Jan 282016

Mental Health Aberdeen (MHA) has forged a link with an innovative charity which offers a therapeutic animal service. With thanks to Jessica Murphy, Senior Account Executive, Citrus:Mix.

MHA owl and pussycat1The leading north-east charity recently visited The Owl and The Pussycat Centre in Maud, which gives people the chance to have a positive experience with birds of prey, including the owl stars of Harry Potter, Eral and

Service users in MHA’s Companions Befriending Service and their companions had a magical time on the visit, which was used as an opportunity to get out and about in the community, have fun and build relationships with peers.

Flora Todd, manager of MHA Companions Befriending, is currently looking for volunteers to take on a befriending role within the charity.

She said:

“Our service users and their companions thoroughly enjoyed themselves at The Owl and The Pussycat Centre, and we would like to thank everyone there for making us so welcome. We would love to repeat visits like this as they are so beneficial in helping our service users combat feelings of isolation and embrace day to day life. Interaction with animals and birds is a great tool for improving a person’s wellbeing.

“Companionship can make an incredible difference to a person’s wellbeing and it was fantastic to see our befrienders and service users interacting with the owls and having such a good time. We are currently on the look-out for volunteers to join our pool of befrienders in Peterhead, Fraserburgh, Banff, Turriff and surrounding rural areas. It is a fantastically rewarding role to take on and while it has its challenges, the transformation it can bring about to someone’s life is incredible.

“Volunteers befrienders can help in so many different ways, from going out for coffee, helping build their self-confidence and learning new skills to attending local activities such as exercise classes and arts or cultural groups. They are also very much a listening ear. We would urge anyone interested to get in touch with us and find out more about becoming a befriender.”

A committed network of befriending volunteers has served the north-east through MHA for a number of years but the charity is working to expand the service.

Full training is provided to all volunteers, who must be aged 18 and over, and the charity has an experienced team leading the programme. All out of pocket expenses are reimbursed and the next induction training course will begin in February.

MHA was founded in 1950 and provides support services, counselling and advice to people affected by challenges related to mental health and wellbeing. Services are available for children from the age of 12 and adults. The organisation was among the first to provide community care – with its first residential project, a group home for discharged psychiatric patients, opened more than 35 years ago. MHA has also been providing day services continuously for over 60 years.

For more information on the befriending scheme and volunteering opportunities contact Flora Todd on 01779 470122 or visit www.mha.uk.net.

For more information on The Owl and Pussycat Centre visit www.owlandpussycatcentre.co.uk

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Oct 222015

MHApicWith thanks to Jessica Murphy, Senior Account Executive, Citrus Mix.

A ceilidh held in aid of Mental Health Aberdeen (MHA) has brought in thousands of pounds to help the charity.
Employees at oil and gas consultancy ADIL danced their way to raising £3,000 for MHA – their chosen charity of the year.

Staff at ADIL have not just been donning their dancing shoes to support the charity – earlier this year they also pulled up their sleeves, gave up their spare time and helped MHA paint its offices.

The company’s continued support has so far brought in more than £6,400.

Astrid Whyte, chief executive of MHA, said:

“The support we receive from companies in Aberdeen is so important and makes such a difference to us. Staff at ADIL have raised a fantastic amount for us already throughout the year and we would like to thank them for their generous efforts so far.

“We are particularly appreciative of gestures like this in the current economic climate. Demand for our services continues to grow throughout the north-east and support like this is invaluable to us as we work hard to meet requirements. Holding events also helps us to build up our profile and make people aware of what we do, as well as letting them know we are here to help.

“We work throughout Aberdeen and the north-east and there is a strong need for the services we offer, which range from our Companions Befriending Service to youth counselling sessions. We want to continue providing and improving these services in local communities in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, and kind gestures like this make all the difference to us in achieving that.”

Peter Brawley, operations and improvements manager at ADIL, said:

“MHA is a fantastic charity and it is great to know that the money we have raised will be going towards such a good cause.

“Despite the situation that the oil industry is currently in, we believe that it is still crucial to provide support to our community and we will do whatever we can to do so.”

Founded in 1950, MHA offers a range of resources which include emotional and practical support, information and advice, support with helping overcoming social isolation, links and access to other community resources as well as activities promoting mental wellbeing. Based in Aberdeen, the charity has centres throughout the north-east in towns including Aboyne, Banff, Ellon, Peterhead and Inverurie.

The organisation was among the first to provide community care – with its first residential project, a group home for discharged psychiatric patients, opened more than 35 years ago. MHA has also been providing day services continuously for over 60 years.

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Jul 102015

MHApicWith thanks to Paul Smith, Citrus Mix.

A sold out 80s themed evening has brought in thousands of pounds for a leading north-east charity.
Revellers travelled back in time at the event in aid of Mental Health Aberdeen (MHA) and transformed themselves into a host of 80s characters from Michael Jackson and Madonna to Freddie Mercury and the Ghostbusters.

Organiser Laura Emslie and her sister-in-law Suzanne Carry were delighted that the event proved so popular, raising more than £5,000 for MHA, which provides support services, counselling and advice to people related to mental health and wellbeing.

Laura said:

“The evening went amazingly well and everyone had a fantastic time. Our aim was to get people talking about mental health issues and of course to raise as much money as we could for MHA. We were absolutely delighted with the final fundraising amount, especially as this is the first time we have ever done anything like this.

“MHA is a fantastic charity that does so much to help people and it is a cause I am passionate about supporting. We had 300 people there on the night and quite a few came up to us to ask if we would be doing it again next year, which we took as a great compliment.”

All funds from the ticket sales were donated to MHA along with proceeds from a raffle and auction which was held during the evening.

Fiona Mooney, MHA’s fundraising and marketing manager, said:

“Laura and Suzanne really surpassed themselves by organising such a fantastic evening and everyone enjoyed getting the opportunity to dress up. We were thrilled with the amount raised which will help us tremendously.

“There is a huge demand on our services in Aberdeen, and our aim is of course to help as many people as we can. However, in order to meet this, we need to ensure we are in a position to provide the support they need, and kind efforts like this help us work towards achieving that.”

Founded in 1950, MHA offers a range of resources which include emotional and practical support, information and advice, support with helping overcoming social isolation, links and access to other community resources as well as activities promoting mental wellbeing.

Based in Aberdeen, MHA has centres throughout the north-east in towns including Aboyne, Banff, Ellon, Peterhead and Inverurie.

The organisation was among the first to provide community care – with its first residential project, a group home for discharged psychiatric patients, opened more than 35 years ago. MHA has also been providing day services continuously for over 60 years.

Jul 102015

With thanks to Paul Smith, Citrus Mix.

Marie Curie teaEmployees at Codify had their cake and ate it too as they raised more than £200 for charity. The Aberdeen based software specialist hosted a Blooming Great Tea Party in aid of Marie Curie, which helps people with any terminal illness.

Staff at the company got into the baking spirit and treated clients and guests to a delicious selection of treats as they tested their tea knowledge with a fun quiz.

All the money raised by Codify will go towards helping Marie Curie Nurses to provide more free care to people living with a terminal illness in their own home.

Emma Robertson, sales engineer at Codify, said:

“Hosting a Blooming Great Party is a fun way to get together with colleagues and friends and help a fantastic cause. The generosity of people and their empathy towards Marie Curie at our tea party was great to see.

“Everyone at Codify enjoyed getting some baking done and Marie Curie’s party pack was a big help in setting up the event, even if the tea quiz proved to be quite fiendish. We were pleased to have raised more than £200, which just goes to show the power of a good brew and tempting cakes.”

Codify’s tea party was one of many taking place across the country as part of the Blooming Great Tea Party campaign. Codify, established in 2000, builds custom software covering a range of business applications which include logistics, health and safety, recruitment and tool rental management. The company has become established as a specialist in the oil and gas industry.

Further info:

Marie Curie is the UK’s leading charity for people with any terminal illness. The charity helps people living with a terminal illness and their families make the most of the time they have together by delivering expert hands-on care, emotional support, research and guidance.

Marie Curie employs more than 2,700 nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals, and with its nine hospices around the UK, is the largest provider of hospice beds outside the NHS. For more information visit www.mariecurie.org.uk

Jun 102014

Following on from Duncan Harley’s two part article marking the 50th Anniversary of the typhoid epidemic in Aberdeen, Sandra McKay shares with Aberdeen Voice readers her childhood memories of 1964 when she and her mother survived the disease.

1024px-Typhoid_inoculation2I remember standing holding my daddy’s hand, my sister on the other side of him as we watched the ambulance disappear down to the end of our road.
I was six years old and this was the day my mummy was taken into hospital with typhoid.

I thought I would never see her again.

Everyone was talking about it. The Typhoid. Neighbours in the street, people in shops, bus conductors, even children.

Newspapers and television were advising the nation how many more people in Aberdeen had fallen victim to the disease. Families were cancelling holidays. Other towns and cities were urging Aberdonians not to visit.

Our lives over the following weeks seemed empty without our mum.

She had apparently bought cold meat from a shop in Union Street called Lows. My sister did not eat any, as she had been attending a friend’s birthday party. Mum, Dad, and myself ate the meat.

We visited my mummy at the City Hospital in Aberdeen. This was a bleak experience. We had to speak to her through huge closed windows. I found it sad as I watched other families trying to converse with their loved ones in the same way.

The long days continued to pass. I too became very unwell. Mummy was still gone. Daddy was at home looking after us. Schools were off. There seemed to be numerous doctor’s visits and lots of samples were taken.

Eventually I was taken into hospital. I do not remember anything about getting there. All I remember was looking up at lights and screens at night. The first few days must have passed in a blur as I have no memory of this time. However, as I became a little stronger I was allowed to get up and dress. Unfortunately I was given boy’s clothes to wear. This was a less than positive experience for a six-year-old girl.

How time dragged. I can still remember the layout of the ward. Where the clock was, where the ‘clothes choosing’ and dressing area was, how the windows were allowed to open, and more importantly how they had to remain tightly closed. Lockers and beds were dragged into the centre of the ward every morning at cleaning time, 10 a.m.

This movement was exciting to watch. I remember the medicine trolley with the thick brown stuff, and the milky white stuff.  Both were really horrible.

There is no memory of anyone coming in to play with us and time seemed to go on for ever

I remember our family coming to visit me every day. My mummy was with them as she had been given the ‘all clear’ after a stay in hospital of four weeks. I hadn’t been close to her for such a long time. The emotion was difficult for everyone. One day they brought my friend Susan down to visit me.

I can still remember that feeling, tears in our eyes, as young six-year-olds tried in such a grown up way, to deal with the ‘situation’ and the impossible task of interacting through granite walls and huge closed windows. It was easier when everyone just went away.

More long days and weeks passed. I did lots of colouring-in and received lots of crayons and books. I was also given by an older girl in the ward, who was given the ‘all clear’ ahead of my time, two little dollies with a few pieces of clothing. These dollies became really precious to me. Another memory I have of isolation at Ward 2 was the number of ice lollies we were given. Something to do with the fever I think.

There is no memory of anyone coming in to play with us and time seemed to go on for ever. I remember watching the jerky movement of the big minute hand on the ward clock as time passed by. I remember looking through colouring books for a page that wasn’t coloured in.  I remember changing the dollies for the millionth time. I remember not liking the food or the food smells.

Eventually the day came, when I was informed of my ‘all clear’. I was going home. Someone in authority assured me that the little dollies would be fumigated and sent to me with other belongings. This seemed OK with me.

On the day of my release from hospital, the weather was very warm. At my request our family visited the Beach park with the concrete train and rail track. We also spent time at the pony and trap rides which were at Aberdeen Beach during the sixties. I felt very peculiar, as if I didn’t fit in. I just wanted to get home to see if the dollies had arrived.

Unfortunately they never came.

Sandra McKay (Aged six, letter written aged 41, now aged 56)

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May 302014

2014 is the 50th anniversary of the terrifying outbreak of typhoid in Aberdeen City

In part two of his article Duncan Harley looks at some of the issues surrounding the episode in which the people of the beleaguered city of Aberdeen literally ate the evidence while officials from MAFF (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food) seemingly connived to sell the remaining stocks of corned beef abroad.

milne report typhoid aberdeenInitially the press were largely unaware of the 1964 Aberdeen typhoid outbreak but as the numbers of hospital admissions grew it became obvious that an epidemic was in progress.

Headlines proclaimed a ‘City under siege’ and the situation was not helped by the proclamation of the then Medical Officer of Health, Dr MacQueen: 

“We’re not a leper colony! End this hysteria”. 

His subsequent advice to both Aberdonians and holidaymakers alike to avoid swimming or paddling in the sea led to a local paper headlining on ‘Beach Bombshell’ and pretty effectively killed off any short term prospect of the return of the lucrative ‘Glasgow holiday trade’ to the beach seafront area.

Described by a colleague as ‘a bulldog with the hide of a rhinoceros’ Dr MacQueen’s strategy of innovative traditionalism has been seen by some as an attempt to protect and extend his department’s services.

He was judged by some to have made excessive use of the media and to have turned the outbreak into an event approaching a national crisis. Indeed the Milne Report into the handling and course of the epidemic commented that:

“we consider that the methods used by the Medical Officer of Health” were

“not wholly justified.”

By the end of May 1964 the MOH was advising the national press that Aberdeen was now ‘a beleaguered city’ and suggesting that Aberdonians should not venture outside the city boundaries. Outsiders should ‘stay away’ he said.

Public baths, youth clubs and sports clubs closed down for the duration and even the Police Pipe Band, who would later be on hand to play for the Typhoid Queen had to cancel an appearance in Renfrew.

Even the normally sedate Sunday Times newspaper got in on the act with an exclusive which claimed that the Granite City’s image as a clean modern city was erroneous. Seemingly Aberdeen was in reality a city suffering chronic housing problems and poor sanitation. Such histrionic rubbish only served to deepen the crisis.

The news of the epidemic was reported around the globe with one Spanish periodical reporting that the streets of Aberdeen were littered with unburied rotting corpses waiting to be thrown into the sea.

Although the tourist trade was first to suffer with hotels being particularly hard hit there were significant effects felt all over the North East. Caravan sites and hotels began refusing bookings from Aberdonians, butchery and fresh produce firms saw their customers sourcing goods elsewhere rather than risk buying from a city under siege.

Typhoid Queen p and J headlineThe Elgin based wholesale fruit firm Reeve Ltd found it necessary to announce that none of their merchandise was coming from Aberdeen and a grocer in Forres told customers that it had cancelled all supplies from the city and now only sourced from firms in the South of Scotland

Alexander’s Bus Company reported a marked decrease in ticket sales with some services running virtually empty and at one stage panic ensued when a local Aberdeen butcher’s Thistle Street shop was wrongly identified as being the source of the outbreak.

Paranoia reached a peak when the catch of an Aberdeen fishing boat was seized after the skipper became ill with suspected typhoid. The matter was discussed at the daily crisis meeting in the council offices.

After some deliberation, during which it was pointed out that ‘unless the crew are in the habit of defecating in the hold, there is no scientific reason to suppose that the fish pose a health risk’, the catch was duly released for sale and public consumption.

For patients and relatives the experience was more serious however.

Placed in isolation wards and uncertain as to when or even if they would be allowed home, patients had to endure weeks of treatment separated from friends and family. Stories of visitors communicating with relatives through locked glass windows are common and as one Old Meldrum man recalls:

“I couldn’t understand why my father and mother weren’t allowed at my bedside, later when I was allowed up we would talk at the ward window, which was of course closed. This went on in my case for about 5 weeks. Luckily I have not had any long lasting effects from the illness but it must have been really hard for the younger children.”

Many others have similar stories.

Compared to the human cost of the Lanarkshire E. coli outbreak – twenty one deaths, Aberdeen’s typhoid epidemic’s total of three deaths pales into insignificance, however the after effects rumbled on for years.

government stockpiles of corned beef at the time contained further quantities of infected Rosario cans

Businesses in some cases never recovered and jobs were lost.

Tourism never really returned to previous heights and the local economy suffered until North Sea Oil finally came to the rescue.

In the wake of the outbreak there were enquiries at both local and national level, the Milne Enquiry being perhaps the most influential. In summary the Milne Report squarely places the source of the infection on infected corn beef imported from the Rosario factory in the Argentine and further stated that there was no evidence that the infected meat had come from government stockpiles.

The fact that the UK government stockpiles of corned beef at the time contained further quantities of infected Rosario cans was seemingly not an issue for Milne and his report concluded that:

“where canned meats are produced under satisfactory hygienic conditions – they will be free from any health hazard.”

It took almost 10 years for the existing emergency corned beef stocks in UK government run warehouses to be disposed of. The main method of disposal was the exporting the now suspect food to other markets abroad with a proviso that the meat should be re-processed.

Not only had the citizens of Aberdeen eaten the evidence from the initial source of the outbreak but over the years subsequent to the Milne Committee’s deliberation, the unsuspecting citizens of many other countries consumed the evidence which remained.

As a postscript, Michael Noble MP then Secretary of State for Scotland announced in September 1964 that in the light of the Aberdeen Typhoid Epidemic he would ensure that ‘additional funding’ would be made available to any local authority in Scotland ‘wishing to provide hand washing facilities within public conveniences’.  He urged that councils should take up this generous offer before the end of the financial year.

Aberdonians were of course by this time already in the habit of washing their hands at every available opportunity despite the comment by Buff Hardie and his mates that:

“we never washed wir hands unless we did the lavvie first.”

© Duncan Harley 2014

All rights reserved

see also https://aberdeenvoice.com/2013/09/food-hygiene-hand-washing-and-remembering-typhoid/

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May 232014

2014 is the 50th anniversary of the terrifying outbreak of typhoid in Aberdeen. In part one of a two part article Duncan Harley looks at some of the issues surrounding the episode.

Corned Beef duncan harley typhoid Headlines such as “Typhoid in Bully Tin” would put many Aberdonians and indeed consumers all around the globe off eating the product, some even to the present day.
The series of events which led to the Aberdeen Typhoid Epidemic was however global in nature and involved significant governmental failure.

Amid cheers from assembled friends and curious onlookers and with a rousing tune from the Aberdeen Police Pipe Band, a tired but relieved young woman emerged from isolation in Aberdeen’s Tor-Na-Dee Hospital clutching a bouquet and wearing a brightly coloured sash which proclaimed her the “Typhoid Queen 1964”.

The date was Friday 19th June 1964 and following a thirty day ordeal, twenty three year old assistant librarian Evelyn Gauld had become the first of over five hundred patients being treated for Typhoid to be discharged from the Granite City’s hospitals following what is still remembered worldwide as the Aberdeen Typhoid Epidemic.

This dubious title “Typhoid Queen” was a gift to the press and headlines right across the globe proclaimed her “The symbol of the city”.

After more than four weeks of headlines dedicated to the plight of the beleaguered citizens of Aberdeen an end to the epidemic was in sight and a Royal visit by HRH Queen Elizabeth, nine days later, seemed to confirm that the city which had been described as a leper colony was now safe enough for royalty to travel through, albeit in a sealed limousine.

The Aberdeen typhoid outbreak began quietly on May 16th 1964 when two university students were admitted to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary with a diagnosis of pyrexia of unknown origin.

They had been fevered for several days and on May 20th bacteriological results confirmed a diagnosis of typhoid fever by which time the two patients had been transferred to the City Hospital which was the fever and isolation unit at the time of the outbreak.

Further cases quickly emerged and by the end of May there were 238 suspected cases being treated at various hospitals throughout the city.

By the end of the epidemic a total of 540 cases had been admitted with suspected typhoid with 507 being confirmed as having the disease including 86 children under the age of twelve.

There were three deaths plus an additional eight linked cases treated elsewhere including one in Canada.

Indeed so called “typhoid contact” was a feature of the outbreak and statistics compiled by Dr William Walker shortly after the outbreak indicate that the 507 confirmed cases derived from a mere 309 city households out of a total of around 58,000 households in Aberdeen City.

Public Service Poster Typhoid AberdeenBy June 17th the epidemic was deemed officially over and although many patients would continue to be treated after this date, the number of fresh hospital admissions had dwindled to single figures with no new cases being diagnosed after July 31st.

There have been several such public health epidemics since 1964 with the 1996 Lanarkshire E. coli O157 food poisoning outbreak ranking as being amongst the most devastating.

A total of twenty-one people died in the Lanarkshire E. coli outbreak after eating contaminated meat supplied by a butcher’s shop in Wishaw, Lanarkshire.

In 1998, Sheriff Principal Graham Cox concluded after a two-month inquiry that the shopkeeper, John Barr, had been ignorant of food hygiene procedures and had also deceived food inspectors.

Despite subsequent denials, the William Low supermarket in Aberdeen, which was identified as being the most likely initial source of the typhoid epidemic, also suffered from poor hygiene procedures resulting in contamination of hands, utensils and surfaces and leading to contaminated products being sold for consumption by the public.

In this instance it was proven that a 6 pound can of Argentinian corned beef had been the infective source and that not only had the meat been subject to poor hygiene procedures, but it had also been stored in an un-refrigerated shop window in summer heat leading to an marked increase in the rate of bacterial growth.

Although many associate corned beef with corn, it is in fact a salt cured product treated with “corns” of salt. Used in many cultures as a means of preserving meat it has been variously called Salt Beef, Bully Beef or in India and Bangladesh as Hunter Beef.

A staple for troops at war due to its non-perishable nature, it has been produced on an industrial scale for over 200 years. Although consumption decreased markedly in the period after the Second World War there is still significant global demand for the product, much of which is manufactured in South America.

In the early 1960’s, the UK imported around 200,000 tons of beef from Argentina annually, amounting to around 14% of the nations requirements with a significant proportion being canned corned beef intended both for current consumption and for governmental stockpiling in case of nuclear war.

By 1963 typhoid, an illness caused in the main by poor food hygiene resulting in humans ingesting the bacteria through eating or drinking,  had all but been eradicated in the UK. Public health education combined with improvements to public utilities such as chlorination of water and treatment of sewage had borne fruit.

There had been outbreaks such as that at Croydon in 1937, where after investigation it was found that a sewage worker who was a carrier of typhoid had been allowed to work on the water supply during a period when the water purification plant was out of action. The resulting outbreak affected 344 of which 43 died.

Aberdeen was no stranger to the disease either. An outbreak in the city’s Woodside killed 6 of 35 cases in 1935 with the source being identified as a local shop selling cooked meats.

However the notion that Argentinian corned beef might be a source of the disease seemed to break new ground. Unless that is one takes into account the Harlow typhoid outbreak of June 1963. After extensive testing of public water and sewage supplies proved negative the source was suspected to be a local butchers shop selling imported corned beef.

government officials concerned with overseas trade were apparently not keen to publicly blame the Argentinian factories

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and Food (MAFF) began to look at the source of the canned beef and attention soon spotlighted issues to do with the cooling of the cans during manufacture.

Seemingly the possibility of the bacteria surviving the high temperatures used during production was almost zero.

However, since the Argentine factories concerned with the production of British imported corned beef routinely used untreated river water in the cooling process suspicion soon focused on the possibility of contaminated water entering through burst can seams and causing bacterial contamination of the contents.

Following a further outbreak of typhoid at South Shields in June 1963, Enoch Powel Minister of Health was asked in parliament “how many of the recent outbreaks of typhoid fever had been traced to Argentine corned beef and what steps had been taken to warn the public”,  the Ministers reply was simply “None.”

Seemingly politics had intervened and public health had become secondary. The government officials concerned with overseas trade were apparently not keen to publicly blame the Argentinian factories until a diplomatic solution to the issue of untreated river water infected with raw sewage could be found.

There was no immediate action apart from a recommendation that a mere two MAFF meat inspectors should visit a total of sixteen meat producing countries including the Argentine over the following few months.

The government were quite clearly not prepared to risk upsetting a trading partner and worse still, stocks of potentially infected corned beef stored in UK warehouses would continue to be released into the UK food chain despite the possible risk to public health.

A further outbreak took place at Bedford in the October of 1963 but still officials stalled regarding measures which might have prevented further outbreaks.

The Argentine factory identified as the probable source of the infected cans had agreed to introduce chlorination of cooling water by early January 1963 but MAFF held stocks of almost 2.5 million cases of suspect corned beef produced there dating back to 1953.

Eventually, much of the suspect stock would be shipped abroad for consumption elsewhere with a recommendation that it should be re-processed. This process of disposal would take several years to complete.

The effects of the political indifference to the spectre of further typhoid outbreaks were to have far reaching consequences for the city of Aberdeen and indeed the entire North East of Scotland.

Scotland the What parodied the episode in humorous terms:

“I can mind the typhoid epidemic at its worst, we never washed wir hands unless we did the lavvie first”

For many in the North East however it was no joke.

(To be continued)

© Duncan Harley 2014 All rights reserved

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May 012014

Inverurie Real Ale2By Duncan Harley.

The 2013 Garioch Real Ale Festival raised over £700 for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. This year the Inverurie Community Music Festival will be the main recipient.
During the past 60 years the prognosis for cystic fibrosis has improved dramatically due to early diagnosis, better treatment and good access to health care.

In the 1950’s the median age of survival of children with cystic fibrosis in the UK was about six months. In 2008 survival averaged over 30 years.

Cystic Fibrosis is a genetic disorder that affects most critically the lungs, pancreas, liver and intestine. Characterized by abnormal transport of chloride and sodium across an epithelium, leading to thick, viscous secretions the disease sounds nasty and indeed it is. Sufferers typically have shortened lives and parents are left scarred by the knowledge that genetic issues have led to their offspring inheriting the disease.

The guilt often leads to failed relationships and ruined lives.

The main signs and symptoms of cystic fibrosis are a salty tasting skin, poor growth and poor weight gain despite normal food intake, accumulation of thick, sticky mucus, frequent chest infections and shortness of breath.

Males can be infertile due to congenital absence of the vas deferens. Symptoms often appear in infancy and although technically a rare disease, cystic fibrosis is often ranked as one of the most widespread life-shortening genetic diseases. It is most common among nations in the Western world. An exception is Finland, where only one in 80 people carry a CF mutation.

The Garioch Real Ale Festival was set up by Mike Stuart, co-owner of the Black Bull Inn in Inverurie. A film maker at heart Mike wanted to promote not only local musicians and actors but also to test the market as far as fund raising for good causes was concerned.

“There are lots of good causes” he said “and I am really committed to the arts in Inverurie and of course music, which is my first love.”

“When Cameron told me about his son’s experience however, I was humbled and right then I decided to find ways to raise money for good causes.”

“The Inverurie Community Music Festival needs a kick off micro funding wise” said Mike. “I am confident that the charity fund raising of the past years can be built on, to make this happen.”

As well as Cystic Fybrosis the Garioch Festival has supported the local theatre and film group ‘Right Here Productions’ who were targeting the Edinburgh Festival.

Over £250 was raised and the ‘Right Here Productions’ Edinburgh show was a tremendous success.

In 2013 June Ross, Regional Cystic Fibrosis Trust Fundraising Manager in Scotland came to Inverurie to receive a cheque for £700.

The 2014 Garioch Festival will be supporting the Inverurie Community Music Festival and it is hoped that well over £1000 can be achieved given last years effort.

The music line up for the Ale Festival is – Fri – Cyrus Rose with Support, Saturday – C-Red, Sunday – Dave Scott, Stuart Hossack and introducing Kyle MacRitchie.

Dates are 7th – 11th May 2014.

More info:

Garioch Real Ale Festival

The Inverurie Community Music Festival event was started by local quartet Duncan Peter, James Allan, Faye Walker and Mike Stuart and has featured some of the UK’s top Tribute acts – Dirty Harry (Blondie) and The Police Academy (Police). Runrig front man and Scottish legend Donnie Munro closed the 2013 event which was hosted in various venues throughout the Garioch Area.

Dates for 2014 are Friday August 29th to Sunday August 31st.

More info:

Inverurie Community Music Festival
About cystic fibrosis

Anyone interested in performing, volunteering or providing a venue for the festival should email icmf@live.com

© Duncan Harley 2014
 All rights reserved

Duncan Harley is a freelance feature writer and photographer.

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Apr 182014

Old Susannah gets to grips with letting go of a great local talent, and the latest government wheezes, locally and nationally.

DictionaryAnother eventful week passes in the Granite City, bringing good news and some sad. Children have done arts and crafts in Union Terrace Gardens, organised by Aberdeen Inspired. This is despite the city’s officer Gordon McIntosh insisting the balustrades will fall down any day, and the gardens aren’t safe to use.

Inspired even managed to hold their events without scores of crowd barriers or 7’ tall security guards. Rumours are that Gordon may be about to make some dynamic changes of one sort or another.

The campaign to save Bon Accord Baths is gaining more momentum; some £5 million pounds is needed. However, in a city with our level of wealth we should be able to do this. In fact, Aberdonians apparently have more disposable income than almost anyone else in the UK. 

We still need food banks, mind. In the UK, over one million people rely on food banks, but they’re probably just benefit scroungers and immigrants (remind me to look up the amount of this year’s UK defence budget again).

Surprisingly some good news comes from the city council, where funds from outdated, surplus accounts were given to local causes such as the Cyreneans. It’s not a huge amount of money, but after the Kate Dean/Kevin Stewart council’s assault on our charities and good causes, this is quite a turnaround.

I learned how to make pasta at an amazingly fun course at Nick Nairn’s school. You may remember the then city council almost didn’t give Nick Nairn an alcohol license. The licensing board were probably afraid that people would sign up for courses (costing upwards of £40), learn what wines go with what foods, have a glass of red or white, and then go wilding into the night, committing crimes.

Thankfully, it seems no one from the cooking school to date has gone on a crime spree, and clearly the city has the city’s serious drink culture under complete control.

Spring has arrived! Result! The signs are everywhere: the theft of cars and licence plates continues, the gramps are being set alight once more and travellers are moving from public space to public space, leaving debris behind them, presumably as a token of the esteem they hold us in. The council say the police should act; the police seem to be implementing a reverse discrimination favouring the travellers.

And I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but you and I will be paying for the necessary clean-ups. A dead dog and £22,000 worth of waste was left near the beach by the travellers, and history looks set to repeat itself just a little further north.

If you want to live as you please, it would be nice to do so respecting the rights of the rest of us to live as we please – well in some idealised fantasy version of reality anyway. While some of us are trying to preserve and enjoy what’s left of our open spaces, other people seem to think we don’t care about mounds of trash or the very real prospect of stepping in human waste or over dead dogs. Thanks.

The UK’s police were trying to deny there is a quota system

To the people who’ll tell me not all travellers are alike, I agree. However, these past 10 years I’ve not seen a single travellers’ site in Aberdeen left in good condition when travellers travel.

And down the road in Ross-shire, it’s now 20 birds of prey that have been poisoned. So that’s good news for the shooting estates catering to people who like to blast birds from the sky with guns. Fledgling game birds are bred in captivity like ill-used hens, and thrown out without a clue, to be blasted. The sporting life indeed; no wonder billionaires and famous TV stars like Trump are into this kind of pursuit.

So how do our police perform when it comes to saving our wildlife, stopping car thefts and stopping people trashing our green spaces (when they know exactly who’s doing it)?

Aberdeen got a mention in the Sunday papers; its police seem to like arresting children, and are very fond of random spot searches. A child of two was apparently charged with property damage. I’m sure they understood their rights and I’m sure the parents were the police’s first port of call. Police Scotland are also fond of telling people who own cars and houses to hide their goods or it’s their fault if they’re robbed.

The UK’s police were trying to deny there is a quota system in place for arrest and searches. Unfortunately, the truth leaked out, and there are indeed quota systems.

Justice may be blind, but she’s counting. It’s nearly one year since the police blew the budget (or so it looked) raiding the empty flat of George Copeland. Things may have been quiet on this story in the news, but I can promise you, the fight for a rational explanation and disclosure of information are ongoing. Who knows – there may eventually be some justice for George. Watch this space.

Other than that, I’ve had some fun (Malmaison, Temple Aesthetics, BrewDog of course and the Tunnels – Palma Violets were spectacular). But this week David Innes, drummer with the Gerry Jablonski band, passed away. A service is being held the morning of Friday 18 April, and later that night a concert takes place at The Forum.

We were privileged. I’ll remember the last times I saw him, including the Moorings in early March, the Jubilee party in Union Terrace Gardens where they entertained thousands, and the Lemon Tree when the latest Gerry Jablonski & the Electric Band album was launched.

There are performers 20 years younger who don’t have his enthusiasm, energy and stamina. There are performers 20 years older than he was who would have loved to have his talent and range. If Aberdeen is a city of culture (outside of bureaucrat speak), it is because of artists like David Innes. Condolences to his friends and family.

Life Expectancy Letters: (Mod. Eng. ConDem phrase) – letters to be sent to OAPs, telling them when they will likely pass away.

Well there is a new government initiative we can all be happy with; they are going to send everyone a letter, telling them when to expect to die. I can’t see any flaws in this cunning plan.

Then again, with Alzheimer’s setting in early in some cases, and looking set to be an epidemic in the near future, I’m sure all the guardians and children of those afflicted with forms of senile dementia will be very happy to get letters to advise when mother and father are expected to die.

I’m certain too that this is not some ploy to scare the elderly into saving well into later life. After all, you want to live in comfort with as few trips to the food bank as you can manage until you die at precisely 9 September in 2027, don’t you? Letting you know when you’re likely to die will just make you take better care of your health, and your money.

And of course should you fall sick or need residential care, then the government will take your savings off of you to pay for such care.

Of course most of us who work have been paying tax throughout our working life in the belief this would go to giving us good care when we’re older. Just don’t bank on it. I’m glad there’s no chance of another pension mis-selling scheme like we saw a few decades ago. No-one would take advantage of the elderly and sell them financial products they didn’t need, would they?

Pensions minister Steve Webb said that under new government guidance, experts could assess approximate life expectancy by looking at factors such as smoking, eating habits and socio-economic background.”

 As far as socio-economic background is concerned, I wonder if those living on the food banks will have the same life expectancy as those at the merchant banks

I’m sure this scheme to write to everyone with an expected death date is not geared to frighten us into getting into private pension schemes. That would only benefit bankers and financial institutions, and our government wouldn’t show the financial sector any special treatment, would it?

I talked to an older citizens who was still of working age recently; they had decided to skive off work for a few months, and used a slipped disc as their flimsy excuse to get on the dole. I’m happy to say we made it as hard for this scrounger as we could; it was 6 weeks before they got any financial help, despite having worked all their life. Dipping into their savings to pay bills, they eventually bled the taxpayer for £78 per week.

Now if they knew what their death date was, they might have been convinced to save a bit harder, work more hours, and have more savings to burn through at the first sign of illness. This guy was not good at financial planning, either. All of his money was earned and taxed in the UK, and he didn’t shelter any of it offshore. Well, if you don’t save as much as you can, it’s simple. Just don’t fall ill or die.

Old Susannah is interested to see what factors are taken into consideration. I’m sure the ConDems won’t want to upset anyone by letting on that the air is now killing more people than ever before.

Perhaps this is such a good idea we should take it further, and make dying by the projected death date mandatory? I’d be surprised if some ConDem somewhere isn’t contemplating it.

Dune Management: (Modern Eng. compound noun) To preserve a natural area by changing it beyond recognition.

It would seem the Donald Trump school of sand dune management’s principles are taking off a treat.

the-end-of-the-road-for-trump-suzanne-kelly-by-collapsed-section-of-course-photo-by-rob-avA Cornwall-based council decided that they would ‘stabilise’ their own sandy beach by planting conifers on the beach. Somehow, this has displeased residents and visitors, who wanted to see beach at the beach, and not dying, dried out half dead trees that were never going to grow in the first place.

Of course the marram grass, gorse and trees Trump has planted has totally stabilised ‘The Great Dunes of Scotland’ as Trump Golf seems to call Balmedie Beach.

The dunes are so great I think travelling spice and silk merchants will be crossing them by camel to stay at the opulent MacLeod House.

Anyway, Trump saved our dunes for us, and that’s why there is no sand blowing around the greens or any other problems there.

My photo above shows just how stable the course is.

 Next week:  A Trump update and more definitions

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Dec 132013

Lucy and Pot - Duncan HarleyBy Duncan Harley.

The story so far:

Cody’s gran, Señora McLaughlin, has died in far off Santa Cruz at an undisclosed old age and her family have gathered round to say goodbye.
At some expense the old woman’s ashes are brought home after a family whip round.

Following the graveside ceremony, the mourners take time to reflect on her legacy in a clan gathering at the local pub. When the tab runs out, only Danny and Rob are left.

All of a sudden the bar door flies open and a white hoodied figure marches quickly in. Pistol in hand, he walks straight up to Danny and raises his hand in line with Danny’s head.

“This is from McAllister” he says, then pulls the trigger.

Danny had known a few dementia sufferers in his time. We all do really. The longer we live, the more likely it is that it will happen either to us or to one whom we know or love or even hate. Vascular, late onset, mid onset and that slightly uncertain early stage of the illness are all slightly unsettling. Especially for the ones left behind of course.

The onset can be insidious however.

–          Shall I have salt on my porridge Dave? Or maybe some honey?

–          Who are you talking to dear?

–          Dave of course.

–          Erm, Dave died at Normandy. He stepped on one of those landmines and bled to death. Don’t you recall? His obituary was in the local squeak. They said he was a sad loss, a hero as I recall.

–          Don’t be silly, he’s right here at the breakfast table. Can’t you see him?

–          Now, as I was saying Dave …

Best perhaps to have a wee defining heart issue or even one of those “he was sorting out the washing one minute then I heard a thud” episodes maybe.

Danny’s uncle Martin was largely undiagnosed until he reached the rank old age of fifty nine, at which point life became unusually interesting for Danny’s auntie.

Off Martin went to work each day to a job which had certainly been his some 20 years before.
The local GP was supportive in the extreme but, with no real diagnosis or indeed cure what could she suggest. Hide the car keys and consider a divorce before it’s too late was the best she could do between the administering of day centres and pills.

The tomato growers in the Clyde Valley had been Martins customers.

The company he had worked for had been out of business for a good few years. Nobody wanted Scottish grown tomatoes any more, the Spanish imports were just as red but much cheaper. Plus of course there were those lax custom regulations. The chance to import some mind enhancing substances was on the agenda.

The big growers had of course diversified into those Garden Centres. Some were of course quite legitimate, others were just money funnels for the Glasgow boys.

Not those Glasgow boys of painting fame of course, just “those” boys.

You know the routine.

–          Bring granny for a wee cup of tea and while you’re at it buy some stuff.
What stuff? No matter, anything will suffice.

–          Can we tempt Sir with a wee umbrella perhaps, black or brown?
Maybe a tartan umbrella or one with that Scottish Saltire emblazoned upon it? No worries Sir, we also have jigsaw puzzles and bird feeders for the back garden. Not that birds can solve the puzzles you understand, but just a suggestion. Always like to help and all that. Milk in that granny tea? A wee biscuit perhaps or just a bill?

–          We have Airfix kits galore, fun wellies replete with frog motifs and golf clothing for the buying. Fancy some nice brown brogues or some bargain publications?

–          We have books about most Scottish subjects. Wallace, Burns and tartan. Clans, Glencoe and tartan. Highland walks, those big mountains and tartan Victoria.

–          If Sir would like to view our paintings.

–          If Sir can take some leisure time to view the original and mainly manly complete toss, mainly manly unhealthy quality, mainly manly  stuff no-one  really needs much, teddy bears and pictures of those nostalgic Lancaster Bombers.

–          Spitfire’s and cuddly cats. Mind those you used to hang off the bedroom ceiling by a thread, the old ones are the best eh? Nostalgia and those Krays.

The keywords.

Tartan whisky, Munro kilts, malt grouse, highland games and those cabers. Highland dancing, that bagpipe lilt and men in kilts. White heather, Jimmy  Shand and Granny’s Heilan Hame.

The money of course often came from dubious sources. The accountants lived in big mansions just off the Bothwell Road.

Right next to those footballers wives spread legs they shovelled it into bank accounts well hidden and well contrived.

–          Fancy some shit, legitimate … honest.

–          I right pal. Think I just embarked from a banana boat or something.

–          Question mark.

–          Honest injuns.

–          I ok. How much?

When the gun went off, Danny had wondered if all was well. A last chance saloon, maybe a delusion or perhaps a good few too many.

–          Who the fuck are you came very much to mind.

–          Is this for real?


–          Happy birthday ya big gobshite.  Meant to send you a wee card but at 50P a pop for that Post Office stamp stuff, never quite got round to it. Had a few I see, not a problem.

–          Mc Allister says hello and Happy Birthday.

–          Way hey, look at the state of you.

–          Only a wee joke, lighten up.

Danny had of course imbibed.

Not best pleased he reflected that Señora McLaughlin was still dead. He reasoned that her ashes were back in that Trinity Cemetery and the  family had grieved appropriately.

The bill for the cremation had been paid, the flight costs had been met and the bar bill had been covered. Well at least until 5pm. So no problem then. No unresolved issues whatsoever.

The gun to the head had been tempered by the drink but in the scheme way of things, the birthday message was unwelcome, very unwelcome in fact.

–          Mc Allister and Happy Birthday seemed an unhealthy combination somehow.

Another wee sniff might just make all the difference.

Mind you …

(to be continued)