Showing posts from March, 2019

John Main – Every Little Helps - by April McGinty

Born in Kittybrewster in 1927 John Main spent his later years seeking both purpose and recognition. His mother Margaret had fled an abusive relationship and at age five he left his native Aberdeen to spend the next decade in Northern Borneo.

A distant aunt funded his education and at age 16 he returned to the Granite City to take up an apprenticeship with a local granite merchant. During his time in Borneo, he had maintained a correspondence with his alleged father, whom he had never met. Monthly letters flowed between the two describing both post-war hopes for a new Europe and a desire for a meeting between the two. As it turned out, the father he wrote to was not his own. But, in later years that became less of an issue following the revelation that the letters were in fact from an uncle hopelessly infatuated with Margaret Main. Always the optimist, the young John could empathize with his uncle's unrequited hopes of love and happiness.
John’s true dad was an itinerant beggar by…

The Railway Through Insch - by Duncan Harley

The Garioch town of Insch somehow managed to retain its railway station despite the re-shaping of the railway system following the Beeching Reports of the 1960’s and today provides rural commuters with fast access to the oil capital of Europe and in addition hosts a community run museum in the former ticket office.
Insch Connection Museum, a Registered Scottish Charity, hold an extensive archive relating to Insch’s past. The museum’s focus for 2016 was “Souters of Insch”, a family business once central to Insch’s economy. Trading in everything from fencing supplies to wedding presents, the Souter brand was instrumental in bringing both electricity and employment to the village and for over 90 years operated a popular general goods store on Commercial Road. The town today boasts an aerodrome, a manufacturer of landmine clearance machines plus a good selection of archaeology. It can also claim the distinction of being one of only a very few places in Scotland bombed by the Germans in the…

Easter Aquhorthies Stone Circle - By Duncan Harley

The ancient standing stones at Easter Aquhorthies, on the outskirts of Inverurie, appear to have been chosen specifically for their colour.
A mixture of red jasper and grey granite uprights sit alongside a humongous recumbent boulder quarried from the foot of nearby Bennachie.

Described by Historic Environment Scotland as “An intact, recumbent stone circle consisting of eleven erect stones, the recumbent stone and three stones set almost at right angles to it, all set in a low ridge of small boulders” Easter Aquhorthies attracts a steady stream of visitors keen to touch the monoliths. Seemingly red jasper has spiritual qualities and, as a result, portions of some stones have been rubbed smooth over the centuries.

This ancient Neolithic circle is, even nowadays, relatively complete and today attracts what unkind locals describe as ‘folk intent on watching the mid-summer dawn while performing fertility rights and Mother Earth ceremonies’.
The circa four-thousand-year-old site is a nowad…

ART @ His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen - Duncan Harley Reviews

Admirers of the work of Yasmina Reza will not be disappointed by this three-hander comedy. Despite the unassuming title, ART is a masterful and at times powerful study of prejudice and tolerance among friends. Using as a focus a completely blank canvas, purchased by Serge for a not insubstantial sum, the dialogue portrays the complex relationships between three friends as they attempt to maintain an equilibrium in the face of the imminent death of their 15-year association.

Battle lines are drawn and the dusty baggage of the past emerges to challenge each in turn to explore what binds us together.

Unequivocally proud of his purchase Serge demands approval of his expensive work of art. Feelings escalate when Marc describes the painting as ‘a piece of white shit tarted-up with a couple of white stripes’.

And, when drawn into the fire, the normally compliant Yvan must take a stance. A fist-fight ensues and blood is drawn before, in a splendid scene involving a conciliatory bowl of oliv…

The Little History of Aberdeenshire - by Duncan Harley

In 'The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire', I exposed readers to a random series of tales from the North-east of Scotland.
Factual stories about The Beatles very first tour of Aberdeenshire, a resume of the career of sporting superstar Donald Dinnie and a startling description of the 1916 terror-bombing of the village of Insch by a 300ft long German Zeppelin sat side by side with mythological tales about the Maiden Stone at Crowmallie, the tomb of Eth the Swift-foot at Kellands and the mysterious mound of death at the Bass.

My intention in this new volume is to provide the reader with a few more snippets from Aberdeenshire’s colourful history. I have succumbed to the temptation to re-visit some of the stories featured in my previous book and trust that I will be forgiven for expanding greatly on those tales. The Blenheim of Buchan, a full expose of the Aberdeen typhoid scandal plus an expanded tale of artist-priest Peter Anson’s life in the North-east are examples.

Tales about the …

Dame Evelyn Glennie with Trio HLK @ Aberdeen Music Hall - By Duncan Harley with thanks to Rachel Campbell/APA

Percussionist Evelyn Glennie has performed worldwide with international orchestras, conductors and artists and fondly remembers her first percussion concerto at The Proms in 1992. She recalls “My first experience with percussion was seeing and being inspired by my school orchestra at the age of 12. I knew I needed something else to go alongside my piano playing, which was my main instrument at the time. It was an inexplicable feeling but as soon as I saw the percussion section, I knew this was the family I belonged to”.

Double GRAMMY award winner and BAFTA nominee Evelyn nowadays composes music for film, television and music library companies. The film ‘Touch the Sound’ and her enlightening TED speech remain key testimonies to her approach to sound-creation.

Made an OBE in 1993 she has received some 100 international awards to date, including the Polar Music Prize and the Companion of Honour. Evelyn continues to inspire and motivate people from all walks of life. Her masterclasses and co…

The Museum to the Anti-British – by Duncan Harley

I had almost forgotten the 60th anniversary of the overthrow of Tibet by the Chinese Liberation Army. A Times newspaper report today recalls the shelling of Lhasa during the final stages of the take-over. Truckloads of Red Guards were quick on the heels of the professional soldiers and, alongside the desecration of the monasteries, a centralist agricultural policy ensured  widespread famine. Millions suffered and tens of thousands died of starvation. After all, you can’t easily grow wheat at 15,000 feet and at sub-zero temperatures.

The palaces have of course been done up and re-painted and the monasteries annually draw in a few thousand Western tourists eager to breath in the blessings. Below the Potala lies a vast concrete square. When Palin, Michael not Sarah, visited in the 1980’s it was occupied by symbols of military power. A fighter jet sat incongruously below the high walls alongside groups of excited Chinese tourists. The Chinese of course love big flat squares. Look at Tiana…

A Burgess By Far - by Duncan Harley with thanks to Charlie Abel, Suzanne Kelly, Barney Crocket, Ronald Watt and the late Bob Smith

As of this week, Fred Arthur Wilkinson is a Burgess of the City of Aberdeen and that’s maybe a good thing. After all, he’s somewhat of a more than ordinary guy and I for one owe him a huge debt. In fact, mention Fred to any Aberdonian and you will either be met with a dumfounded ‘whose Fred?’ or an ‘Oh I ken the lad well. Fine chap and no question. Disnae he hiv some sort of plaque on a wall down by the Green alongside the likes of that loudmouth Lennox wifie?”

Some folk are even minded to comment that they probably have a photo of the man and his ceilidh band on the mantlepiece following some family wedding or other. For my part, following a spell at the Big Issue in Scotland, I had been blogging for a wee while for not much money. But no-one in particular had paid that much attention. Then came a spell plugging my work on the likes of Bliphoto and Flickr and some unpaid but published pieces amongst the Aberdeenshire weekly squeaks and the various Banffies. I kept on the day job and…

BBC Glasgow – by Duncan Harley

I had the rare opportunity to watch Scottish telly last night and tuned into the new Freeview BBC Channel Nine. Devoted to all things Scottish and with an upbeat launch week promising to be all over the land, I was - to say the least - interested in what the new all-Scottish TV station might have on offer. Maybe there would be some upbeat content about local affairs down by the harbour, perhaps a new piece of Scottish drama or something geared to upstage that slightly odd River City or even a new take on the dogging sites in and around Torry Battery. 
A bit of Doric perhaps or even a piece about how Dundee’s national bard composed a song about why US General Grant came to describe the Tay Bridge as ‘a mighty long bridge for such a little town’. Surely there would be something about oil, or wind power or Mennie Estate or Buffalo Bill’s sojourn in Huntly. But no. None of the above. In truth, not that much from above the Antonine Wall made it onto the airwaves on that windy Saturday nigh…