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Collectors' Corner

Scottish pistols were works of art

February 25 2017

“SEND ME my pistolls…” This from a letter I have at home dated December 1680 and addressed to ‘Davie Drummond, Clerke to the Garisone off Dumbartone’ – the promontory fortress overlooking Dumbarton, which has the longest recorded history of any stronghold in Scotland. Pistols were important weaponry in the Scotland of three centuries ago – and a surviving inventory from Dumbarton Castle in 1644 shows the fortress still armed to the teeth with an armoury which included “33 corslets, 105 helmets, and 43 swords.” Pistols of the period were made in towns such as Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee – but the most famous were crafted in the Perthshire village of Doune. The great makers there included John Murdoch, whose guns are said to have fired the first shots in the American War of Independence at the Battle of Lexington. Arms and armour specialist Thomas del Mar featured a distinguished Doune pistol in its London sale last month. This was a Scottish flintlock belt pistol formed entirely of steel by John Campbell and crafted in Doune around 1710 – at the time, I suppose, a certain Rob Rob was roaming glens nearby. Campbell was the first in his family of three generations of gunmakers in Doune and was apprenticed to Thomas Caddell, another famous maker. Signed by Campbell, the pistol was exquisitely engraved with scrolling foliage and traditional Celtic ornament. Such pistols were generally worn on the left, hooked into a belt to allow a ‘quick draw’. That’s why this example has a long belt hook and no trigger guard. The ‘ball’ seen at the base of the handle is a pricker, a round-headed spike screwed into the butt and used to clean the touch-hole. Eighteenth Century Scottish pistols were almost unique in being predominantly steel, bypassing brass. They were works of art, made to look elegant, with the best specimens boasting fine silver inlay and engraved designs. The Celtic ornament on the Thomas del Mar example is characteristic of the type. The scrolling ram’s-horn handle is also a Scottish feature. No doubt the Dumbarton defenders were well aware that, once fired, the barrel could be swapped around by deft handling, allowing the pistol’s butt to become a lethal club! Estimated at £7000-£9000, the pistol exceeded hopes to take £10,500.  

Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...

Angus & The Mearns

Colonial collection to go under the hammer in Montrose

May 5 2017

A broad range of artefacts from the British Empire’s colonial past will go under the hammer in Angus this weekend. Taylor’s Auction Rooms in Montrose will offer more than 3,000 lots of “fascinating” items from Africa, America, the Pacific Rim and the UK on Saturday. Bids are invited on a number of Victorian-era curios from Africa including tribal masks, figures, spears and knobkerrie fighting sticks. Saleroom manager Jonathan Smith said the largest number come from the Congo, Ivory Coast, Guinea, and South Africa. “These were gathered over a number of years by a collector based in Aberdeenshire whose family had first visited Africa at the turn of the century,” he said. Unusual blunderbuss firearms will also be up for auction, along with an extensive collection of 18th & 19th Century pistols and sporting guns. A late 18th Century brass-barrelled flintlock blunderbuss, by the London gunsmith Knubley & Co, is estimated at £600 to £800. Knubley & Co was gunmaker to the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Clarence, who became George IV and William IV respectively. Another significant firearm up for sale is a rare officer’s “pill-lock” officer’s pistol from the early 19th Century. “These were rarely used by the British Army as the pellets required for firing were too small and easy to lose in combat situations,” Mr Taylor added. Among the other firearms is a “blunderbuss pistol” by Thomson of Doncaster, estimated at £700 to £900. The guns appear beside a wide range of taxidermy studies from the plains of Africa including ibex, springbok and hartebeest, and a Victorian display with indigenous Australian birds. Other items to be sold include a Native American Plains Indian headdress with coyote fur and feathers, with beadwork decoration, a 19th Century dervish sword. One African mask is in baulewood with horned headdress, and another is possibly Inuit.

Motoring news

Join the queue for littlest Audi Q

November 9 2016

Audi’s relentless release of new models continues with the launch of its smallest SUV. The Q2 goes on sale in the UK next week with prices starting at £22,380. There’s an extensive selection of petrol and diesel power trains as well as the option of front or Quattro four-wheel drive. More models will be added to the range later on, including powerful SQ2 and RSQ2 versions. Aimed squarely at a younger audience, the Q2 has bolder, sharper lines and a different shape to Audi’s bigger SUVs, the Q3, Q5 and Q7. Although it’s clearly meant more for buzzing around cities than growling across farmland, cladding and skid plates lend it an aura of ruggedness. Audi is also offering a range of vibrant colours to deepen the Q2’s appeal to youthful buyers. The interior is as plush as you’d expect from Audi, justifying its price hike over similarly sized SUVs like the Nissan Juke and Honda HR-V. The materials are high quality – softtouch plastics, leather on higher spec cars and brushed aluminium trim elements all blended into a smart-looking package. As standard, drivers get a seven-inch infotainment screen on top of the dashboard. It’s operated through Audi’s rotary dial system that’s far more intuitive and easier to use when on the move than rivals’ touchscreen systems. Among the many options is Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit - a 12.3in screen that replaces the manual instruments behind the steering wheel. Overall, the Q2 is 4.7in shorter than the A3 hatchback, but Audi says there’s enough leg and headroom for two adult passengers in the back. Boot space comes in at 405 litres – 50 more than you’ll find in the A3 hatchback and rival Nissan Juke, although it trails the Mini Countryman by the same amount. To begin with, the only diesel option is a 1.6 litre with 114bhp, although a more powerful 184bhp 2.0 litre unit will be added to the range soon. Similarly, the petrol engine range is limited for now but will be expanded by the end of the year. The 1.4 litre, 148bhp unit offered now will be joined by 1.0 litre, 114bhp three cylinder turbo and 2.0 litre, 187bhp options – the latter coming with an S-Tronic automatic gearbox. When it arrives the 1.0 litre petrol version will be the cheapest model in the range with a price tag of £20,230. Courier Motoring has yet to get its hands on the car but early reviews have been very positive and Audi looks to have yet another winner on its hands. jmckeown@thecourier.co.uk

Motoring news

Form an orderly Q for Audi SUV

August 10 2016

First there was the Q7. Then the Q5 and Q3. All have been a phenomenal success for Audi. I’d be surprised if that script changes when the Q2 arrives in November. Audi’s baby SUV is available to order now with prices starting at £22,380. Can’t quite stretch to that? Don’t worry, an entry level three-cylinder 1.0 litre version will be available later this year with a cover tag of £20,230. From launch, there are three trim levels available for the Q2 called SE, Sport and S Line. The range-topping Edition #1 model will be available to order from next month priced from £31,170. While the entry-level 113bhp 1.0-litre unit isn’t available right away, engines you can order now include a 113bhp 1.6-litre diesel and 148bhp 1.4-litre petrol unit, both with manual or S tronic automatic transmissions. Also joining the Q2 line-up from September is the 2.0-litre TDI diesel with 148bhp or 187bhp. This unit comes with optional Quattro all-wheel drive. A 2.0 litre petrol with Quattro and S tronic joins the range next year. Standard equipment for the new Audi Q2 includes a multimedia infotainment system with rotary/push-button controls, supported with sat-nav. Audi’s smartphone-friendly interface, 16in alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity and heated and electric mirrors are all also standard for the Audi. Along with the optional Audi virtual cockpit and the head-up display, the driver assistance systems for the Audi Q2 also come from the larger Audi models – including the Audi pre sense front with pedestrian recognition that is standard. The system recognises critical situations with other vehicles as well as pedestrians crossing in front of the vehicle, and if necessary it can initiate hard braking – to a standstill at low speeds. Other systems in the line-up include adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go function, traffic jam assist, the lane-departure warning system Audi side assist, the lane-keeping assistant Audi active lane assist, traffic sign recognition and rear cross-traffic assist.

Motoring news

Audi showcases raft of new cars

June 29 2016

Audi threw everything it had at the Goodwood Festival of Speed last weekend, with no fewer than nine upcoming models making their UK debuts. One of the most interesting – and affordable – was the new Q2. Audi’s smallest crossover yet, it’ll sit underneath the Q3, Q5 and big ole Q7. It will be available as a front wheel drive or with Audi’s Quattro four-wheel drive system. Under the skin there’s a choice of three TFSI petrol and three TDI diesels, with Audi’s 1.0 litre three-cylinder petrol offering 114bhp, the 1.4 litre four-cylinder sitting below the 187bhp 2,.0 litre TFSI. Diesel options are the 1.6 litre TDI with 114bhp and a pair of 2.0 litre TDIs with 148bhp or 187bhp. It goes on sale later this summer with a starting price expected to be in the region of £20,000. At the other end of the price scale is the R8 V10 Spyder. The 553bhp supercar comes a year after the second generation coupe R8 was released. Audi reckons the new Spyder is 50 per cent stiffer than the last Spyder, and its canvas roof stows beneath a massive rear deck, able to open or close at speeds up to 31mph in 20 seconds. Fuel economy “improves” to just over 24mpg thanks to a new coasting function that idles the engine when it’s not needed. Expect it to cost around £130,000. In between those two extremes are a plethora of other upcoming Audis, including the new S5 Coupe, and the Audi TT RS which first revealed a year ago is hardly new but apparently it had never been seen in the UK before. A couple of Q7s were also at Goodwood, including the Q7 e-tron plug-in hybrid, which returns a claimed 156mpg, and the SQ7 – a diesel with 429bhp. There was also the refreshed A3 range. Audi’s upmarket Golf rival has been given a styling refresh along with a few new engine options. Following a trend for downsizing, there’s a 1.0 litre three -cylinder petrol unit, while a powerful 2.0 petrol engine also joins the range.

Perth & Kinross

Culinary dimension added to Perth Show

July 28 2016

For more than 150 years Perth Show has been a popular, once a year meeting point for the people of the city and the farming community. The show - now the third largest of its type in Scotland – remains as always a showcase for champion livestock but this year holds a much wider appeal for visitors. To be held on Friday and Saturday August 5 and 6 on the South Inch, throughout the two days, trade stands, sideshows, entertainment, activities, music and parades all add to the vibrancy of the show along with a new culinary direction. “For the first time, Perth Show is set to feature a cookery theatre and food and drink marquee,” said show secretary Neil Forbes. “This will bring a new and popular dimension to the visitor attraction. “Perth Show 2016 is also delighted to welcome Perthshire On A Plate (POAP) - a major food festival, celebrating the very best in local produce and culinary talent. “Organised by Perthshire Chamber of Commerce, the two-day festival will run as part of the show and feature celebrity and local chefs, demonstrations and tastings, book signings, food and drink related trade stands, fun-filled activities for ‘kitchen kids’ and a large dining area and pop-up restaurants in a double celebration of food and farming.” Heading the celebrity chef line-up are television favourite Rosemary Shrager (Friday) and spice king Tony Singh (Saturday), backed by a host of talented local chefs including Graeme Pallister (63 Tay Street) and Grant MacNicol (Fonab Castle). The cookery theatre, supported by Quality Meat Scotland, will also stage a fun cookery challenge between students from Perth College and the ladies of the SWI. A range of pop-up restaurants featuring taster dishes from some of the area’s best known eating places will allow visitors to sample local produce as they relax in the show’s new POAP dining area. “We’re trying to create a wide and varied programme of entertainment,” said Mr Forbes. “Late afternoon on Friday will see the It’s A Knockout  challenge with teams from businesses throughout Perth and Perthshire competing against each other. “And the first day’s programme will end with a beer, wine and spirit festival where teams can celebrate their achievements and visitors can sample a wide range of locally produced drinks.” This year will also see the reintroduction of showjumping at Perth Show on the Saturday afternoon.

Farming news

SNP handling of new beef scheme attacked

November 10 2016

The Scottish Government's own efficiency has been called into question over the handling of the new £45million Beef Efficiency Scheme (BES). An estimated 180,000 beef cows from 2000 Scottish farmers have been enrolled in the new five-year  scheme which aims to improve the efficiency and quality of the beef herd and help producers increase the genetic value of their stock. But months after signing up for the scheme, farmers are still waiting to be supplied with special tags to meet the rules which call for 'tissue tagging' of 20% of cattle. And now NFU Scotland's livestock chairman Charlie Adam says farmers' confidence in the scheme is being affected and has called for the rules to be adjusted. The union has also urged the Scottish Government to update all scheme applicants on progress with BES and let them know when the necessary tags will arrive. “If tag delays cannot be resolved in the immediate future, then the Scottish Government should recognise the problem and make the tissue tagging element voluntary for 2016. This will allow those who can take samples from the animals that they still own to do so,"  said Mr Adam. “Applicants to this important scheme, worth £45 million to the industry, have every right to know now, and in detail, what they are expected to do to fulfil their BES obligations and Scottish Government must get back on the front foot in delivering the scheme.” Mr Adam added that it was frustrating for the farmers who have already housed and handled their cattle for the winter as many of those animals were by now located in overwintering accommodation that can be some distance from home farms. Shadow Rural Economy secretary, Peter Chapman MSP claimed it was impossible for farmers to sell store cattle in the autumn sales until they were told which animals need tagged and were sent  the tags to do the job. He added: "This will create huge cash flow and logistic problems for farmers who normally sell calves at this time – this is the SNP letting farmers down yet again.” A Scottish Government spokesman said work was under way to rectify the problem and a timetable was expected by the end of the week. He added: "It is not necessary for farmers to hold off from selling their animals. "We will ensure that the sampling regime accommodates those farmers who have sold their calves and there will be no penalties for those whoo have. It may mean that some farmers will have a higher rate of sampling next year." nnicolson@thecourier.co.uk      


Games jam played out well in Dundee

September 25 2016

Dundee  developers have come up with new virtual reality games in just 24 hours as part of a competition. A games jam took place from 4pm on Thursday until 4pm on Friday at Tag Games, resulting in games prototypes with names like Spider Spider, Mouse of Horrors and Terminal Station. The developers also created their own answer to the famous Boaty McBoatface, with a game titled Vanny McVanFace. Virtual reality, a form of technology that simulates a player's presence in a replica of a real environment, is said to be the future of games with some VR versions already present in many living rooms. Tag's marketing executive Gavin Moffat said: "At the games jam, staff split into four teams of four people - a designer, an artist and programmers. "They then had 24 hours to design a game prototype. "You would struggle to design a full game in that time, although it could be done if you're extremely good and the game is simple. "But with a prototype, you could then spend months perfecting and polishing it into a full game. "Some really great ideas can come out of these jam - you have to be creative and work fast. It was a great event. "This time the theme was virtual reality. Virtual reality headsets are already being used but it's difficult to say whether they'll become the default in gaming. "It could be the case that it's popular for a few years and then people get bored of it, or it could remain popular. "However, it certainly has great potential." Over the past 20 years Dundee has become an international hub for games developers with the world's biggest-selling video game - Grand Theft Auto - starting life in the city. Games jam are popular events where games developers get together to brainstorm ideas and create new prototypes within a short space of time.

Angus & The Mearns

“Give me that fag or I’ll shoot you” — Jail for man who pointed pistol for single cigarette

August 4 2016

A man who pointed a gun at a man's head to steal a single cigarette has been jailed for 27 months. Kevin Ross pulled an air pistol - which looked like a real handgun - on Spanish national Andreas Giallombardo at Arbroath railway station on a busy Friday night, sparking a major police operation. Several streets were closed as a cordon was thrown up around the scene of the incident on March 11 this year. Specialist police assisted local officers as they probed the bizarre incident. Incredibly, Mr Giallombardo, 41, remained so calm that he managed to talk Ross into lowering the gun. Fiscal depute Eilidh Robertson told Forfar Sheriff Court: "The complainer was standing outside Arbroath station and was approached by the accused who he thinks he recognises from local pubs. "After a few minutes the accused tried to grab a cigarette from the complainer saying 'give me that fag or I'll shoot you'. "He then pointed a black handgun at his forehead. "The victim told the accused to stop being stupid and put the gun away. "He then said he was going to call the police and went away to call 999. "Police attended and the accused was found nearby. "Sniffer dogs then found the handgun nearby. "The gun was examined and found to be a CO2-powered weapon powerful enough to be classed as a firearm." Ross, 43, a prisoner at HMP Perth, appeared at Forfar Sheriff Court and pleaded guilty on indictment to presenting an air pistol to Andreas Giallombardo with intent to rob him, and the unlawful possession of the pistol in a public place. Ross admitted assaulting Mr Giallombardo, presenting an imitation pistol at him, threatening to shoot him, and demanding a cigarette from him, with intent to rob him. He further admitted having an imitation firearm without lawful authority or reasonable excuse. Defence solicitor Mike Horsman said: "He can give no real explanation for this ridiculous behaviour. "He accepts this was an extremely stupid act on his part. It has to be accepted it must have been terrifying for the complainer." Sheriff Gregor Murray jailed Ross for 27 months, reduced from three years for his early plea. He said: "Any person who takes a firearm and uses it in the act of robbery must accept there is no alternative to a significant custodial sentence. "You have an analagous previous conviction at the High Court."