Oct 242013

Bullet holes Trinity Duncan Harley Janice RayneBy Duncan Harley.

Cody’s gran had passed a few weeks ago.  Not a huge surprise really since she had been some ripe old age or other.
The surprise was when the family learned where she had died. In the Canaries would you believe and with no travel insurance whatsoever!

What to do?  Return the body for a proper burial or lay her to rest in a far off land?  Ignore the whole thing and let the authorities deal with it all?  Cremate the remains and fly her back in a wee box?

“It’s no’ as though she had money set aside for all this” said Cody’s mum.

“I mean, she lived on her own in a wee flat in Torry.  How the devil did she get there anyway?   I mean, the Canaries of all places!  Jesus!  It’s a wonder they even let her on the plane.

“Buggered if I’m paying this all on my own, you’se will all need to chip in, no exceptions!  See that Ryan air!  No complaints; no refunds; no seats!  That O’Leary should be ashamed.  Him and that Branson Sauce man.  Bugger the both of them! “

And chip in they did!

A few thousand pounds emerged, plus some Euros – reluctantly in some cases – from the recesses of the family pockets.  And there was even a 50 Yuan note from some distant cousin who’d been to Tibet and just wanted to make sure you wouldn’t forget it.

Cody’s gran was duly, and legally, flown back to Aberdeen in a wee wooden box to await the opening of the family lair and the gathering of the clan.

TrinityCemetery lies not far from the beach and within sight of the creaking grandstands which are home to Aberdeen FC.  On a good day in summer the views are good and in all honesty it must be a good place to lie; providing of course that you’re dead that is.

The day of the internment was wet and miserable however, with a howling sleet driving inland off the North Sea and no weather break forecast for the next two days.

Wet jackets off and pints down throat seemed the order of the day

There was a good turnout considering.  As well as family there were Cody’s mates, plus a few neighbours of Mrs McLaughlin who, in all probability, had never taken much time over the old woman but who, no doubt, felt obliged to show face as an indication that they maybe had.

Cody’s sister Annie said a few words, as did his brother Jesse who had flown in from Orkney especially for the occasion.

“She was a fine woman,” said Annie, “always ready to help anyone and a pillar of the community.”

Sadly missed,” shouted Jesse above the blasting wind.  “Always made me rock cakes and let me play with her budgie.  Before it died, of course!”

After a few words from the minister, the ashes were duly lowered into the opened grave and an invite went out to gather at Guy’s pub for a wee libation and some of those dried up sausage rolls you get at funerals throughout North East Scotland.

There were, in all, about twenty folk assembled in the lounge bar, seated at various different tables according to how fast they had managed to get their after the graveside service.  Wet jackets off and pints down throat seemed the order of the day.  Cody’s dad had set up a tab but no-one knew how long that would last so the race was on to down a few drinks before economic reality kicked in.

His dad had worked on the rigs in the early days when men were men and oil was oil.  A big built man who took no prisoners, he had seemingly been impressed in his youth by the story of how Buffalo Bill Cody and his Wild West Show toured Scotland in 1904.

Tales of Sioux Indians and frontiersmen battling it out on Beach Boulevard and then proceeding by train up to Banff and Fraserburgh caught his attention and he vowed to name his future children after Wild West heroes.  Hence Cody Bill McLaughlin, Annie Oakley McLaughlin and in a rash moment Jesse James McLaughlin, came into being.

Cody’s mum’s protests that Jesse was nothing but a murdering bank robber who never even featured in the Wild West Show’s tours were as nothing.

A silence followed, broken only when Auntie Mary began to sniffle

Mr McLaughlin took after the Canadian Mounties and always got his way.  Needless to say, Jesse had a difficult time at school where he was nicknamed Sue.  Little did his mum know that Jesse was indeed a murdering bank robber who never featured anywhere except Crime Stoppers. But that’s another story.

Danny was seated three tables down from the bar still wearing the brown knitted balaclava which he had sported inside the cemetery.

“How you doin’ Danny, can I get you a pint?  Or a maybe a wee nip?  Or both?  Water in it?  Keep us a seat at the back eh!  Back in a mo.  Meant water in the nip.”

Drinks on table, plate of sausage rolls on plate and customary mug of tea in hand, I sat down between Danny and Cody’s Auntie Mary.

“Sorry for your loss Mary.  Never really knew your mum but I know from what everyone in the street said she was well respected.  Sad loss indeed!” 

“Cheers.  She was a bit dottered by the end but there but for the grace etc … How are you doing?”

“Great!  Workin’ here and there, doin’ this an that so canny complain really.  Even if I did, no-one would take any notice.  All good!  All good really; honest injuns!  Nice to see you. “

“She was a lovely woman.  Always there when you needed help.”

“They don’t make them like her nowadays, that’s all I can say!”

“Sad loss mind you!  Long life eh?”

“Aye right!  Very sad.  I remember when she used to buy her sausages out of Dougal McPhersons.  On Sinclair Road you understand, long gone now of course.”

“How come she was buried in the Trinity?” came a muffled voice from table three.

“Whit was that?”

“How come she was buried in the Trinity?”

The balaclava’d Danny had spoken.  A silence followed, broken only when Auntie Mary began to sniffle.  After a full thirty seconds she recovered composure and began to tell a tale.

“Well, when I was in primary, we lived in King Street just down from the old fire station.  Mum would often take us down the beach after school.  Used to take a short cut through the cemetery.  There’s a path down past Urquhart Road to Park Road if you know.  

“I don’t really remember when, but one day we were halfway down and we heard a throbbing noise up above.  I was too young to take much heed, but your gran knew what it was.  ‘Run! Get down!’ she shouted as a big blue aeroplane appeared overhead.  

“We stared as it passed over and I can still remember the gunner looking down at us as we lay flat on the ground.  You can still see the bullet holes in the gravestones.  My dad refused to let us go there after that.  Suppose that’s when he bought the lair.”

No one spoke for a bit.  Then the drink kicked in and folk began to tell jokes about the war, golfing heroes and that Union Terrace Gardens thing.

The inevitable Hitler had only one ball (Battle of the Somme in 1916?  No I just have one ball.)  Donald Trump’s hair do (Donald Trump said he still wants to look more closely at Obama’s birth certificate to make sure that it’s real.  Incidentally, President Obama said the same exact thing about Donald Trump’s hair.)  And Union Terrace Gardens (Tycoon Sir Ian Wood was set to inject £85million into a revamp of Aberdeen’s historic Union Terrace Gardens.)  Jokes abounded.

Turning to Danny,

“why the balaclava?”

“It’s a long story.”

I asked the barman for more tea.

(To be continued)

Nov 082011

Willows Animal Sanctuary is raising much-needed funds tomorrow all day with a sale of gifts in Trinity Mall.

There are small ’stocking stuffers’, adorable soft toys, and photographs by noted photographer Nick Robinson of a wide range of subjects, all mounted and ready to frame.

Willows has to feed wild and domestic animals and with winter coming on, needs your support  Further information:


Sep 012011

A year and a half ago, Steve Bothwell wrote to express some, shall we say, ‘reservations’ about ACSEF’s master plan and where Aberdeen is heading.  It looks as if he had a point or two. 

February 25, 2010 – ACSEF’s plan belies anything that can be comprehended as ‘essential to the future of Aberdeen and the North East of Scotland’. As Jonathon Meades put it, ‘Aberdeen is good at being bad’ – Polite prose indeed.

The former glory of George St, with high quality retail and high quality architecture/replaced with the now John Lewis building (formerly the Co-Op) – St Nicholas Centre and The Bon Accord Centre, whilst severing the bloodline to the rest of George St, which resembles a down market version of the down-trodden Argyle St in Glasgow.

The old Co-op Building in Loch St/Gallowgate, which with little imagination could have been a gem of high quality boutique-scale retail, instead of Architecturally impotent office/residential blocks.  St Nicholas house dwarfs Provost Skene’s house, one of the oldest and most architecturally significant buildings in the area.

Union Terrace Gardens is not to blame

The Trinity Centre/Trinity Hall, which subsequently moved to an equally, but on a smaller scale, architectural abortion.

The Old Market building (Market Street and the Green) replaced with the New Market building, sporadically raising pointing questions from the public (locals and visitors alike).  Amadeus nightclub on the beach front which offers nothing but bemused and disturbed confusion.

And last but not least, Union Square, which is a glorified retail park with parking. This Architectural abomination will need replaced sooner than we think.

Union Street comes up in conversation with great frequency. For the past 30 years planning and control has become so lax that we are adorned with gratingly luminous patchwork of irregular symmetry. Absentee landlords are never held to task, nor are the lease holders.

Union Terrace Gardens is not to blame.

Most City Councils have made errors, and some cities have corrected them. 

Aberdeen City Council still strive forth to allow the most banal picture painting of a living hell, by destroying everything in its path.
Either they are missing the clues which sit firmly on their own created door step or are suffering a serious bout of doldrumitis. The Civic Square planning and design details do not excite but only represent the pointlessness of it.

The City Council, along with ACSEF and Central Government wholeheartedly supported the Peacock scheme, providing local planning guidance was adhered to. This was to make it blend into the historic park. Peacock’s did that.

We now have a scheme, which in its vagueness, is impossible to get to grips with. From that I mean, it is quite obvious that this charade is nothing to do with enhancing our city for future energy companies to get comfy with, because as we know, energy companies care about nothing but energy riches and not about Urban realm Strategies, and especially about retail connectivity.

ACSEF’s approach to retail connectivity is fed through a brainwashing exercise in which the retail ‘Pillars’ unease at motions of failure result in the bandwagon bursting at the seams with the ‘I’m on board brigade’ ensuring their retail offerings, bland as they be, will not suffer the ever-changing movement or trends of public spending.

Union Terrace Gardens is not to blame.

It is poignant that public money has been frittered away on asking Joe Blogs about ‘an idea’, an idea which still reveals no real detail of the final outcome, whereas Peacocks had it sorted and without the need for car parking. Their enhancing project upset no one, and has not created the furore that the Civic square has.

Union Terrace Gardens are not frequented often. Perhaps the reason for that is, the general public are more interested in other things. Society has gone through radical changes and people have become armchair deficits. They rage vengeance on slopes and stairs, grass and beauty, nature and health.

Union Terrace Gardens is not to blame.

However, Courtesy of Grampian Police, the facts are this: – There is negligible crime in Union Terrace Gardens. The Freedom of Information Act has provided much-needed defence, where Union Terrace Gardens is the safest area in the City Centre.

It’s plain to see that ACSEF have not used Europe as an example of quality city centres but used America and Australia as examples. America and Australia are fairly recent countries but wholeheartedly celebrate their Green Spaces.

Aberdeen City Council’s budget is tight and perhaps tight-lipped. And the Scottish Government should be representing Scotland and its history, which it’s not.

Union Terrace Gardens is not to blame.

Dec 312010

With Thanks To Robin McIntosh.

Friends of Union Terrace Gardens, Robin and Sara, ably supported by volunteering members, spent the week prior to Christmas running a stall in the Trinity Centre selling UTG themed gifts such as calendars, sweatshirts, t-shirts and bags.

The presence not only provided a real boost to both our membership and Gardens improvement funds, but provided us with a valuable insight into the general lack of awareness regarding the City Square Project and it’s impact on the Gardens.

Our own aims of improving accessibility for prams and wheelchairs, reopening the toilets and using the Gardens for city community events were universally supported – with most of those who were pro-City Square Project mistakenly believing that the current proposal was solely to deliver these improvements. They were surprised to hear about the Halliday Fraser Munro outline of car parking and bus station.  One woman even thought that they would dig up the 200 year old trees and replant them in the new Square!

Said Robin ‘ What a fantastic experience it turned out to be!  We met so many wonderful people who are appalled at the plans to develop the Gardens and were desperate to send a message to the Council that this must not progress.  One man told us his Uncle had worked in the gardens for many years and had designed the original floral emblem – “he would be turning in his grave at these plans” he sighed.

‘ A big thank you must go to all those who supported this initiative and gave Sara and I a very real sense of people and community, just what Christmas is about.’

Friends of Union Terrace Gardens raised over £1300 from sales at the stall, and wish to thank the Aberdeen public for their generosity, goodwill and  support.