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 232014

Christian Allard MSP for the North East of Scotland has praised the work of the North East charity during a debate on Youth Arts Strategy at the Scottish Parliament this week.

Christian Allard MSP for the North East of Scotland

Christian Allard. MSP for the North East of Scotland

Mr Allard hailed Station House Media Unit (SHMU) as one of the core cultural organisations in Aberdeen during his speech debating Scotland’s first-ever youth arts strategy – Time to Shine.

SHMU was set up in 2003 to support residents in the seven regeneration areas of Aberdeen in radio and video production, traditional and online publications, music production and digital inclusion. Successful initiatives have made the organisation a nationally recognised centre of excellence and created models of good practice.

The SNP MSPs comments come as the Scottish Government announced a group of 14-21 year old volunteers will be recruited by Young Scot to give young people a say on the arts opportunities offered across Scotland.

The 15 strong group will be recruited this summer and advise on the implementation of “Time to Shine”, Scotland’s first arts strategy for young people and the opportunities that are offered as part of it.

Christian Allard MSP stated:

“SHMU is at the forefront of community media development in Scotland. They do fantastic work to support marginalised young people through their employability and training arm.

“I have been twice to listen to young people who went through SHMU’s positive transitions employability course. They all made their families very proud and proved that arts, culture and creativity can change young people’s lives for the better.

“That is why the Scottish Government has launched Time To Shine, Scotland’s first Youth Arts Strategy.

“Through this strategy, the SNP is putting the young people of Scotland at the heart of Scotland’s creative future.”

Brian Webb, shmuTRAIN coordinator added:

“We are delighted to have the work we do at shmu praised so highly by MSP Christian Allard in parliament.

“It is a great recognition of the work we do here and a real boost to our young people involved with positive transitions and what they have achieved through our employability training.”

Link to the debate on 14/05/2014, Christian begins speaking at around 30:40

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Mar 142014

SURF the Don photographers had their work published without permission by Station House Media Unit (SHMU) in a booklet about Tillydrone. This unauthorised use of their images seems to have been because of a combination of Aberdeen City Council’s Sinclair Laing offering the images without consent and apparently suggesting they could be used by SHMU.  SHMU seems to have never sought permission from the photographers at the time, and didn’t clear the images in advance of publication.

More than two weeks on, and the photographers are no closer to compensation for the unauthorised use of images by SHMU in its ‘Tillydrone – the Guide’ Publication.  Furthermore, SHMU is now asking the artists to sign waivers granting SHMU permission to further use their images in an online version of the book.  Suzanne Kelly reports.

Frosty_Bridge Credit Vicky Mitchell

Frosty Bridge – Credit: Vicky Mitchell. Reproduced with kind permission of copyright owner.

Aberdeen City Council’s Sinclair Laing was involved with the SURF the Don Photography project. This was an excellent project giving local photographers an opportunity to see their work celebrating the wildlife and diversity of the Don area promoted and exhibited.
However, Sinclair Laing seems to have decided to offer the photographs to SHMU for potential publication; the artists had no idea this was being done.

SHMU then published some of this work, again without anyone thinking to ‘clear’ (get permission, check copyright, and offer payment to the photographers involved) the work.

Some photographers are understandably unhappy, and despite receiving in the region of £200,000 per year from the taxpayer via Aberdeen City Council*, SHMU is not offering compensation.

Aberdeen Voice ran the story on February 7th ( .

Contact had been made with the Aberdeen City Council which claims, somewhat incorrectly in this instance, that:

“We respect the copyright of artists and their intellectual property rights”.

This doesn’t seem to be the first time imagery has been appropriated/shared/used by the City without asking for the copyright holder’s permission in advance. A photographer has been in touch to make such a charge with regard to the City’s ‘Seventeen’ website on which work was used without permission.

Artists maintain control of their work and they should be paid when their work is used, be it painting, design, photography, music or film. The fact that it costs artists money to create their work is the simplest explanation for this legal right to compensation. Many artists want their work to be used only in ways they approve, and not for instance to be used by political parties, as has happened to several songwriters in the recent past, without clearance.

Artists might also not want their older/less sophisticated images used, as happened to one of the photographers in the case of the ‘Tillydrone’ booklet, and they might not want their composition cropped or changed.

At least one person whose work was used by SHMU is not in full-time employment; and photography is an expensive art form. The cost of a good camera, darkroom supplies, time – they all mount up, and these artists have a legal right to be paid.

SHMU seemed initially apologetic. They also seemed displeased the story was going to run in Aberdeen Voice. In fact, they insisted that apologies to the artists concerned were imminent, and Aberdeen Voice duly mentioned this fact in the first article.

The apology letter, when it did arrive, was not exactly what was expected. In the letter the Voice saw, no offer of payment was made, nor was there a suitable explanation as to how a charity, running courses on how to be media professionals, didn’t seek clearance on the photos before printing booklets.

Rather than offering any money, SHMU decided this was the right opportunity to ask for more free rights from the image makers involved – and sent the photographers a waiver letter to sign, granting SHMU the right to run the booklet and the photos online.

Here is text of a letter a photographer received from SHMU:-

“I am contacting you as the Chief Executive of Station House Media Unit (shmu) which worked in partnership with other organisations to deliver the booklet, Tillydrone – The Guide.

“In the collation and design of the booklet, we used your image having been given access to the photographs which were part of the SURF project. However, we have recently been made aware that you were not consulted and your permission was not obtained for use in the booklet and we would like to apologise unreservedly for any upset that this may have caused.

“We were not the lead partner on this project, but ultimately the oversight of the design and distribution of the booklet was our responsibility. We passed a final draft copy of the booklet to our contact linked with the SURF project in order to check the images were credited properly. We received a comprehensive reply from our contact detailing a number of suggested changes, but with no mention of permission issues and therefore we believed permission had been granted.

“Having reviewed all the evidence from communications around approval for use of the images in the booklet we now realise that we should have made a more direct approach to each photographer personally and should not have assumed that third parties had obtained the necessary approvals from you.

“This was a community project with numerous partners with input from a broad range of organisations and individuals, which led to a more complex system of approvals for copy and images than would normally be the case. Shmu is an organisation that works on a broad range of partnership projects throughout the year and with this in mind, we will be reviewing our processes to make sure this does not happen again.

“I hope you are able to look on the project and your work within it in the spirit in which it was intended, as an exciting and positive document that is a useful community resource celebrating the rich heritage, history and environment of Tillydrone while also profiling the talent and diversity we have within our community.

“We do not intend to publish more hard copies of the booklet, but – with your permission – we would like to publish an on-line version of the booklet on our website If you are happy for your image to be reproduced in that on-line version, I would be grateful if you could sign, date and return the enclosed permission letter by Friday 28th February. I have included a pre-paid envelope for ease. If I do not receive the permission letter back from you by the above date we will remove your image from the on-line version.

“Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further queries about this project or the use of your image in the booklet. I would also be happy to meet you in person if you prefer.

“With best wishes

“Murray Dawson, Chief Executive, Station House Media Unit”

 Here is the enclosed permission letter

 “Dear Sirs 

“Tillydrone- The Guide” (the “Booklet”)

“Permission for use of images

“I refer to such of my images(s) as were used by you in the collation and design of the Booklet, a printed copy of which I confirm I have received (the “Image(s)”). I note that you now wish to publish the Booklet on your website (“Your Website”).

“I confirm that I am the holder of the copyright and all other rights in the nature of copyright which subsist or will subsist, now or in the future, in any part of the world in the image(s).

“I hereby grant permission to you to reproduce the Image(s), along with a copyright attribution notice, on your website.

“Yours Faithfully, Name, Date”

With an annual operating budget of approximately £500,000 – much of which comes from the taxpayer, it is hoped SHMU will now offer compensation.

[Stop Press:  It has been brought to Aberdeen Voice’s attention that SHMU is an administrator of a website, 57 Degrees North. This carries a helpful article on copyright, and the importance of artists seeking compensation and credit, which can be found here:  by By Jayne Carmichael Norrie of the Forte Music School]

It is believed that a complaint will be made to the City Council’s Chief Executive, Valerie Watts. It should be noted some photographers are considering legal remedies. One person received a £250 settlement from the City using their images without permission in the recent past.

A further update will be forthcoming.

*From Aberdeen City Council, money paid to SHMU:-
2010: £237385
2011: £261598
2012: £287106
2013: £169661
2014 (to date): £213231

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Feb 072014

By Suzanne Kelly.

Frosty_Bridge Credit Vicky MitchellArtists own the rights to the work they create; be it photos, paintings sculpture, music and more. Anyone who wants to reproduce such artwork is, in almost all cases, required to obtain prior permission for use.
Guidelines for paying for reproducing artwork exist, and it is expected that media professionals adhere to these rules.

But we are in Aberdeen, would-be city of culture.

An Aberdeen City Council officer offered local charity SHMU an assortment of photographs without the image maker’s permission, and SHMU then published some of these photos without contacting the photographers to get their consent to have the images published.

This is a clear breach of laws concerning copyright and the use of artwork, and both the City and SHMU, a charity involved in media production and media training, would have been well versed in proper procedure and law when the work was printed in the booklet ‘Tillydrone – the guide’.

SHMU wrote assurances earlier this week that apologies would be made.  However, at the time of writing, none of the photographers in contact with Aberdeen Voice (some of whom are rightfully angry at this use of their work without permission), have had an apology, explanation, or offer of compensation.

The booklet was funded by the SURF project, and has the logos of The Interreg IVB North Sea Regional Programme, European Regional Development Fund, Sustainable Urban Fringes SURF, Aberdeen City Council, Fairer Scotland Fund,  – but there is apparently no copyright mark plainly visible in the book.  Could this be a simple lack of care, or is it an unspoken acknowledgement that the material is not theirs?

Vicky Mitchell was a SURF photographer, and she gives her position on her work being used:-

“I was angry and upset that my image was used without my permission, and that it was given to SHMU without my knowledge. The image in question is at least 18 months old and in no way reflects the current standard of my work.”

The following information from Vicky Mitchell describes the photographers involved:

  • Vicky Mitchell – Winter frost on the Brig’o Balgownie
  • John Rutherford – Cogs at the River Don and a cropped picture of the Sir Duncan Rice Library at night.
  • Andy Coventry – Cropped picture of a Grey Heron on the Don.
  • Nadine Ralston – Angel from the Elphinstone Tomb, Old Aberdeen.
  • Mark Thomson – WallaceTower (Mark works for Tenants First, Now Sanctuary)
  • Darren Wright – Landscape of the Don looking towards PersleyBridge.
  • Glenn Cooper – Reflections of Tilly tower blocks on the Don.
  • Various other historical pictures and a couple of uncredited pictures were also used.

Who Wrote What

Local photographers, who had been involved in the successful Surfing the Don: a River Don Photography Exhibition, had several successful shows.  They have spent months creating their artwork, under the guidance of a professional photographer. 

Any photograph created, whether a simple snapshot or a carefully planned, executed and composed photograph such as the River Don group’s work is the property of its creator, and cannot be reproduced without prior consent. 

The photographers should have been contacted before their work was shown to any third parties for possible publication.  They then had the right to ask for payment or they could have waived that right as each individual personally saw fit.

Some photographers are happy with the book; but their opinions on copyright law do not apply in any form to the others.  In some cases the work has been cropped by SHMU – changing the image from what the artist intended into something else.

A long thread discussing this matter appeared on FaceBook; a transcript can be found here:

Some photographers don’t mind that their work was used without permission; others were shocked and angry when they discovered their work published in the booklet which they knew nothing about in advance.

The Aberdeen officer in question, Sinclair Laing, who had been the city’s contact in the Surfing the Don project, had not told them he had a bank of their images and was offering them to SHMU or any other third parties.Laing was contacted by Aberdeen Voice, and referred AV to the city’s media department.

An Aberdeen City Council spokeswoman responded:

“We respect the copyright of artists and their intellectual property rights”

On the Facebook discussion, Laing wrote:

“Hey. It’s a great wee guide. It should be making its way through all doors in the area very soon. We provided access to the bank of SURF images – on the basis that it was a non-commercial venture to help promote a positive image of the area and community :)”


“This publication was produced by Station House Media Unit (shmu), not Aberdeen City Council.
“Shmu were very clearly told in advance, and in writing, of the requirements to use any images. These requirements included getting written permission from the copyright holders of the images they proposed to use.

“Therefore, if anyone has a complaint they wish to submit, i.e. about the use of images without permissions, please direct them towards Shmu as the responsible organisation.”

It should be noted that Sinclair Laing draws a salary for his work in the city, promoting ‘a positive image of the area and the community’ – unlike those whose work has been appropriated.

It should also be remembered that during the referendum on whether to turn Union Terrace Gardens into a car park with a concrete cover, an unnamed photographer was paid £150 for creating a photograph to demonstrate the gardens are difficult to access, a claim demonstrably false, witnessed by Dame Anne Begg’s frequent appearances in the gardens in her wheelchair.

It should be noted that this anonymous photographer’s fee was apparently invoiced to the city, commissioned by ACSEF, and billed to the city by the Chamber of Commerce; other commissioned photography took place during the referendum as well supporting development of UTG, and paid for by taxpayers.

Laing also wrote:-

“I’d like to add something here. I have been encouraging local organisations and projects to try to make use of the wonderful array of images produced throughout the SURF project. Not because Aberdeen City Council have been cunning enough to amass a bank of free images.

“I have done this because that is what the majority of photographers I have spoken to have been keen to see – local images from local people being used to raise the profile and promote the value of the local area, for non-commercial purposes. This has the potential to benefit both individuals involved and the wider community.

“At every turn, organisations and projects have also been told very clearly and in writing of their obligations before utilising any images, e.g. to get written permission in advance from the copyright holders.”

Despite Aberdeen City Council previously falling foul of copyright law concerning photography (witness the £250 fine ACC had to pay to Blazej described below), the city has amassed ‘an array of images produced through the SURF project’ and has been offering these to ‘local organisations and projects’ with no remit from the photographers to do so in the first place.

Whether or not it is ‘a great wee book’ or an international best seller, the law still applies.

It is not clear if Laing is using the royal ‘we’, when he advised ‘we provided access to the bank of SURF images…’  or if he is speaking for the city.

This is not the first time the city has been involved in using photos without permission.  Blazej Marczak was part of the Surfing the Don project (more on his ongoing story will appear in a future issue).  Although his works were not used in the SHMU booklet, he has previous experience of the city’s treatment of photographers.  On the Facebook thread he wrote:

“Aberdeen City Council does not value the work of the other people- I was paid £250 by ACC for a breach of copyrights as my pictures were used illegally on The Seventeen website and in e-brochures. The pictures were acquired by ACC from Aberdeen 2017 competition. Is using people in the community and their good will for free labour are the way of creating a “banks of free images” ? They paid me a compensation so it means that you guys are entitled for compensation too if you pictures were used there or anywhere else.”

Simon Crofts comments on the Facebook discussion on the legal and moral issue:

“That’s shocking if images are being distributed behind people’s backs. Publishing them without permission not only gives a right to damages, it’s also likely to be a criminal offence, at least if done by a business. But in any case, distributing images without permission shows a woeful contempt for photographers.”

 SHMU’s Dawson Up a Creek?

Aberdeen Voice contacted SHMU, a charity with income and expenditure both in the region of £500,000 which is also a private company limited by guarantee.  When contacted on this photography copyright matter, Murray Dawson, SHMU Chief Executive wrote:-

“I hope that despite the issues that you’re focussing on around the photographs, that you are able to recognise that fact the the[sic] booklet was developed through an identified community need, put together with the support of a number of local volunteers and local group and is a fantastic community resource (having been delivered free though every door in Tillydrone).

“As you may be aware, shmu has a similar ethos to Aberdeen Voice, with our focus of supporting some of the most disadvantaged citizens in the city to take ownership of media platforms and to use these platforms for expression (radio, TV, magazines and on-line).”

It was suggested to SHMU that the photographs should not have been offered without the artists’ consent in the first place for possible publication.

Presumably the photographers who should have been offered payment in this case are at least as important as the people SHMU seeks to liberate from poverty by entering media work.

Murray Dawson commented:

“I disagree with your analysis that this was Sinclair fault, and if you are running a story about this on your website, then I would personally like to take full responsibility for any misunderstanding that has taken place.

“As someone who had a responsibility to support a number of community groups and local people to create the Tillydrone Guide, I was under the impression that we could use the SURF images for the project, as long as the project was not-for-profit and that we credited the photographers correctly in the book. 

“I had assumed that we had received a blanket agreement that these images could be used, but it turns out that we should also have asked each photographer personally.

“As a community media organisation, we are certainly not in the business of exploiting people; our ethos is the exact opposite – we exist to support some of the most vulnerable in the city to have a voice.  We are in the process of contacting all the photographers concerned to explain the misunderstanding and to answer any questions that they may have about the situation.

“We are extremely disappointed that this misunderstanding has taken the gloss off what has been a fantastically received project, which was developed through an identified community need, put together with the support of a number of local volunteers, groups and organisations and is a fantastic community resource (having been delivered free through every door in Tillydrone).”

“As I said, I recognise the problem that has been raised, I have apologised and will apologise personally to all the photographers involved”

Poor Exposure?

Since Dawson wrote that he had “…the impression that we could use the SURF images for the project, as long as the project was not-for-profit and that we credited the photographers correctly in the book” then two problems arise.

Firstly, how is it possible that a multi-media charity/company involved in producing booklets and training others to be media professionals could get it so wrong? They should certainly be aware of basic laws involved in publishing work.

Secondly, who could possibly have given SHMU the impression they could publish these photos if printing a not-for-profit book without asking for permission, and just giving credit?  The conclusion that the person who gave SHMU this impression must have been Laing, who supplied the photos in the first place, is almost an unavoidable conclusion to reach.  If it was not Laing who gave the go-ahead, who was it?

Of course, Laing has written that:

“At every turn, organisations and projects have also been told very clearly and in writing of their obligations before utilising any images, e.g. to get written permission in advance from the copyright holders”

How then was such a miscommunication possible between two media professionals?

Further questions remain: what other organisations has Laing offered the work to, why is he offering work out at all, what authorisation did he have from either artist or council to act as a photo brokering service, whether or not fees were involved?

Photo Finish

Even if the photographs in question were merely holiday snaps made on a camera phone, they are the intellectual property of whoever created them.  It is worse that these people are painstaking photographers who incur huge costs for equipment and photo processing.

Worse still, many of them are aspiring to be professional photographers and should have been treated as such by both ACC and SHMU, for undeniably they were not consulted.

In particular artists who took great time and care to frame their shots and compose them, will in some cases have their name associated with bastardised versions of their photos which have been cut and cropped without permission, lessening their impact and taking away from what their creative intent was.

If you start to wonder why we didn’t become a City of Culture, perhaps this is a symptom.

Stop Press. At the time of publication efforts were ongoing, as promised by Murray Dawson, to contact all photographers and issue individual apologies.

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Jan 242014

Voice’s Old Susannah writes from New York and looks at the ‘Deen from a slightly different perspective. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryGreetings from New York, which I guess is also a bit of a city of culture like Aberdeen is. A foot of snow fell here yesterday, which has led to strange sights. Trucks spreading salt and grit were immediately deployed to major highways and bridges. Ploughs worked round the clock clearing the major roads, then the smaller ones. Most schools were closed almost immediately after the snow was forecast. Things got stranger though.

City and town governments worked to ensure public pavements were cleared. Police were out warning motorists which streets shouldn’t be used yet, and news broadcasts gave on the spot updates.

Furthermore, recorded messages went out to all residents, telling them not to go out if they didn’t have to, advising of changes in trash collection times and so on. These recorded messages reminded people of both emergency and non-emergency telephone numbers.

Neighbours telephoned each other to see if anyone was in need of help or food. People got out and shovelled snow, ensuring that the walkways were all clear. New York, it’s a helluva town. I fondly remembered the past Aberdeen City administration, which ran out of grit, which it said was very expensive. Good times.

Perhaps a few New York and Aberdeen comparison related definitions are called for, all things considered I think New York City and State could learn much from  Aberdeen City and Shire.

Municipal Park: (Eng. compound noun) open ground, forest, beach, and other areas owned, run and managed by the public sector.

Long Island is a long, thin island perpendicular to New York. It may be fairly built up close to Manhattan with Queens being densely populated, but there is still scope for development. It has over 60,000 acres of beach, forest, meadow and woodland people can roam. However, I took a long walk on a beach, and I hardly saw any other people: this means land is being wasted.

There is a famous green space called Sunken Meadow, but I can’t find word of any plans to raise it to street level and build a public square on it.

Even without building a granite web, monolith or glass worms being built, tourists and locals seem to want to spend time playing, walking, exercising and indulging in sports in outdoor locations. Much of this land has been designated ‘protected open space’, which means no one can build on it, even if they have lots of money. I guess Long Island is closed for business and not very forward looking.

Donald Trump bid to do some work at Jones Beach

There is no local development plan created by planners and builders, and taxpayers seem to get a say what will happen.

Of course planning should be left to professional house builders, unelected groups like ACSEF and elected officials who instantly become planning experts after elections, just like we do back in Aberdeen.

Long Island has a private trust which works with the government to protect the green spaces; somehow these people cling to the idea that green spaces are good for tourism, public health, surrounding businesses and air quality.

Donald Trump bid to do some work at Jones Beach; initially an art deco building was going to be redeveloped. For decades there was a public restaurant on the beach, and Trump was going to come in, dig several more underground stories (on the beach, which sounds really exciting), and modestly call it ‘Trump on the Ocean’.  But Hurricane Sandy was given as the reason for the project falling through.

Oddly enough, other local businesses and structures managed to come back from the storm, but it proved too much for Trump. According to the Huffington Post at the time:

“The billionaire real estate mogul has abandoned plans to build a controversial $24 million catering hall called Trump On The Ocean because it’s, well, on the ocean, Newsday reports. Developers and state park officials are calling it quits on the restaurant, which was planned for New York’s Jones Beach park, citing concerns over future storm damage after the current foundation flooded.”

So, it seems that building on sandy coastlines that are occasionally hit by storms can be difficult, and moving sand and storms are sound reasons for Trump to cease construction plans and abandon promised developments. I’ll be glad to be back in Aberdeenshire where such a thing couldn’t happen.

Meanwhile back in the Deen, officials have commented on the news that the remains (legs actually) of deer were found on Tullos Hill and on Kincorth Hill earlier in January. The police were swift to correct a source who reported five deer had been killed on Tullos Hill; it was only four – you’ll all be as relieved as I am to know it’s a mere four, not five butchered deer.

With regards to the deer leg found on Kincorth Hill though, things get stranger. The person who found the leg ran into someone who claimed to be a ranger – but the ranger service claim no rangers were in the area.

it preserved the original external wall with its interesting architecture

Whether the deer were chased with dogs, shot, or otherwise killed and how much suffering was involved remains a mystery, but no doubt our ranger service and police will pull out all the stops to find out what’s going on and protect our wildlife.

You know, the wildlife that had no ‘natural predators’ according to our city officials and Aileen Malone, so that they had to be shot for the trees to be planted. At least we’ll soon have a beautiful source of lumber –  sorry community forest – that deer can live in, created by killing the existing deer and removing most of the gorse they could have potentially hidden in from whoever is killing them.

So, another ‘Well Done’ goes to those on the tree scheme. Cheers chaps. No doubt you’ll get some more awards soon.


Old Susannah visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the admission fees are optional, and dozens of schools were visiting. Oddly, there was construction work taking place to keep the building in good repair. There had been an extension built; this was a high ceiling extension with one glass side; it preserved the original external wall with its interesting architecture, yet made a nice large space for modern art.

It would of course been much more hip and happening if they had plunked a giant rectangular building on top of the existing structure, but it took Aberdeen to think of such a concept. In fact, the whole area is part of a historical district and local residents participate in preserving and celebrating the area.

Strangely, this was a natural evolution based on the artists who practiced in the area, the galleries, the high quality of the architecture and so on. If New York were better organised though, it would have a few dozen different groups, quangos and initiatives assigning names to different quarters arbitrarily, and then changing these names around every time a new shop or gallery opens or (more likely) closes.

See you in Aberdeen’s cultural quarter when I’m back – I’ll just have to figure out if it’s still on Holburn Street this week, or if the powers that be have moved it back to the HMT area or not.

I’ll definitely be in the Merchant Quarter to soak up the promised café culture.

“Described as the “beat and soul of Aberdeen” it offers some of the best dining experiences in Aberdeen, contemporary clothing shops and live music venues.” 

There are dozens and dozens of small museums in New York State; many of these smaller ones are run by volunteers, and supported by private and public funds. Even the less profitable museums are retained because they are cultural assets. In short, these places and their collections should be sold to make more money. Raynam Hall for instance is a small white colonial house with exhibitions from the Revolutionary War.

Fundraising would not have worked here in one of Scotland’s richest cities

It’s small, there are no rides, and there’s not even a giant parking lot. The permanent collection will never be broken up, and for some reason local schools make cultural trips and take students to see Raynam Hall and other museums as part of their education. Sounds expensive to me.

Back in Aberdeen, we realise the value of our culture. We sell it. Thomas Glover House wasn’t pulling in enough money, so in 2012 its trustees sold furniture. As the Scotsman reported:

“Councillor John Reynolds, a former Lord Provost of Aberdeen who is one of the Glover house trustees, explained: ‘There was no money coming in and the curator had to go and the place had to close. And for the last two years the building has just been kept wind and water tight.

‘We had two options – either to sell the building or negotiate with the council for them to take it over. And that is where we are this moment in time.”

Mr Reynolds continued:

“We had to clear the place to save on the business rates which were quite exorbitant. We sold some of the period furniture – none of it Glover’s – which we had bought for the house and we put the important items we had collected into storage’.”

By the way, Glover was a little-known figure who opened up a small country named Japan to the western world; he was also involved in founding a small company called Mitsubishi. The house has been closed for two years. Yes, I guess in a poor city like Aberdeen John Reynolds was right – there were only two options – sell parts of the collection or close.

Fundraising would not have worked here in one of Scotland’s richest cities; applying for grants and loans from public and private sectors here and in Japan would not have been an option, either. Better not to have tried. But there is good news.

Glover made history; he introduced two cultures to each other, brought new art and design to the west, and made numerous contributions to Japan and Scotland. Therefore it is only fitting that his old house is to be relaunched as:

“a temple of good economic relations between Scotland and the Land of the Rising Sun.”

So, forget the Glover-related history, artwork, culture, etc. What we really need is a temple to economic relations.

If there is one thing that we do worship in Aberdeen, it is economics. Pity they didn’t think of turning Glover’s house into a temple to money earlier; no doubt that would have got the attention of Aberdeen’s great and good. Perhaps a Temple to Mammon could be built over UTG as well. There’s no word yet what form of worship will take place in the ‘Glover Temple to Economic Relations’, but I’ll keep you posted.

when the structures have sufficiently rotted, the land can finally be used for new offices or housing

In summary, New York has many small museums which get grants from the public and private sectors. School visits to these places help support their upkeep, and children get to experience the past and their culture first hand – they should of course be learning how to pass exams instead.

Such museums preserve aspects of culture and history, instead of being ‘forward looking’ and take up valuable land which could be developed instead.

By contrast, Aberdeen, the would-be city of culture, is a bit light on such field trips, has high business rates, and allows people to flog the contents of its historic buildings which are left to rot like Glover’s house and Westburn House; in a few years, when the structures have sufficiently rotted, the land can finally be used for new offices or housing.

New York’s government supports museums large and small, and I’m not at all sure if they even have a version of ACSEF at all.  Aberdeen instead pours money into worthwhile successes like ACSEF, which have the talent that’s made our retail sector what it is today.

We spend our tax money on really important things like bidding to be City of Culture and paying consultants to come up with great new city of culture proposed events like ‘gigs on rigs’ and the concert on the Dee which was to feature ships’ horns, water and horses, while our existing museums close.

It’s worth mentioning that there is one organically growing sector with a geographical area not planned out by ACSEF or Inspired: The Beermuda triangle is a reality. BrewDog and the Moorings started it with their copious selections of great craft brews; Six Degrees North and latterly Casc have opened their doors to take advantage of the growing interest in beer and the resultant potential for revenue.

This happened without any ACSEF think tanks, no outside consultants, and not even Rita Stephen. We’ve got a mini cultural/retail happening, and it’s happening because of a few innovators.  Who knows? Maybe the Beermuda Triangle will make it onto the official ‘quarters’ map one of these days.

Newspaper: (Eng. plural noun) a printed publication containing current events, stories; recent history as well as advertisements and editorials.

Old Susannah has been keeping up with the exciting news from Aberdeen as well as the more mundane New York goings on.

Here in New York, the papers vary widely in political outlook, making it very confusing to know what you should think on an issue. The New York Times, Newsday, The New York Daily News, The New York Post and a few other such minor publications vary widely in outlook, and not too many of these have lots of cute pictures of babies or newlyweds taking up the first few pages of the news.

The stories in newspapers such as the NYT and Newsday can’t be up to much; most of their pieces are available free online. You can subscribe to Newsday for instance and get both a paper copy and the full online version for just about the same cost of getting the web content of the Press & Journal (now a bargain at 1 year: £129.99).

Worse still, most of the New York newspapers print letters from readers on different sides of an issue, thus confusing readers. I can find no traces in New York’s newspapers of ‘Happy Tots’ competitions, and no articles at all about the important work ACSEF does or what its members’ opinions are. It’s as if the New York papers don’t pay attention to the important international news at all.

All in all, we have two interesting cities with coastal areas, meadows, forests, interesting architecture, and a mix of cultures. One city preserves its green spaces and historic buildings at all costs, spends money on ensuring children’s education includes culture, history and arts, has a wide range of newspapers giving different points of view, and favouring citizen-led initiatives to naturally shape policy and where culture and arts evolve naturally with public and private support.

Here’s hoping that New York will forget all that nonsense soon, and start thinking like our quangos and governments do here.

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Jan 162014

1003366_10201330766168277_548936980_nSuzanne Kelly interviews controversial local campaigner and activist Chad West-MacGregor

Chad MacGregor is a young local activist who supports the Conservative party and who campaigned for building in Union Terrace Gardens.

Following recent developments, he met with Suzanne Kelly for an interview.


Chad MacGregor may be known to those who follow political issues in Aberdeen; he is something of an activist for his young age. He was a supporter of the Granite Web scheme, and organised last year’s ‘protest against Aberdeen City Council.’ He is an outspoken campaigner, and has lately been working on a few projects for the Tory party, such as a website.

He hails from Torry, has lived and worked in the US, and for the record it happens that he is gay.

He has courted controversy online and is very outspoken to say the least. His language online can be provocative and peppered with four letter words. However, this hardly marks him out from the millions of other internet users in his age group.

So how did he find himself the subject of two Press & Journal articles, following his tweet which referred to SNP celebrity supporters as being ‘lefty Z-list celebrities?’ How accurate are these articles, how newsworthy are they, and could there have been any ulterior motive in their publication? What are MacGregor’s actual views, given that the internet has a host of contradictory, often inflammatory and offensive remarks attributed to him?

Chad’s activism has been known to me for some time now; his stance on the future of UnionTerraceGardens is pretty much in direct opposition to mine. I have seen contentions remarks – and a dubious image or two on his Facebook page, and elsewhere on social media. Quite frankly he is, on the face of it, someone I’ve not been able to understand.

One social media site has comments under his name with a photo, and other sites have completely contradictory opinions also attributed to him. However, I’d not given him much thought, until the Press & Journal ran two articles this week.

The first article came out on 6 January; it was written by Frank Cassidy. In part it reads:-

“Chad MacGregor, who claimed to be the party’s campaign manager in the city, branded presenter Hardeep Singh Kohli and actor Alan Cumming “lefty, Z-list celebrities” on Twitter.   The former Aberdeen Youth Council member went on to accuse comedian Janey Godley, a former Scotswoman of the Year nominee, of being a poor role model for her daughter, Ashley Storrie, after she waded into the row. Mr MacGregor removed his Twitter profile last night after rejecting Mr Singh Kohli’s request for an apology.”
– Press & Journal 6 January 2014

If the above paragraph made me wonder, then the follow-up article by Kenneth Watt forced me to do some research. On 7th January Watt wrote:-

“The Conservative group on Aberdeen City Council was said to be “all over the place” last night as a split emerged following online comments by a local party member… Group leader Fraser Forsyth insisted at the time that Mr MacGregor was not a party official. However, a new Aberdeen Conservative website launched yesterday, names Mr MacGregor as a campaigns organiser for the local executive committee.”
– Press & Journal 10 January 2014

MacGregor’s politics and views are more often than not the polar opposite to mine. However, these two stories and the paragraphs above made me wonder about a few things. A search of the internet made things more confusing: contradictory posts on a host of issues, the twitter messages, all of these pointed to a young man who ran hot one day and cold the next, who had great political ambition one moment, then appeared to be shooting himself in the foot the next. Who was this guy?

If he is a party official of some sort (and he is pictured, as a student, visiting the PM as part of a delegation), then his actions recalibrated the definition of self-destructive. I sent him a tweet.

An Interview with Chad:

In the past when I have uncovered political figures in contradictory or compromising statements, the responses to my contacting them tend to be dismissal and deflection, lack of response, and on more than one occasion threats of everything from legal action to my being reported to the Scottish Football Association (a long story). Chad however got straight back to me after I tweeted.

I sent him a list of some of the inflammatory, contradictory and just plain bizarre comments I’d found attributed to him. Was he going to sue or threaten? No, he suggested we meet to discuss.

I asked whether or not he was a party official.

“I am just a volunteer; I’m studying design and I’m good with computers. I made a website.”

We talk about the website Kenneth Watt referred to, which is not an official Conservative party site. It does list MacGregor as part of this grassroots group’s executive. The website clearly explains:-

“We are a voluntary organisation within the city which is solely funded by local party membership, subscriptions, donations and fund-raising events. We are open to all and everyone is welcome to join us or attend our campaigning or social events. We support the Scottish Conservative Party in a number of different ways.”

The Watt article doesn’t really explain what the website is about. Then again, the Watt article doesn’t tell you who Kenneth Watt is. Perhaps all P&J readers know that Watt is a Labour party member who, like his former Youth Council peer MacGregor, is a fairly active campaigner on local issues.

“The Press & Journal seems biased – Ken is a Labour man. After the second (Watt’s) article, people asked me ‘Why is Kenneth writing for the P&J?’ (The paper was hardly on Labour’s side over the web or in the present). I am most disappointed this made headlines; it must have been a very dry time for news.”

I think this is a very interesting question indeed, and one that made me wonder about the slant of this whole story, which after all is that a young activist conservative unionist tweeted that ‘Z list’ celebrities were being brought out to support the SNP, and that many tweets followed. It was hardly the twitter storm of the century. Indeed, neither side of the tweets show their authors in a great light.

Jane Godley’s tweets are certainly no more befitting a SNP spokesperson’s than this twenty-something activist with no official party role. She displays a good command of some four letter words and seems to have got stuck into the fray – but this is not reflected in the P&J articles.

However, if MacGregor was a party official of some sort, then age notwithstanding, he’s posted some extremely unwise remarks that would have reflected badly on his party. I ask if he wants a career in politics.

“Who would want to be a politician? If I were a councillor or someone who had a role, I’d have an obligation [about what to tweet and post]. I don’t see why anyone would want that kind of scrutiny. But I do think everyone should be active. These are times of austerity and drastic changes. Many people have become disillusioned.”

Cautionary Tales:

We talk about some social media sites. Either the man has some mental health issues and holds opposing views at the same time, or someone has made at least one or two fake accounts in his name in the past.

“I wrote to one of the social media sites when I learned about some of these posts, but have heard nothing back.”

It seems clear that there are comments out there attributed to him, which have nothing to do with him; he is concerned about them, and is continuing to try and do something about them. I contacted one of the social media sites in question on this matter, and likewise have had no response.

Why a Tory:

Chad was raised in Torry, where there is one elected Tory city councillor. It is not exactly the hotbed of conservatism. Chad explains that when his mother was struggling to bring up her children, it was a Tory party member who gave her practical advice and helped her find the best solutions for the family; he still feels that loyalty.

Don’t believe everything you read

We have two Press & Journal articles; one written by MacGregor’s fellow former Youth Council member who is active in Labour. The article makes no mention of this political affiliation and the clear conflict between Conservative and Labour inherent in Watt’s approach.

But then again, the P&J doesn’t see fit to explain the cosy relationship between its editor Damian Bates and his wife’s role at Trump International Golf Links Scotland: there are no stories about the problems on the estate, no stories on Trump’s beleaguered empire, and nothing but praise (6 out of 6) for the club’s restaurant.

The Watt article quotes several Tories as to what MacGregor’s role is, making it seem as if the party cannot even get that right. The website Watt refers to makes all quite clear; the website address was not part of the story, making it a bit difficult for people to easily get to the heart of the matter.

In the Cassidy article, the author claims in the paragraphs previously quoted that:

“Chad MacGregor, who claimed to be the party’s campaign manager in the city”

MacGregor made no such claim. If journalist Cassidy could not understand the difference between the website Chad worked on and the Conservative party, it is worrying.

Cassidy also claims that Chad removed his twitter profile. It is still there for all to see, complete with some choice words from some of the celebrities. For that matter, if Chad chooses to see these people as ‘Z list’, as a private person who is also a political activist, who is to deny him that right?

Chad and I are very different, but it has been an interesting meeting. I don’t agree with his politics nor he with mine – but this very odd, skewed P&J reporting has us both wondering. Precisely what the P&J is attempting to do in this case is a good question.  Perhaps they will explain once this piece is published.

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Jan 102014

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

DictionaryTally Ho! Happy New Year!

I trust everyone is happily settling down to the 9-5 routine after having time off for the holidays. The sales continue, despite dire warnings that the city council has to build something to save the retail market. Amazing.

Over the holidays I took a little walk around the Menie Estate; the friendly security guards patrolled in unmarked white vans.  Someone seems to have planted gorse on a footpath or two, and the beautiful entrance gates have been decorated with a rusted-shut padlock and a few boulders.

Having  sealed this gate to the parking lot, the area is further made inviting by more sand and dirt piled up on the sides of the gate, topped with dying squares of loose turf.

Mountain goats will have no problem going around the sides of this gate.

But don’t worry: Aberdeenshire’s Access Officers have been working on improving the situation. Since last March. I’d hate for them to feel embarrassed into enforcing the laws they are paid to enforce. For that matter, the bunds still remain in place; no doubt the council will want to save itself further embarrassment and get this situation rectified sooner rather than later.

As much as I admire the boundary/pushing spirit that BrewDog embodies, I’ll be happy if they can stay away from a new beer fad emerging from whaling –happy Iceland. I’m sure no one will have anything to do with Brugghús Steðja who have decided to make whales into beer. This is apparently been marked as ‘beer for real Vikings’. I personally think it is beer for real  %!£$(@  #!!^&$£ “£$&*£”!# s, but there you go. While most of the rest of the world is trying to eliminate unnecessary cruelty, there are still some nations happy to make a go of making money out of it.

I’ll stick to my BrewDog, many thanks. BrewDog have in the past used a small number of road kill animals for taxidermy; I wasn’t mad about it – but no animals were killed deliberately.  Companies like Stedja are probably why I’ve gone vegetarian again. By the way, congratulations to the makers behind excellent documentary ‘Blackfish’ about the cruelties of Sealand towards orcas and other creatures – they’ve been nominated for a BAFTA.

One of the more charming stories over the holidays was the discovery of mice, wasps and bedbugs in Aberdeen’s schools. I guess this puts the schools on a par with the local hospitals. With recent stories in the news about the state of our schools, dodgy teachers, educational league tables, vocational education and so on dominating local and national news lately, it’s time for some timely definitions.

Left Wing Academics: (modern Eng. phrase; plural noun) Educators with political views less conservative than the views of the ruling Conservative-Liberal Democratic coalition government.

Perhaps home schooling is the only way forward for caring parents who would shield their children from what Michael Gove , Secretary for Education calls ‘Left Wing Academics.’ These sinister figures may tell your children to question authority, and to question the accuracy of what they are given to read. Remember, if something is in print, then it is true – just pick up a copy of the latest Press & Journal, and you’ll be ahead of the class for the latest factual information.

No, the class structure and the elite had no part in the War to end All War

We need to be careful what sort of revisionist ideas are being circulated, and Gove has bravely stood up to left-wing entertainer, Sir Tony Robinson. This left-winger has been involved in archaeology which can lead to an interest in history. If that weren’t left enough, Robinson is an actor who appeared in an anti-war satire.

You won’t have heard of the little-known Blackadder comedy television franchise, but one of its series suggested that World War I might have been in some ways flawed. Gove says: left-wing academics:

 “were using Blackadder “to feed myths” about World War One.” 

Our education supremo went on to display his grasp of history and command of the language as he explained:-

 “The conflict has, for many, been seen through the fictional prism of dramas such as Oh, What a Lovely War!, The Monocled Mutineer and Blackadder, as a misbegotten shambles – a series of catastrophic mistakes perpetrated by an out-of-touch elite.

“Even to this day there are left-wing academics all too happy to feed those myths.”

No, the class structure and the elite had no part in the War to end All Wars, which was the crowning achievement of military strategy. The shooting of shell-shocked, mentally distressed deserters ordered by officers had no class struggle in it at all. Perhaps there were one or two little military awkward moments like Gallipoli, the Allied defeat at the Dardanelles  and all those front line attacks , but a google search on ‘World War 1 blunders’ only got me 949,000 results.  One of the websites had a very left wing slant indeed:

“In Britain alone one third of the male population were casualties. We should learn from these costly mistakes of history so that we will not make similar errors.”

That kind of talk is no way to get the next generation ready to sign up for the next war, is it?

Robinson told left wing media news agency the BBC:

“I think Mr Gove has just made a very silly mistake; it’s not that Blackadder teaches children the First World War. When imaginative teachers bring it in, it’s simply another teaching tool; they probably take them over to Flanders to have a look at the sights out there, have them marching around the playground, read the poems of Wilfred Owen to them. And one of the things that they’ll do is show them Blackadder.

“And I think to make this mistake, to categorise teachers who would introduce something like Blackadder as left-wing and introducing left-wing propaganda is very, very unhelpful. And I think it’s particularly unhelpful and irresponsible for a minister in charge of education.”

Gove’s people countered:

“Michael thinks it is important not to denigrate the patriotism, honour and courage demonstrated by ordinary British soldiers in the First World War.”

These men both unselfishly do all they can to help their spouse’s careers

So there you have it. On one side, an uneducated, demented man known for his silly clowning around and being the jester to his superior. And on the other side you have Sir Tony Robinson.

So, keep your children away from those left-wing academics. And to help you do so, thankfully we  have the wise words of Sir Ian Wood.

Footnote on Family Values: 

There is a similarity between P&J editor Damian Bates and Michael Gove that I’ll briefly mention in passing. These men both unselfishly do all they can to help their spouse’s careers, and if that isn’t love, then what is? We have seen the factual pieces in the P&J extolling the virtues of Mrs Sarah Malone-Bates’ employer Donald Trump – world’s greatest golf course, world’s biggest sand dunes (well, it’s written on a plaque Trump designed, so it must be true), and a restaurant rated 6/6.

Then we come to Mr Gove’s devotion to Mrs Gove. In testament to her rapier-like wit, she’s been given a newspaper column to write (nothing to do with her husband’s position of course). She’s such an independent, honest woman that she writes under her maiden name, Sarah Vine. This is like the modesty Sarah Malone shows, working for Trump not as Mrs Bates, but as Sarah Malone. Sarah started a wee company to help the  rest of us look as beautiful as she does; and conveniently on Facebook, it has a link to a government Department of Work & Pensions.

According to the Mirror:

“The Department for Work and Pensions’ Facebook page includes a link to Get the Gloss under a post advising how to “dress for success”.

Get the Gloss was co-founded by the Tory Education Secretary’s beauty journalist wife Sarah Vine. It offers products such as Creme de la Mer serum at £230 and Gypsy Water perfume at £130. The website’s beauty expert Judy Johnson also shares her words of wisdom on the Facebook page.

They include:

“The first impression you make with a potential employer is the most important one.”

She adds:

“Make sure your eyes look perky so you don’t look all sleepy – people will hire you more if you look awake! (A good night’s sleep usually helps or a good under eye concealer).”

Labour’s Teresa Pearce expressed surprise that the DWP was suggesting people on jobseeker’s allowance of £71.70 a week could afford such items and accused ministers of being “patronising” and demeaning”.

She added:

“It is a cheap marketing ploy designed to exploit female body insecurities and the anxieties of those seeking work to make a quick profit.

“The reason so many people are unemployed is the lack of available work and not because they need pricey beauty products. Having ‘perky’ eyes won’t change that.”

I wonder if these two power couples, the Mr Bates and the Goves shouldn’t get together?

Want to know what kind of educated citizen is valued and rewarded by Sir Ian? Old Susannah is happy to oblige.

Honorary Doctorate: (Eng. compound noun)  A person whose achievements are so considerable that an institution of higher education confers a diploma on them without their having attended courses.

Think of successful businessmen, model citizens, virile hunters of African game and if you don’t first swoon with admiration you think first of Donald Trump. More accurately, Donald Trump, Doctor of Business Administration (Hon DBA).

Sir Ian, who will be chairing a committee to shape your children’s future, is of course Chancellor of RGU. He conferred this title on the deserving Donald.

Mr Trump’s behaviour in north-east Scotland has been deplorable

Alas! Not all were happy. One disgruntled academic returned his degree to RGU. Dr Kennedy had probably been jealous; Trump had earned lots of money and didn’t therefore have to go through the usual hard work of getting a degree. Kennedy, who is probably some kind of left wing academic like Sir Tony Robinson said at the time:

“Mr Trump is simply not a suitable person to be given an honorary degree and he should not be held up as an example of how to conduct business.

“Mr Trump’s behaviour in north-east Scotland has been deplorable from the first, particularly in how he has treated his neighbours.”

Sounds like envy to me.

Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce: (Scottish Government Quango)  – Body created one year ago by central government, chaired by Sir Ian Wood “tasked with bringing forward a range of recommendations designed to improve young people’s transition into employment”.

Let’s face it, the real purposes of education are to learn how to pass tests and to learn how to do some task that will make you money. It’s wonderful that Sir Ian Wood will be passing on all of his ethics, philosophical, architectural and cultural skills to upcoming generations. If we stick to vocational education and business studies, we’ll have a better society. I’m sure Sir Ian means to also call for more young minds to study philosophy, ethics, environmental protection, fine and performing arts – but it seems he’s not got round to that yet.

There is coincidentally a skills shortage in the oil industry: this means that you have to pay people more than if you train lots of people up to do specific energy industry jobs. We need to train people how to do manual labour. We also need to train people how to look for tax loopholes. For those of you interested in the vocational training they want to roll out from an early age to your children (presumably there is more time for this now that music, sports and arts have been cut back), here are some details.

Some final thoughts on education:

There are still some people out there who think that the purpose of a good education should be to let children explore all of the arts and sciences and then let them decide where their talents and interests take them.

there are many different views and no religion can claim superiority

There are some who think there is value in learning a musical instrument, in learning how to play, and enjoy physical activity. Still others believe that if you teach a child how to use logic so they know how to frame an argument, weigh up facts for themselves and reach conclusions, you make them better, more informed citizens.

Others believe that the environment and nature should be experienced first hand and studied (perhaps this would have helped the police in the borders who mistook skinned roe deer they found for badgers. NB – I hope the poachers will be caught, but alas, they never seem to be).

Some people believe that studying art and nature will lead to creativity and a sense of aesthetics (I’d like to know where the granite web’s architects studied form and aesthetics).

There are proponents of comparative religious studies, so people can realise that there are many different views and no religion can claim superiority. Some believe that if you teach children about history, they may learn from the mistakes and triumphs of those who came before and learn about their own culture and therefore identity (I wonder where the property developers and obliging Central Government Reporter who will allow  building on the fields by Culloden studied history?).

There are those who feel if girls learnt about the struggles women made in the recent past to be able to vote, to own property and to study, they would be empowered (and then there is the Taliban, who had teenager Malala shot in the head for going to school). And there are even those who believe children studying all of these arts and sciences with the tools of logic and philosophy engrained would build a better, gentler, happier, cleaner world.

Thankfully, all that nonsense will soon be gone when upcoming generations are taught  how to make money and hang the rest.

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Oct 112013

With thanks to Stevie Kearney.

mag-cover_2A new training course for aspiring NE music journalists is being launched as part of the 57º North web portal, run through community media charity Station House Media Unit (SHMU).
57º North is the online music hub for Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire and now, thanks to funding from Aberdeen City Council’s Cultural Grant Awards, free training is on offer for those who wish to learn all about music journalism and have their work published on the website.

Each course will comprise four two hour sessions. The aim is to teach writing skills, interview techniques and develop music industry knowledge, with those completing the course becoming accredited writers for

Accredited writers will have the opportunity to score press passes for gigs and interview local and touring musicians.

There is no age limit and previous experience is not necessary, although applicants will need to display a passion for writing and promoting the NE music scene.

The classes will be offered on Wednesdays from 1800-2000, starting on October 23, at Seventeen, the city’s cultural hub on Belmont Street,

57º North Project Manager Stevie Kearney said:

This is a fabulous opportunity for people to learn all about music journalism and be part of a ground-breaking project, helping promote music in and around Aberdeen.

For years people have complained that the region’s music scene lacks a focal point – the opportunity is now here with a not-for-profit project and having an army of local music writers providing news, reviews and interviews is central to the successful promotion of the North-east as a hotbed of musical talent and culture.”

Launched earlier this year, provides everything the local music community could want, from gig listings and news, to artist profiles and a massive resources section. Last week the team published The 57º North Guide to DIY Gig Promotion, a free online document detailing the ins and outs of putting on a gig, designed to help develop more promoters and thus a more vibrant music scene.

The not-for-profit venture was set up by SHMU with backing from Creative Scotland and the project has had input from Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeenshire Council, Aberdeen International Youth Festival, Aberdeen College and Aberdeen Performing Arts.

Courses will run until the end of March. Places are limited but all applications are welcomed. For an application pack and more information, e-mail or call 01224 515013 and ask for Stevie Kearney.

Aug 232013

Something for the Weekend Sir? Duncan Harley comments on the newspapers you might like to read if you had the time, the money and the inclination. This week he looks at the Sunday Post, the paper many Scots buy but choose to send to the relatives abroad rather than read.

Sunday Post: Image credit: Duncan HarleyI have a confession to make. I had not bought this paper, ever, until today.
My parents, God rest their souls, ordered it from the local newsagent in Hamilton, and as a child I read with relish the adventures of The Broons and that spiky-haired pre-punk manny, “Oor Wullie”. A double entendre indeed, but an awfa’ good one!

In the centre pages “The Doc” advised those bemused haemorrhoids sufferers amongst us how to anoint their nether regions with helpful ointments, while on other pages, “The Vet” suggested how to revive a dead budgie.

I purchased my first copy today from an “Eight Till Late” corner shop in Keith’s Reidhaven Square. It’s a wonderful local shop full of handy things that you might run out of, such as biros, lard and morning rolls. Open from 6am till quite late, it defies its name by some two hours and sells, amongst other Scottish icons, The Sunday Post.

My heart sank when the pound in my pocket was not enough to purchase the paper. The assistant quietly whispered that it went up to £1.30 a few years ago. Her comment somehow reminded me of my dad’s faux pas in 1962 when he asked the conductress on the Number 53 from Hamilton to Bellshill for a tuppeny return ticket, little realising that fares had risen tenfold since his last bus journey all those years previously.

Nothing, however, could prepare me for the new format Sunday Post.

The paper leads on a story about some drug smugglers arrested in Peru’s Lima airport. Now, I have been there a couple of times and it is not a good place to be, if smuggling drugs is your forte. Scanners abound in the departure area and folk with very big guns are all around. Even the traffic cops sport AK47s, plus some very serious attitude.

It seems though that the dad of one of the arrested pair’s flatmate is a murderer, according to the Post’s headline. “Melissa’s flatmate is daughter of Gangster” screams the front page. I for one won’t be hiring the paper as a defence lawyer, ever.

A piece entitled “Banged up abroad” leads on page 5. It seems that around a thousand UK citizens are imprisoned in foreign jails. The Post suggests that drug smugglers might be “coerced” into breaking the law in foreign lands. The paper may be right.

I failed to find Oor Wullie amongst the detritus

Never one to publish naked women in order to boost sales, The Post delivers a Page Three warning about a sharp rise in “attacks by lethal snakes”.

It seems that NHS Direct advise that all snakes can strike, and that all victims should keep still and seek medical help. I guess that’s my pet adder for the chop, then.

“Ambulance Staff in Sick Rate Shock” and “Klinsmann celebration ruined my life” take up pages 8 and 9. Then some centre page articles about “Corrie’s Cast”, and a man holding a Parrot are featured, complete with photos.

I failed to find Oor Wullie amongst the detritus which is “Newspaper of the Year”; and the Broons were thankfully similarly hard to find.

Page 54 of this week’s edition headlines on “The shows rubbish and it could be in a shed”. I have no idea what this may mean, and have no intention of reading the article. Perhaps it is a review of the paper, via insiders who know the full truth but need to express it in metaphorical terms.

A hard hitting read indeed. On a scale of nought to ten The Sunday Post rates a three. It’s a poor advert for Scotland I think, and a major reason why folk all around the globe consider us Scots to be primitive beings that live in caves and eat haggis twice each week with extra helpings on a Sunday.

Next week on “Something for the Weekend Sir?” I will be taking a look at the Express on Sunday or whatever it’s called right now.

“Something for the Weekend Sir” is of course what local barbers used to ask customers in the days before discrete prophylactic services became available via the internet.

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Aug 152013

Something for the weekend, sir? Duncan Harley comments on the newspapers you might like to read if you had the time, the money and the inclination. This week he looks at The Times Saturday.

At a cool £1.50 a pop, The Times Saturday Scotland Edition is quite a heavyweight. My bathroom scales are a bit creaky but I reckon this week’s 70960th edition weighs in at just over 0.62kg, including inserts. That’s a fair weight indeed. If US figures are to be believed, then around 500,000 trees are required just to make the paper to print the Sunday papers in the USA.

The UK weekend papers probably consume proportionally as much timber. However, digital may well be the way to go with offerings from DC Thompson, The Sun and Aberdeen Voice pioneering a tree-free eco-press.

On the moon of course, this week’s Times Saturday would weigh a mere 0.1kg due to reduced gravity, but when I last checked there were no trees on this side of the moon. This might make printing somewhat difficult.

This week’s newspaper leads on two stories. The first is an extended piece about Robert Mugabe’s secret deal to sell uranium to Iran. It seems this ‘secret’ deal may lead to ‘retaliatory action by the international community’, according to correspondent Michael Evans. More sanctions against the ordinary folk of Zimbabwe are on the horizon it seems.

Alongside this front page leader, runs a story about some cute pandas. Apparently Tian Tian, who is one of only a thousand pandas left in the world, may be pregnant.

Edinburgh Zoo spent £250,000 constructing a state-of-the-art panda enclosure and currently pays China fees of £650,000 per year, a fact not many people will know since The Times has not chosen to incorporate this information in the cute panda article.

Times cartoonist Morten Morland has drawn on the affair with a parody on page 23, two adult pandas are pictured lying slumped after a meal of bamboo shoots with a speech bubble reading, ‘Alex Salmond says the birth will be announced on an easel outside the Scottish Parliament’. Not very original perhaps, but certainly very revealing of the editorial stance of the newspaper.

On page 27, Pickles features again

All is not doom and gloom, however. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government makes the news in two articles.

On page 13, Eric Pickles is slated for suggesting that UK birth certificates will soon be replaced by an EEC compulsory registration document. It seems this may be complete rubbish, and Karl Turner, Labour MP for Hull East is quoted, ‘This looks very embarrassing for Eric Pickles. He’s been caught red-handed, scaremongering in the desperate search for a headline’.

On page 27, Pickles features again. In a somewhat scathing piece, the paper’s Chief Political Correspondent Michael Savage lives up to his name quoting a peer’s take on the so-called Go Home adverts currently being funded by the Home Office. These have led to more than 60 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority, and are ‘nasty’ according to Lord Ouseley.

The paper’s France correspondent Adam Sage reports from Paris on Pyrenees farmers threatening to shoot the local population of brown bears after a spate of attacks on sheep. It seems there are around 22 of the rare creatures surviving in the wild. President Holland is seemingly under pressure to ‘bring in another bearbut‘, whatever that may mean.

Not one to disappoint those of a masturbatory disposition, The Times does of course have a Page 3 girl. In this weekend’s edition she is on page 41 hidden in the somewhat discreet World section of the paper. With a headline The Carnival is over, the lovely Luma de Oliveira bares her body for all to view!

the Edinburgh Festival has a new Eric and Ernie act

The Scotland Edition sports section covers cricket. With some quite breathtaking images and comment on cricket in England, the Sport pages headline with England slain by Lyon King. Hollywood perhaps or just the Aussies?

In other parts of the paper we read that Richard Wilson is gay and will only say I don’t believe it for charity, the Edinburgh Festival has a new Eric and Ernie act, and Roger Bushell was working for British Military Intelligence in Prague during 1942.

If you’ve ever seen The Great Escape you will, of course, know that Roger, AKA Big X, was shot dead by the Gestapo following a mass break out from Stalag Luft III during the Second World War. The Times, perhaps in a re-run of the Hitler Diaries fiasco, will be serialising a new book by Simon Pearson about the role Roger Bushell might just have played in the assassination of the acting Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia almost 70 years ago.

Damian Whitworth has penned the helpful lines, ‘Pearson writes that it is not possible to say that Bushell was involved in the plot, but establishing that he was among Prague’s resistance fighters at the time places him tantalisingly close.

The Times Saturday Scotland Edition is a good read. On a scale of one to ten stars I think a score of six might be appropriate. Of course I am, as always, open to suggestions.

Next week in Something for the Weekend Sir? I will be taking a look at one of Scotland’s oldest family newspapers, The Sunday Post, the paper we prefer to send to friends around the globe rather than read.

Something for the weekend sir?’ is, of course, what local barbers used to ask customers in the days before discrete prophylactic services became available via the internet.


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