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 that’s a fact.

Then Leopard published a few pieces and someone, I forget who, suggested Aberdeen Voice. Edited by a guy with a difficult haircut, the Voice was seemingly welcoming new content from citizen journalists right across the land.

I sent over some words and they were published. I sent some more words and they too were published. A psychedelic soapbox opened in front of my pen. It felt good. A piece about Drummer Rigby went down well. ‘That is what I want’ said Fred. The poor man, not Fred, had been ambushed outside his barracks and bloodily killed. None of us had witnessed the murder at first hand but it was of course a tragedy, and there is no getting away from that. The images on the front of the tabloids and the footage which streamed into our living rooms following the murder were not taken by professional photographers. They were the result of a new breed of citizen journalists armed with tablets.

Mind you, apart from the reward of airing words in public, there was never any prospect of any monetary reward. I recall a debate about taking money for words. No and never, was the answer.
No paid adverts were ever taken and no writer was ever paid even a dime.
We did gather for a drink some six years ago but I think Fred the Ed’ bought most of the rounds from amongst his band earnings and kidded that it wis from AV funds.

AV was and still is an independent and morally incorruptible digital newspaper intent on reflecting a rainbow-torrent of views from almost everywhere on the political landscape. Many would agree.
For my part, I have been amazed at the breadth of articles contained within the AV archives. Bob Coonie’s series about the Spanish Civil War sits alongside my own Graffiti Moments and theatre reviews. Then there is the Doric poetry of the late Bob Smith plus a wealth of other very important stuff. Old Susanna, Fat Dave’s Diary and the poetry of David A.E. Murdoch are all there for the reading.

n fact, at least according to Iron Broo band-member Charlie Abel, the archive – for that is what it is – contains more than 3700 articles representing a wide range of socio-political views published over some ten years.
Bob Smith penned some 200 poems in the Doric which were published in the Voice. He maybe never intended, but he had Fred down to a tee when he penned the immortals:

 ‘Music his the ability tae calm ye richt doon fin ye git yer knickers in a twist. Masel if a git trachelt or upticht a relax bi lis’nin tae a bittie o Beethoven or Mozart, or sometimes Japanese or Native American flute music. Bit aabody’s different an as lang as the music his a calmin enfluence it disna maitter fit ye listen tull.’

Charlie Abel has known Fred for 25 years – Jesus, that’s a quarter of a century! “We have travelled together with Iron Broo for 16 years” recalls Charlie. “I've never known a more mild-mannered crazy person in my life. He is the gentle heart of punk personified. When you are on the road together you get to know each other really well. I was honoured to help welcome my celebrated best friend into the Burgess. It is people that make Aberdeen special. People like Fred. I think it's a well-deserved recognition from the city to one of its greatest local minstrels. Its very warming to see the wealth of positive reactions and comments on social media acknowledging the popularity and appreciation of 'our' Fred Wilkinson. It makes me happy to know that his name will be recorded in our city's history for many moons to come. Ace min".

Charlie continues “Fred, known locally as a musician, has made a considerable contribution to local music in different forms, raising funds for charities and good causes, and encouraging others to express themselves in the arts. Fred's musical career has touched many genres but he is perhaps most noted for his punk rock career which started in the early 80s with Toxik Ephex. Later he joined the band Iron Broo Ceilidh Band around 2003. Fred has long been a great defender of Aberdeen as one of the founders of the 'Aberdeen Voice', an online free news publication which gives local people a place to air their concerns and opinions through local citizen journalism. I am very happy to see him recorded in our city’s history as a Burgess for his efforts. Very well deserved and well-done Fred.”
Nuff said perhaps. But there is even more.

Suzanne Kelly, who has known Fred for over a decade, said "Fred has been working for years on different fronts to help people in Aberdeen. He has strong links with many Aberdeen groups. To see him honoured by this remarkable, ancient guild is quite an accolade, and one he's earned. Congratulations Fred!"

Over the years, few had seen Fred in a shirt and tie, and Barney Crocket – incumbent Lord Provost of Aberdeen - commented that "To have Fred as a Burgess is a real inspiration. He is the epitome of the counter culture in Aberdeen so it is so great to have him at the centre ... and he looked the part!"

And, when pressed for comment, Ronnie Watt commented “I know Fred through Charlie and the group Iron broo I am delighted he became a Burgess it’s great to see musicians being honoured Fred is always ready to support any events and has played for the Consul General of Japan at my house”.

Oh, and just in case you might be wondering, Fred’s not dead yet and this is not by any means whatsoever an obituary. It’s just a quiet wee celebration of his well-earned new status as a Burgess of Aberdeen.

And, keep this quiet for goodness sake, the new Aberdonian Burgess will be appearing in a film @ the Belmont sometime soon.

There’s a bit more about the man at Iron Broo plus, of course in Aberdeen Voice

Words © Duncan Harley. Images © Charlie Abel and Duncan Harley – but feel free to share the article …


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