May 192017

With thanks to Gemma Setter, PR Account Executive, Frasermedia.

Lisa Thomson, owner of Hardy’s Chocolates

A new Aberdeen-based independent chocolate shop has invested a five-figure sum into the start up and renovation of a city centre premises.

Recently opened in the Rosemount area of the city, Hardy’s Chocolates was established by former IT operations director, Lisa Thomson, and specialises in bespoke and ‘free-from’ chocolates.

To coincide with its launch, Hardy’s has also agreed to become an exclusive stockist of chocolate from a Shetland-based chocolatier.

Hardy’s Chocolates is the only shop in the North-east to stock Mirrie Dancers chocolates from artisan chocolatier, Dave Williams. It also sells high-quality chocolates from Belgium, as well as bars, truffles, speciality chocolates and sweets from across the UK and Europe.

The deal between Mirrie Dancers and Hardy’s Chocolates resulted after Mrs Thomson, 44, noted the high demand for Scottish-made confectionery from her customers. After reaching out to the Lerwick-based company, it was agreed the shop would start exclusively stocking a variety of the brand’s luxury chocolate selection.

Launched in 2016 by former military chef, Mr Williams, Mirrie Dancers specialises in unique flavour combinations, including port and stilton and lime and prosecco, and has distributed its chocolate to countries as far as South Africa, Switzerland and Australia.

To celebrate the collaboration between the brand and Hardy’s Chocolates, a selection of Mirrie Dancers chocolates will be available for the public to sample from Friday, 19 to Saturday, 20 May.

Lisa Thomson, owner of Hardy’s Chocolates, said:

“After a very exciting first few months for Hardy’s Chocolates, I am thrilled that we are continuing to increase the shop’s selection of high-quality confectionery by stocking Mirrie Dancers chocolates.

“Dave is a master in his craft and we both share the same values when it comes to chocolate and how it is made. We believe that to truly appreciate the taste, chocolate needs to be of the highest quality.

“Working with Mirrie Dancers will also help us grow the business and what we can provide for our customers, as we are now able to offer an even wider made-to-order service for corporate gifts and events.”

Dave Williams, owner of Mirrie Dancers, said:

“Mirrie Dancers has come a long way since it first launched at the beginning of last year. I am absolutely thrilled that Hardy’s Chocolates will now be the sole stockist of our products in the North-east and I am looking forward to hearing the feedback from people within the region.

“I founded Mirrie Dancers with the support of local businesses and friends, since then it has grown to employ three others, so I am extremely supportive of small, independent businesses like Hardy’s Chocolates.”

For more information about Hardy’s Chocolates, visit:

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Apr 292016

Peter_Anson__courtesy and copyright Andrew Paterson Scottish Highlander Photo ArchiveBy Duncan Harley

Born in Southsea and from a naval family, Peter Anson (1889 – 1975) took a keen interest in ships and seafaring from an early age.

Initially he sketched from photographs but at age nine, during a family holiday at Robin Hood’s Bay, Peter began drawing the Fifies’ and Zulu drifters beloved by his mother, a Scots born water-colourist. Peter attributed his status as a ‘Domiciled Scotsman’ to her strong maternal influence. She died when he was fourteen and from this point on, his naval officer father began to have more input.

On one memorable occasion Peter found himself, age 15 alongside his dad, on-board the cruiser HMS Argyll – sister ship to the ill fated Hampshire which went down off the Orkney’s in 1916 with Lord Kitchener, of ‘YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOU’ fame, on board.

This was his first experience at sea in a warship and he writes that he did not enjoy “the terrific noise of guns firing” during a naval exercise in the Bay of Biscay. Despite this, he was by now smitten by seafaring and felt himself a hardened sailor following this experience.

Private tutoring followed and in his late teens Peter enrolled at the Architectural Association School in London’s Westminster. Even here however he found that he couldn’t resist maritime subjects. He obtained a sketching permit which allowed him to wander at will, sketchbook in hand, around London Docks. Wapping, Blackwall and the Isle of Dogs became favourite haunts and Thames river traffic became his subjects.

By 1906 Peter was in touch with the Anglican Benedictine community on Caldey Island near Tenby and despite family pressure to follow an architectural career found himself drawn to the monastic life.

In 1910, he tested his vocation as a monk. Following an initial two weeks on Caldey Island he decided, at age 20, to join the Community. Many years later he writes:

“I might be giving up the world, but this would not involve abandoning the sea … I don’t think that I could have faced the latter sacrifice! It would have been too much to ask!”

For the next decade, Caldey Island became his home.

Six miles in circumference and less than a mile long, the island had been home to monks from early Celtic times. In 1906 it was purchased by a Yorkshire based community of Anglican Benedictine’s.

It is a place of jagged coastal rocks, Atlantic storms and red sandstone cliffs and it was here that Peter became firm friends with Aelred Caryle, his monastic Superior, who helped him realise the Apostolate of the Sea – a mission to attend to the moral and spiritual needs of those who go to sea in ships.

An article on the subject penned by Peter appeared in The Catholic newspaper ‘Universe’ and soon letters began to arrive from all parts of the world endorsing his view that the spiritual welfare of seafarers in general went largely uncared for. One correspondent commented that:

“the mercantile marine have no chaplains and the priests in seaport towns are too overburdened with work already to give ships much individual attention”.

Macduff_1958_image_courtesy_Moray Museums Service

The Catholic Times soon took up the issue and in 1920 the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano published a condensed Italian translation of Peter’s article. Peter had by then, as always, moved on to fresh projects. In what he later realised was an attempt to escape from monastic life and a return to the maritime world, Peter asked permission from the Abbot of Caldey to make a survey tour of the seaports of the UK.

He made many sea journeys during this period and travelled from the Shetlands to the Scillies.

He sailed in dirty colliers and smoke stained steam trawlers and at one point spent so long in an Italian cargo vessel that he almost forgot how to speak English. In Buckie he found a fleet of over a hundred brightly painted steam drifters and wondered why no artist had ever painted the confused mass of funnels, rigging and masts.

In Aberdeen he observed:

“big dirty, untidy vessels which were a stark contrast to the tidy vessels of the Moray Firth.”

Everywhere he travelled he met clergy who had largely given up on ministering to ships and abandoned seafarers whose spiritual needs were left largely neglected.

The question of what could be done for Catholic seafarers had been the catalyst for the setting up of the Apostleship however when Peter moved to Portsoy and then to Macduff in the 1930’s it was soon apparent to him that the crews of the herring drifters were made up of men from various persuasions.

Methodists, Baptists, Episcopalians and Presbyterians; Brethren, Salvation Army and Catholics were all happy to discus both the state of the tide with him and debate the finer points of infant baptism or the mysticism surrounding the crucifixion.

The painting and the sketching carried on throughout this period, as it did indeed throughout his long life. The Apostleship of the Sea had become an international affair complete with annual congresses attracting delegates from up to 14 countries. By 1936 however, Peter had withdrawn from the official life of the organisation.

Gardenstown_Image_courtesy_Moray Museums ServiceIndeed he took great pleasure in the fact that on the occasion of the Congress’s meeting to honour his colleague Arthur Gannon’s 17 years of devoted work with the award of the ‘pro Pontifice et Ecclesia’ he was pointedly busy making a drawing of a Dutch motor cruiser in Banff harbour whilst chatting amiably with its crew.

Peter had in fact resigned his position as the Apostleship’s Organising Secretary in about 1924 due both to health concerns and the feeling that he had visualised the society much as he would visualize a drawing or a piece of writing.

Once the piece was completed, he simply wanted to get on with the next project.

Further sea journeys followed. Brittany, Vancouver and a much needed pilgrimage to Assisi were just some. In 1938 he published The Caravan Pilgrimage, an account of his year long ‘Pilgrim Artist’ journey by horse drawn caravan from Datchet by the Thames around Scotland’s North East coastline and back.

For many years Peter had been contributing a weekly series of drawings to the Catholic newspaper, The Universe featuring Roman Catholic churches around Britain. This work involved constant travelling by train; he hated road travel, which he found exhausting. One day he simply decided to divest himself of his copies of both Bradshaw and the ABC Railway Guide and purchased a horse drawn caravan.

Since he knew little about horses his next move was to advertise for a travelling companion who did. Out of almost 200 applications he chose a young Yorkshire-man by the name of Anthony Rowe who, alongside a lifetimes experience amongst horses, was a qualified farrier.

Along with horses, Jack and Bill, the pair set off on a year long journey around Britain, sketching churches and meeting folk along the way. Both Anthony and Peter recorded the journey and both published journals of the trip. Around 60 of Anson’s illustrations of the pilgrimage appear in the book of the tour including sketches of St Peter’s in Buckie, St Mary’s in Portsoy and St Thomas’s in Keith.

Along the way, Jack and Bill enjoyed the privilege of overnight grazing in, amongst many unusual locations, the grounds of Huntly Castle and Buckie FC’s football park.

Harbour Head Macduff:
In 1936 Peter moved back to Scotland. He had lately been living in Norfolk but had become weary of what he called:

“the Church of England in it’s most traditional and un-exciting manifestations.”

He had an intimate knowledge of Scottish ports having previously visited most of the forty or so parishes, including the Orkney’s and Shetlands which then made up the diocese of Aberdeen and knew many of the 50 or so secular priests who served up what he termed:

“an undemonstrative type of Catholicism.”

Ferryden 1966 image courtesy Moray Museums Service

The Aberdeenshire and Moray coastline became his home for the next two decades. Ecclesiastical affairs drifted into the background and fishing communities became his focus and his life.

The likes of Neil and Daisy Gunn, Compton McKenzie and Eric Linklater became firm friends.

Indeed both Neil and Sir Compton were to contribute forewords to his books. Compton had reviewed Peter’s writing for the Daily Mail commenting that:

“Mr Ansons books are prized possessions on my bookshelves.”

It has even been suggested that Neil’s Silver Darlings might not have reached publication if Peter had not encouraged the man to publish and be damned.

Peter wrote at the time that:

“In Scotland … so far as I could discover I was the only Papist earning a living by literary and artistic work in the vast diocese of Aberdeen.”

Soon after moving into Macduff ‘s Harbour Head the local parish priest designated Peter’s house as an Apostleship of the Sea ‘Service Centre’.  As a consequence a constant stream of mariners of all faiths and nationalities found their way to his door and in wartime, service folk on leave from the armed forces frequented his open house.

He had begun the Apostleship many years before with the vision of creating a worldwide organisation. At Harbour Head, Peter soon adopted the view that perhaps men rather than administrative machinery were required; Apostles were more needed than an Apostolate.

During this period he wrote and sketched at a furious pace adopting the practice of making at least one drawing before breakfast. He had spent six months in an earth floored fisherman’s cottage in Portsoy prior to moving to Harbour Head during which time he completed The Catholic Church in Modern Scotland. During his years in Macduff his writing included classics such as A Roving Recluse, Life on Low Shore and the best-selling classic British Sea Fishermen.

At the behest of the Scottish Nationalist Party and with a foreword by writer Neil Gunn he penned a vitriolic political pamphlet ‘The Sea Fisheries of Scotland are they Doomed’ which examined in some detail the causes for the decline in the fortunes of the inshore fishing industry in the 1930’s.

Books as diverse in nature as How to Draw Ships and the 1956 Official Guide to Banff followed and are part of his legacy alongside possibly his final work Building Up the Waste Places in which he explores the life and work of Aelred Caryle and Fr. Hopkins, each of whom played key roles in the restoration of Benedictine Monastic life in the post Reformation church.

Perer_Anson_Memorial_Sculpture courtesy Duncan HarleyA founder member of the Royal Society of Marine Artists Anson published over 40 books, and contributed to many more. His artistic output numbers literally thousands of drawings and watercolours and many of his books are prolifically illustrated with harbour scenes and pier head paintings.

In 1958 Peter left Macduff and moved to a cottage near Ramsgate Abbey. A further brief stay in Portsoy followed in 1960 and in 1961 he moved to Montrose.

Made a Knight of the Order of St Gregory by Pope Paul VI in 1966 in recognition of his scholarly work he became, in 1967, the first Curator of the Scottish Fisheries Museum at Anstruther.

His later years were spent back at Caldey Island and finally at Sancta Maria Abbey in East Lothian.

He died in St. Raphael’s Hospital in Edinburgh in July 1975 and is buried in the private cemetery at Nunraw Abbey.

Aspects of Peter’s life remain unclear and some personal diaries and correspondence remain unavailable to historians until 2040. He was seemingly barred from attending a friend’s funeral at Doune Kirkyard in Macduff, shuddered at the loss, but in time recovered and moved on.

Moray Council Museum Service hold a substantial collection of Peter Anson’s work some of which is on public display at the Falconer Museum in Forres. They also hold an archive of his letters and diaries plus his personal library. Buckie Fishing Heritage Centre and Buckie Library also hold Anson paintings.

Courtesy of Stanley Bruce, Macduff sports a sculpture in memory of Peter but perhaps the most fitting tribute to his life are in the words of an anonymous Buckie fisherman quoted on the flyleaf of the 1930 edition of the best selling classic: ‘Fishing Boats and Fisher Folk on the East Coast of Scotland’.

“Peter’s the maist winnerfu’ mannie ah ever met, well kent in scores o’ ports, a man wi’ the sea in’s bleed, a skeely drawer o’ boats an’ haibers an’ fisher fowk, a vreeter o’ buiks, a capital sailor, an’ a chiel … He’s a byordinar mannie.”

© Duncan Harley

With thanks to the Moray Museum Service, the Andrew Paterson Scottish Highland Photo Archive and Aberdeenshire Library Service. First published in the November 2015 edition of Leopard Magazine

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Royal Mail – Not For Sale!

 Articles, Community, Information, Opinion  Comments Off on Royal Mail – Not For Sale!
Feb 182011

Members of the Communication Workers Union will be holding a demonstration outside the St Nicholas Centre on Saturday February 26th to raise awareness of proposals put forward by the Government to privatise Royal Mail. Voice’s Stephen Davy-Osborne reports.

The proposal, set out earlier this year, sees the link between Royal Mail and the Post Office Ltd severed as Royal Mail becomes a privatised company, while the Post Office remains in public ownership under a partnership similar to that of the John Lewis Group.  These proposals have caused a great deal of concern to those employed by both organisations.

Once privatised, there would be no guarantee of Royal Mail making use of the Post Office network; which is already facing 900 closures up and down the country.   Once a vital amenity for any village, town or city; the Post Office has faced increased competition from other companies offering similar services resulting in decline in footfall, and therefore closures.

Alan Robertson, Secretary of the Grampian & Shetland branch of the CWU, is hopeful that further closures and subsequent job losses can be avoided:

“The future of the Post Office Ltd does not have to be gloomy.  If the Government stuck to its election promise of putting a fully-blown bank within the Post Office, then it would help secure its future. Last year alone 150 Post Offices shut down.  If privatised and not given banking services, then Post Offices will simply wither on the vine and the people who suffer the most will be the elderly, those in remote areas, and the most vulnerable in society.”

people think either it will never happen or it’s a ‘done deal’ – neither of which is true

Demonstrations and marches have been taking place up and down the country over the last few months, with many more yet to come.  Just last month following  the announcement of the proposed changes, the CWU marched on the constituencies of both David Cameron and Minister for Postal Affairs, Ed Davey, to highlight that privatisation is not in the best interests of Royal Mail or its users.

Members of the Grampian & Shetland branch of the CWU will also be journeying down to London at the end of March to join a march against cuts being organised by the TUC.

Royal Mail has attracted a lot of media attention over the past couple of years, with reports of inefficiencies and huge job losses on the horizon as it sought to compete in a modern market.  Despite the bad press, Mr Robertson is confident that things were starting to look up for Royal Mail:

“The long-term problems we have had are already being addressed.   Last April our membership ratified a three-year deal that accounts for things like the decline in mail, new machinery and ways of working.  This will lead to a significant drop in headcount for our members, but it has been done on a proper basis that will see a more efficient Royal Mail at the end of the three years.”

However, all of these agreed changes, which saw heavy campaigning from the unions to secure a fair outcome for all, could be put in jeopardy by privatisation.

The demonstration outside the St Nicholas Centre will therefore try and raise public awareness and let people know what the results of privatisation would mean to them.

“I believe that most people think either it will never happen or it’s a ‘done deal’ – neither of which is true.” adds Mr Robertson.

For further information and to show your support for one of the nation’s most vital public services, head along to the CWU’s demonstration outside Marks and Spencer, St Nicholas Centre between 11:00 and 13:00 on Saturday February 26th.

Nov 052010

This week Old Susannah looks at the important work of Aberdeen City, Shire and ASCEF.  But first she would like to note the international recognition given to the Shetland Islands as a world-class destination.

The Shetlands won a spot on the world’s top ten places according to The Lonely Planet guide.  I don’t see it myself – aside from unique landscapes, diverse wildlife, archaeology, northern lights and an ancient heritage, there’s not much to these isles – not even a shopping mall.  Think how much better it could be there if they’d only build a concrete public square and a few hundred holiday homes.  Perhaps a delegation from ASCEF could help.  And here’s what ASCEF has done for us lately:

Regional Identity

Before ASCEF came along, no one in the world knew where Aberdeen or indeed the North East of Scotland was.  There was no Regional Identity (except for a Scottish history stretching to prehistory, discoveries and inventions known the world over, and both architecture and wild landscape immortalised by artists and writers).  Well, we have a Regional Identity now.  This identity apparently means that finally businesses in the area can compete in the world.  You can almost feel the motivation.  I can hear you asking now, what good is a Regional Identity without a logo, strapline and philosophy?  Quite.

Aberdeen City and Shire – The logo

For reasons of copyright (and aesthetics), I am not reproducing the beautiful logo here – but I do encourage you to seek it out on the Aberdeen City Council website.  Words cannot do it justice, but I shall do my best.  First there is the shape – it echoes the Grampian coastline (if the coastline were a boomerang).  Then there is groundbreaking lettering rendered in a bold, confident yet plain font which announces:  “ABERDEEN CITY AND SHIRE” in full capital letters to emphasise how important we are.  You can almost sense the improving economic investment into the area this lettering alone will bring.

These words make you instantly feel optimistic, and ready to face life head on

There are squiggly lines – sorry waves which not only let people know we are on a coastline ( Did you know that?)  but also demonstrate how connected we are (of course anyone with an artistic streak will immediately get it).

There didn’t seem to be any graphic reference to the beautiful sewerage plant on said coastline, which was no doubt an artistic decision reached after weeks of deliberation.  There is a cityscape just like ‘Sex in the City’ had.

There is also reference to trees in this masterpiece, but no doubt they can be airbrushed out once we’ve got rid of Union Terrace Gardens.   The blue and green colour scheme apparently reflects our natural environment (maybe they ran out of grey paint?).  Strangely neither the Council nor ASCEF seem to respond to my freedom of information requests with any regularity, but if any of you would like to ask how much of our money went into the logo, strategy, strapline and the Identity Team, please let me know what you can find out.  But  wait – it gets better…

Natural Pioneers

No, our governors and business leaders are not ‘Natural Pioneers’ because they are determined to tame any remaining wilderness . This pioneering spirit is the state of mind we are all in according to those who designed our new identity.  Old Susannah admits to being a bit confused by the literature describing this value because it explains that our culture and history show we naturally have a can do attitude .

This seems a wee bit at odds with their previous claim  that we were unknown to the outside world. I am not sure which is true, but I will look through the ‘toolkit’ which the ‘Regional Identity Team’ has created to see if I can get to the bottom of it.  Should any reader be able to explain this to me, please get in touch.

A Brighter Outlook

A Brighter Outlook is what we have in Aberdeen, as the ‘strapline’ tells us.  These words make you instantly feel optimistic, and ready to face life head on.  The outside world will of course totally believe things are great here because of the strapline and the logo.  A few squiggles, a cityscape, and the immortal words ‘A Brighter Outlook’ will have investors queuing up to get their money placed here.  We will have more Donald Trumps. Thank you ASCEF, and thank you Regional Identity Team.

I suggest you write to your elected representative to express how happy you are that a team has been established and money spent to put Aberdeen’s future in this wonderful light.  Or take direct action and contact the  Regional Identity Team directly at St Nicholas House.  Let’s ensure they keep up the good work and that they won’t suffer in the budget cuts.  Best we get rid of the income that charities used to rely on from the Golden Square parking area than we cut a cent from our Regional Identity team (I wonder how many people it took to do all of this fantastic work?).

Only one thing is missing:  we need a photo of a person who embodies all of the things our City and Shire stand for.  Please send your nominations.

Next week:  Budget special:   creative accounting, ringfencing, consultation updates

Oct 012010

By Simon Gall.
A 72 metre former Russian Navy fire-fighting vessel set sail from Aberdeen Harbour last Monday where it replenished its stocks, collected new crew members and continued its tour of the world’s seas.

The Greenpeace ship the Esperanza currently on its ‘Go Beyond Oil’ Tour aims to “investigate, expose and confront environmental abuse by governments and corporations”(1) and raise awareness about the potential hazards of deepwater drilling, drilling in the Arctic and oil extraction from the Canadian Tar Sands.

The vessel had come to Aberdeen directly from an action against Edinburgh-based Company Cairn Energy in an Arctic region near Greenland known as ‘Iceberg Alley‘, where the company had been drilling two deepwater exploration wells at a depth of 300 to 500 metres (around 300 metres and above usually constitutes deepwater drilling).

Governments and citizens around the world have become very wary of deepwater drilling since the recent BP disaster but Cairn Energy claim they have “put procedures in place to give the highest possible priority to safety and environmental protection,”(2).However, a sceptical Greenpeace highlights that, “if a spill (were to occur) in this harsh and unpredictable Arctic environment the consequences would likely be disastrous. Little to no capacity exists to handle accidents in ice-filled seas. The techniques deployed in the Gulf which were fraught with failure would be useless in the Arctic.

Cold weather, thick ice cover and the slow development of plants and animals means that multiple generations of organisms would be exposed to contamination since the toxic oil would linger in the environment. Even without a major spill, the regular ongoing industry practices of exploration, seismic testing, and extraction of offshore oil reserves has the potential to disrupt seasonal migrations of whales, spawning run of salmon, and crucial reproductive periods of migrating birds”.(1)

First, they occupied the anchor chain and erected a ‘survival pod’ to stop the ship leaving the harbour

Greenpeace activists expressed their concerns about the Arctic project by climbing and occupying the company’s Stena Don oil rig effectively shutting it down, but after 40 hours extreme weather forced the protestors to abandon the action and give themselves up.

They were subsequently arrested, fined roughly $3,440(3) each and deported to their home countries. In the days after the departure of the Esperanza from the area, Cairn Energy announced it had found oil and that it was testing the first samples. The news delighted industry investors and many in Greenland.

Next, the ship travelled to the Shetland Islands (via Aberdeen) where the Chevron drilling ship the ‘Stena Carron’ was about to leave Lerwick Harbour to make it’s way to an exploratory deepwater drilling site to the north of the Islands in the Lagavulin oil field (at the time of writing the company still had not been granted permission by the Department of Energy and Climate Change).

There the touring activists spent a week preventing the ship from reaching its destination. First, they occupied the anchor chain and erected a ‘survival pod’ to stop the ship leaving the harbour but when Chevron’s lawyers won a court order demanding that the occupation be abandoned immediately the 100 hour action was called off and the ‘pod‘ was lowered.

Determined to stop the vessel from reaching its destination, the group changed its tactics and despatched a group of swimmers to block its path.

This controversial action, deemed by many as ‘dangerous’ and ‘reckless’, was brought to end after Chevron’s lawyers made a second trip to Edinburgh and won a second injunction against Greenpeace. On hearing the news, the activists again called off their 50 hour action.

The Stena Carron then continued on its way to the site and the activists returned to the Esperanza. There is currently a nationwide campaign underway to dissuade the Energy Secretary Chris Huhne from granting permission to Chevron to begin its deepwater drilling project in the Lagavulin oil field.

The tour goes on……