Jun 022017

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) adult, covered in dew, resting on grass at dawn, Elmley Marshes N.N.R., Isle of Sheppey, Kent, England, July

With thanks to Emma Brown.

This year’s Scottish Nature Photography Festival will bring together top wildlife and landscape photographers from across the UK and Europe to deliver an outstanding programme of talks at Battleby Centre in Perthshire on 9 and 10 September. German photographer Sandra Bartocha will kick things off on Sat 9 Sept, with the first of two presentations about her latest project, LYS

She will be followed by Robert Canis, marine photographer George Stoyle, Richard Peters, plus landscape photographer Alex Nail.

Norwegian photographers Orsolya and Erlend Haarberg complete the Saturday line-up and will return to open the event on Sunday 10 September with a spectacular presentation about their work in Iceland.

Alex Nail and Sandra Bartocha also return for a second day and will be joined by Andy Parkinson, Robin Moore and Will Burrard-Lucas, who will share some of his adventures in remote photography.

Renowned nature and conservation photographer Peter Cairns, who returns as compère, said:

“SNPF gets better as each year passes, taking both photographers and nature-lovers on a roller-coaster journey through the words and images of the top photographers at work today.”

Several of the speakers will be on hand to deliver a diverse range of lunchtime workshops, which will offer a more in-depth exploration of practical topics, plus Cairngorms-based wildlife photographer Neil McIntyre will give a lunchtime presentation on his stunning new book, The Red Squirrel: A future in the forest.

Taking place at Scottish Natural Heritage’s prestigious Battleby Centre just outside of Perth, the annual event also features exhibitors, including Epson and Perth-based camera retailer JRS Photo Hardware, photographer portfolios, book sales, the ever popular SNPF photo competition, plus the chance to catch up with friends old and new.

State-of-the-art projection and sound, plus easy access, free parking and excellent catering, makes Battleby the perfect venue to enjoy the astonishing images and inspiring stories from some of the best photographers in the business.

The Scottish Nature Photography Festival is coordinated by the Wild Media Foundation, a group of photographers and visual media specialists who have come together to bring nature’s stories closer to people’s lives.

It operates as a company limited by guarantee, set up as a Social Enterprise, which means that all profits are put aside to further the objectives of the company.

Its mission is:

“To bring nature’s stories to life through the development of innovative visual media products, which will engage, inform and inspire a wide audience.”


Tickets and more information available from www.snpf.co.uk

Scottish Nature Photography Festival on Facebook 
Scottish Nature Photography Festival on Twitter
Wild Media Foundation

Image Credits:

African wild dog, Zimbabwe © Will Burrard-Lucas.jpg
Arctic Terns, Iceland © Orsolya Haarberg.jpg
Dragonfly, England © Robert Canis.jpg

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Nov 122015

DAK with bookBy Suzanne Kelly.

Dr David Kennedy – academic, educational reformer and educational observer. He is possibly best known as the former head of Robert Gordon University who handed his degree back in disgust and protest at the honorary degree handed to Donald Trump.

Honouring Trump seems more of a huge error in judgment, academically as well as moral, as each day passes.

Trump goes from disaster to disaster, having been linked to organised crime by the BBC’s Panorama, and having branded himself as a racist, nationalist, sexist self-publicist. Yet RGU stands by its decision. And Dr Kennedy stands proudly by his.

Dr Kennedy released a book in June on his experiences in Scottish education. What’s in a Name?

Stories of a decade in higher education is available from Amazon as hardback, softback, or electronic versions. It can be found here.

Kennedy gave me his book to read and gave me an interview in mid-August. Circumstances at my end have delayed my reading his excellent book and putting the finishing touches on our interview. I regret this for several reasons, not least being Dr Kennedy’s ongoing kindness towards me and his patience in explaining some of the more complex issues involved in the history of changes in Scottish education.

More importantly though, the changes in our education are having tremendous changes on our society, our values and our morals. Some say that we are hot-housing our children from far too early an age, separating infants and young children from their parents who need to earn money.

Are our children able to find education that suits their intellectual potential despite whether they come from rich or poor backgrounds? Are we stressing our children by too much school and too much homework? Are some subjects (phonetics, ‘new’ mathematics) unhelpful hoops we make children accept without question? Are we teaching children how to think and synthesise facts they discover themselves and how to structure logical arguments – or are we teaching them to memorise things temporarily to get good exam results?

And this is before we reach higher education.

When I wanted a higher education, I was interested in the liberal and fine arts; I wanted knowledge first, and any future earnings potential was a secondary consideration (if I ever considered money more important than knowledge). Now our higher educational system seems far more concerned with employment outcomes than learning outcomes.

Engineering degrees involve great specialisations. I know several financially successful engineers over the years who seem to have limited cultural, historic, artistic, ethical knowledge. Is it possible that an educational system which favours specialism and ignores history, classics, ethics, philosophy and arts contributing to a shallow, materialistic culture that is willing to sell the planet’s environmental future for profits today?

Perhaps we should ask Dr. Donald Trump. I know what I think, and look forward to discussing the issues with Dr. Kennedy.

We start our telephone conversation; I am reminded of our earlier interview when we discussed Trump and RGU. This time however, David has a huge amount of information he is eager to convey, and I don’t need to ask him any questions at all.


“The book expands over my experience of higher education in Britain; things I personally knew about. 

I think its relevance to the current situation in Higher Education (HE) lies in 5 issues:

  1. Significance of Higher Education for society, industry, and individuals
  2. Does “one-size fits all” apply to career education/training? [Relevant to student debt]
  3. Equivalence of Awards across subjects, institutions, and countries 
  4. Relevance of Research and Scholarship in HE [Both are essential learning activities for students]
  5. The gradual commercialisation of education and its significance in so many different ways.

The book was inspired originally by the fact RGU, originally RGIT, is very well known and certainly in Scottish education, everyone thought of it as being highly prestigious; with an enviable profile. It was regarded as the flagship of Scottish post-school education. At that time, Scottish universities considered themselves to be British rather than Scottish and argued strongly against coming under Scotish control.

I should say that there were different mechanisms of funding for tertiary education. One was through local authorities. Another was through a grants committee funded by Whitehall, but very much at arm’s length, run by a committee of academics. The third was direct funding by government and this was the case here in Scotland – education colleges and central institutions by the Scottish Office. This was unique to Scotland and highly relevant to what happened later on.

RGIT had a prestigious reputation. There were 14 central institutions in total in Scotland, and there were ten colleges of education. The central institutions were of two types – one a polytechnic type, the others monotechnic – examples are colleges of agriculture, domestic science colleges, colleges of art, of nautical studies, and so on. Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen had polytechnic-type institutions; the monotechnics were spread around.

I was appointed principal of RGIT in November 1984 and took up post in May 1985. From the start, I knew things were not right. There was a lot internally that was wrong, but I never ever expected the mess to be quite as bad as I found it.

The early chapters of the book, which is semi-autobiographical, is a collection of short stories, all true, as experienced by me. They are clustered in ten chapters. The first is about the stresses of the job – it describes some of the outstanding problems I found on taking up the post.

Very early on, I discovered to my horror that if you are a boss, then other people perceive you as being something different, even if you think you are just like everyone else. Relationships are different, some deferential, some obsequious, some hostile, and others downright insulting.

One anecdote in Chapter 2 concerns the first day I arrived. There were great piles of papers that had accumulated over many weeks; some very urgent. The less urgent included a petition from staff about the food in the refectories. I decided to visit each in turn (there were 6 in all). On the second day, I went to a nearby refectory for lunch; there were a pair of staff sitting together in earnest conversation and a guy sitting on his own.

I sat with him and began to chat. He had little apparent interest in anything and I found it difficult to get him to talk. However, some of his colleagues joined us and an animated conversation took place.

A young woman sitting next to me asked where I was from. [I’m a Geordie; it’s a very recognisable accent]. I told her, ‘I’m from Tyneside. I thought you’d know by my accent.’ ‘No, where are you from in the institute?’ I said ‘The Principal’s Office’ . She thought she’d perhaps hear a bit of gossip and asked what I did there. ‘Well, I’m the Principal’. All eight of them upped and ran; it was like an explosion.

They perceived me as some terrifying being quite different from themselves; this was reinforced later, many times.

Chapter Two tells about students, colleagues, stratagems that were used to gain special advantage, or to do the Principal down!

Chapter Three is about oil-troubled waters. Far from pouring oil on troubled waters, this was about the oil industry and the problems it brought. I can’t really describe it all – you’d have to read the book. RGIT had a massive input into the oil industry; more than any other institute in the UK. It had a world-wide reputation for the work it did. Meanwhile, at the Scottish Office… well, there was massive and secretive manoeuvring going on.

I start the chapter by saying 1066 was probably the most dramatic year in history of Britain, while 1988 probably most significant for Aberdeen, with Piper Alpha, and for RGIT. It was a very dramatic year also for higher education because of political goings-on that we were told nothing about at the time. We found out later, to our cost.

Chapter 4 – Quis custodiet … (ipsos custodes)? – who guards the guardians?– is about the way public sector institutions are governed, and how control is exercised. The press often terms itself as the ‘fourth estate’ that casts light on those in charge, and particularly on wrongdoings; but does it do this both honestly and fairly? It provides facts about people who are given responsibility to run organisations on behalf of the taxpayer.

The chapter also describes some unfortunate consequences of media behaviour. 

There was always a shortage of accommodation and Aberdeen Journals would have stories about the hardships of students unable to find suitable accommodation.

There was an implied criticism of the institutions and their bosses, taking in too many students – for the money! In one year two Art students decided to sleep in tents on the banks of the Dee. They contacted the press about their ‘plight’. The press had a field day. It turned out these were rich kids, carrying out a prank. The media didn’t investigate, simply looked for good stories – and were strangely silent when the truth became known.

Chapter 5 – Night-flying. The English call it ‘flitting’; it implies something done in the dark. This chapter relates stories about people who’ve tried things on.  It’s about the misbehaviour of staff who were too entrepreneurial.

Chapter 6 – A Question of Quality. This recounts the operations of the Council for National Academic Awards, which awarded the degrees offered by the polytechnics in England and central institutions in Scotland. It was the biggest degree-awarding body of its day and set standards for courses and their delivery, for examination regulations and procedures, as well as for the awards themselves.

Everything was written out, purposes and processes made clear, with evidence and fact-driven judgements based on clear standards. 

I tried to explain its strengths and weaknesses. I played an active role in CNAA and assisted in more than 70 institutions of all kinds in Britain. CNAA was closed down by government in an act of educational vandalism. It was the biggest mistake by British government in higher education in the last 50 years.”

The interview will be continued shortly, with a review of the book ‘What’s In A Name?’

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Aug 072015

With thanks to With thanks to Lee Robb, Caseworker to Christian Allard MSP.

Christian Allard MSP at Holyrood2French-born MSP, Christian Allard (North-East Scotland), has submitted a motion calling for politicians and media commentators alike to “watch their language” with regards to referring to the situation in Calais and the people involved.

The call comes in response to recent coverage of the refugee situation in Calais.

Mr Allard has expressed his disappointment towards the derogatory terms used to refer to what he describes as “desperate people in desperate need of a new life”.

Commenting, Christian Allard said:

“We have a UK Government that callously responds to desperate people who are desperately seeking a new start in life by calling for higher security fences and more police dogs. David Cameron does not recognise that the people he is neglecting are human beings.

“I am disgusted by the response of the UK Government so far. Not only does the UK fall far short of meeting its quota on refugees, but its government reacts in such a manner of contempt.”

In response to the increased attempts of refugees to cross the Mediterranean, proposals from the European Union was that member-states would increase their asylum seeker quotas to 40,000 – a proposal that the UK Government has dismissed.

In 2014, the UK had 31,000 refugees applying for asylum. In contrast, France had 62,000 applicants, and Germany had 202,000.

Mr. Allard added:

“This negative attitude is reflected in the language used when referring to these refugees. They are not migrants; they are refugees fleeing their homeland. Many of them are from Syria – the alternative is to stay in a country that UK allies are bombing.

“To hear a Prime Minister refer to these people as a ‘swarm’ was totally unacceptable. The derogatory rhetoric from some government officials and media channels alike has got to stop. That is why I submitted a motion to the Scottish Parliament calling for those commenting to watch their language.”


David Cameron remarks: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-33714282
EU proposals: theguardian-40000-asylum-seekers-migration-quota-syria-uk
Europa asylum statitstics: http://ec.europa.eu/index.php/Asylum_statistics

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[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]

May 222015

PushingBoatWith thanks to Freda Hasler.

North-East Scotland’s Magazine of New Writing and the Visual Arts launched Issue 13 in April 2015.

Stories and poetry from this wonderful new edition will be performed by writers and members of the Pushing Out The Boat team at the AU May Festival on Sunday 31 May, at noon. Copies will be available for purchase.

What a lot the team have achieved since the last edition!

They have:

  • become a Scottish Charity, ‘for the advancement of the arts, heritage & culture’
  • launched an online Submissions system, with a major upgrade to its website
  • reached financial independence – fully funding this edition for the first time ever.

In around 100 pages of stories, poems and visual art, the contributors,  57 writers and artists –  many from or with connections to the North East of Scotland, plus a few from as far afield as the USA & Australia – are introduced in a glowing Foreword by aclaimed local writer Esher Woolfson.

As always, the first-time published are represented, as well as youngsters aged from 12 to under-18, all alongside their recognised peers.

After its launch on 26 April, this new edition of Pushing Out the Boat, alongside many of its predecessors, can be read in the public and school libraries of both City and Shire, and those of Aberdeen’s Universities and Colleges. The magazine retails in many galleries, shops and cafés throughout the North East, and costs £7 (the first increase for three years). For online orders add postage and packing.

More Info:

email: info@pushingouttheboat.co.uk
Book tickets for the MayFestival.

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Mar 202015

With thanks to Richard Bunting. 

Common Dolphins

Common Dolphins. HWDT Picture Credit: M. Brook

Scotland’s wildlife and great outdoors feature in Green Adventures – a new online travel magazine promoting and inspiring green travel, which was launched on Tuesday. The remarkable marine biodiversity of Scotland’s west coast seas – which has spawned a multi-million pound eco-tourist industry – is highlighted alongside the work of Isle of Mull-based conservation charity Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust.

Green Adventures features ideas and inspiration for adventures big and small with a focus on environmentally friendly holidays, conservation, heritage and eco accommodation.

“We’ll regularly be celebrating and encouraging responsible travel in Scotland – which can be tremendously educational and life-affirming, as well as fun. Travelling positively can help us better understand and appreciate our world, its remarkable cultures and species, and its stunning landscapes,” said Green Adventures editor Penny Bunting.

“We’ll be offering articles and reviews that aim to inspire people to travel in a sustainable way or to seek out green attractions and accommodation. And you don’t have to go to far-flung destinations or spend a fortune to have an adventure – there are many opportunities right on your doorstep.”

For its launch, Green Adventures also features articles on ways to get children outside and active in the UK’s Peak District, sea kayaking on the Mediterranean island of Menorca, Hong Kong’s exemplary public transport system, and travelling with children in Australia – from vibrant Sydney to Victoria’s stunning Great Ocean Road.

Penny continued:

“It’s difficult to travel without contributing to carbon emissions, and irresponsible travel and unrestrained tourism can have negative impacts. But by experiencing, learning about and engaging with our amazing planet, we can all make a positive difference – from supporting conservation initiatives to helping local economies – and have some great adventures at the same time,” 

Green Adventures is free to read and will include regular updates, new articles and reviews.

Penny Bunting writes for a range of publications about travel and the environment. She is also director of Little Green Space (www.littlegreenspace.org.uk), an award-winning project creating green spaces for people, wildlife and the environment, and encouraging sustainable living and protection of biodiversity.

Co-editor Richard Bunting is former communications director of Nobel Peace Prize-winning human rights organization Amnesty International. He also runs Communications & Campaigns International (www.richardbunting.com), a consultancy for good causes – from the Indian Ocean Tsunami Appeal that raised over UK£392 million to UNICEF, Red Cross and acclaimed conservation charities.

Green Adventures is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GreenAdventuresTravel, and Twitter @greentravelmag.

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Feb 052015
Copyright: Newsline Scotland

Steve Harris, Chief Executive of VisitAberdeen

With thanks to Stevie Brown.

VisitAberdeen has responded to news of an unwelcome award for the City.

Aberdeen has been awarded the ‘Plook on the Plinth’ trophy having been named as the winner of the title ‘most dismal town in Scotland’ at the latest of Urban Realm magazine’s annual ‘Carbuncle Awards’.

Referred to on the Urban Realm site as “where architecture goes to die”, Aberdeen was awarded the trophy ahead of towns such as Cumbernauld, East Kilbride and Leven.

Steve Harris, Chief Executive of VisitAberdeen says,

“I am pleased that we have been given this award as anything that draws attention to Aberdeen can only help people realise how preposterous and ignorant its award is.

“Aberdeen is a stunning city with beautiful parks and gardens, a beach that runs for miles right into the city centre and some stunning architecture.

“Marischal College is the second largest granite building in the world and stands comparison with buildings in any city. At the other end of the scale, the stunning, modern Sir Duncan Rice Library has won awards from both the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) and Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

“In between there is the fabulous granite architecture created by Archibald Simpson, amongst others.  Not only was he responsible for Marischal College but also many other fine buildings including The Athenaeum, what was The North of Scotland Bank and Bon Accord Terrace.

“Aberdeen also is blessed with many fine merchant houses, a sunken Victorian garden and a theatre designed by Frank Matcham (who also had the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, London Palladium and London Coliseum amongst many others to his name).

“With development proceeding apace in many parts of the city and a new City Centre Regeneration Plan due this summer, the future looks bright.

“Urban Realm, the creator of this award, is Glasgow based and has no presence in Aberdeen. Their circulation isn’t available on their website and their page on “forthcoming issues” is blank.  (http://www.urbanrealm.com/magazine/forthcomingissues) They clearly need all the publicity that they can get!”

VisitAberdeen is a partnership between Aberdeen City Council and the industry including Aberdeen City and Shire Hotels Association and Aberdeen Inspired. For further information contact VisitAberdeen on 01224 900490 or visit www.visitaberdeen.com.

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Jan 232015

Alex-Salmond-cropWith thanks to Ann-Marie Parry, Parliamentary Assistant to Rt Hon Alex Salmond MSP

Former First Minister Alex Salmond has described the news that the Chilcot Inquiry will not be published until after the general election as a “classic establishment stitch-up”.

The Aberdeenshire East MSP said:

“Neither Labour nor Tory leaderships want this report out now. The hand wringing about delay is a mere cover for a classic establishment stitch up.

“We are now in the ridiculous position where Tony Blair has seen key sections of the report but not the rest of us.”

Mr Salmond who, as an MP, led a parliamentary campaign to impeach former Prime Minister Blair over the war said:

“Labour doesn’t want it out because of the inevitable revelations about Blair and other cheerleaders for the war.

“The Tories don’t want it out because David Cameron was pro war and the Tory leadership in 2003 under Iain Duncan Smith were as gung-ho as Labour.

“With a very few honourable exceptions most Westminster politicians would really like Chilcot to stay in the long grass for as long as possible.

“Chilcot has allowed himself to be blocked, tackled and delayed for years.”

Mr Salmond also said the “Maxwellisation” process, which allows individuals due to be criticised in an official report to see the criticism and respond prior to publication, had become a “device for procrastination”.

He added:

“Chilcot’s long wrangle with the Whitehall mandarins over Prime Ministerial correspondence was another stalling tactic.

“How could there be any serious objection to publication of talks between Blair and George W Bush, when Blair’s key wartime henchman Alistair Campbell had already published his own version in his diaries.

“There are a few decent MPs left at Westminster.

“They should make it clear that further delay is not acceptable and demand publication of at least a summary report now.”

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[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]

Aug 132014

By Bob Smith.Media

Yon Hammas an the Israelis
Are aat it haimmer an tongs
Fin Nobel Peace Prizes are awarded
Es twa wull git nae gongs
Some Amazonian Indian fowk
Oot the rainforest they did come
Noo the media ca them a “lost” tribe
Wi little coverin up their bum
The tribe noo a’m fair sure
Didna think aat they war “lost”
They kent fine far they war
Yet inti print sic wirds war tossed
We’re ask’t ti nae shak hans
It micht jist spread bacteria
Es little bit o havers is
Mair likely ti spread hysteria
We’re aa commemoratin’ the stairt
O the “war ti end aa wars”
Far millions war killed or woundit
Some left wi  mental scars
Lions led bi bliddy donkeys
Is fit history’s noo decreed
Commemorate the stairt o  a war?
Na jist the puir buggers fa are deid
Kylie sang at the Commonwealth Games
A wheep wis aa aat wis missin
Wi aat costume she fair leukit like
A bordello madame ripe fer kissin
A wifie fae Aiberdeen Inspired
His bin a maist gypit deem
Bi gien her man a secret rise
In his pey packit it wid seem
Her ither fella director fowk
Hiv richtly chuck’t her oot
She cwid o coorse maybe qualify
Fer a job wi Trump nae doot
Gary Lineker richtly hid a rant
Aboot alleged corrupt Fifa w-nkers
Sepp an his cronies are maybe worse
Than yon conivin useless bankers
The Ukrainians an Pro–Russians
Are at each ithers throats
Putin he jist thumbs his nose
At the UN an EU goats
They’ve applied some sanctions
Business leaders are noo squealin
An feart o losin big profits
If wi Russia they’re nae dealin
Wee Eck an Darling hid a debate
On a Scottish TV Channel
A wi heard eence again
Wis mair an mair bliddy flannel
Bit fegs somewye in the warld
There maan be some gweed news
Cos watchin 24 hr News Channels
Tends ti gie ye the bliddy blues
So if ye hear o gweed news
An papers gie ye nae choice
Jist drap a wee e-mail
Ti the fowk at Aiberdeen Voice
©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2014

Image – BBC Resources Television Camera  Credit: Ian Britton
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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

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryTally Ho! It was a particularly good week for arts and events, a bad week for local Labour, a grim week for the environment, and a grimmer week still in the field of freedom of information.

On the positive side, the Aberdeen Artists Society show is up and running; it’s a hit by all accounts.  But the best event locally for ages in the arts was the Aberdeen Art Gallery’s “After Hours/ Creative Invasion” evening.

Over 500 people came together to participate in a blend of art, writing, history, music, socialising and fun. The central theme was World War I, and its wee impact on society.

Thankfully, these days there’s no danger of any  conflicts brewing in Europe which could lead to any wars.

Anyway, the evening was great, and I am still thinking about a postcard I read as part of Graeme Milne’s writing workshop.

It was written by a man (or likely boy) named Jamie to his mother on Christmas Day 1914 while he was stationed in Italy. I’m sure he had a jolly time in the trenches.

I am minded that Michael Gove, our Education Secretary, criticises shows like ‘Blackadder’ for being critical of ‘The Great War’ – Gove thinks those lefty types are trying to make WWI seem like a bloody, futile, cruel exercise (how could they?). More on the event and the text of the card can be found here.

Elsewhere in the Deen, Craig Adams (aka Flash of the Moorings) is leading the charge to reopen Bon Accord Baths.

With virtually no notice, Adams managed to muster nearly 100 people for a photo call for the BBC, Northsound and STV (and Aberdeen Voice – story here). All the different political parties seem to want the baths to run again, and I’m certain the city’s new Chief Executive will want to get as many sensible, workable community-led initiatives like this one going to rejuvenate communities.  For some reason, a number of simple, desirable proposals have been turned down to date that other cities and towns would have welcomed.

The people want the baths; the politicians want the baths. Could there be someone in a position of power who’s blocking this and other initiatives with red tape, needless delay, and an agenda of their own? Surely not – but if there is such an officer, perhaps they’d best put on their MacIntosh and Gord on the next bus out of town. Just a thought.

But has warfare broken out in the hallowed halls of Aberdeen’s Townhouse?

Depending on your perspective and who you’ve spoken to, either Labour is in complete meltdown with backstabbing and intrigue worthy of a particularly gory Game of Thrones episode – or after discussions and strategising, Barney Crockett is simply no longer council leader – although he is very much still a councillor.

The way the P&J put it, you’d have thought Young Willie and Crockett were going to be duelling with pistols in UTG. But it’s not like the P&J to exaggerate. Surely there are no previous cases of Aberdeen Journals Ltd. bending the facts to make headlines? Perhaps a definition is called for.

For some reason, no one seems very fond of the plans for replacing ugly glass block St Nicholas House with a newer, shinier uglier glass block. Few people are thrilled either with the building of yet more homes over the greenbelt, what’s left of it.  Fewer people still are on board with plans for the  persecution of people who beg for money.

As for the building work going on, I’m sure anything going up will be as iconic, dynamic and brilliant as St Nick’s was.

After all, this  steel and glass curtain wall style of skyscraper is the last word in architectural style; there’s nothing cheap, nasty, dated, brutal (or lame) about putting up glass box buildings all over town and country. They just show us how outdated things like the Citadel, Tollbooth and Provost Skene’s house really are.

Surely people will flock here to live in an iconic Stewart Milne Home in some nice, sanitised suburbia close to a dual carrigeway (formerly wildlife habitat and recreation ground), and work in iconic glass box buildings which they drive to in iconic cars. And if we get resultant loss of green space, even poorer air quality, lack of biodiversity and urban sprawl, just lie back and think of the money.

As to the kind of people we’ll be attracting, they’ll surely not want to see any signs of poverty. We’re doing what the Tzars did – covering empty buildings with false fronts (this ploy of covering up problems in a town with a thin veneer was laughably called a ‘Potemkin village’) and clearing the poor out.

We seem to be keen on clearing the streets of the poor, while the gap between rich and poor grows. Get rid of the poor, hide any squalor or empty  buildings behind false fronts, and hang up some bunting. I’m sure it will make us all better off, after all, look how things worked out for the Tzars.

But at this rate there won’t be time for any definitions, so on with it, or I’d tell you about the nice drinks I’ve had at BrewDog, where I attended yet another well-run, fun tasting event.

Begging: (Eng. gerund – form of noun) – to solicit money or aid of some sort when in need.

We are one of Scotland’s wealthiest cities. We are one of Europe’s wealthiest cities. It’s bad enough people from other countries want to come here; now we’ve got people who aren’t satisfied with our generous minimum wages, food banks and quality doorways to sleep in; they also want to ask for money.

Well, this is obviously what’s stopping us from enjoying our shopping trips to malls and the West End. Being asked for money while trying to buy a new pair of Jimmy Choos is, well, trying. Thankfully, some of our wiser people in power want to ban begging. And just the thing to make begging  go away would be to fine beggars for begging.

No one’s got any reason to ask for any help; it’s not as if there is a growing gap between haves and have-nots. It’s not like our taxes are sky high – for those who aren’t smart enough to put their money in fake charity accounts, offshore schemes, or other avoidance vehicles.   It’s not as if those who are cleverly avoiding tax are depriving others of services the taxes should be paying for, and it’s not like there is anything immoral about not paying your fair share.

It’s not as if our Ma and Pa high street shops suffered when we gave multinationals sweeteners to open yet another shopping mall at Union Square. No, if you’re poor, it’s your fault.

Apparently we also have ‘aggressive’ beggars. I hear these aggressive beggars are upsetting the fine upstanding citizens who regularly throw up, brawl, shout, rob and intimidate people of your average weekend night in town. I’m very glad we’ve prioritised the kind of criminal activity the hungry and cold perpetrate as compared to our traditional thieves, fighters and drunks, who sometimes seem just a tad aggressive.

Complaints have apparently been made to ACC about begging: a whole handful. It’s time the city sprang into action, just like it did when it had complaints over the half-baked idea to destroy Tullos Hill’s ecosystem and deer. Three thousand of us complained we didn’t want the deer killed, or the wildflowers destroyed (and with them the existing animals, bees and butterflies).

Well, we know what effect that had. Beggars beware! Just go and get yourself a job; what could be easier?

Press & Journalism: (modern Scottish compound noun) the type of reportage and editorial policy as practiced locally by Aberdeen Journals Limited.

Not since the outbreak of WWI, WWII and the Sinking of The Titanic have we seen such a massive story with giant, emotive, shocking headlines. Well, not since ‘TRAITORS’ was the headline over pictures of those who decided to vote against Donald Trump taking over the SSSI sites at Menie for a golf club.

‘STABBED IN THE BACK’ was the headline in single quote marks over a photo of Barney Crocket at the time of his relinquishing the role of council supremo. Did he say he was stabbed in the back? Er, no. This quote was a bit of speculation.  The word ‘OUSTED’ was used quite a bit, despite the man not actually being ousted.

Has the P&J previous form in mixing fact, fiction and in hiding inconvenient truths? Of course not.

During the referendum it printed on one of its front covers a box labelled ‘facts’.  These ‘facts’ included tidbits such as building in Union Terrace Gardens would not cost the taxpayer anything, and 6,000 jobs would be permanently created if we put two giant granite clad ski slopes over the poor sunken garden.

The Press Complaints Commission had complaints on this ‘facts’ box (in fact, nearly the same number of people complained about this as people complained about aggressive begging in town). But the PCC decided that if people read the full article, spread over several pages, they would have realised the box marked ‘facts’ were not, er, facts.  And of course everyone reads every single word in a P&J piece.

So, facts aren’t always facts; this seems clear to me. I wonder if Mr Damian Bates, P&J editor and member of the PCC team had a hand in coming to the conclusion the article wasn’t misleading?

The P&J’s stable mate, the Evening Express, once had a front page with headlines blaring ‘DEER FOUND DEAD AHEAD OF CULL’. On further investigation, it emerged the deer that were found dead had died – two years before the proposed cull of deer for trees. Somehow, this minor detail was not initially published  on the paper’s website –who exactly planted this story, and why was never cleared up?

I may write a piece  ‘Mastodon found dead ahead of last ice age’ or similar.

And who could forget how conveniently both papers supported Mr Donald Trump, how they vilified the Menie Estate residents who wouldn’t sell up to Trump, and how they ignored award-winning film maker Anthony Baxter, whose documentary ‘you’ve been trumped’ won awards round the world.

It was almost as if they chose to run photos of Turnip and his luxury jet because that was great news and not because Bates’ Mrs works for The Donald.

For some reason the AJL circulation seems to be dropping these last few years. I can’t for the life of me figure out why. Perhaps tomorrow’s free copy of Metro, awaiting me on my bus to work, will offer some clue.

I wish I had time for more definitions, but duties at home have taken over for now.  As mentioned at the start of this piece, it’s been a bad week for press freedom and for freedom of information.  More on this next week.

Next week: another look at the police, some local crime info, and more on our council.

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