Mar 302012
 

By Bob Smith.

On mither earth faar we div bide
Thingies noo are fair on the slide
On iss sphere in the universe
The gweed life noo is in reverse

Flora an fauna are aa in decline
As the human race dis undermine
The basics fer the warld’s survival
Yet maist fowk’s brains are in denial

We build an drill an pull oot trees
The polar regions nae langer freeze
The kwintraside noo aa tar scarred
As motorin groups they lobby hard

Mair an mair hooses biggit near toons
Coverin fertile fields we kent as loons
Rape an winter wheat full fairmer’s parks
Nae placies left fer the peesies or larks

Aathing noo maun be neat an tidy
In winter time things canna be slidie
If sna faas doon at the rate o faist
It’s look’t upon as bein a bliddy pest

Yet sna we need ti fill lochs an rivers
It melts in the hills an rins doon in slivers
So we can aa drink a draught o H20
The watter levels shudna be ower low

We cut doon rainforests so cattle can graze
Or palm ile is socht ti mak soap fer yer face
An fowk faa hiv bade in thae forests fer ‘ears
Throwen oot o their hames bi firms’ owerseers

Mither Earth provides us wi aa wi need
Sustainable? Aye bit nae fin there’s greed
We maun use less of fit Mither Earth dis gie
Some fowk in oor warld iss they canna see

I hiv some hope Mither Earth wull survive
As the younger fowk weel they div strive
Ti gither an protest aboot fit’s aa gyann on
Mither Earth micht yet see a brand new dawn.

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© Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie”2012

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Image Credits:
GRASSHOPPERS © Steffen Foerster | Dreamstime.com 
PLANET EARTH © Foto_jem | Dreamstime.com

Mar 092012
 

Referendums, deer culls, employers telling employees how to vote, services cuts, classroom assistants under threat.  Old Susannah cuts to the heart of the matter and ponders upcoming Lord Provost parties.

Tally Ho!  It’s been a boring week in Aberdeen; referendums, deer culls, habitation destruction and other criminal activity notwithstanding.  I will write a column over the weekend once a few conditions have hopefully been met.

First, I need to find something important and local to write about, and second – I must find an outfit to wear for the Lord Provost’s upcoming parties.  I’ll need everything from some evening gowns to designer jeans for the nearly £28,000 worth of partying just approved by the ‘Lord Provost Sub Committee’ – and that’s on top of the £4,000 party to launch his £9,000 portrait. I am sure my invitations will arrive shortly.

At the time of writing it is not clear whether residents of a home for people with paralysis issues are still being told not to drink too much fluid at night and buy rubber mattresses, as their overnight on-site assistants are no longer affordable.  Perhaps Lord Provost Stephen will invite some of them to one of his little get-togethers.

Hopefully my party invitatins from the Lord Provost  won’t arrive as late as the bundles of postal votes which showed up too late to be counted in the aforementioned referendum.  Hard luck, eh?  Kind of reminds me of when I personally handed in 63 individual postcards protesting the deer cull to the city’s Town House – only to get a letter from Valerie Watts saying she’d had a total of less than 40 from all sources.  But it would be wrong to mention that, or the deer cull.

Unfortunately national media are about to cover the cull, with one reporter telling me this tree planting/deer cull is ‘bizarre’.  Clearly only Aileen HoMalone (newly crowned queen of the Lib Dems – not counting Nick Clegg), Pete Leonard and Ian Tallboys can understand the importance of ripping up existing habitat to expose industrial waste and rocks on which to plant trees that can’t possibly thrive.  The rest of us are thick.

Being busy with the important business of buying new outfits for all the upcoming Lord Provost events means there’s no time for a column just yet, but don’t despair  – the link below will take you to a spread sheet you can download to keep as a little gift.  This shows how our favourite councillors have voted over Union Terrace Gardens and culling deer – with plenty of room for you to fill in the results of your favourite votes as well.

This may be a handly little reminder when it comes time to vote of who is dynamic, forward-thinking and so on.

Here is the link:  http://oldsusannahsjournal.yolasite.com/

You will also find an additional present with this spread sheet – Old Susannah has made her own portrait of the Lord Provost, complete with wife and glamorous security guard.  I would be happy to sell it for less than £9,000, and rather than holding a £4,000 drinks party to celebrate my artwork, I’d happily go down to BrewDog for a pint instead.

So that’s it for now – more in a few days, if I can find some subject matter.  Cheerio!

Sep 302011
 

Those irreverent scamps of Scotland the What?, in a live take on Harry Gordon’s ‘Fittie Folk, Kitty Folk’, once cheekily ended a contemporary refrain with, “Harlaw, Pointlaw, Babbie Law and Denis Law”, proof that the reputation of this scrawny blond loon from Printfield is as firmly scorched into the local psyche and folklore as those enduring, immovable, jutting-jawed Aberdeen landmarks. This is all the more impressive considering that apart from his 55 appearances for Scotland, Law’s football career was entirely spent in England and, briefly, Italy. Voice’s David Innes reviews Denis Law: My Life In Football.

I have to admit that I was first disappointed when I picked up My Life In Football. I did not know that it was a pictorial retrospective of Law’s life and career, expecting it to be an update of his previous biography The King.

It is only on the inner frontispiece that the alternative title My Life In Pictures is shown. There is also a Scottish Edition available, although there is no indication how this differs from the edition sent to Voice for review.

Do not let this put you off if you are a fan of the formerly Beautiful Game, however.

Law, in partnership with Ivan Ponting, has selected almost a thousand photographs, ranging from his gawky, bespectacled Kittybrewster schooldays in the late 1940s to contemporary images, showing one of the game’s elder statesmen happy and relaxed in well-deserved retirement.

In between, there are some stunning action images captured by the cream of the world’s sports photographers during football’s golden era. Unfortunately, the photo credits are only given to the image owners in the book’s acknowledgment appendix, as it would provide fellow obsessives with months of joy tracking down and drinking in the magnificent portfolios of the snappers whose work is featured.

Each image has been captioned by Law, and although he and his editor will have had access to historical statistics and tele-visual resources to inform these mini-narratives, there is little doubt that Law’s own memory has played its part in writing the captions.

The detail proves that his memory remains as sharp as those deadly penalty box reflexes were when this legend was the goal area nemesis of rugged, brutish defenders, when football was tough and hard and its physicality celebrated as a challenge to the skilful and brave. One cannot imagine Law ‘simulating’ to gain a penalty under a robust assault by Chopper Harris, Jackie Charlton or Norman Hunter. That would have been an admission of defeat, of weakness, and viewed as an unworthy, cowardly way of gaining a tarnished advantage.

My Life In Football is unashamedly for football fans, so does not set out to philosophise about the game or give deep insights into the consciousness of one of the finest footballers of all time.

The captions, the narrative if you will, are therefore non-controversial and written in the ubiquitous ribbing, deprecating style, an incessant feature of football in dressing rooms at every level in the UK and which are a bit wearing unless you happen to be part of it.

The same can be said of the contributions made by Law’s fellow protagonists in the images, Paddy Crerand, Bobby Charlton, the late George Best and a variety of other teammates and rivals, but behind the mickey-taking, the comments are made with obvious affection and respect for Law’s outrageous ability.

This is a coffee table book, designed for repeated reference, packed with magical memories for those who had the privilege of living through the era when supremely-gifted craftsmen such as Denis Law made football, when it was The People’s Game, exciting, compelling and the best possible release from stupid, stressful reality.

It is also a worthy historical tome which will help inform those who believe that football began with Serie A, La Liga and the Premiership and the out-of-proportion sums of money falsely keeping such structures afloat.

Denis Law: My Life In Football (Scottish-edition)  
Simon and Schuster.
ISBN 978-0-85720-084-6.
250 pages.
£25.

Sep 152011
 

By Richard Pelling.

In Town Without My Car Day takes place every September in cities across Europe (and beyond) is an event designed to promote awareness of alternatives to the car for accessing city centres and serves to promote sustainable transport that can help reduce pollution in the urban environment.  It forms an element of European Mobility Week – but will we see In Town Without My Car Day in Aberdeen this year? NO.

http://www.mobilityweek.eu/-Introduction-to-EMW-

‘What about Getabout’s Belmont Bike Festival ?’,  you say – well; few would consider that an ITWMC Day and the sorry tale of how this event came to be held onBelmont Street serves to highlight Aberdeen City Council’s commitment to sustainable transport and the environment.
http://www.get-about.com/news_full.asp?id=167&curpage=&search=clear&section=news

For background, lets consider Report EPI/11/140
http://committees.aberdeencity.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=13852&txtonly=1

This was presented at the Aberdeen City Council Enterprise, Planning & Infrastructure (EP&I) Committee Meeting on 24th May 2011, which suggested thatAberdeen host an ITWMC event in 2011 and requested that Union Terrace be the venue :

“Union Terrace remains the optimum location given the nature of the space required, the potential to use Union Terrace Gardens for some elements, the visibility of the event and the significant footfall that will be attracted and the fact that the Council already has special event temporary traffic management measures in place for the regular closing of Union Terrace for the International Street Market, and members of the public and transport operators are familiar with such diversions.”

Sounds great – Union Terrace is, of course, regularly closed for the commercial streetmarket that runs Friday – Sunday, so there should surely be no issues with closing it to hold this important one day environmental event and the proximity of Union Terrace Gardens gives extra space for say, cycling demonstrations, discussions of the visionary proposals for a Denburn Woonerf etc.
http://otheraberdeen.blogspot.com/2011/04/woonerf-for-denburn-valley-proposal.html

Union Terrace is also ideal as it is itself part of National Cycle Route 1 which in addition to being a popular commuter route in town, runs all the way from Dover to John o’ Groats (then on to Orkney and Shetland via the ferry). Sounds like it should be a done deal, but, EPI/11/140 goes on to say :

“Should the Committee feel that the impact on the road network and the travelling public will be such that they cannot support such an event on Union Terrace, officers will instead initiate proceedings to hold a smaller-scale event on Belmont Street on Saturday 17th September (although September 24th is the preferred date for the event, Belmont Street is hosting the Aberdeen Country Fair that day).”

So if the optimum location at Union Terrace – which can be shut on a weekday and all weekend for the street market – can’t be used the event will be held on Belmont Street … but not on the ideal date as that street is already closed for a regular street market then.

In fact, not only is Belmont Street already pedestrian-dominated (so it’s hardly a major concession to close it for a day), the council’s website notes that Belmont Street will beclosed at regular intervals throughout 2011 – indeed 24th September, 29th October, 26th November, 3rd, 10th, 17th & 24th December are already listed (no mention of 17th September yet though ??).

This point is noted in the original report which states :

“Although this would not strictly qualify as an In Town Without My Car Day event, as it would take place on a predominantly pedestrianised street, and would be of a significantly lesser scale, the space available should be such that some of the proposed attractions could still take place and the event should still be visible enough to attract a large number of visitors.”

Yes indeed, having the event on Belmont Streetwould not constitute a true ITWMC event.

In fact, looking at Section 4 of EPI/11/140 we see just how little commitment to the event there is. In Section 4.1 we read

“the closure of Union Terrace will involve the temporary rerouting of motor vehicles”

Well yes, isn’t that the whole point of closing off a street FOR ONE DAY a year?

“Public transport operators have been consulted on this proposal and they have significant concerns, stating the location is inopportune because of the disruption this will cause to bus services”

Disruption? That’s rich coming from First Aberdeen – look how they just closed the Bridge of Don Park & Ride site from 5th – 10th September. On another note, do you think bus operators want people to get into the habit of cycling into town?

(4.2) “The closure of Belmont Street would have minimal impact on traffic movements as vehicular access to Belmont Street is restricted and no public transport services use the street”.

(5.6) “… Closing the road on a weekend day should also limit any inconvenience to commuters and businesses.”

The minutes  of the EP & I Meeting of 24th May 2011,record that the committee resolved:

 “to support Aberdeen City’s participation in the European Mobility Week and In Town Without My Car Day 2011” – though evidently just as long as it didn’t inconvenience them too much! They also resolved to “instruct officers to initiate proceedings to close Belmont Street for a smaller scale event on Saturday, 17 September, and that the Head of Planning and Sustainable Development clarify whether this would still meet the requirements for participation in the European Mobility Week and In Town Without My Car Day 2011“. 
 http://committees.aberdeencity.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=15637

So we end up with the Belmont Bike festival.

I hope the event is a great success but think it could have been so much more. Keeping cars off what is an effectively pedestrianised street for a few hours on a Saturday really sums up Aberdeen City Councils level of commitment to the whole notion of cycling as a form of urban transport.

Jun 182011
 

With thanks to Mike Shepherd.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One entry read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:

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

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

Apr 072011
 

By Bob Smith.

Faar’s the likes o Tammy Mitchell
A provost wi nae falderals
Nae cavortin wi Acsef types
Or big lood moo’d Yankee pals

Provost Mitchell he spak the lingo
O the local North East lan
Ye aye kent fit wis
fit
Fin Tammy shook yer haun

Nae mair chiels like Bob Boothby
Or mannies like yon Robert Hughes
Ye micht nae agreed wi their politicks
Be ye kent they’d peyed life’s dues

Jist mealie-mou’d gabbin gadgies
In the political scene the noo
Maist o oor Scottish MSPs
Shud bi on the bliddy Broo

Nae worthies in oor local council
Like Dick Gallagher or Alex Collie
Jist a bunch o maistly fearty fowk
An we greet at aa their folly

Nae muckle fish landed at Aiberdeen
Since the discovery o aa the ile
Nae mony fish market porters
Hiv ye seen noo fer a fyle

Nae chatter o riveters haimmers
Or the soond o tackety boots
Jist the noise o fower bi fowers
Driven bi billies in Armani suits

The young in oor wee villages
Canna afford ti buy a hoose
The reason is ower plain ti see
Incomers hiv bin lit loose

Fowk faa wark miles awa
In the toon o Aiberdeen
Hiv snaffled aa the village hooses
Or as holiday hames they’re teen

Nae mony local shops o ony note
Cos they’ve aa gin ti the wa
Nae langer a leevel playin field
Supermarkets hiv pinched the ba

We eesed ti hae a gweed paper
The P&J wis
aye breezy an bright
It’s nae langer kent as impartial
The pages are noo fu o shite

Nae chunce o mince an skirlie
At some funcy restaurant placies
The chef wid look doon his nose
An pull affa funny facies

The reason he wid gie ye
As he whisks up his blancmange
Is ye canna serve up skirlie
Wi a dish o Duck a l’orange

At Pittodrie I watched gweed fitba
Faar players talents war set free
Noo it’s aa blackboard tactics
Wi systems
4-5-1 an 4-3-3

N.E. culture some say is wanein
Bit the Doric it still huds fast
An as lang as we aye spik it
It’ll nae bi in the past

I’m sure ye’ll bi noo hae gethered
I’m haein a wee rant an rail
An if a happen ti lan in jile
Wull somebody please pey ma bail

Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2011