Sep 072017

Popular Aberdeen based ceilidh band Iron Broo will provide the music for the World’s Largest Strip The Willow. Photo credit: Janie Barclay.

With thanks to National Trust for Scotland.

Do you want to be a Guinness World Record Breaker? On Saturday 9th of September we will be attempting the Largest Strip the Willow at Castle Fraser and we need YOU.

In the year 2000 Edinburgh broke the record with 1,914 people during their Hogmanay. We are ready to bring the record to Aberdeenshire.

So save the date and get your dancing shoes at the ready!

Organiser Paula Swan said:

“I can’t wait to see it. It was a little idea we had last year and only last week we got confirmation from Guinness World Records to say we could do it.

“Now it’s a reality and we’re really excited about pulling it together, and the responses we’ve had so far have been fantastic.”

She added:

“The great thing about Castle Fraser is you can stand on the tower, so we’re planning on filming it.

“We’re also going to fly drones across the field to really capture all the people having fun.”

By signing up for a ticket you are signing to take part in our attempt. You will still have to register on the day to collect your band. Tickets are free to attend however, there is a £2 parking fee.

Due to the nature of this record attempt participants must be 10 years and over. If you are a business or group and would like to register a team to take part please get in contact with

Registration: Opens at 12:00pm and closes at 1:30pm for a 2:00pm record breaking kick off.

There will be catering vans and activities to help you to warm up and stay limber. Please keep in mind that we do live in Scotland so dress for the weather. We will be going ahead with our attempt regardless of the weather, so please bring suitable clothing and footwear as you will be dancing on grass. Ponchos will be available to buy on the day if you do require one.

Tickets are limited, booking essential.

The event would not be possible without the hard work and contribution of the following people;

– Iron Broo; who are performing the lovely ceilidh music that will help us strip that willow
– STV’s Andrea Brymer; who will be hosting the event
– Deeside Caledonia will be performing before we kick off the attempt
– Gordon School of Dancing will be showing us all how it’s done before the attempt
– A-line will be providing all AV and Tech support to make this event possible
– Mike Gall Transport for providing the staging required
– Fennel Media who will be filming the amazing attempt

Let’s do this Aberdeenshire!

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Jul 082016

The Homeless World Cup changes lives; David Duke, Founder and Chief Executive of Street Soccer Scotland, is living proof. Aberdeen man Austin Leslie is expected to take part. With thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

2/7/16 EMIRATES ARENA Glasgow Homeless world cup volunteers. Jacqueline Allen, Sheila Steinan, James Sloan , Graham Buchan, Martin Bilsland, Maiana Mercado

Glasgow Homeless world cup volunteers. Jacqueline Allen, Sheila Steinan, James Sloan , Graham Buchan, Martin Bilsland, Maiana Mercado

The Homeless World Cup Foundation has announced that over 350 volunteers will be involved in the delivery of the Homeless World Cup, which kicks-off this Sunday (10 July 2016).

Today’s final training session, held at the Emirates Arena, brought together many of the volunteers who have willingly given up their time to support the global tournament.

A group from Glasgow posed for a set-piece picture (available royalty free, captions embedded) outside the venue as the seven day countdown begins.

With building work starting today on George Square, anticipation is rising ahead of the 14th Homeless World Cup. Scotland’s men and women take on Hong Kong and Norway, respectively, in their opening fixtures, following the opening ceremony which starts at 12.30pm.

Volunteers will work in four key areas: Team Relations, Sport & Tournament Management, Media & Content Services, and Spectator Services.

Many of the Spectator Services volunteers will come from a strand of legacy activity funded by the Big Lottery Fund. This will see about 120 participants who have previous or current experience of homelessness supported as part of a long term strategy to support them to build a life they want for themselves. Around 40 of the group have also travelled from all across the world – at their own expense – to be in Glasgow to support the competition.

100,000 spectators are expected to visit the Homeless World Cup during the week-long festival. Entry is free & no tickets are required, albeit it is expected at key times (particularly when Scotland play) it will be very busy so spectators should arrive in plenty of time for games they wish to see.

The Homeless World Cup arrives in Glasgow as part of a three way partnership between the Homeless World Cup Foundation, the Scottish Government (delivered via EventScotland), and Glasgow City Council (delivered via Glasgow Life). Homeless World Cup volunteer manager Mariana Mercado comments:

“The Homeless World Cup tournament wouldn’t be possible without the support from all of our volunteers, they are the ones that make it happen. This year’s response has been amazing and we have engaged 350 volunteers. All these volunteers are donating their time and energy to help us deliver this world class event, and we couldn’t be more grateful.” 

Councillor Archie Graham OBE, Depute Leader of Glasgow City Council and Chair of Glasgow Life, said Glasgow Life:

“We’re providing a life-changing opportunity for an army of volunteers, many of whom have been affected by homelessness themselves, with a package of support and opportunities which will continue long after the last ball has been kicked. The Homeless World Cup not only shines an issue on the problem, but inspires people to do what they can to tackle the problem.

“With the support of the Big Lottery Fund and our partners, I have no doubt that our volunteers will be equally inspired – and be the heart and soul of what promises to be yet another outstanding event for the city.” 

The legacy project will not only support volunteers who have faced homelessness during the event, but will continue with sport and cultural opportunities on offer to those participating. Maureen McGinn, Chair of the Big Lottery Fund in Scotland added:

“The Homeless World Cup inspires people to change their life for the better. That is an aim shared with us at the Big Lottery Fund as we want our funding to make a truly life-changing and inspirational difference to people across Scotland. This volunteering initiative is unique not just for the impact it will have on people during the event but afterwards as well through a range of sports and cultural activities.

“We know from our previous funding that Glasgow Life has a proud record of delivering volunteering opportunities at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and this is another legacy project which we are delighted to support.”

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May 132016

Aberdeen Voice has been talking to young Scottish Actor Declan Michael Laird since AV began. We’ve charted his progress from River City to The Stella Adler Academy of Acting through to commercials, castings, forthcoming TV series (watch this space). Today we’re talking to him about a charity – more of a movement really – that is helping thousands of homeless people across the world.

The centre of the action this year will be Glasgow. Declan talks with Suzanne Kelly.

Declan Laird 12Declan’s just come from a commercial casting call; we’ll see how it goes. I can’t say what it’s for, but I will say he’s worth it. There never seem to be as many good news stories as there are bad, and talking to a young talented man who remains down to earth despite growing fame makes a pleasant change. To be talking to him about a worthwhile cause he’s giving his time to is a genuine pleasure.

Aside from his acting career which is really taking off (more on that soon), he is about to make a documentary which he’ll produce.

We talk football first, as we’ve done in the past. Where else to start than the fairy-tale ending to this year’s Premiership and Leicester? He’s full of enthusiasm.

DM – “Oh my god, oh my god, it was insane. It is so inspiring – it’s so great. It just shows the power of self-belief. If you had told those guys they’d win at the start of the season, they wouldn’t have believed you. What were those guys at the start of the season 5,000 to one or something?

“I read the letter ‘we do not dream’ by Claudio Ranieri where he talks about the boards saying to him at the start of the season ‘this is a huge season for us; we must stay in the premier league; we must score’ – what mad management skills that must have taken to keep the players motivated and to keep them from not losing the belief we can do this.”

I suggest that if you’re really hungry for something like winning the Premiership, then it’s probably easier to fight than if you’re comfortably earning £50,000 a week.

DM – “The likelihood is that they will not defend the title, but those guys will forever have that story to tell their kids and grandkids.”

I tell Laird it reaffirmed my faith that it doesn’t always have to be about who has the bigger chequebook – me and several million other people.

Declan sent me the Homeless world cup video – it is incredible.

DM – “It’s a documentary I’m producing called ‘Playing for Change’. It’s been my project for the last two and a half years. There are three things I’m very passionate about – acting and entertainment is one; the second thing is football, and the third thing is that I’m a great mental health and homelessness advocate.

“I’m a great believer that we should not be stigmatising people with addiction and mental health problems; instead we should be asking why they are not being helped. We should not be criminalising these people, but helping them get out of their addiction so they never have to become homeless. There is a big stigma – if people meet homeless people living on the street, they think they are better than them. 

homeless pic 2“The homeless are there through no fault of their own: they have to deal with issues that no one helps them with or they’ve been too ashamed to ask for help with.

“There are two sides of this mental health problem. It’s not spoken about enough because it’s not a scar on the outside you can see like an injury – if it’s inside and people can’t see it, and people don’t want to talk about it. In US people do talk about it – but they just throw medication at people.

“Talking about it in conversation can really help.”

I find myself wishing more people my age felt like Declan does. In my experience the homeless come from abusive family lives and have nowhere to go. They can be people who lost their money and homes after break ups.

They can be ex-service people who received absolutely no support or counselling on their return to the UK. They can be refugees fleeing brutal governments, bombing, and starvation. They can be people with existing physical and mental health problems: in my experience whatever has led to them being on the street either exacerbates or creates emotional and mental health problems – all of which should be wholly avoidable in any kind of compassionate, decent society.

Then Laird says something that for me hits a crucial nail on the head:

DM – “The younger generation are talking about it, but there is still a shame associated with depression or anxiety they don’t want to come forward about it because they think it is a sign of weakness. I personally feel it is a sign of strength – because you’re maybe just more sensitive. 

“A lot of actors, musicians, artists end up with maybe addiction or mental health problems and the public goes ‘oh it’s just another actor who’s died of an addiction or overdose’ and I think it’s because they are more sensitive – worse, people around them are not always interested in helping them.

“For the last year and a half because of my passion I go down to the homeless shelters maybe about once a month. I also do drama therapy at institutions and mental health clinics to promote mental health. We deal with people with schizophrenia and conditions like that and drama therapy and acting classes help.

“It’s amazing Suzanne – as an example there’s a guy with Tourette’s – normally he’s shouting and bawling, then apologizing, then shouting and apologizing some more. But when you give him a scene to do, he’s imagining himself to be someone else and his Tourette’s just disappears. It’s astonishing. It’s an outlet for whatever they’re feeling inside. 

“Through acting they can express their issues in scenes; if they feel angry, they can act out that anger; if they feel fear, they can act out their fear.”

We talk about the therapeutic values of art, music and drama for people with these issues. Declan continues:

DM – “I met Street Soccer Scotland’s David Duke who runs Street Soccer Scotland and I got involved. David’s story was that 10 years ago he was 23, and homeless in Glasgow. In a Bellshill hostel he saw a flyer ‘Represent your country in the Homeless World Cup’ and he responded. This initiative was started by a guy named Mel Young, the founder of The Big Issue. 

“David went to the trials  – which were at the time pretty makeshift – it was the first year and they didn’t really know what they were doing. He managed to get through the local trials (they were just guys then but there is a women’s team now too) and his team managed to get to Edinburgh.

“David was made captain of the team and got his side to Copenhagen and they won. When they came back, it really inspired him and he decided to change his life – he had an epiphany and decided he could really change his life. If he could have that epiphany, then why couldn’t other people? So he started the charity Street Soccer Scotland.

“David’s basically devoted every single day to going around Scotland and the whole UK getting people off the streets and getting their confidence back through football. They get the jobs and housing — but only if they are putting in the hours of volunteer work for the charity first.

“I started meeting the players, spending time with them, having lunch with David – and with refugees. He works with a lot of refugees, but also 10 years on they have many women too. They mentor Street Soccer USA, Street Soccer England, India, Sweden. Sir Alex Ferguson is one of their ambassadors.

“So whenever I travel back, I make a point of going to meet them, and when I was back at Christmas, my brother Stefan and I – Stefan’s a coach from Aberdeen FC – we took a training session for the team and we took them to lunch – to Tony Macaroni’s that was on the 23rd December. We sat and spent the day, and just had a good time.

“David told me “Declan – the Homeless World Cup’s going to be in Glasgow this year and I’m going to manage the team”. I was like ‘oh wow what a great idea for a documentary’; not just for me but to bring to life your organisation and get you the plaudits you deserve and to bring the homeless world cup to light.”

We talked for a while longer – He’s talking to a few potential outlets for this project, and the resulting documentary will undoubtedly shine a light on an initiative that will continue to help – no, actually to SAVE lives. I will save details of this and Declan’s acting career developments for a future interview.

The Homeless World Cup Tournament will start the first week in July. Volunteering and support would be welcome; further details here

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Oct 012015
Marc Davis 3feat

Top amateur Aberdeen snooker player Marc Davis is seeking a sponsor.

With thanks to Esther Green, Tricker PR.

An Aberdeen snooker player is seeking to break into the big time – but fears that without sponsorship he may never achieve his dream.

Marc Davis (27) is ranked 17th in the amateur Order of Merit and has represented his country in international tournaments.

That’s despite working full time, with family commitments and not currently having the backing of a sponsor to help support his attendance at snooker events.

Marc says that not having a sponsor to back him is seriously impeding his chance to progress.

He feels he has a lot more to offer and with more time to devote to practise, and being able to take part in more tournaments, he could develop and grow as a player – and put Aberdeen on the snooker sporting map.

Having funding to compete in the World Snooker European Tour, qualifying schools and open events would be a dream come true for Marc.

He says:

“Last season I finished 17th on the amateur Order of Merit rankings and I was the highest placed Scottish player ahead of Eden Sherav and Rhys Clark, who turned pro in the summer, and Scottish champion Dylan Craig.

“I beat some full-time players including the world number 70 which I think shows I have the ability to compete against the best players.”

The father-of-two works full time as a customer services manager in Aberdeen. Holding down a full time job to cover living expenses means that Marc doesn’t have the flexibility – or the funds – to travel to most of the national and European snooker events.

Marc says he’s not alone in finding it hard to secure sponsorship, adding that it is and it is tough for sportspeople in all disciplines to gain backing to allow them to train, develop and grow their talent.

He recognises that the current slump in the oil industry means that are less sponsorship deals being made available but points out that sporting achievement can derive wider benefits for an area.

He cites golfer Paul Lawrie as being a tremendous ambassador for sport in the North-east, showing what sporting success can bring.

Through the Paul Lawrie Foundation, the 1999 Open champion works to encourage and develop young talent.

Marc says:

“It’s my ambition to compete at the highest level of snooker and I believe that, with sponsorship support, I can do this.

“It would be amazing to get three year sponsorship but any support would be extremely welcome.

“Lacking sponsorship is holding me back from doing better things and it’s quite incredible how well I do in tournaments considering I don’t practice as much so go to events less prepared than others yet still get results.

“I’ve worked hard for 15 years to get to this standard and I just want to be able to compete and achieve my very best.”

Marc would love to hear from anyone interested in discussing sponsorship opportunities and can be contacted at or 077602 46618.

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Apr 032015

With thanks to Dave Macdermid.

DSC_0108Aberdeen Snowsports Centre has just been confirmed as the Guinness World Record holder for the highest ski jump out of an artificial quarter pipe.
The event took place on 18th October 2014 at Aberdeen Snowsports Centre and featured two of the best up and coming freestyle skiers in Scotland: Rob Wilkinson and Grant Donald.

Both skiers took attempts at descending the slope at high speeds, battling gusty winds to launch themselves out of the quarter pipe, situated at the bottom of the 80m long slope.

Tyler Harding previously set the record at Rossendale ski slope two years ago at a height of 2.87m. At 1.48pm on Sat 18th October (the previous record holder’s birthday) Rob Wilkinson smashed the previous record by over half a metre! The brand new record now stands at 3.4m.

Rob Wilkinson commented:

“I’m super pleased with our efforts, the wind made it tough, as it didn’t leave much margin for error. If you get blown away from the quarter pipe 3 metres up, it’s going to hurt! As soon as I landed it, I was thinking ‘That was big!’ Nevertheless, I’m really stoked with the result! It’s crazy to think that I now actually hold a World Record.”

A big thanks goes out to everyone that made it possible. Colin Harkness Joinery for the measuring poles, event organiser Zoe Lewis and both Jim Johnstone of FG Burnett Property Consultants and Nick McKlevey of BASI who were the two officials on site who witnessed the attempt on the record.

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May 202014

With thanks to Paul Eckersley, Black & White Publishing.Scotland 74 sq

Former Dons and Scotland manager, Craig Brown, currently on the Pittodrie board, will visit WH Smith, St Nicholas Centre, Aberdeen on Thursday 22 May 2014 at 18.30.
He will be helping Richard Gordon, not-so-closet Dons fan, impeccably-neutral broadcaster, and author of Glory In Gothenburg, publicise his latest fitba volume Scotland ’74: A World Cup Story.

This is an early chapter in the continuing story of Scotland’s ability to find new ways of being eliminated from international tournaments.

This is a great opportunity to meet Craig, a Scottish sporting legend, and head coach last time we qualified for a major final in France 1998. He and Richard will share stories from West Germany 1974, when proper mannies’ fitba was played, commemorated in Richard’s book.

It’s an evening not to be missed – unlike that half-chance Billy Bremner had against Brazil. Forty years on, the therapy’s beginning to work.

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Feb 042013

In the fourth part of the series The Menie Estate, Suzanne Kelly looks at the roles different people played in writing the Balmedie Coast’s future.  There were those who tried to uphold existing planning and environmental laws such as Martin Ford and Debra Storr.  They were vilified and even assaulted in the case of former Councillor Storr.

Public servants and politicians held meetings with the Trump organisation while planning matters were pending, contrary to protocol – if not to law.  At least one town planning professional seems to have colluded with Trump while the application was pending.  This is the first half of the story of the people involved – that of the heroes.

Part 1:  Heroes

In a perfect world, a world some of us thought was guaranteed by existing legislation, no one would be treated like the residents of the Menie Estate have been. The environment would have been likewise valued and protected, particularly as the land in question included a SSSI.

Local planning laws would have been respected, and councillors who sought to uphold existing laws would not have been mocked merely for upholding enshrined principles.

The national government would not have interfered in pending planning matters or discussed pending applications with interested parties.  Journalists would have been free to report on stories without being arrested.  Unfortunately, that world doesn’t exist.

In the face of powerful opposition, there were those who tried to do the right thing by law.  There were people who used film and fine art to illustrate the issues.  There were those who took a principled stand against the controversial development.  And then there were some whose daily lives were made needlessly stressful, while the threat of compulsory purchase powers overshadowed their lives.

When I met with Menie Estate residents on 12 January 2013, some of them were keen to express thanks to people who have helped, or tried to help.  This is a partial account of some of these remarkable people, who have made a difference.

Martin Ford

Vilified by the local press, Aberdeenshire Councillor Ford is mostly known to the public for his casting the vote which turned down the development when it was first voted on.

By rights, that should have been the end of the matter, but acting without precedent, the Scottish Government called the plans in.  Ford voted against Trump’s golf course for tangible, logical reasons.  These were many and complex, but included the fact the development would destroy (at least in part) the fragile SSSI site and compromise the ecology of the area.

The Trump plan to part finance the course and club was to build hundreds of holiday homes – something which meant a significant deviation from existing policy.  For upholding existing law he was branded a ‘traitor’, vilified and abused in local media.  His paper on the subject can be found at

Anthony Baxter & Richard Phinney

Baxter and Phinney are the men behind the documentary ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ – which beautifully illustrates the Menie situation environmentally, socially and procedurally.

They were arrested while filming, as is dramatically captured in the film.  The arrest was for ‘breach of the peace’ on the say-so of a Trump employee.

They had gone to the estate office to ask how when water would be returned to the residents – Trump’s construction workers had managed to dam the water supply and left people without running water for a week with no help, apology or explanation.

If anything, the film makers were treated rather poorly by the site personnel.  Later, while at Susan Munro’s house and despite being journalists, they were arrested and their equipment seized.  A National Union of Journalists spokesperson said:-

“I think this must be one of the first cases in this country of journalists being arrested for just carrying out interviews to establish the truth and hold people to account.”

Later the charges were dropped (Baxter learnt this from the Guardian newspaper – not the police).  While that might sound like a good outcome, it meant the police were never forced to account for the arrest, and Baxter and Phinney never got their day in court to give their side or clear their names properly.

Freedom of Information Requests by me and by others were answered with poor excuses, including the police claiming they were not able to give information on criminal charges brought against other people (the charges had been dropped when I wrote).

Baxter and Phinney largely financed the film themselves (Anthony Baxter mortgaged his home).  ‘You’ve Been Trumped!’  went on to win awards around the world, shocking audiences wherever it played.  The local press did not mention this film for a year, even when it premiered in Aberdeen, selling more quickly than the latest Harry Potter film had, or when it won awards world-wide.

Eventually David Ewen of the Evening Express wrote a piece on the film after its premier on national television; Ewen claimed ‘Baxter was unavailable for comment’ in his initial piece, even though the two men spoke within hours of Ewen’s first contact, according to Baxter.

Ewen, by the way, is author of a book entitled ‘Chasing Paradise – Donald Trump and the Battle for the World’s Greatest Golf Course,’ with a forward by Donald Trump.  It was available at the Press & Journal/Evening Express shop in Aberdeen until the shop closed.  The local press has supported the Trump faction from the outset.  More on this support will appear in the next in this series of articles.

More information about ‘You’ve Been Trumped!’ can be found here:

Debra Storr

The former Aberdeenshire councillor has, like her colleague Ford, been vilified for her vote against the course.  Like Ford she has spent time talking with the residents.  She was assaulted on her own doorstep by a woman who supported Trump.

Correspondence between her and Dr Christine Gore (more on her later) can be found at .
One thing this exchange shows is that the unelected were taking decisions which councillors felt they should be voting on.

Sam Coull

This former Aberdeenshire councillor also showed concern for the environment and compassion for the residents as Storr and Ford had.  He did not mince words when he declared:

 “I have seen and heard enough from your Trump to last me a lifetime – don’t send me  any more of his simpering platitudes.  No more – do you read me?”

Paul Johnston

Another Aberdeenshire councillor, he was disciplined for claiming Trump got a ‘sweetener’ from the shire (i.e. the taxpayer) in the form of land worth some £5 million.  This was apparently so Trump would build 98 affordable homes.  Whether or not these homes will emerge, and what will be deemed ‘affordable’ remains to be seen.

However, it appears the homes will not be anywhere near the aspirational course and clubhouse, as there are not enough local amenities.

These four councillors were the subject of a demand by the Trump Organisation to Aberdeenshire Council – Trump sought to have then excluded from any debates on the use of compulsory purchase orders (a means by which private land and homes can be bought if absolutely necessary – for municipal projects).  Trump apparently branded these four ‘scoundrels’.

Dr David Kennedy

Dr Kennedy, a respected academic, returned his degree to Robert Gordon University (chancellor – Sir Ian Wood) when the decision was made to grant Trump an honorary doctorate.  Kennedy’s views are summed up and captured eloquently in ‘You’ve Been Trumped!’

Alicia Bruce and David McCue – Artists

Whatever history eventually makes of this tale, two artists have captured the players for posterity.

Portrait artist David McCue features in ‘You’ve Been Trumped’; an exhibition of his portraits of Trump on site in the Forbes’ property were hung to great effect.

The portraits of Trump embody avarice and aggression; they contrast with the cooler colours and dignified portrait of Michael Forbes.

Alicia Bruce re-creates important paintings from all periods in art history as photographs of contemporary people and situations.  Her works include powerful, defiant images of the Forbes family posed with pitchfork outside their barn, echoing ‘American Gothic’, (this piece was recently on show in the Royal Academy, Edinburgh) and an endearing, sensitive portrait of Molly Forbes with a gaggle of geese.

On her visits to the estate to take photos, Bruce has been accosted and aggressively treated by security forces.  A recent such episode is documented here.

Tripping  Up Trump

Tripping Up Trump is the pressure group which has stood against Trump and the destruction of the environment.  The website provides the latest developments, information on past news, and other resources.  The membership has swollen since the BBC screened ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ – which Trump tried unsuccessfully to prevent.  Their mission statement is below; the website is  They are also found on Facebook and Twitter

Tripping Up Trump (TUT) has established itself as the popular movement against the use of compulsory purchase for private profit. TUT’s campaign has stood alongside the people and protected environment threatened by Donald Trump’s development in Aberdeenshire.

The TUT campaign has been key to Donald Trump’s retreat from the use of compulsory purchase orders.

The threat of forced evictions was deliberately held over the heads of the Menie families for nearly two years. Donald Trump’s track record shows he cannot be trusted to behave reasonably towards his neighbours or act responsibly towards the environment. He has bullied and mislead from the start.

TUT is committed to supporting the rights of the families at Menie and will highlight and seek to stop any further bullying or other wrongs by the Trump Organisation in Scotland.

We need your support. Please spread the word and join this important campaign.

Finally, the real heroes are the men and women who are trying to live normal lives in their homes at the Menie Estate. 

Many have been there for decades; all of them love the land, the flora and fauna, and simply want to get on with their lives.  As documented by Baxter, they have been tested in the  extreme, quite unnecessarily and aggressively so.

Blocked water supplies, trespass, property damage, snapped power lines and aggressive security and greens-keeping personnel have all overstepped the mark in their treatment of these people.  And yet they have all managed to do something Trump can’t quite master:  they have kept their cool.

If anyone wishes to send them messages of support, letters, etc., please contact Aberdeen Voice; we will pass items to them for you.


There are many other heroes in the tale; but it was the villains who carried the day.  It is really their story currently being enacted at Menie; without their actions (and indeed their interactions), things might be quite different.  Who they are, how they are linked to each other, and some of their actions will be covered in Menie Heroes And Villains: Part 2 – Villains.

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Jan 182013

When Donald Trump bought the Menie Estate, it was the end of a peaceful life in the countryside for the existing residents. Anthony Baxter captured incidents in his award-winning documentary You’ve Been Trumped which caused outcry here and abroad. In Part 3 of a series on the Menie Estate, Suzanne Kelly finds out how life is now for Trump’s next-door neighbours.


There are certain absolute rights UK citizens are supposed to enjoy, including the right to privacy and a right to go about their lawful business without interference. In Scotland, access to the countryside – whoever owns it – is guaranteed by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003.

This act and the related Scottish Outdoor Access Code give responsible countryside visitors (and residents) the right to access hills, woods, grass fields and field margins, beaches, lochs, rivers and canals.

There are special provisions for golf courses; walkers must not interfere with play, keep dogs on a lead and so on.

Here is a paragraph from a brochure entitled Enjoy Scotland’s Outdoors published by Scottish Natural Heritage:

“Respect the interests of others.

“Respect the needs of other people enjoying or working in the outdoors and follow any reasonable advice from land managers. Respect people’s privacy and peace of mind. Avoid causing alarm to people, especially at night, by keeping a reasonable distance from houses and gardens or by using paths or tracks.”

So much for the theory; here is the reality in Balmedie.


David Milne, Susan Munro and other residents shared their recent experiences with the AV team when we met. Artist and photo-journalist Alicia Bruce has also written of her recent experiences.

  • A local resident wanted to visit the Forbes family, who live on one side of the golf course.  While walking towards the Forbes property, a security guard stopped the walker from going any further, even denying there were any buildings where the Forbes have long lived.  The walker was forced to accompany the security guard to the ‘temporary’ clubhouse. In the walker’s own words:

“Eventually, after about 20 minutes, I was speaking to a chap named Eric over the phone. He eventually agreed I could walk along this track. I was wanting to go along and visit Mike and Sheila [Forbes].

“The security guard denied there were any houses. I said, ‘Yes, there are; you must drive past them several times a day’. Eric eventually agreed I could walk, but I would have to be followed by the security guard in his truck.”

  • Visitors to the estate can expect the third degree as well.

In one resident’s words:

“Friends were harassed by a greens keeper… walking down the track… one of the greens keeping staff saw them, approached them and apparently he was absolutely ballistic – they thought he was going to have a heart attack. ‘If you take one step off that path, you are breaking the law,’ he was saying.”

Another resident nods in agreement, telling me that they have heard variations of that story. Alicia Bruce has had a similarly aggressive run-in; details can be found at  . Alicia was threatened, and called the police.  In this instance, the police cautioned the Trump security people.

Susan Munro is watched by security with some frequency when driving, and even when she is on her property. She has been a Menie Estate resident for over 30 years and as such should be well-known to security, as should the cars her family owns.

Nevertheless, she is often stopped by security, interrogated and identification demanded of her. This can be to the extent that when she returns from work late at night, men on foot will jump in front of her car from out of nowhere, and then demand ID. As she succinctly put it:

“I finished work last night and was stopped by security. It’s horrible when they jump out at you in the pitch black. They alarmed me. I am sick fed up with security hassling me.”

Susan has to use the Trump road at present as her own access road is, at the time of writing, completely out of use (see article 2 in this series – The Road’s A Ruin).

It must sit badly to have your own road in a state, and be accosted when using the only road available, one which is completely smooth and perfectly finished. However, that is not the end of Susan’s woes. They will be addressed shortly.

There are more such anecdotes, old and new. It is worth mentioning that some residents report run-ins with friendly security. While the ‘friendly’ security guards may not be unpleasant, what they are doing questioning the people who live on this estate is a mystery.

No one who has seen You’ve Been Trumped can forget the scene in which Baxter and Phinney are arrested for an alleged breach of the peace. They had filmed themselves visiting the estate manager’s office to ask when residents could expect their water supply to be restored.

They are unceremoniously dismissed (the estate personnel even makes an odd comment about the value of their equipment, which can be seen as a veiled threat). The film documents the arrest of two well-behaved journalists on the hearsay evidence of a billionaire’s employee.

We condemn such abuses of power in the third world, but it’s happened here in Scotland with absolutely no proper subsequent independent investigation. (More details can be found at

Guns ‘n Woes

On top of years of intimidation and questionable tactics, at least one security firm previously employed (there have been at least two) used guards armed with pellet/air guns.

These guards would engage in target practice. One witness also saw a guard and a man with a rifle.

So we have residents constantly being stopped, harassed, and ‘jumped out at’ by ill-tempered and aggressive guards – some of whom used to have air guns.

It is almost as if the Trump organisation and its security firms use the SNH outdoor access policy as a laundry list of ways to bully.

The residents and I believe Trump’s security guards have acted in the above situations well beyond their legal authority. We also believe that security operatives are meant to display badges prominently. The residents confirm they have hardly ever seen any such badges; and none of us recall seeing any in the film You’ve Been Trumped either.

The security firm currently operating is Izon. A sign bearing their name appears at a locked gate which prevents cars from entering, which seems in contravention of free access laws. Anyone on foot, on bicycle or even on horseback should be able to access this (or any other) road.

Izon has been asked to comment on these issues and whether its operatives carry air/pellet/other types of guns. The company’s response will be reported in due course.

Visiting these people, living as they do with all sorts of imposed and unnecessary hardships, hits me hardest when we go to Susan Munro’s house. Walking down the damaged road (see Menie Series Pt 2) was bad enough.

But as we walk down towards the Munro house, a bund – an artificial, steep, and very high earthwork rises alongside the road, blocking out any views of the sea and landscape the Munros previously enjoyed.

The Trump Organisation has also used a similar tactic at the Milne property. Trump’s landscapers have attempted to put a row of conifers along the property boundary. If they were to grow, then Milne’s view of the sea would be gone. As it is, the trees are unable to grow in sand.

“Your first clue that they won’t grow is that there aren’t already any here,” is how David Milne puts it.

It is as if ‘The Donald’ thought he could stop the tides as well as make trees grow in sand.

Life goes on for the residents. At the time of writing it is understood the damaged roads are to be repaired. Aberdeen Voice will report when the ‘temporary’ bunds come down and when security stops accosting residents and visitors. I am just not sure when that will be.


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Jan 162013

Things are seriously amiss at the Trump International Golf Course and Menie Estate, as Aberdeen Voice’s Suzanne Kelly and photographer Rob discovered. Inspired by Anthony Baxter and Richard Phinney’s You’ve Been Trumped film, Kelly has followed developments at ‘the world’s greatest golf course’ with interest. On a recent visit, residents showed our team around the site and shared stories. In the second instalment of a series of articles, Kelly looks at the demise of the road infrastructure.

There are signs of flooding all over the Balmedie area. Damage to the course is dramatically illustrated in the article:

Menie Estate Series: Crazy Golf

But the course damage is only one aspect of how the estate is faring this winter; the residents have more practical and urgent problems.

Susan Munro has lived on the estate for decades. Alongside her house runs a road which had until recently been a smooth path.

It slopes gently down to Susan’s house on the north side, and now the golf course on the south.

“I’ve lived here for 30 years and this is the worst it’s been,” Susan says.

She is shaking her head, standing in the doorway of her home. At her feet are signs of flooding; a wet, sandy, muddy substance covers concrete slabs and seems sure to cause her drains to overflow. She is, however, mainly talking about the only access road to her home.

The road is virtually unusable.

When Trump came it was with ambitious plans and an assortment of construction vehicles. The access road had quite a lot to cope with. While it may sit on Trump-owned land, historically it served the residents as an access road.

It has, in the writer’s opinion (and that of several residents), been damaged badly as a result of construction vehicles and the run-off pipe or pipes.

Then the plastic pipes appeared, carrying run-off from the golf course area. One such pipe is clearly visible near the road on the opposite end from the Munro residence. This pipe seems to be carrying run-off from the course directly into the side of the road.

There is no drainage for this road. Already badly rutted from course construction traffic, it is being further eroded.

Not helping the matter is the construction of giant bunds – tall, steeply rising mounds of earth built along the length of this road and on the east side of the property border between Trump and Munro. (More on these bunds in a future article; they deserve a great deal of description).
Water runs down this now badly rutted dirt road, and as the road ends in the newly-constructed parking lot, a short gradient channels yet more water off the new parking lot tarmac onto the dirt road.

Finally, the Trump organisation has dug two gravel pits in a field between the Munro house and David Milne’s home; the field slopes down towards the road.

The idea seems to be that the first pit, filled with gravel and then covered would catch water, with the overflow going to the second pit.
The only place from there for water to go would certainly seem to be the damaged little access road.

It is unclear that any of these additions – run-off pipes, bunds, drainage pits, and slope from parking to the dirt road – had been given specific, clear planning permission.

In fact, I was promised the bunds were temporary when I wrote to Aberdeenshire Council in 2011. Temporary is a long time in this part of the world, it seems.

It would also seem no one from Aberdeenshire Council is making regular visits. It would seem obvious the council should ensure residents can access their historic road.

Considering that most of us living in the North East would have to apply for permission before changing the type of windows we have in our homes, why are such damaging, major modifications to the landscape being allowed with virtually no sign of proper approval process or assessments?

There is no suggestion on any part that these modifications are done to deliberately make life difficult for the residents. The fact remains though: this is just what they are doing.

The road is now so bad that Susan Munro cannot use it any longer.
In fact, if you had a 4×4 you would still face difficulties trying to drive down this road, not least because of the seriously dangerous gap which has opened up near its lower end.

This has had a few token objects such as a bag of building material (unopened) unceremoniously dumped into it, as if that were a remotely adequate or safe remedy to this dangerous situation.

Walkers would find nothing to warn them of the dangers of walking this road, either.

Fixing the road should not be too difficult; it should, in my opinion, be done quickly, by the council, and paid for almost exclusively by the Trump Organisation.

Trump is quick to condemn area residents who keep their property in a state he doesn’t like, yet this road is now a massive eyesore and can’t be used.

Perhaps if it were visible to his golfers it would be a different story, but that ‘temporary’ bund shields players’ eyes from this unpleasant reality.

At the end of this series of articles, a summary report of findings will be sent to relevant organisations including Trump International, Aberdeenshire Council Clerk of Works, councillors, and not least – the Health & Safety Executive.

In the meantime, Susan has to use the Trump parking lot and new road (with a perfectly smooth tarmac surface) to get off the estate.

How has that been working out for her?

How is she coping with the bunds? What are things like for her?

The answer is probably worse than you might imagine.

Residents’ experiences will be covered in the next article in this series on Friday morning.

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 Estate residents have just been advised Leyton Farm Road will be closed 17 and 18 January.  They believe this is for road repair work.  Aberdeen Voice will report on the repair work once completed.
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Jan 142013

Things are seriously amiss at the Trump International Golf Course and Menie Estate, as Aberdeen Voice’s Suzanne Kelly and AV photographer Rob discovered. On a recent visit they spoke to several residents and spent hours walking the area. Aberdeen Voice shares their findings in a series of articles.

King Canute demonstrated that although he was a wealthy king, he could not hold back the tides by standing on the shore as the tide came in. Trump did not get this memo.

There are signs of flooding all over the Menie Estate; this is not surprising as the North East is experiencing some of its wettest weather historically speaking.

But are things worse than if Trump hadn’t been there?

An arcane system of visible plastic pipes installed by the Trump organisation is not exactly helping things – well, not for common access roads and the residents, anyway.

Unlike some conservationists who objected to the golf course, the Trump people didn’t foresee what could happen when the weather got wild. How would the course hold up with the recent storms the North East experienced?

Aberdeen Voice and some locals took a walk to find out. We set out through the ‘temporary’ parking lot (which seems to lack specific planning permission) and headed to the course to investigate.

The path in question has the (formerly moveable) sand dunes and the North Sea on the east, and the course on the west.

In places, the course is very close to the sea indeed.

On our walk we found a large section of dune had crumbled.  A World War II pillbox was newly covered by the falling sand and marram grass, planted to stabilise the dunes.

I guess Mother Nature hadn’t got that memo.

In some cases, children planted marram grass as part of a PR exercise.

The damage was striking.

While continuing our walk towards the fourth hole, we discovered a set of traffic cones ahead of us on the path.

It is just as well the light hadn’t yet faded – or we might have fallen several feet into a newly-opened chasm.

Approximately four feet of the golf course path has simply fallen into the sea at Blairton Burn. It is as if Mother Nature took a bite out of the course.

A large pipe leads out into the sea at this point.

Presumably if this pipe is being used for water runoff, it has been approved in advance by Aberdeenshire’s environmental and planning experts?
The pipe had no foundation, just sand around it.

The cross section of ground clearly visible from the course collapse shows that there is a thin layer of turf directly over the sand.

How safe and secure this can be right on the edge of the North Sea is a concern.

Photographs illustrate this dramatic gap eloquently.

While there are cones warning of the huge gap, there is no protective fencing.

Even more worrying is that other sections of this portion of the 4th hole might likewise be ready to fall into the sea.

In the news this past week a couple bid £80,000 to come and play here, including transportation, meals, etc.

We wonder in what state they will find ‘The World’s Greatest Golf Course’ when they arrive.

As the dunes shift, and the course crumbles (in one place anyway), how are the residents faring?  Not very well, as a subsequent article will demonstrate.

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