Apr 042014

crash silver beetles1 duncan harleyIn the May of 1960, Johnny Gentle – a pop star from the same stable as Billy Fury and Marty Wilde – was dispatched by his manager to tour the dance halls of the North-east of Scotland. Backing him were some youngsters from Liverpool. Duncan Harley writes.

Mention The Beatles in the context of Scotland and most folk will recall their 1963 tour.

It began on 3 January that year and included performances in Elgin, Dingwall and Bridge of Allan, before climaxing at Aberdeen Beach Ballroom, on 6 January, with the Fab Four seemingly being booed while on stage, following a reported ‘mixed reaction’ from the assembled

John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr had been billed as a supporting act for the Johnny Scott Band Show, and The Beatles’ performance of mainly Buddy Holly and Ricky Nelson cover numbers seemingly suffered from a less than perfect sound system.

After being paid a reputed £45 for the Beach Ballroom gig, the Beatles went on to play to audiences all around the globe. They never returned to Aberdeen Beach Ballroom, but did play in Madison Square Gardens and Tokyo’s Nippon Budokan, among a few hundred other stadiums. However it almost never happened…

Rewind to 1960. Page four of the Inverness Courant for Wednesday 25 May included: an advert for staff wanted at Ayr Butlins Holiday Camp during the summer season; a local Elgin car dealer’s ad listing a one-owner 1957 Jaguar 2.4 saloon for sale at a “very reasonable price” – and a Northern Border Dance advert for the Beat Ballad Show.

For just five shillings, folk from Nairn, Kinloss, Lossiemouth and Elgin were encouraged to dance the night away at the Forres Town Hall, to the beat of Johnny Gentle and his supporting group, The Silver Beetles.

Fast-forward to Keith, in the present day.

Unless you have local knowledge of the town, the St Thomas Hall is a building quite easy to walk past. Erected in 1912, the hall has a fairly modest exterior, graced only by a stained-glass panel above the plain wooden door. In sharp contrast to the copper dome atop the grand St Thomas’ Chapel nearby – the hall boasts a blue slate roof, topped with a pair of rusting ventilators, and a chimney stack with two mismatched chimney pots.

However, on closer inspection, a small blue cast-iron plaque on the wall beside the entrance reveals that the hall played host to one of the earliest incarnations of possibly the most enduring band ever to tour the world stage.

The inscription reveals that on 25 May 1960, The Silver Beetles, comprising George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Tommy Moore and Stuart Sutcliffe, played to a packed hall – almost three years before The Beatles’ memorable 1963 tour of the North-east of Scotland.

silver beetles keith3The Silver Beetles’ 1960 Scottish tour comprised a series of performances backing the up-and-coming pop star, Johnny Gentle.

In those early days, the group toured in a battered old Austin 16 van, staying in budget hotels along the way.

The group were paid a total of £60, plus travel expenses, for the entire tour and, until an hour before the first performance, they had never even met Johnny Gentle.

London-based promoter Larry Parnes had hired an elderly Scottish pig farmer by the name of Duncan McKinnon to organise the tour, and McKinnon’s apparent lack of geographical knowledge meant that the seven gigs were aligned to maximise the travelling distance involved.

The 1960 tour started at Alloa, on 20 May, with a set comprising cover versions of popular hits including: Buddy Holly’s It Doesn’t Matter Anymore and Raining in My Heart; I Need Your Love Tonight, by Elvis Presley; Ricky Nelson’s Poor Little Fool; Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry’s I don’t Know Why; C’mon Everybody, by Eddie Cochran, and He’ll Have to Go, by Jim Reeves. In short, there was not a Lennon and McCartney piece within hearing range.

The same set was to be repeated slavishly throughout the tour.

What’s more, George was billed as ‘Carl Harrison’; John as ‘Johnny Lennon’, and Paul went by the pseudonym of ‘Paul Ramone’. In the publicity material, even ‘The Silver Beetles’ name was largely unused, with the band being known simply as ‘Johnny Gentle and His Group’.

After Alloa, the young musicians performed at Inverness, Fraserburgh, Keith, Forres and Nairn, with a final gig at Peterhead’s nicely-named Rescue Hall. In all, they are said to have driven more than 600 miles, in an overloaded and antiquated 1950s Austin 16 van. This gruelling travel schedule, not to mention the late nights and early starts, nearly led to disaster – and a small autograph book holds the key to what happened.

In September 2004, Christie’s advertised ‘Lot 204/Sale 9919’, comprising:

“A very rare, early set of autographs, 23rd May, 1960, on five pages from an autograph book signed and inscribed during the Beatles’ first ever tour of Scotland, one page signed in blue ballpoint pen by Paul McCartney and George Harrison with their then stage names Paul Ramon and Carl Harrison and by John Lennon as Johnny Lennon, the page additionally inscribed in McCartney’s hand The Beatles, another page signed and inscribed in blue ballpoint pen love Stuart xx [Sutcliffe], additional pages signed and inscribed Thomas Moore, Drums; love Johnny Gentle; and With best wishes, Margie xx.”

On 29 September 2004, at the firm’s South Kensington premises, the autograph book fetched a healthy £5,019 at auction.

Seemingly, the Silver Beetles’ tour van, with Johnny Gentle at the wheel, had crashed into a saloon car outside the autograph book owner’s house, near Banff, while travelling from Inverness to perform at the Dalrymple Hall, Fraserburgh. According to one account, the band’s regular driver, Gerry Scott, had wanted a rest from driving and Johnny Gentle, with a sleeping Lennon by his side – both perhaps a little the worse for wear in those pre-breathalyser days – had driven straight into the rear of a Ford Popular at a crossroads on the A98.

silver beetles plaque beside the entrance of St Thomas' Hall, Keith - Credit: Duncan Harley.The journey had seemingly been punctuated by a lengthy stop at a North Aberdeenshire pig farm, arranged by tour manager Duncan McKinnon, which had involved copious amounts of bacon and eggs, washed down with copious amounts of Mackeson Stout.

The occupants of the saloon car were reportedly ‘all shook up’, but otherwise unharmed. The elderly husband and wife had been on a shopping trip to Aberdeen and, of course, could have had no idea at the time how near the accident had been to completely changing the course of British pop music forever.

The tour drummer, Tommy Moore, was not so lucky, however.

The crash impact had sent a flying guitar directly into his face and he was taken by ambulance to the local cottage hospital, having suffered two lost teeth and severe facial cuts.

According to the Christie’s sale brochure, John Lennon had asked the autograph book owner where the nearest chip shop was, before deciding to stay at the scene until the police arrived. The young pop fan then went off to buy chips for all the musicians and, on her return, Lennon told her to keep the change and the entire band signed her autograph book.

The “Margie” who signed “With best wishes, Margie xxxx”, was seemingly Marjorie Overall, Johnny Gentle’s girlfriend at the time, whose striking peroxide-mauve hair and matching tight mauve trousers must indeed have been an unusual look in the Scotland of 1960.

Following the accident, the dented, but still serviceable, van continued en-route to the Fraserburgh gig, arriving in the seaside fisher town at about 3pm, in plenty of time for the evening performance, but of course minus one drummer. The Silver Beetles would have probably managed to perform without a drummer, but the local organiser of the gig insisted that since he’d paid for a drummer, a drummer was what he wanted.

So the luckless, and by now semi-sedated, Tommy Moore was literally dragged from his hospital bed by his fellow band members and transported to the ballroom, where he was grumpily seated behind his drums and encouraged to perform. His painful, if not life-threatening injuries, plus his growing disillusionment with a life on the road, led him to wonder if his past employment in a Liverpool bottle factory might be preferable to a future with a travelling pop group.

The tour proceeded at a pace from then on, and, after performances in Keith, Forres, Nairn and Peterhead, The Silver Beetles decided to change their name to The Beatles, with reference to the ‘beat’ generation and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. ‘Paul Ramon’ became Paul McCartney, ‘Johnny Lennon’ reverted to John Lennon, and ‘Carl Harrison’ became George Harrison.

The rest is history and even some 54 years on, the contribution to the music scene of the first real mega-group is still being felt.

To this day, many Elgin and Forres folk of a certain age will very quickly correct any visitor who dares suggest that the Beatles ever played in Keith. They will usually assert that the Keith leg of the 1963 tour was cancelled due to a blizzard and blocked roads. They will further assert that the Beatles still owe the former owner of a local hotel for bed and breakfast, and that Paul McCartney was so skint during the tour that he played at an Elgin wedding reception to earn some extra money to pay for fuel.

In truth, however, the Fab Four played to the townsfolk of Keith well before 1963 – although given that potentially serious road accident on the road to Fraserburgh, on 23 May 1960, it very nearly never happened.

First published in Aberdeen Leopard http://www.leopardmag.co.uk/blog/ © Duncan Harley 2014

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Nov 212013

TaxifeatFrom the comfort of the driving seat, taxi driver Fin Hall offers a street level view at issues affecting transport and infrastructure in Aberdeen.

The present incumbents of the council chambers show no sign of letting up in their pursuit of power and control, while making the city look ridiculous.

They started off as soon as they won the election by overturning the result of the UTG referendum, and yes, I know the weighted arguments behind it, and I would have voted “no” if I had been eligible to vote.

Then they continued by overturning almost every decision that the previous city leaders had implemented.

One of these was the building of the replacement stadium for Aberdeen Football Club at Loirston.

Now whether this would have been the ideal place for the ground is an argument for another day, although I suspect the majority of fans think it is the wrong place; but permission had already been given.

Meanwhile, on all the available land beside where the new stadium would have been, there are hundreds of new houses being built and loads of new offices and industrial premises. Considering that the reason given for the final blocking of the stadium plans was access, it borders on the insane that all that other building is going ahead.

It could, and most probably will, cause more congestion and traffic flow problems at least 5 days a week, whereas the football traffic would have been once very two weeks at the most.

The next act of lunacy that our city fathers have pushed through is that, by June 2017, all taxis in Aberdeen will have to be wheelchair accessible.

They are doing this under the banner of the Equality Act. What it will in fact do is make things more difficult for the average taxi passenger. As a taxi driver of more than 36 years’ experience, I can tell you that taxi companies get more requests for saloon cars than they do for wheelchair vehicles.

If you look on taxi ranks at most times, the majority of the cars are of the wheelchair-accessible type anyway.

Traffic Congestion. Picture Credit: Ian Britton.  http://www.freefoto.com/preview/41-17-The problem lies not with the amount of the appropriate type of cars, but with some of the drivers who operate such a motor vehicle.

Make no mistake, they know the rules when they come into this job.

If they are so lazy and selfish that they find any excuse not to get out of their car to assist their wheelchair-bound passenger, then their license to operate should be taken off them.

By having all cars wheelchair-friendly however, more people will be disenfranchised than will be helped. There are more people whose disability does not involve being wheelchair-bound than there are the opposite.

People with short legs, broken legs, back problems and other hindrances are totally unable to get into higher vehicles such as those that will available in a few years’ time. Some customers have already intimated to me that they will most likely be unable to go out when this comes to pass.

The only way then to get a taxi of the lower, saloon type when you come off a train or a plane, or even when you are coming home from shopping, will be to phone up and book a private hire taxi. And at peak times, usually from about 15:00 – 19:00 on weekdays, most offices are already fully booked with account customers, and don’t take in further bookings.

As to getting picked up from the station, well we all know what a farce that already is. The general pickup point from there is in from the Station Hotel, so getting to there for somebody of less mobility, complete with their suitcase is not going to be at all easy, in fact it will sometimes be impossible.

Another downside will be several drivers of an older age, who may just work off the ranks on a part-time basis, having to give up their work. The cost of these vehicles is prohibitive, they can cost as much as £28,000. This is hardly justifiable for those that may just work at the weekends.

That will leave a shortfall of taxis working the ranks at certain times.

So Aberdeen, a city which has a nationwide reputation for having the best and most comfortable taxis, will be overrun with ‘ ice cream van ‘ taxis. Gone will be your comfy ride to the airport or further, in a Mercedes or a CRV or a BMW etcetera, and instead you will rattle about on your own in the rear of an ugly uncomfortable people mover.

Sadly though, the licensing board rarely if ever listens to those with knowledge and experience of the job, and just charges ahead with ludicrous plans to satisfy its members’ already over-inflated egos.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Nov 052013

With thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

http://www.freefoto.com/preview/28-15-13/Road-Traffic-AccidentCome to Safe Drive Stay Alive 2013 and find out how your being in a road crash can have a massive impact on your friends, your family and the people who respond to emergencies.

In the past five years, 150 people have been killed in 134 collisions and 42 of those killed were in the 17-25 age group – don’t be next.

The event for S5 pupils in Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen City and Moray will be held in Aberdeen’s Beach Ballroom from Monday 4th November to Thursday 7th November.

A performance open to the public takes place on Wednesday 6th November at 7:15pm. It is free of charge and no ticket is necessary.

For more information, contact Kate Rigby:

Tel: 01467 628439
Email: kate.rigby@aberdeenshire.gov.uk

Images © http://www.freefoto.com

Oct 212013

Voice reader Frank Paterson has been moved sufficiently by Fin Hall’s recent article on traffic management, Bipeds, by-passes and bye-bye responsibility, to add his own views. ‘It’s good for Aberdeen Voice to publish an article on such an important and contentious issue’, he says. Thank you, Frank.

Traffic Congestion. Picture Credit: Ian Britton.  http://www.freefoto.com/preview/41-17-With the greatest of respect to the writer, the article is a good reflection of mainstream NE thinking on transport, in grousing about congestion but failing to suggest ways of dealing with it, apart from demanding more road building.
This, as previous Voice articles have explained, will only exacerbate the problem.

This really is vital issue as the growth in road traffic is presenting an enormous threat to the environment and economy of Aberdeen.

Far more importantly however, it is disastrous to people’s health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced that air pollution is officially a cause of lung and bowel cancer.

The writer urges Aberdeen drivers to be more considerate without taking into account Aberdeen’s transport system’s role in causing poor behaviour. The system is not only a complete embarrassment, but is also completely dysfunctional.

It appears to me that the article was unkind to George Kilbride, who was only attempting to action what transport managers throughout the world know to be the only viable solution to congestion and pollution, that is, modal shift in transport use. With sufficient political will this is achievable, as can be demonstrated by examples from many world cities.

unwillingness to change lifestyles is the root cause of the discontent expressed

However, experience shows that attempting to accommodate the current problems of motor transport by demand management, which has been the case up till now, results merely in the relocation of congestion.

This continues to be the case with the proposed AWPR and Third Don Crossing.

The footprint of cars and goods vehicles is too large, and fuel combustion too great, for individualised motorised travel. An aspiration of many is to drive the largest of vehicles but fundamentally there is not enough room within Aberdeen, and air quality is too poor, to accommodate current traffic comfortably, let alone more and larger vehicles.

Aberdeenshire Council’s Local Transport Strategy 2012 states (Para 8/28):

The guiding principle of the LTS aims to encourage individuals to change their travel behaviour. If we are to succeed in achieving this, our citizens must feel comfortable and safe whether walking, cycling or using public transport or when choosing to drive”

Transport professionals are clear on what must be done, but politicians are afraid to act, so an unwillingness to change lifestyles is the root cause of the discontent expressed in the previous article. Anger and bewilderment will increase along with congestion until the inevitable restrictions on car use are enforced by necessity of space and clean air.

However, the perennial congestion at Aberdeen’s traffic pinch points demonstrates how much inconvenience car users are willing to endure before shifting to more sensible modes of travel.

Like the public smoking ban, the occupation of public highways by tons of steel and the discharge of combustion waste into the air people breathe, will need to be curtailed eventually. This will be necessary for everyone’s benefit, despite the inevitable outcry.

Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.


Oct 112013

The other week, Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing caused a bit of a fuss by stating that the road system in Aberdeen was ‘an embarrassment and the worst in Scotland’. With his eyes firmly on the road ahead, our man in the driving seat, Fin Hall continues.

Taxis. Credit: Fred WilkinsonBarney Crockett, whose name incidentally comes up as Blarney with spell checker,
was outraged at these comments.

And rightly so, since it is the Scottish Government who has overall responsibility for the trunk roads in the country.

Meanwhile, MSP Lewis MacDonald, whilst agreeing with Mr Ewing, points out that the SNP government hasn’t started the AWPR despite almost 12 months having passed since the last stage of the appeal was heard.

Aberdeenshire Council member, Jim Gifford, also has a go at the Scottish Government over the lack of money that has been spent on NE roads.

All of these points are potentially valid, but the whole thing does smack of political point-scoring.

For a start, the Labour-led council has very short memories. It was the current incumbents’ predecessors who, for many a short-sighted year, publicly stated that we did not need a bypass, and actively encouraged us to take public transport, walk, or ride a bike. This was despite the fact that councillors themselves refused to do so stating that they, ‘…needed their cars to attend meetings all over the city’.

Oh, and the rest of us don’t, eh?

Funnily enough, the man at the head of this campaign, rejecting common sense, was one George Kirbride. At the time he was not an elected official, but a very opinionated civil servant, a man whose salary was paid by we tax payers.

He actively encouraged us all to cycle everywhere just as he did, because he didn’t drive. He wanted to build cycle lanes all over the city, the first one being out Cults way, which was apparently where he stayed. This futile example of a cycle way, is a mere white line painted around 18″ from the kerb, with no vehicle parking restrictions, thus totally negating its usefulness. It stopped around Mannofield.

NE drivers must surely be amongst the worst in the country

When all is said and done, the AWPR will not be a panacea in curing all traffic ills, and although it will certainly stop a vast volume of southbound and northbound traffic coming into the city, it will not make Aberdeen an idyllic, peaceful, fresh air city.

Much of the frustration and many problems in this part of the world are caused by the state of the traffic system, but drivers must take a goodly share of the blame. NE drivers must surely be amongst the worst in the country. Just check out the annual fatality list.

Indicators seem to be an added extra on most cars purchased up here, and lane discipline at roundabouts leaves a lot to be desired.

As for no entry signs and one way streets, forget about them.

Go down Stirling Street any day and you’ll see cars going down the street rather than travel 12 feet further along and travel down Exchange Street, the proper way. I have even seen a police car do this, and no, its blue lights were not flashing.

On these streets it is not uncommon to see cars parked facing the wrong way, as the owners know that City Wardens have the remit to book only vehicles parked outwith the parking zones, not parked in them facing the wrong way.

The police, in line with their budget cuts, pay absolutely no heed, thus perpetrating the vicious circle of irresponsibility.

The road saga is indicative of attitudes in modern society. As well as living in a world where blame culture predominates, we are now developing a parallel world, possibly blame culture’s twin – the idea that it is always someone else’s responsibility to get something done, rather than getting up off your backside and doing it yourself.

The AWPR will not solve the ills of the truly inadequate road system in the area, but it will surely assist in lessening congestion slightly. Provided that is, that the powers-that-be stop designating short cuts as rat runs and sticking road humps all over the place, forcing traffic on to already over-populated roads.

And stop passing the buck, just fix it.

Drivers need to stop thinking that the rules of the road are for everyone else and not for them, or that rules are in place to make your life awkward, rather than to help traffic flow swiftly and, above all, SAFELY!

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Jul 262013

Shocked and angered by the deaths of two people on bikes in the space of a week, a group of Edinburgh cyclists has taken action on behalf of all cyclists in Scotland in drawing attention to the latest tragedies. With thanks to Sara Dorman.

Two white-painted ghost bikes were left outside the Scottish Parliament on Monday 22 July to commemorate all eight cyclists including two children already killed in Scotland in 2013.

The number of cyclists killed on Scotland’s roads in 2012 rose to nine from 2011’s seven.
This looks set to rise again in 2013.

Almost as if to illustrate, grotesquely, the protest, just forty minutes after the sombre ceremony at the Parliament building, Mary Brook (59) of Drumnadrochit was killed as she cycled on Loch Ness side, the ninth cyclist to die on Scotland’s road this year.

The Scottish Government has rejected calls made by Pedal on Parliament, public health experts and MSPs to increase spending on cycling infrastructure, including safe, separated cycle tracks, to £20 per head. The recent Cycling Action Plan for Scotland also rejected calls for the implementation of strict liability laws in civil cases, claiming that as road casualty figures were falling overall, there was no case to be made for this change.

Ghost bikes have been used around the world to mark locations of fatal cycle accidents, to act both as memorial and warning. Andy Arthur, a cyclist involved in the Holyrood installation, explained the reasoning behind it.

We feel that the blame for these avoidable deaths must lie as much with the inaction of the Scottish Government as with the drivers concerned. The political leadership in Holyrood have the power and the budgets to do something about the safety of cycling, yet they seem to lack political will.

 “By leaving the memorial in full view of Parliament we hope it will stir our elected representatives into action, or else shame them for their inaction. It emerged spontaneously out of the real anger and hurt we felt at the news of yet another death this week, coming on top of the loss of two members of the Edinburgh Triathletes club in separate crashes this year.’”

Sara Dorman, among the organisers of Pedal on Parliament, said:

Only two months ago 4000 people pedalled on the Scottish Parliament to ask for just £100m a year to make Scotland’s roads safer for everyone, from eight to eighty, to cycle.

“Sadly, this year we’ve seen the death of an eight year old and someone who was almost eighty. Unfortunately, the state of our roads means that deaths are inevitable, as bikes are regularly brought into conflict with fast-moving traffic. Despite the government finding £3bn to dual the A9, supposedly on safety grounds, they’ve told us there’s no money to increase investment in safer cycling and all they’ve suggested is an information campaign urging mutual respect, the sort of campaign which has failed over and over in the past.

“It seems that there’s no sum too large to make the roads safer for driving, but when it comes to the safety of people on bikes, even children, then even the smallest sum is begrudged. We hope that Scotland’s politicians will see these memorials and show real leadership in making cycling safer for everyone.”

A memorial to all cyclists fatally-injured in the last five years was unveiled with the ghost bikes. It reads:

“This Memorial was placed here on July 22nd 2013 by a small group of Edinburgh cyclists; for and on behalf of all cyclists in Scotland. It has been placed here in memory of each cyclist killed on Scotland’s roads in recent years; these were people’s friends and loved ones; husbands and wives, fathers and mothers; sons and daughters; grandparents, aunts and uncles.

“The tally on this memorial shows how deaths amongst cyclists on Scotland’s roads are increasing. In mid-2013, the per-capita death rate for cyclists on Scotland’s roads is 3 times that of London. The Scottish Transport Secretary states that fatalities are down on our roads and that they are safer than ever. This is not the case, and the inaction and denial on the part of the Scottish Government must stop now.

“This Memorial accompanies Ghost Bikes, which have been placed outside the Scottish Parliament so that they are in full view of our elected representatives, who have the power, authority and budgets to do all that it takes to tackle the preventable loss of life on our roads. Ghost Bikes have been used all over the world as a memorial to cyclists who have been killed or severely injured on the road.

“All it takes for people to keep being killed cycling on Scotland’s roads is for our Government to keep doing nothing”


  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.



Oct 312012

In reply to Barry Black’s article re the AWPR in Aberdeen Voice, Jonathan Russell raises the following concerns:

Traffic Congestion. Picture Credit: Ian Britton.  http://www.freefoto.com/preview/41-17-Debate about the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route came to centre on legal issues. Consequently, proper debate about our transport and related needs has diminished. Here are ten reasons we should not be spending increasingly scarce resources on such a highly expensive venture and, if we do, what needs to be taken into account.

• The generally held position is that the AWPR will solve congestion, yet all known evidence shows increased road space increases congestion. The route may well help in reducing traffic black spots but is also likely to create new ones. Congestion in the city centre is certain to increase. It will encourage people to continue using cars rather than turning, as they are starting to now, to more environmentally effective means like car-sharing, flexi-working, home working, park and ride and cycling.

• There has been a dramatic change in demographics with young families moving to new housing in Aberdeenshire. This would have left the city with an increasingly ageing population had it not been for the influx of largely Eastern European people. What this change does mean, however, is longer journeys when families visit each other and more people travelling into Aberdeen for work and social reasons. The AWPR would escalate this process.

• The potential for new retail parks linked to the road will lead to the demise of more shops in the city centre, leaving Union and George Street looking ever more forlorn. More car journeys to new retail developments will further increase congestion.

• The cost of the AWPR is sure to escalate and at a time of severe public cuts, this will take up precious resources and further affect services to the community, in particular to the more vulnerable.

• If we are to pay for the road without dramatically affecting other services then highly unpopular mechanisms such as road pricing will have to be introduced.

• The Scottish Government has set high targets to meet the challenge of climate change. The AWPR will not help achieve those.

• The road will eat into outlying countryside to the detriment of the environment.

• People heading south are more likely to use cars than trains or buses.

• Resources will be spent on a road when petrol prices are certain to rise in the long term due to the escalating costs of obtaining oil. We should instead be increasing our rail freight capacity and need to find new ways of transporting goods by rail and by sea. We should also be creating more safe cycle links, increasing railway stations and links, subsidising bus fares to encourage more bus use.

• Escalating NHS costs mean we should encourage people to travel by healthier transport than cars e.g. Finland has had great success in this area leading to significantly improved health indicators.

We need desperately to do something about the Haudagain roundabout, but this does not require the Western Peripheral to be built and should be done in a way that when possible encourages people out of of their cars into park and ride and cycling.

Many people genuinely think the Western Peripheral is essential to the North East’s future. Much more thought needs to be given into how it is going to develop and operate  and whether it is indeed our best and only option.

Picture Credit: Ian Britton.
Image  licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License, FreeFoto FREE USE license.

 Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.

Oct 222012

By Bob Smith. 

Mair hooses are tae bi biggit
Near Pinewood, an Brig o’ Don
Is’t nae time tae ca a halt
An say noo jist haud on?

Faar there’s biggins ye hiv cars
At least een tae iverry hoose
Jist think o aa the clutter
If mair motorists are lit loose

Noo fowk div need a hoosie
Faar tae bide there’s nae doot
Yet a bittie sinse is needed
Afore the foons they are laid oot

Dinna bigg in the suburbs
Some planners noo div cry
Cos congestion on the roadies
Ye wull git by an by

Developer chiels they scoff at iss
Sayin new hooses they maan bigg
Tae maximise aa their profits
Be it Grandholm or near Nigg

Aboot aa iss hoose biggin
Fowks we maan hae a think
Afore iss gweed lan o oors
Ooner  hooses it dis sink

So awa an bigg yer hooses
On an inner city broonfield site
Afore aa oor bonnie green parks
Are a mass o concrete shite

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2012

Picture  © Madartists | Dreamstime.com

Oct 182012

With thanks to Kenneth Watt. 

A Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament says that Tuesday’s supreme court ruling gives the green light for next generation’s economic success.
Barry Black MSYP, the chair of the Aberdeen City Youth Council, said that future generations of Aberdonians have a better economic future guaranteed with the approval of the AWPR bypass route.

Barry said:

“It has been a long wait but I can speak for the majority of young people who are keen to see the region’s transport improved and make clear that we are glad of the decision made by the courts.

“It is key for the success of future generations that we have a viable and sound road infrastructure network in place.  Renewable energies will make up a significant sector in Aberdeen’s future employment market and good transport links are vital for this to succeed.

“For young people in the region – and their children and grandchildren – the AWPR will be a blessing and provide a 21st century roads system for the North East that is so necessary.”

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.



Jul 062012

By David Innes. 

“You’re a boy fa kens fit’s goin on, usually,” said The Mannie Fae Along The Road to me this morning, as his crouching Jack Russell grimaced, strained and squeezed alarmingly on the other end of the lead he was holding,
“Fit’s the story wi the signs up aboot roadworks on Ellon Road for the next fortnicht?”

I’d noticed that myself. As a Bridge of Don resident anxious to avoid the road works on neighbouring stretches of Ellon Road during the past two summers, I bit the bullet and just left earlier. By bike.

It’s only eight miles across the city, and the Nigg Brae isn’t really all that steep. No, really, it isn’t. Aye, right.

The road works themselves are necessary, given that Ellon Road looks like Berlin’s Unter den Linden must have done in late April 1945, although the Soviet tank drivers were apparently a tad more polite and less-susceptible to Wut der Straße , aka road rage, than the 4×4 jockeys of the A956.

This necessary carriageway closure has not in the past, however, stopped the Gypit Tendency, vox-popped in the local press, from complaining about delays to fix the roads they girn about during the rest of the year.

Michty, they only had two weeks’ warning of the works planned via the foot-high electrical digital display boards mounted along the route in 2010 and 2011, and the illuminated message about this year’s scarifying and tarring has already been spearing through the fog for days on end.

The Mannie Fae Along The Road listened attentively as I explained David’s Bridge of Don Traffic Theorem Number Five.

“When the A956 is shut as it was at this very time last year, and the year before, or narrowed as it is likely to be next week, then Brer Commuter, in general, pays little heed to the forewarnings and expects that s/he can leave Bridge of Don, The Great Dunes of Scotland area, Ellon and all points north and west, and still travel to their city destination in the same time. 

“On encountering the inevitable snarl-ups, they bear this for the first journey, raging silently and furiously at the inconvenience. By home time, they are rat-running, using a route they assume will not have been sussed out by others. On encountering the inevitable snarl-ups, they are to be witnessed raging silently and furiously at the inconvenience. I could do this as a flowchart, you know.”

The Mannie Fae Along The Road’s brow knitted, purled and then unknitted slightly.

“Will that cause a redd-up on Jesmond Drive then?” he checked, “It did the last time.”

“I can’t say for certain,” I offered, “but I can’t see that the closure of Ellon Road, the resulting delays and frustration and the redd-up, as you put it, are unconnected”.

“The seener they build that Third Brig ower the Don the better then,” he ventured.

He sensed my disapproval.

“Pffffft” and “Tssssscccchhhh” are the best phonetic transcriptions I can offer of the non-language sounds I emitted, stopping just short of uttering expletives.

“No?” he timidly queried.

“Well, if you think about it, the Third Crossing will be designed to take the weight off The Parkway, the Haudagain roundabout and Ellon Road, but to get to it, vehicles will need to get to The Parkway. How might they do that?”

He ruminated, almost audibly as pennies dropped. I counted 1s. 8d. at least.

Well, aff Ellon Road at the Exhibition Centre roundabout for the traffic comin in fae Peterheid direction, I suppose?”

“So, knowing that they can get to a new Don Crossing from The Parkway, are they all going to queue patiently to turn right at the AECC? Might not some of them, or rather a lot of them, decide that the shortcut from Murcar via Scotstown Road, perhaps via Greenbrae and Dubford, might be an option to save queuing and time?”

“Aye, I suppose there is that til’t”.

“And of course, they’ll all head straight along Scotstown Road to The Parkway and turn right, won’t they?”

“Awa min, of course they winna, they’ll…..





The noise coming from the Penny Falls in his head sounded like someone had turned three melons on the Mains of Scotstown one-armed bandit.

“I never thocht o’t like that”.

“Your grandchildren, two of them are at Middleton Park Primary, aren’t they?” I enquired.

“Aye, deein weel, but there’ll be an affa steer o traffic roon aboot their yokin time”.

“And outside Greenbrae School and Glashieburn. Try getting out of Asda when the traffic is incessant from your left. Watch the residents of the sheltered housing opposite Asda trying to cross the road. Calculate how late the number 2 and 5 buses will be, caught up in it.

“Then the whole farrago’s played out again from four o’clock onwards, but in the opposite direction. Anyone heading along Jesmond Drive from the Ashwood direction is going to be queuing to turn right into Whitestripes Avenue to get to The Parkway as traffic heads towards them.

“Imagine trying to edge your car out of Newburgh Drive or Jesmond Avenue between 7.30 and 9.00, and between 4.00 and 6.30?”

“It’ll be a bit o a steer, by the soonds o it…”

“What else seems to be unknown by drivers from this side of town who just want to get across the river, is that they’ll just be queuing in a different place. The plans for the crossing say that Bedford Road will be closed, and only buses and smartarse cyclists like me will be able to use it.

“St. Machar Drive will be a T-junction at Tillydrone Avenue. With traffic lights! Anybody trying to avoid traffic in King Street or Great Northern Road by crossing into Tillydrone is going to come up against the same congestion, maybe even worse, on St. Machar Drive.

“Then there are the U-turns at King Street / St. Machar Drive, since nobody’s going to be allowed to make a right turn into the university from St. Machar Drive. And there’s the cost of changing the roundabout at the top of St. Machar Drive to deal with the increase in traffic coming up the Drive.”

“Maybe nae sic a good idea efter a’ then?”

“Not thought through, but it’ll give us something else to moan about if it ever gets built”.


  •  Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.