Nov 082017
 

By Duncan Harley.

Freedom of speech is a fragile thing. Often hard won, it can be taken away at the stroke of a pen as an Aberdeenshire head teacher found to his cost in 1940.
Various Emergency Powers (Defence) Acts came into force in the early months of WW2.

Some, such as Defence Regulation 18B, provided a framework for internment of enemy aliens while others, like the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1939, gave the State wide-ranging powers to prosecute the war.

Aspects of life in the UK came under State control including the “apprehension, trial and punishment of persons offending against the Regulations.” In short, anyone suspected of acting against the national interest in any way whatsoever might suffer the indignity of a pre-dawn knock at the door.

The village of Oyne was of course quite distant from the battlefields. It had narrowly escaped being bombed by a German Zeppelin in a previous conflict but in the big scheme of things Oyne was not a front-line target. Nor was it a hotbed of pro-Nazi sympathy.

This was 1940 however and a paranoid nation was smarting from the military defeat in France. Invasion loomed and an aerial bombing campaign had begun. Towns across the North east had been attacked and coastal shipping had been sunk by German planes off both Stonehaven and Peterhead.

The newspapers of the time are filled with reports of arrests for the offence of “Careless Talk.” A meter reader from Oxford was detained after alleging “we should be just as well under the Nazi’s as we are now!” A Dorset policeman was jailed for expressing similar sentiments and a Peterhead plumber was fined £5 for “careless talk on the phone.”

Headmasters appear to have been at particular risk of prosecution. Overheard warning pupils that following imminent invasion they would have to resort to eating cats and dogs, a Lanarkshire headmaster found himself before a Hamilton Magistrate and at Oyne, George Hendry the local Primary School Headmaster, received the dreaded knock on the door in the late afternoon of June 24th.

The unwelcome visitor was Detective Inspector McHardy of Aberdeen City Police and, after suitable interrogation, Hendry was arrested on matters relating to the Defence Regulations. Lurid headlines followed and public interest was aroused.

Initially there was just the one charge. This related to statements made in the Union Street grocer’s shop of Andrew Collie & Co. Witnesses alleged that Mr Hendry expressed the view that Neville Chamberlain had sold the country down the river and should be placed against a wall and shot. The King, he said, was off to Canada leaving the country “Holding the baby” and Hitler seemingly had sufficient Torpedo Boats to sink the entire British Navy.

Oyne Primary School.

Following arrest, Hendry was released on bail of £60. On Monday July 15th the curious of Aberdeenshire queued to witness what promised to be a juicy trial at Aberdeen Sheriff Court.

Mr Hendry by now faced four charges – the police had been busy.

Alongside remarks about the King and Hitler’s naval prowess, there were allegations of him spreading alarm by remarking on Britain’s unpreparedness for war.

One prosecution witness termed Hendry a fifth columnist and had ordered him out of her shop but under cross-examination admitted she had in fact been joking and considered him simply a leg-puller. Another witness told the court she had discussed the war with him on several occasions and that despite their differences, there was no bad blood between them.

Finally, the case against the Oyne headmaster boiled down to one very simple issue: the spreading of defeatist talk. In a fine piece of courtroom theatre, Mr Blades for the defence lured the manager of Collie’s grocer shop into admitting that the case would never even have been brought had he himself not spread gossip about Mr Hendry’s statements to a crowd, including a policeman, at the public bar of the Royal Athenaeum.

Sheriff Dallas had clearly heard quite enough. A verdict of Not Proven on all four charges was greeted with applause from the crowded courtroom.

George Hendry, a graduate of Aberdeen University, became Headmaster at Oyne in 1927 having previously taught in Forres.  After the trial he returned to his post until his retiral, due to ill health, in 1963. He died in 1966 age just 63.

Duncan Harley is a writer living in the Garioch and author of the soon to be published A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire: https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/publication/the-a-z-of-curious-aberdeenshire/9780750983792/

‘Hitler’s Headmaster’ was first published in the April 2017 edition of Leopard Magazine.

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Sep 222017
 

Duncan Harley reflects on Life, the Universe and Everything. A sideways look at the world and its foibles.

It’s been quite a while since Grumpy Jack made the digital front-page. In fact, I am struggling to decide whether number-nine is the correct nomenclature for this edition of the musings.

In number-one, I recall penning something about the risks of texting while driving. Number- two had me misquoting a local daily as having headlined on ‘Titanic sinks, North East man loses pound on Broad Street’.
In Grumpy Jack’s Corner No. 5, Full Metal Prince Harry, Chelsea Tractors and the SS Politician got the bullet alongside 264,000 bottles of best highland malt and a local Inverurie pub called The Butcher’s Arms.

Saville, Warhol and the Great Gale of 1953 all – in their turn – got a good kicking, and why not I hear you say.

A silly fall out with a fellow writer led to Grumpy Jack’s demise in – I think far off 2014. Or was it 2013? I forget. Suitable apologies have been made and neither of us can really recall the reason why. There surely is history.

So why, I hear you ask, is Jack back?

Well, it’s all down to the Lord Provost of Aberdeen really. A splendid chap by the name of Barney Crockett. He recently commented on a misleading post regarding the invasion of George Square on social media and, within Nano-seconds, a piece penned in far off 2013 came back to haunt me.

Picture the scene if you will. The “War to end all wars” has recently ended and the troops have returned home to discover that all is not well in Scotland-shire. There are few jobs for the returning heroes and working conditions are poor with low wages and a long working week.

The workforce which had been in reserved occupations manufacturing the arms and tools for war are unhappy with the cuts in the standard working week due to the fact that the war has ended and there is no longer much demand in France for barbed wire, bullets and explosives. Plus of course the Bolshevist revolution has taken place leading to the early demise of the entire Russian Royal Family via firing squad.

So, on Friday 31st January 1919, after a general strike by 40,000 workers in the industrial heartland of Scotland, there was a mass rally in Glasgow’s George Square.

Now the aim of the rally was to hear the response of the UK government to the workers’ demands so the Lord Provost, Sir James Watson Stewart, and the Trades Council President, Mannie Shinwell, duly entered the City Chambers to have a wee natter.

Sadly, things got out of control. As they talked, the police baton charged the assembled crowd.

A magistrate tried to read the Riot Act but had the document taken from his hands and ripped up and things just got from bad to worse. Seasoned troops from south of the border were instructed to open fire if required to do so and the failure of the police to control the riot prompted the Coalition Government under one David Lloyd George – of Lendrum to Leeks fame – to react.

After Scottish Secretary Robert Munro described the riot as a Bolshevist uprising troops armed with machine guns, tanks and even a howitzer arrived to occupy Glasgow’s streets.

The howitzer was positioned on the City Chambers steps facing the crowd, the local cattle market was transformed into a tank depot, machine guns were posted on the top of the North British Hotel, the Glasgow Stock Exchange and the General Post Office Buildings.

As is usual in such situations no local troops were used. The local battalions who had recently returned from France were confined in Maryhill Barracks while battle-hardened troops from south of the border were instructed to open fire if required to do so.

Amazingly, there was no major bloodshed.

There were broken heads that afternoon but the Southern soldiers were never ordered to open fire. The government of the day obviously decided that it would be a bad idea to provoke social change via bloodshed.

Activist and sometime MP, Mannie Shinwell and fellow trade union activists were jailed for a bit before a 47-hour working week was agreed. Things then smouldered on until the 1922 General Strike. But that’s another story.

The helicopter-door-gunner sequence in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket kind of sums up what nearly happened in George Square in far off 1919:

So, and moving on, here is Jack some years on and suffering from retirement, ill health and old age. More words are on the way probably. Unless, of course, I die soon. I forgot to say that the NHS are out to kill me.

More next week – that is if I survive that long.

– Grumpy Jack

PS: Thanks for the memories Barney. We all love what you do. Keep up the Lord Provosting  – you do it well.

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Sep 022017
 

A protest is to take place at Trump International Golf Course on Saturday 9th Sept 12 noon in opposition to the frightening standoff between the US and North Korea. With thanks to Jonathan Russell Chair Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

The cycle of threat and counter-threat is creating an appalling situation in which warfare between nuclear states is being discussed as a serious option on both sides.

The threat of the use of nuclear weapons by both sides has never happened before

Trump’s outbursts against the North Korean regime are deeply troubling. What impact can threat’s of ‘fire and fury’ have but to escalate tension and increase the likelihood of a catastrophic confrontation?

The urgent priority must be the opposite, to de-escalate and pursue a negotiated resolution to the crisis, which major players in the region are trying to achieve and most commentators recognise as possible.

China and Russia have put forward a proposal that the United States, Japan and Korea stop its military exercises and North Korea suspend its ballistic missile programme.

This would, however, require a sharp change of direction from both sides, including from the US, which has dramatically increased its military capabilities in South Korea and its military presence in the area. Already US B-1 bombers capable of delivering nuclear weapons have flown from Guam over the Korean peninsula, joining the South Korean and Japanese air forces in joint exercises.

The North Koreans have fired a missile right across Japan. Such provocative actions on both sides must end. We must demand our governments focus on a peaceful resolution to this confrontation.

The alternative is not worth contemplating as not only would the Korean people who historically have already faced huge suffering be effected but China could also be dragged into a war which could include the use of Nuclear weapons. Leading to parody Trump to fire and fury like the world has never seen. We have to hope that sense will prevail.

Don’t let Trump and Kim Jong-Un lead us into Nuclear War. Protest at the entrance to the Trump International Golf Course by the A90, Saturday 9th Sept 12 noon.

The standoff between the US and North Korea is frightening. Be part of the protest which will present an open letter to Trump International Management.

Come by car or bus numbers 61, 62, 63 or 68 from stances 10, 11 or 12 at Union Square bus station, Aberdeen. The bus will take you to the stop at Menie – a short walk back to the Trump International entrance.

For more info contact Jonathan Russell by phone on: 01224-586435 or 07582-456-233 or via email: jhamiltonrussell@hotmail.co.uk 

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Aug 042017
 

With thanks to Jonathan Russell Chair Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

During the final stage of World War II, the United States dropped nuclear weapons on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, respectively.

The United States had dropped the bombs with the consent of the United Kingdom as outlined in the Quebec
Agreement.

The two bombings, which killed at least 129,000 people, remain the only use of nuclear weapons for warfare in history.

We meet to honour the dead and remind ourselves about the horror that would be inflicted if nuclear weapons were ever used again.

Yu Aoki who lives in Aberdeen but comes from Hiroshima will speak at the event. We will lay flowers in the shape of the CND peace symbol and there will be some songs and poetry.

Hiroshima Memorial
Sunday 6th August 2017
12-2pm
Union Terrace Gardens, Aberdeen.

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Jul 032017
 

David Innes reviews  St Valéry And Its Aftermath by Stewart Mitchell.

Although it is almost inevitable that events are overtaken by time, and that the effect of history on localities dissipates, the name St Valéry-en-Caux, a small Normandy fishing village, continues to resonate in NE Scotland, even 77 years on from the scenes that accord that tiny French port a special place in Scottish military history.

It is said that there is scarcely an NE family which hasn’t been touched in some way by the events of June 1940, the surrender of the stranded and embattled 51st (Highland) Division, and the incarceration of thousands of Scottish soldiers in prisoner of war camps for the duration of the Second World War.

These were our forgotten casualties of that conflict, and it was a gross unfairness and insult to these brave, fortitudinous men who suffered the privations of capture, forced march and imprisonment to be described as having enjoyed an Easy War.

Stewart Mitchell, who named the Gordon Highlanders’ Museum’s excellent 2011 POW exhibition The Easy War, re-tells the story of the lead-up to Dunkirk and St Valéry, using personal accounts, some of which are now in the public domain for the first time, without resorting to military tactical terminology and technical jargon, often confusing to the lay reader.

Those of us who have had a long fascination with this episode of military and social history will have read accounts of the 51st’s manoeuvres, capture, treatment and liberation and of the social outcomes of returning home after half a decade of imprisonment. Tony Rennell, Sean Longden, Saul David, Alan Allport, Julie Summers, and Banffshire’s own Charles Morrison have all contributed to building a picture of a time of uncertainty, fortitude and, all too often, personal and familial misfortune.

It is in the re-telling of personal accounts that Mitchell excels, and he succeeds in making St Valéry more than just another military history. We hear of regular soldiers, Territorials and militiamen called up to serve when war was declared in September 1939, their backstories often of innocent city, village and country loons thrown into the jaws of an unforgiving mechanised conflict, and losing some of their most promising youthful years behind barbed wire.

Yet, there are personal recollections of derring-do, heroism, resourcefulness, smeddum and survival against heavily-stacked odds, told in fitting tribute to often forgotten men.

The volume’s appendix is unique in imbuing a personal touch to what is a harrowing, yet spirit-affirming story. Mitchell’s painstaking research has seen him identify from military records, every Gordon Highlander captured or killed in France in 1940.

My own maternal grandfather, army number 2870474 among the oldest of the Territorials called up at 37, who was 38 by the time of capture, and 44 before he was liberated, is included. That that saw my emotions well up 77 years after that fateful morning in Normandy, verifies that this a book that goes way beyond normal military history, as a chronicle of a part-generation of NE men. For that, it deserves your support.

Stewart Mitchell is making a generous contribution from the book’s sales to the Gordon Highlanders’ Museum Appeal. Please consider giving this splendid local cultural venue your support too.

STEWART MITCHELL
St Valéry And Its Aftermath
The Gordon Highlanders Captured In France In 1940
Pen & Sword Military
235 pp
Hardback ISBN 978 1 47388 658 2
£25.00

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Jun 232017
 

With thanks to Jonathan Russell from Aberdeen and District CND, and Maya Evans.

Aberdeen and District CND will host a public meeting on July 10 focusing on the ongoing Afghan conflict.
At the end of 2014 NATO/US forces declared ‘Mission Complete’ in Afghanistan.
Two years on, foreign forces remain within Afghanistan while the Taliban are thought to have gained control of at least 40% of the country. ISIS are now also carrying out attacks.

Today Afghan people have to contend with crushing poverty, mass drug addiction, climate crisis catastrophe and huge internal displacement.

With no faith in the Government people are turning to the grassroots for real change.

One such group are the Afghan Peace Volunteers – young non-violent peace activists who run the ‘Borderfree Peace Centre’ in Kabul; with 18 projects on the go they include: a Street Kids School, the Women’s Duvet Project, Permaculture and the non-violence dance troop and football team.

They are an inspiring group comprised of young Afghans who have known nothing but war and violence, but want to respond and rebuild peace in a creative non-violent way.

This talk will give a political overview on the ‘forgotten war’, the internal problems that people face, and the foreign. Most recently the US unleashed the largest non nuclear bomb in its arsenal on Nangarhar Province, East Afghanistan. The immediate consequences have so far seen the Taliban retaliate by slaughtering over 150 Afghan soldiers during an ambush on a military base.

Speaker Maya Evans, UK Co-ordinator of ‘Voices for Creative non-violence’, has visited Kabul 8 times over the last 6 years. She has seen first hand how the war has worsened and how the Afghan Peace Volunteers have developed and expanded. Her talks are full of funny, moving and uplifting stories, as well as up to date facts.

Hear how the Afghan Peace Volunteers cope and respond to the deepening crisis, being inspired and moved by their relentless work and daily lives.

THE AFGHANISTAN CONFLICT ‘VOICES FOR PEACE’
Meeting taking place on July 10th at 7.30pm at UNITE, 42-44 King Street. 

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Jun 082017
 

With thanks to Jonathan Russell Chair of Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and member of Aberdeen Climate Action also Duncan Hart who produced the you tube videos.

On March 25th Aberdeen Climate Action and Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament jointly sponsored a meeting on the above.

The idea of the meeting was to share ideas of the challenges faced by diversification and to kick-start change.

This is the fith of five articles being produced for Aberdeen Voice and concerns a talk on the ‘Politics of Diversification’ from  by Myshele Haywood Co-convenor of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Green Party and a Sociologist.

Myshele Haywood puts forward that all the major decisions about how we live are political, whether they be food, health, energy or lifestyle. The Oil and Gas collapse in the North Sea and what we do about it depends on political factors.

Local politicians may see the need to do something about carbon emissions but they are faced with the immediate needs of their constituents. There are also major players such as multi-nationals and financial institutions that have influence and they can be opposed to the Scottish Renewables lobby.

Even Adam Smith the advocate of free markets saw the need for Governments to intervene when competition was not meeting the needs of society. Political parties have been obsessed with the need for Economy’s to grow but growth, growth, growth is not sustainable and will have long term have dire consequences for our planet and the people that live on it.  

The shift of policy from Westminster has however been away from renewables and though Independence would face many of the same challenges she considers that it would open up more doors for positive change.

Below is Myshele Haywoods contribution in her own words.

The Facebook links to Aberdeen Climate Action and Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament:

https://www.facebook.com/aberdeenclimateaction/
https://www.facebook.com/Aberdeen-Campaign-for-Nuclear-Disarmament-CND-116237695080239/

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Jun 022017
 

With thanks to Veronica Tudhope organiser with Scottish CND and Jonathan Russell Chair of Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and member of Aberdeen Climate Action also Duncan Hart who produced the you tube videos.

On March 25th Aberdeen Climate Action and Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament jointly sponsored a meeting on the above.

The idea of the meeting was to share ideas of the challenges faced by diversification and to kick-start change.

This is the fourth of five articles being produced for Aberdeen Voice and concerns a talk on Diversification from Nuclear Weapons by Veronica Tudhope Organiser with Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament who has written the below as an introduction to her talk:

“Everybody was covered with blood and burned and blackened and swollen, and skin and flesh were hanging from their bones. Parts of their bodies were missing. Some were carrying their own eyeballs.”

The words of Satsuko Thurlow, a Japanese Hibakusha (A-bomb survivor) provide the context for the argument that we need Trident for jobs. We cannot set aside the moral issue to just talk about jobs.

Jackie Baillie’s famous claim that,’’1,000 jobs could be at risk’ without Trident is both morally bankrupt and wrong. In fact, 520 civilian jobs would be lost. The correct context for this is the regular loss of jobs in longstanding Scottish industries such as 7-900 jobs lost when Johnny Walker closed in Kilmarnock, repeated all over the country and widely disregarded. In fact Trident replacement is known to suck jobs away from other parts of the defence sector.

In a spirit of internationalism trade unions, can be expected to be against preparing to bomb workers in other countries but that’s clearly easier for unions without members in the defence sector. In fact, most, apart from the GMB have a clear anti-nuclear stance. The STUC and SCND have called for a Scottish Defence Diversification Agency, “whose main focus will be planning and resourcing the diversification of jobs away from defence projects such as Trident, and promoting the greening or the Scottish economy”

Imminent negotiations at the UN in New York which are expected to result in a new treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons on the 7th July 2017. It will prohibit nuclear weapons, and make using, possessing and developing nuclear weapons illegal under international law.

This can be expected to lead, eventually to Trident renewal cancellation, and an end to the erroneous justification of this deadly, inefficient job creation scheme.

The you tube clip below is Veronica Tudhope’s talk at the public meeting.

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May 252017
 

With thanks to Jonathan Russell, Chair of Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and member of Aberdeen Climate Action and Duncan Hart  who produced the youtube videos.

On March 25th Aberdeen Climate Action and Aberdeen And District CND jointly sponsored a meeting on the above.

The idea of the meeting was to share ideas of the challenges faced by diversification and to kick-start change. 

This is the third of five articles being produced for Aberdeen Voice and concerns a talk on Community Renewables by Jelte Harnmeajer who works for the Hutton Institute and also runs his own consultancy in Community Renewables.

Jelte’s talk was entitled ‘Resilience through renewables’ and he gives examples of where local communities by running their own energy concerns can greatly benefit their local communities. In Denmark 86% of renewable projects are owned by local communities yet in the UK it is only 4%.

However, it is now the fastest growing means of developing renewables and has huge potential in the Aberdeen and surrounding areas if we start getting our act together.

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May 192017
 

With thanks to Jonathan Russell, Chair of Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and member of Aberdeen Climate Action and Duncan Hart  who produced the youtube videos.

On March 25th Aberdeen Climate Action and Aberdeen And District CND jointly sponsored a meeting on the above.

The idea of the meeting was to share ideas of the challenges faced by diversification and to kick-start change. 

This is the second of five articles being produced for Aberdeen Voice. It is a talk by Erik Dalhuijsen who is co-chair of Aberdeen Climate Action a physicist by training who runs his own consultancy.

Erik’s talk is particularly pertinent to Aberdeen’s future given the decline in work in the oil industry. Erik outlines how the huge costs of decommissioning will increase over time and that there is a mismatch between the needs of Aberdeen for its future and Government policy. To reduce costs and save jobs de-commissioning should be the Aberdeen Economy’s number one priority.

Erik explains how the experts who are guiding Government policy are from the carbon past and have their own financial interests at heart in delaying de-commissioning and a noncarbon future.

The oil industry is projecting the need for more oil production at a time when Governments have signed up to reduce Carbon emissions to reduce Climate change. At the same time the costs of producing alternative energy are falling and at a time when other countries are moving rapidly to embrace alternative energy we here in Aberdeen are holding onto

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