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130 cross Tay Road Bridge for Christian Aid

May 1 2016

More than 130 people took part in Christian Aid’s annual sponsored Tay Bridge Cross event. Among the participants was 98-year-old Douglas Tucker, who was accompanied by his granddaughter Annie, 20, and son Peter, 54, from St Andrews. A life-long supporter of the charity, Douglas has taken part in the Tay Bridge Cross for over 10 years and also appeared in a video for the its 70th anniversary conference.

Perth & Kinross

Firefighters battle blaze at Bankfoot farm

June 22 2016

Flames tore through a Perthshire farm, reducing a huge barn to a charred ruin. Tonnes of baled hay within provided ample fuel for the fire and the building’s interior swiftly became a raging inferno. Smoke billowed into the air above Bankfoot as it burned, making the fire visible for miles around. Emergency services were scrambled to the scene, at Belstane Farm on the outskirts of the village, shortly after 2pm. Three units from Perth were swiftly joined by another from Dunkeld as crews discovered a 20x20 shed filled with hay engulfed in flame. They worked to prevent the fire from spreading to other buildings, which were dampened-down to keep them safe. As they did so, the barn began to crumple as the fire punched holes in its sides and its structure began to weaken. Scottish Fire and Rescue said the incident had been “under control” within a couple of hours. Two crews remained on scene for some hours, however, as it continued to burn. No-one was injured.

Perth & Kinross

Confusion over architect choice as contractor is chosen to take forward winning Perth City Hall vision

June 2 2017

Confusion surrounded the £20 million transformation of Perth City Hall  after one of the project partners appeared to suggest a winning architect had been selected - months ahead of the decision date. On its website, Hub East Central Scotland declared that Hoskins Architects - one of five firms who have put forward designs - was already a "key appointment". Council chiefs were swift to claim there was nothing sinister at play and said there had been a simple misunderstanding. Hoskins have already been announced as architects for the £10 million regeneration of Perth Museum and Art Gallery. Hub East central Scotland was unavailable for comment but a Perth and Kinross Council spokeswoman confirmed: "The tendering process is ongoing. No decision has been made." A spokesman for Richard Murphy Architects said he had "no concerns" with the process and accepted there had been "a simple error". Amidst the confusion, it was announced that BAM Construction will be responsible for delivering the chosen vision for the B-listed building. Five different proposals have been put forward by some of the UK’s top architects and all will go on public display later this month. Comments will be welcomed, but the final decision will be taken by Culture Perth and Kinross and the council. Work is expected to begin in 2019, with the project to be delivered by 2021 - when Perth hopes to be UK City of Culture. More than £30 million is being spent rejuvenating the city's cultural offering, with £10 million being spent on the museum project and £20 million on the hall. BAM Construction has specialist experience in working on heritage and cultural projects, including Glasgow’s Riverside Museum, and is currently building the new V&A Museum of Design in Dundee. Regional director Bruce Dickson said: “Having already been appointed on the refurbishment of Perth Museum and Art Gallery, we are absolutely delighted to be given the opportunity to work with hub East Central Scotland and Perth and Kinross Council on the city hall. “It is fair to say that, once completed, these two buildings will transform the city’s arts and culture scene while at the same time retaining the links to the city’s rich heritage.” Five architects have been shortlisted for the project following an RIAS-led design competition: Austin-Smith Lord, Hoskins Architects, LDN, Mecanoo and Richard Murphy Architects. Each has been tasked with formulating a scheme to convert the 1914 Grade B-listed building into a world-class visual arts visitor experience capable of stimulating the local economy and attracting visitors from across Scotland, the UK and worldwide. The reimagined building will create a new 1,500m² flexible exhibition hall that can accommodate displays of differing content and scale. It will not only be a home to permanent collections of local archaeology and social history, but will also be able to host touring exhibitions. Perth and Kinross Council and Culture Perth and Kinross officials are pushing for a decision on whether the Stone of Destiny can be relocated to the rejuvenated hall from Edinburgh Castle. The wider plans include a large learning suite, collections handling area and substantial commercial visitor facilities including a café and retail area. Perth and Kinross Council’s depute chief executive Jim Valentine said: "We're delighted to be working with BAM on this prestigious project. “Having an experienced and knowledgeable contractor on board will help the transformation of Perth City Hall run smoothly over the coming years. “This is an exciting stage in the project as we look to finalise the architectural firm which will develop the final designs and the concept of a new cultural attraction really starts to take shape.”

Perth & Kinross

Underwater archaeologist reflects on 20 years at helm of Scottish Crannog Centre

December 9 2017

Loch Tay has long been the site of archaeological interest as the stunning Highland Perthshire location was once home to our Iron Age ancestors. It was not until 1994, however, that the public were offered a visual guide to ancient habitations with the beginnings of what was to become the Scottish Crannog Centre. The now iconic structure was created over two years by American-born underwater archaeologist Barrie Andrian and her husband, Dr Nick Dixon, who together co-founded the Scottish Trust for Underwater Archaeology. After two decades of pioneering and hands-on leadership, Ms Andrian has now announced her retirement from her position as director of the centre. She leaves behind a nationally and internationally lauded visitor attraction that has contributed massively to understanding of Scotland’s Iron Age past and after a thoroughly memorable year. "It has been an amazing adventure and journey from start to finish but for me it is the end of era,” Ms Andrian said. “I thank everyone who has supported us and me personally over the years and all the staff and volunteers who have contributed to our success.” The couple built the crannog between 1994 and 1996 as an archaeological experiment, based on their underwater discoveries in Loch Tay. The distinctive peaked round-houses were once found on lochs across parts of Scotland, providing a measure to security for local peoples. After opening to the public in 1997 with just a portacabin on the shore, the enterprising couple went on to develop the Scottish Crannog Centre, adding a visitor centre, exhibits, craft stations, dugout canoes and more. Ms Andrian and her team went on to win many awards including Visit Scotland 5 star status, Investors in People, Best Visitor Attraction in Perthshire and Gold awards from the Green Tourism Business Scheme. These accolades led to the centre’s recognition as an archaeological open-air museum through a three-year €1.2 million EU project that saw it collaborate with museums in seven other countries. Ms Andrian and her husband also developed the centre's now signature Iron Age living history experience, which attract visitors of all ages, and have featured regularly on television. The centre celebrated its 20th anniversary by staging its largest ever living history event — the Celts Are Coming! — and receiving the award of Full Museum Accreditation by Museums Galleries Scotland. It was also a finalist in the Best Heritage Tourism Experience category at this year’s Scottish Thistle Regional Awards. To cap a great year, Dr Dixon was presented with an OBE for services to underwater archaeology, public engagement and the Scottish economy. Ms Andrian and Dr Dixon will remain involved with the Trust and the Scottish Crannog Centre in a freelance capacity, continuing their underwater work and assisting with future museum developments. “As the new era begins, great opportunities lie ahead” Ms Andrian said. A new director will be announced later this month.


Dundee man admits brutal assault on partner

August 4 2016

A Dundee man has admitted smashing his partner's head off a wall and sink in a brutal attack following a night out in the pub. Troy McRae kicked down a locked bathroom door to get to Sarah Marshall. He shattered a glass panel and then tore the door from its hinges to lay hands on her. Dundee Sheriff Court heard he seized her by her neck and threw her against a wall, causing her head to bounce off it. He then threw her to the ground, causing her to strike her head off a sink. McRae only stopped when friends intervened, leaving Ms Marshall to slump to the floor. Moments later, as her assailant left the house, she collapsed in the hallway and paramedics were called. McRae's rampage continued in the street outside, where he assaulted a neighbour who had come to investigate the disturbance. The court heard the accused and his victim had known each other for around a year but had been in a relationship for little more than four weeks. They had been out drinking at a local pub when the incident began in June last year. When they began to argue at the Brig o' Tay pub in Newport, his partner and her friends left to return to her home. McRae joined them ten minutes later, angry and agitated and refusing to be calmed. He threw one of his partner's friends on to a sofa and then picked up a coffee table and smashed it against a wall. When he then retired to a bedroom, Ms Marshall locked herself in a bathroom and ran a bath. Matters escalated when McRae came knocking at the door. The court heard that his victim had sustained a swollen left eye in the assault that followed and she told paramedics she had lost consciousness, though she did not require hospitalisation. Solicitor George Donnelly reserved the right to offer a plea in mitigation until McRae returns for sentencing. He did, however, offer some comments on the level of injury, which were accepted by The Crown. The solicitor said: "An ambulance man stated that when he checked over the complainer there were no obvious injuries. "He could not tell if Ms Marshall had been assaulted. "There was also no medical evidence that there had been a gap in consciousness." He added that his client was a first offender and that there was nothing in his previous relationships to suggest that he had behaved in such a manner before. The court heard that the pair's relationship had continued since the assault — despite a bail condition preventing them from having contact. Police officers discovered McRae at Ms Marshall's home on one occasion as they carried out a "welfare check". They could see the couple together through a window though, after opening the door to them, Ms Marshall told them she was alone. McRae was found hiding under her bed. Mr Donnelly pointed out that as the couple had a child together, born in April 2016, there had clearly been at least one further breach of bail that had gone unnoticed. "As the Americans say, 'you do the math'," he said. He added McRae's partner was keen to see the bail conditions removed so they could be together and to enable him to support the child. McRae, 28, of Whitehall Gardens in Dundee, pleaded guilty to three charges of assault and one of behaving in a threatening and abusive manner at an address in Newport-on-Tay on May 29 and 30 last year and a breach of bail conditions on June 9, 2015. Sheriff Alastair Brown said: "The allegations to which you have pleaded guilty seem to describe a rather serious assault. "I accept that the ambulance paramedic did not see injuries but to kick off in this way is troubling." Sentence was deferred until September 12.


Dundee confirmed as venue for Scotland’s first Musicians Against Homelessness gig

May 27 2016

A 12-hour Dundee music marathon will see kind-hearted bands do their bit to battle homelessness and signal the arrival of a new musical phenomenon in Scotland. The city has been confirmed as the host of the country’s first gig in support of Musicians Against Homelessness, whose twin aims are to raise funds for the homeless charity Crisis and boost up-and-coming bands. Gigs of all sizes have already been arranged across England, ranging from intimate affairs in local pubs to the launch event at the Leeds 02 Academy, featuring Cast and The Farm. The Dundee gig takes place at the Whitehall Theatre and will be headlined by 90s indie rockers Hurricaine#1, whose members have counted Ride and Oasis among their other bands. They will lead a bill that also features Dundee’s own The Mirror Trap, who are rapidly gaining international fame, together with a number of new acts. Musicians against Homelessness was launched by music business veteran Emma Rule and former Oasis manager Alan McGee, who himself has experience of life on the streets. Before rising to success, the Glasgow-born businessman spent time homeless in London, once sharing a squat with future Primal Scream star Andrew Innes. They hope the Dundee gig will be the first of many in Scotland, helping Musicians Against Homelessness to become an annual event. The idea instantly caught the attention of Dundee music promoter Stuart Robertson, who has pulled together a roster of hit and up-and-coming bands for his home city. He said: “This is the first in Scotland and we’ve got some great bands to take part. “There are nine in all, from Hurricane#1 to established local names and newcomers who will benefit from the chance to show what they can do.” Event co-founder Emma, who has volunteered with Crisis for some years, said: “Stuart contacted us keen to make Dundee the first place in Scotland to organise a gig. “We were gobsmacked by how quickly he managed to pull together such a great bill, headlined by Hurricaine#1, who Alan actually signed back in the day.” Emma said she was still astonished by how Musicians Against Homelessness had grown in such a short space of time. “This all started when I put a single post of social media looking for my local pub to do a little gig for Crisis,” she said. “I received about 100 replies from local acts willing to take part and when I mentioned that to Alan he jumped at the suggestion that we try to make this bigger – and then came on board as patron. “It turns out he was homeless before he formed Creation and signed Oasis and squatted in the streets of London. “In just a few weeks we found that we had potentially hundreds of individual events taking place and we’re still looking for more and more venues and bands to take part. Gigs will take place over three weeks between September 18 and October 9, with the Dundee event being held at the Whitehall Theatre on September 24. The music begins at 11.15 and keeps going for 12 hours with ten acts on the bill, including The Phantoms, Holy Pistol Club, Wolves and Our Future Glory, Lional and Seaside Sons. Tickets are available from www.dundeebox.co.uk. Further information on Musicians Against Homelessness is available on the campaign’s Facebook page. mmackay@thecourier.co.uk

Perth & Kinross

Perthshire estate on sale for £10.9 million

July 7 2017

A 3,790-acre estate in Highland Perthshire has been placed on the market with a price tag of offers over £10.9 million. Bolfracks Estate, near Aberfeldy, is described by selling agents Strutt and Parker and John Clegg and Co as “a superb residential, farming, sporting and forestry estate in a majestic Perthshire setting”. The sale includes a stunning nine-bedroom principal house built in the 17th Century and enlarged in the 19th Century, together with renowned gardens and a separate contemporary five-bedroom house. It also comes with a residential property portfolio of 10 houses and cottages, an organic livestock farm carrying approximately 940 ewes and 85 cows, 2,674 acres of commercial forestry plantations and a hydro-electricity scheme that earns an average net annual income of £90,000. There are also leisure and tourism opportunities and a diverse range of traditional field sports. Strutt and Parker partner Robert McCulloch said: “Highland Perthshire is amongst the most attractive and sought after parts of the UK and Bolfracks is one of the best estates in the county. “With a diverse selection of lots appealing to buyers right across the rural property spectrum, we expect a busy few months promoting the sale.” The forestry element of the estate - Bolfracks Forest - combines vigorous, high yield-class conifer crops with mixed native woodland and native Caledonian woodland. John Lambert from John Clegg and Co, which specialises in forestry sales, said the forest was available as a separate lot for offers over £3.75million. He said:  “Bolfracks Forest is unusual in that the forestry operations are managed in-hand, with all forestry equipment owned by the estate. “It will produce a significant tax-free income for the years to come and is served by a comprehensive network of forest roads The estate is offered for sale as a whole or in 16 lots.


Jailed thief told £1,700 booze bid was “inept but serious”

May 10 2016

A man filled a trolley “to the brim” with £1,700 worth of booze and tried to walk out of a supermarket because he was “angry” about a failed job interview. Gheorge Ilie was jailed over the bizarre offence, which he carried out to make it up to his family for missing out on an employment opportunity. The father of five’s lawyer told a court: “He was going to sell the items and take the money down to his family and offer that to them by way of compensation for not getting the job.” Dundee Sheriff Court heard Ilie tried to conceal the bottles with bags but security tags on them activated alarms as he trie to walk quickly out of the store. Fiscal depute John Adams told the court: “Witnesses were dealing with a matter at the customer service desk when they saw the accused walk briskly passed them towards the exit. “He was pushing a large trolley filled to the brim with bottles of various spirits. “Bags were placed on top of them in an attempt to conceal them. “The alarm system was triggered and the witnesses ran after the accused.” Ilie was escorted back to the store and held there until police arrived. His solicitor told the court he had been “unaware” the bottles were alarmed. Ilie, 40, of Nelson Street, East Ham, London, pleaded guilty on summary complaint to a charge of theft by shopligting at the Morrisons supermarket in Afton Way, Dundee, on April 8. Sheriff George Way jailed Ilie for 60 days and said: “What you were trying to do was steal quite a lot. “It may have been inept but it was still a serious attempt.”

Perth & Kinross

First exploration of ancient seat of Celtic power begins

September 12 2017

The possibility of discovering evidence a Celtic chieftain once ruled from on high above Dunkeld is a tantalising one. A few feet of earth above the site known as King’s Seat may be all that separates archaeology teams from an array of artefacts. No excavation has ever been undertaken at the Fort of the Caledonians – which gave the town its name – and it had been overgrown for decades. Experts and the first of a number of teams of volunteers of all ages have begun the task of exploring the hill fort. An initial two-week dig – led by Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust in partnership with Dunkeld and Birnam Historical Society – is part of a wider three-year project. It aims to increase knowledge of what the trust calls “a mysterious and unstudied site” while also gaining a greater understanding of the impact vegetation has had. The site has long been seen as one of Perthshire’s great unexplored fortifications, making the dig an exciting prospect for all involved. An examination was made of the site by the respected archaeologist RW Feachan, who wrote extensively on the Iron Age hill forts of northern Britain. Though his own efforts were cursory, he was moved to describe it as “a most promising site likely to produce artefacts”. It is the second major dig undertaken in recent years, with an excavation of another ancient seat of power, at Moredun Top on Moncrieffe Hill, providing ample evidence of its importance. Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust’s Sarah Malone said: “The hill fort of King’s Seat is situated on a prominent hill on a major bend in the River Tay. “With such a dominating position, it is not just a dramatic geographical feature in the landscape but a fascinating location for human activity in the past. “We’re hoping to help reveal more about the intangible heritage of the hillfort and its surrounding environs.” The team has already been busy with place name research, further vegetation clearance and a topographic survey, with a huge number of volunteers taking part. More have signed-up to take part in the dig and local schools are also getting involved in the project, which forms part of the Perth and Kinross Archaeology Year 2017. Outreach officer Gavin Lindsay said: “The King’s Seat Community Archaeology Project is a fantastic way to encourage younger generations to take and active interest in the past and learn more about their incredible local heritage. “Archaeology isn’t part of the national curriculum so it is really important to get the message across, not just through visiting schools and telling them about archaeology but by teaching them new transferrable skills and getting them out of the classroom and into trenches to discover their past at the trowel’s edge.” The project will run for three years. Visit the project webpage at www.pkht.org.uk for more information.


Major search operation on Tay to enter third day

June 13 2016

Emergency services scoured the Tay at Dundee for much of the weekend after reports of a man in the water. Thick fog was a constant opponent for Coastguard, Police and RNLI units who descended upon the river on Saturday afternoon. A second day of searching concluded yesterday without success. Recovery efforts are expected to resume today. Police Scotland first received reports of man entering the water near to the Tay Road Bridge shortly after 4pm on Saturday. The Broughty Ferry Lifeboat was scrambled and launches from the RNLI station were also detailed to search an area between the V&A construction site and Tesco on the Riverside. A short time later, they were joined by the Coastguard helicopter and throughout the afternoon the search area slowly widened to take in a stretch of water from Dundee Port to Dundee Airport. Spotters with binoculars were situated on the bridge and along the shoreline to direct the search, which continued until haar and poor light brought it to a halt. At one stage onlookers saw a flare in the water and as red smoke billowed, helicopter, lifeboat and launch all briefly converged, opposite Dundee airport. Just as swiftly, however, they split again and began once more to sweep the river, back and forward in an ultimately fruitless search. The Coastguard helicopter left shortly after to refuel before returning to make use of the last few moments of light. On Sunday, however, it was grounded at its base in the north of Scotland by thick fog. The Broughty Ferry lifeboat continued its search of the water, but crews were hampered throughout the day by the same concealing mirk. Police Scotland said it was continuing to carry out inquiries and assist in the ongoing search. A spokesman said: “Emergency services were alerted to a report of a member of the public, believed to be a man, entering the river Tay at around 4.20pm on Saturday.”