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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…


Last great British land battle marked

April 19 2010

Around 300 people gathered on Saturday to mark the 264th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden. April 16, 1746, changed life in the Highlands and Islands forever, in the wake of the last major battle on British soil. The Gaelic Society of Inverness held its first commemoration in 1926 and has held it on the nearest Saturday ever since. Society chairman Allan Campbell said the defeat and its aftermath were a disaster for the Gaels and signalled the end of an era. He said, “When Hanoverian troops rampaged through the Highlands after the battle, more people died than had during the entire 1745 rebellion. “It was an attempt to eradicate a people and their culture.” Mr Campbell said that although the clan system was largely destroyed it continued in other ways particularly abroad. Now receiving increasing interest, the Gaelic language also miraculously survived. Dr Angus MacDonald played The Prince’s Lament for all those braving the bitter wind at the Culloden Cairn. Gaelic Society chieftain Brigadier Iain MacFarlane of Taynuilt said that the landscape of Culloden Moor posed a “tactical nightmare for the Highlanders.” As the Jacobites stood waiting he described “the red columns of the government troops with their Highland and Lowland allies taking to the field in disciplined ranks.” He said battle cries gave clans comforting ties to their people and lands and called for them to “remember those from whom you have come” but for the Jacobites there was to be no happy ending. Brig MacFarlane told of the clans’ “crucifixion by cannon, mortar and canister rounds which laid low loyal companions of a lifetime.” Despite the carnage the Jacobites charged, despite being decimated by musket fire. Brig MacFarlane said, “The charge lost momentum in the withering volley of fire and there could only be one outcome.” He said that the aftermath meant “forbidding us our language, tartan and the arms of a warrior race.” Many of those who survived moved abroad or wore the kilt and carried arms for a different cause. Today, Scots are still fighting for the Crown. Brig MacFarlane’s wife Valerie laid the society wreath at the cairn, followed by Culloden Visitor Centre manager Deirdre Smyth. More followed from clan associates, St Andrew societies, The White Cockade Society and many others.

Perth & Kinross

Former sergeant hopes new book might unlock secret of hotelier’s murder

February 28 2011

A retired police sergeant hopes his new book will re-ignite interest in the brutal unsolved murder of a Perthshire hotelier which took place more than 40 years ago. Willie MacFarlane, now curator of the Tayside Police Museum in Dundee, turned detective to gather facts for The History of the Perthshire and Kinross-shire Constabularies, which covers from 1836 until the late 1970s. The book takes a humorous look at each chief constable and describes some of the challenges they faced before the days of the internet or even radio. However, a chapter on the death of Blairgowrie man James Keltie is more grim. The brutally battered body of Mr Keltie was found in a garage at the Muirton House Hotel, near the Lethendy Road, in January 1971. Despite a nationwide inquiry, officers drew a blank, but Mr MacFarlane believes the culprit would have been caught if today’s DNA technology had been available. “This murder is an open file nothing has been in the press about it for years so it would be good if somebody read this and more information on the case came to light,” Mr MacFarlane said. A local businessman found the middle-aged man’s body dressed only in his underwear. He was rushed to Dundee Royal Infirmary but died in the ambulance. Detectives suspected he had disturbed intruders and was dragged to the nearby garage where he was bound, gagged and beaten. Whisky had been stolen from the bar and phone lines severed but no cash was missing. In one of Perthshire’s biggest ever murder hunts, police swarmed the surrounding area. Around 2000 men voluntarily attended the local station to be fingerprinted, high-profile media appeals were launched, leads were followed south of the border and the burgh council put up a £500 reward for information leading to the arrest of the attackers but all to no avail. The murder took place three years before Mr MacFarlane joined the force, but investigations continued throughout the 1970s. Most of the officers involved in the case are now dead but the killer, or killers, could still be at large. Mr MacFarlane branded it “Blair’s most dastardly crime” in his book, adding, “The murder took place just three years before I joined the force and it felt at the time that someone would be caught and put before the courts. “Unlike some other unsolved murders it has had a relatively low profile but the killer, or killers, could still be alive. Someone out there knows what happened to Mr Keltie.” Mr MacFarlane found archive copies of The Courier an ideal resource during his research. However, he admits procedures in policing on the ground were very different then. “I started researching the book more than 10 years ago. It’s great to finally see it in print. I would often hear my older colleagues harking back to the ‘good old days’ before the forces merged to become Tayside Police, and I wanted to find out more. There were so many characters, who made do without phones or cars. It was very different to how police operate nowadays.” Anyone with information about the crime should call Tayside Police on 0300 111 2222.The History of the Perthshire and Kinross-shire Constabularies, published by Culross in Coupar Angus, is on sale now for £10 and can be obtained directly from The Bookshop, Allan Street, Blairgowrie, or the AK Bell Library in York Place, Perth.

Perth & Kinross

Mary’s Meals leader honoured by Perth society

November 17 2016

The man behind the ground-breaking Mary’s Meals campaign has been honoured by a leading educational charity. The Perth-based Royal Scottish Geographical Society has given a prestigious Livingstone Medal to Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow OBE. The accolade, presented for outstanding contribution to humanitarian work, was presented to Mr MacFarlane-Barrow in honour of his 15 years with Mary’s Meals, helping it grow from a simple idea to a major charity which now feeds more than a million schoolchildren in 12 countries around the world each day. He was praised by past medal winner Annie Lennox. The singer said: “As a fellow Scott, I am so proud that exemplary individuals like Magnus are making such a significant contribution on a global scale. I’m sure the whole country will be inspired and applaud this tremendous achievement.” Mr MacFarlane-Barrow said: “When we began this work, we wanted to bring hope to people in desperate situations and help them to change their lives for the better. “Now there is a global movement of people, all working towards the same goal – that every child receives one daily meal in their place of education.” The medal was endowed by society co-founder Agnus Livingstone-Bruce in memory of her father, Dr David Livingstone. It was first given to explorer Sir Harry Johnston in 1901. Since then, it has only been awarded 66 times. Mike Robinson, RSGS chief executive said: “As Magnus himself has said: ‘Every small act of kindness does make a difference’. “And what began as his small act of kindness has undoubtedly made a huge difference to many, many lives.” He added: “Magnus seems to embody the spirit of David Livingston more than anyone I can think of.”

Perth & Kinross

Hotel dinner blamed for erratic driving on motorway

May 31 2013

A motorist who weaved his way erratically along a busy motorway blamed his driving on a dodgy stomach. George MacFarlane, of Potterhill Gardens, Perth, was spotted by a member of the public on the M90 driving in such a way that other cars were forced to swerve to avoid him. The person called the police but later approached MacFarlane at red lights on Perth’s Dundee Road. Upon being confronted, MacFarlane, 44, sped off through a red light, clipping another car as he went. At Perth Sheriff Court on Thursday, he admitted driving without due care and attention on the M90 between Inverkeithing and Perth and on the city’s Dundee Road on September 22 last year. He also admitted driving through a traffic light while it was red, and failing to stop after colliding with another car. Depute fiscal Carol White said: “The member of the public had concerns that the accused might be under the influence of alcohol and called the police. The vehicle had almost collided with several other vehicles.” Solicitor Murray McAuley, defending, said both MacFarlane and his partner had fallen ill with food poisoning after a meal at an Edinburgh hotel. They spent an “uncomfortable” night at the hotel and his partner insisted on going home, despite MacFarlane preferring to “sit it out”. Sheriff Michael Fletcher fined MacFarlane £740 and banned him from the roads for seven months.


Dundee man caught with child abuse images facing ‘significant custodial sentence’

June 5 2013

A 57-year-old Dundee man caught with a hoard of child abuse images has been told to expect a “significant” jail sentence. Graham MacFarlane wept in the dock as the court was told how he accumulated and shared hundreds of videos and thousands of pictures, some involving children as young as one. Police also found mobile phone footage MacFarlane had secretly recorded of a girl undressing. Some of the downloaded material was at the highest level of the scale used to measure child abuse images. MacFarlane, of Seagate, admitted three charges on indictment that between June 30 2011 and June 30 2012 he downloaded and distributed indecent images of children and on January 13 2012 he recorded, without consent, a girl under the age of 16 removing her clothing with the intent of him or others viewing the image. MacFarlane sat with his head in his hands as details of the offences were read out in court on Tuesday. He was bailed on the conditions he has no unsupervised contact with children or accesses the internet. Sentence was deferred until July 16. Fiscal depute Isma Mukhtar said MacFarlane had started downloading and sharing the material after being introduced to child abuse images by people he met at a sauna in Edinburgh. She said: “In June 2012 the accused first came to the attention of police as a consequence of him conversing with a person in Canada on a chatroom about sharing images of children. “Tayside Police detained him at his home and recovered two laptops, a notebook, a hard drive and a mobile phone. “He said some of the equipment would have indecent images on them, including some of children under the age of five. In total, 4,646 still images and 759 videos were recovered.” Dundee Sheriff Court heard MacFarlane had a shared folder on his computer where other online users could look at and distribute the images. He told officers he had never had sexual contact with a child and all the computer equipment had been kept in his van. MacFarlane’s solicitor Rosemary Scott said her client admitted downloading the images and had fully cooperated with the police. She said: “He very much regrets the offences and is aware of how seriously the court views this and the children in these pictures are victims. He is very ashamed and embarrassed.” Ms Scott told the court other users had to be invited to view the shared files and they were not readily accessible on the internet. Sheriff George Way told MacFarlane: “What’s most concerning is there are 25 moving images. “You should be under no illusions here. I can conceive of nothing except considering a significant custodial sentence in this case. “With regards to bail, I am going to give you time to put your affairs in order.”

Road tests

Audi Q2 puts quality over size

March 21 2018

Audi’s Q2 was one of the first premium compact SUVs on the market. It sits below the Q3, Q5 and the gigantic, seven seat Q7 in Audi’s ever growing range. Although it’s about the same size as the Nissan Juke or Volkswagen T-Roc, its price is comparable with the much larger Nissan X-Trail or Volkswagen Tiguan. Even a basic Q2 will set you back more than £21,000 and top whack is £38,000. Then there’s the options list which is extensive to say the least. My 2.0 automatic diesel Quattro S Line model had a base price of £30,745 but tipped the scales at just over £40,000 once a plethora of additions were totted up. Size isn’t everything, however. In recent years there’s been a trend of buyers wanting a car that’s of premium quality but compact enough to zip around town. It may be a step down in size but the Q2 doesn’t feel any less classy than the rest of Audi’s SUV range. The interior looks great and is user friendly in a way that more mainstream manufacturers have never been able to match. The simple rotary dial and shortcut buttons easily trounce touchscreen systems, making it a cinch to skim through the screen’s menus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eQ5p5Z7-Ek&list=PLUEXizskBf1nbeiD_LqfXXsKooLOsItB0 There’s a surprising amount of internal space too. I took three large adults from Dundee to Stirling and no one complained about feeling cramped. As long as you don’t have a tall passenger behind a tall driver you can easily fit four adults. At 405 litres the boot’s big too – that’s 50 litres more than a Nissan Juke can muster. Buyers can pick from 1.0 and 1.4 litre petrol engines or 1.6 and 2.0 litre TDIs. Most Q2s are front wheel drive but Audi’s Quattro system is standard on the 2.0 diesel, as is a seven-speed S Tronic gear box. On the road there’s a clear difference between this and SUVs by manufacturers like Nissan, Seat and Ford. Ride quality, while firm, is tremendously smooth. Refinement is excellent too, with road and tyre noise kept out of the cabin. It sits lower than the Q3 or Q5 and this improves handling, lending the Q2 an almost go-kart feel. On a trip out to Auchterhouse, with plenty of snow still on the ground, I was appreciative of the four-wheel drive as well. The Q2 is expensive – though there are some good finance deals out there – but you get what you pay for. Few cars this small feel as good as the Q2 does. Price: £30,745 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds Top speed: 131mph Economy: 58.9mpg CO2 emissions: 125g/km


Back in a jiffy – Dundee lemon tree makes stealthy return after 23 years

August 22 2016

It started life as a practical joke, then it became a major tourist draw. And now Dundee’s famous Jif Lemon Tree, which stood proud at the side of the Tay Bridge for more than 30 years, has returned after an absence of more than two decades. The tree first appeared on the Tay Road Bridge in the mid-1960s and remained a firm fixture until the 1990s. It was originally put together by some of the first toll collectors who began hanging plastic lemons on the branches of a nearby tree. © DC ThomsonThe original Jif Lemon tree. However, the tree was felled by the council in 1993 amid safety fears. The move sparked protests from bridge staff and triggered a long-standing campaign for its revival. Now, 23 years on, Kim MacFarlane, founder of the Bring Back the Jif Lemon Tree campaign, has worked with local artist Deirdre Robertson to restore the landmark in time for the Tay crossing’s 50th anniversary. The pair struck in cover of darkness on Saturday and – with the help of a cherry picker and the support of the Tay Road Bridge Joint Board – re-installed the tree. It is still on the Dundee side of the Tay, but now on the east side of the bridge instead of the west. Mrs Robertson said: “As a nod to the original, we wanted it to be mysterious. The tree is big enough to be seen from the bridge.” Last year, Jim McDonald, who had worked at the bridge for decades, recalled how the lemons were hung up every spring. “It was just for fun,” he said. “I started when I was 18 and it was already established. “I did ask why they were doing that and they said: Just for fun.” He said: “The tourists used to come by and take pictures of it. Every year, it was someone’s job to hang the lemons. I did it a couple of times. “In autumn, we took them down and washed them so they always appeared like new every spring.” It is now hoped that a plaque can be installed at the tree to commemorate the former toll workers.

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.


Ex-police chief inspector Bill MacFarlane

December 6 2013

Former police chief inspector Bill MacFarlane has died. Born in Dundee, Mr MacFarlane and his family moved to Bankfoot, Perthshire, when he was 13. After leaving school, he became the first cadet in the Perth and Kinross County Police force and went on to spend 30 years as a policeman. Mr MacFarlane joined the Scots Guards for his national service and then joined the police on his release. Initially posted in Crieff, he served in Kinross, the County Police HQ in Ardchoille, then moved south with his family to join the Lancashire Police Force. Mr MacFarlane returned to Scotland to join the City of Dundee Police and was promoted to sergeant. He returned to Crieff in 1979 as inspector and his 30-year police career ended in Perth as chief inspector in 1988. After this, he worked as security manager at William Low supermarket in Perth and finally retired from work after helping three different law firms in Crieff. He enjoyed a game of golf at Crieff Golf Club and also a three-mile hike most afternoons. Mr MacFarlane is survived by his wife Elspeth, son Neil, grandchildren and his sister Babs.