Fine News about Bygone Days

Following January’s cancelled meeting due to adverse weather we were delighted to welcome Alan Taylor and Robert Dinnie to a near capacity society audience, where they gave an enthralling ‘fireside’ chat on their lives growing up and working in Aboyne.

Alan Taylor, a retired auctioneer, detailed the workings of the “auction mart” system in the North East.  The marts started off as a number of very local livestock markets dotted around the Shire to eventually consolidating and amalgamating into the significant Thainstone auction mart at Inverurie today. Auctioneers would visit farmers regularly not only to get to know the farmer but also the livestock plus the added bonus of scones, bannocks and perhaps drams to guard against the cold. The “mart” at Aboyne was once located on the present Aboyne Green before moving to the site now occupied by the Co-op supermarket.

To compliment Alan’s tales Robert, who confessed to being a 1938 loon,  could well recall the auctioneer visiting his farm prior to sales. He did note that Aboyne mart comprised all wooden pens which would not have coped with the strength of today’s cattle. Apart from farming anecdotes Robert recounted his vivid memories of the great gale of 1953 when he watched in awe as great stands of timber were blown flat in a spiralling tornado like motion. He also outlined  the long history of the Birse kirk, how the Queens Loch got its name thanks to visits by Queen Victoria. Robert recalled the strengthening of the Potarch bridge which thankfully,  despite many a muckle spate, remains in place today.

Members lingered at length over fine pieces to chat to Robert and Alan who were happy to answer further questions.

A Blether in ‘oor Ain Toung

Brian Paterson and Sheila Kinniburgh shared their memories of living in Aboyne in days gone-bye, from the beginning of WW11 onwards, asking “d’ye mind when….. or sic and sic”? They spoke about how things were in the village, covering topics such as family and people, wartime events, businesses and shops, conditions and activities, education, church, garages and transport services, sport, or in fact anything that came to mind! This fascinating insight into how things used to be might have carried on all evening if time had not been called!

The Ballater War Memorial

John Burrows asked us if War Memorials make us remember. He wondered if they stir our emotions.1914-1918 marked a period in history during which millions lost their lives, and which changed the European landscape. Ballater, like many other places, remembered those who fell.

Frank Price, Designer

Sarah and Malcolm Wright gave us a fascinating talk about Frank Price who specialised in fabric and wallpaper design. He had links to artists and sudios in West London, but is best known as Designer and then Chief Designer of the Silver Studio in Hammersmith, also West London.

Scottish Signatories of the American Declaration of Independence.

Our current Programme of Talks was brought to an enthralling conclusion on 17 March with Owen Dudley Edwards’ talk on the Scottish Signatories of the American Declaration of Independence. Owen’s moving tribute to our beloved and much missed Past President, Doug Riach preceded his vivid, contextual account of the very significant part played by those of Scots ancestry, in particular James Wilson and John Weatherspoon, in the evolution of the document which has since shaped the development of the American nation.

Joan Eardley, RSA – Portrait of an Artist

On 16 February, Tony Pryke gave an illustrated talk on the life and work of Joan Eardley, RSA, whose iconic depictions of life in mid-twentieth century Glasgow tenements and powerful landscapes and seascapes around Catterline on the north-east coast, stretched the boundaries of British art and established her as an artist of international standing whose influence extends to the present day.

Sir Charles Malcolm Barclay-Harvey

On 19 January, Marcus Humphrey gave a fascinating talk on the remarkable life and career of his grandfather, Sir Malcolm Barclay-Harvey, who was elected MP for Kincardineshire and West Aberdeenshire and appointed Governor of South Australia before returning to resume his service to our local community as Deputy-Lieutenant for Aberdeenshire and taking an active role in local politics. Marcus’ talk was copiously illustrated with personal documents, photographs and anecdotes, bringing to life the story of a family man who clearly lived life to the full.

The Aboyne Highland Games

A good turnout of members trudged through ice and snow on 8 December to listen to this month’s speaker, local loon Murray Brown, introduced by our own Brian Patterson.

Murray gave a very entertaining talk on the Aboyne Highland Games and his involvement both as a Heavy Athlete in the 1970s and 80s and latterly as the Convenor of the Heavies Committee. Murray’s talk was laced through with highly amusing anecdotes and reminiscences as to how the Aboyne Games had evolved over the years since its inception in 1867. Murray passed around a few quite astonishing photographs of athletes in days past, including pole vaulting onto bare grass – no soft landings here!

The ‘art’ of caber preparation – was it too dry and therefore too light, or too wet and therefore too heavy, as well as the technique of tossing the ’stick’, as it was known to athletes, came in for some detailed discussion. The assembled throng would have listened to Murray’s tales all evening had not Brian brought questions to a close as mulled wine, mince pies and other seasonal delights awaited.

‘From the Ashes’: Rebuilding Ballater Station

On 20 October, Alistair Cassie gave an engrossing talk on the catastrophic loss by fire in 2015 and the subsequent, three-year programme of reconstruction, of Ballater Railway Station, introducing scenes, events and personalities from the Station’s history and aided by graphic illustrations of the fire itself, its immediate aftermath and the reconstruction works in progress.

‘Conquered by no-one’ – The Declaration of Arbroath – Neil McLennan

The Declaration is probably the most celebrated document in Scottish history. But what do we know about it? Why was it written? Who wrote it and to whom? Who signed it? Why Arbroath in 1320 (and not, say Newbattle in 1319?) Did it get any reply? What did it achieve? Is its explanation of the origin of Scots just make-believe? Why the boast that the Scots have ’totally destroyed the Picts’? Making a welcome second visit to the Society on 15 September, Neil, a published author on the Declaration, provided compelling answers to these questions in a very well-received talk.