guineas costs.

Child slavery was endemic in Aberdeen and elsewhere in the 1700s. The plantations in the American colonies were desperate for labour. The Book of Bon Accord (Robertson 1839) records that:

“The inhabitants of the neighbourhood dared not send their children into town, and even trembled lest they should be snatched away from their homes. For in all parts of the country emissaries were abroad, in the dead of night children were taken by force from the beds where they slept; and the remote valleys of the Highlands, fifty miles distant from the city, were infested by ruffians who hunted their prey as beasts of the chase.”

Skelton (2004) mentions that it was estimated that 600 boys and girls were abducted and sold for slavery between 1740 and 1760 in Aberdeen and the North-east. On the voyage alone that took Peter Williamson, there were 69 youngsters on board.

A BBC website accompanying a radio series on the history of the British Empire fills in some background from the period:

“Most accounts of British slaving date from the 16th century with the shipping of Africans to the Spanish Main. But less discussed is what happened to English and Scots eight, nine and ten year-olds in places like Aberdeen, London and Bristol. Many from those places were sold for forced labour in the colonies.

London gangs would capture youngsters, put them in the hold of a ship moored in the Thames and when the hold was full, set sail for America. Many authorities encouraged the trade. In the early 17th century authorities wanted rid of the waifs, strays, young thieves and vandals in their towns and cities. The British were starting to settle in Virginia. So that’s where the children went.

This was a time when it was common enough in Britain to have small children as cheap, or unpaid labour. In 1618 one hundred children were officially transported to Virginia. So pleased were the planters with the young labour that the then Lord Mayor, Sir William Cockayne, received an immediate order from the colony “to send another ship load.”
See: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/empire/episodes/episode_36.shtml

Sources:

*Joseph Robertson: “The Book of Bon Accord”. Aberdeen 1839.
*Douglas Skelton: “Indian Peter. The extraordinary life and adventures of Peter Williamson”. Edinburgh, 2004.
*Peter Williamson “The Life and Curious Adventures of Peter Williamson, Who was Carried off from Aberdeen and Sold for a Slave”. York, 1757.

Read the full story here: The Life and Curious Adventures of Peter Williamson