Thursday 18 November – ‘It was a’ for our rightful King’ (Burns) – a Talk by Maureen Kelly.
There is a school of thought that the Jacobite cause and its rebellions (and even that word is hotly contested, being itself a hostage to history’s fortune) of 1689, 1715, 1719 and 1745/6, are best regarded as the long rumble of the earlier Bishops’ War in Scotland. Be that as it may, it is a fascinating and complex topic, one that Maureen’s lively lecture brought vividly to life, with the various political, social, economic, personal and dynastic entanglements enthusiastically explained. Of particular interest was her detailed research on the local dimension – how the struggles impacted the lives of local people. The King may have been ‘over the water’ and with him his cause, but local communities bore the brunt, and hold the memory.
On 21 October, Mary Duncan, the Honorary Canadian Consul in Scotland, gave a stimulating and wide-ranging talk on the impact made by Scots on the development of Canada.
According to the Canadian census of 2016, nearly 5 million people, about 14% of the population, claimed to be of Scottish descent. The influence of Scots on Canadian development may well have been exaggerated by some, but there can be little doubt that, if only in terms of the relative size of the two countries, it was wholly disproportionate, particularly in politics, commerce, industry and education. In some aspects, it was huge, for example in the Hudson Bay Company, with its massive Orkadian numbers, who, as the American historian Bernard de Vito wrote, “pulled the wilderness around them like a cloak, and wore its beauty like a crest”. (The impact on local wildlife was of course an altogether different story!)
Mary’s talk highlighted many aspects of Scottish influence by reference to the contributions of major figures such as Alexander MacKenzie (explorer extraordinaire and buried back home at Avoch on the Black Isle), John MacDonald (Canada’s first Prime Minister), James McGil (founder of the great university), and also the extraordinary ‘ordinary’ men and women from Scotland who built a new life and helped to forge a new country.
Our 2021-2022 session opened, we are delighted to say, on 16 September, with a face-to -face meeting back in the Church Hall after months of Zooms. Marcus Humphrey got us off to a great start with his talk on the outstanding work carried out by the NE Scotland Preservation Trust, of which he is Chairman. Restoring and recovering buildings at risk is obviously a topic close to the Village’s heart and Marcus demonstrated what is possible , given the right combination of perseverance and support, combined of course with a robust business and financial model. When and where the past is in peril, rescue options in the right hands are indeed available: a great message for the Heritage Society and our communities.
On 21 January, our speaker, Colin Johnston, spoke about John Low from Turriff. A chance glance over his shoulder while rowing as a student on the River Dee in Aberdeen caused John to catch sight of soldiers training in the Duthie Park. Enlisting, he was soon caught up in the maelstrom of history, borne along by the catastrophic events of the Western Front until his death there in 1918. Colin’s brilliantly researched and illustrated presentation was both moving and compelling, a story, it seemed, of both fate and coincidence, history as his story.
Between a rock and a hard place: our geological heritage on Royal Deeside
The rocks of Deeside are dominated by granites , which have an enormous impact upon our landscape and upon our economy. Emeritus Professor Gordon Walkden, the coordinator of the Royal Deeside Centre heritage and tourism project, will give an illustrated talk on the origin and significance of these amazing rocks.
On Thursday 20 May, Douglas Bruce gave us an enthralling talk on Bob Scott. Bob was born at Inverey in 1904. His father worked at Mar Estate for thirty years, living at what is now Corrour Bothy, then to Luibeg cottage and finally the Linn of Dee. Bob followed in his father’s footsteps and in 1947 became Head Keeper for Mar Estate. The outhouse to Luibeg Cottage was eventually known as Bob Scott’s Bothy. With a commanding presence and a voice reputed to carry to the summit of distant Munros, Bob became a legend, much respected by walkers throughout the UK. He was a man of many stories – recounted via his chosen vocabulary – and now told by Doug, himself a keen walker who, after a lifetime teaching, retired to Braemar.
On Thursday 12 December, Colin Johnston presented this timely talk on Aberdeen’s Freedom Lands, as this is the 700th anniversary of their donation to the Burgesses of Aberdeen by Robert the Bruce, in acknowledgement of those who had helped him establish the independence of the Kingdom. The background to the donation by Charter, and the location of the lands, was highlighted, as was the clash between Bruce’s original intentions and what actually came to pass in Aberdeen. Historically this was a unique donation which is now in many ways forgotten or misrepresented. Rectifying that, Colin revealed what became of the lands, and the original boundary march stones.
On 15 April, Nancy Jardine spoke to us about the Ancient Roman invasions of Aberdeenshire by General Agricola in c.AD 84 and Emperor Severus in c. AD 210.
They say look at your surroundings and you’ll see your heritage. Well, yes and no. The Romans made sustained incursions into the north-east of Scotland – their marching camps are strung out like beads along the route of the A96. The one at Kintore is truly of European significance; the one at Stonehaven demonstrates their strategic use of naval power; the one at Logic Durno is the biggest one north of the Antonine Wall. Yet we mainly shoot past without knowing they are even there. And then there is evidence which we keep looking for but not even with aerial scrutiny can we find: primarily of course the site of the Mons Graupius battlefield. (If indeed it ever existed.). And did Calgacus ever live – he of the fabled line “they have created a desert and called it peace”.
Nancy brought expertise and an engaging enthusiasm to her talk, which provided a deeply-informed and extremely well-illustrated guide to this complicated but endlessly fascinating period of our history.
Maps for many of us are seldom other than enthralling and our talk on 18 March by Laragh Quinney, Maps Reading Rooms Manager at the National Library of Scotland, was appropriately compelling. The NLS has a collection of over two million maps and atlases, over 200,000 of which have been digitised. Laragh’s presentation illustrated a wide range of historical maps of Aboyne and Deeside and she demonstrated on the website: maps.nls.uk how readily users can access the collection online to reveal in astonishing detail both the underlying continuities and also the radical transformations in our communities over the years. This was readily acknowledged to be a hugely valuable resource for everyone interested in our rich heritage.
Our talk on 19 February gave us a fascinating insight into the recent, award-winning refurbishment of the Fife Arms Hotel in Braemar.
The story of the Fife Arms Project is, by any measure, a remarkable one and, as told and illustrated by two virtuosos from our own community: Ben Addy, the architect and his brother Tom, in charge of demolition and construction, it made for compelling listening and viewing. Astonishingly fresh and novel in its approach to restoration and refurbishment, the hotel retains its historic character whilst highlighting local heritage and craft skills. A building to visit; a talk to savour.