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...
One of Scotland’s most popular “wee museums”, Perthshire’s Atholl Country Life folklore museum is appealing for a helping hand. After a successful 35 years delighting visitors from around the world with its quirky displays, the search is on for someone to run the Blair Atholl museum as the founder John Cameron is retiring. He started the museum with various items he had collected and it grew from there but he would now like to hand over the reins. “The time is right for me to retire, I’m 78,” he said. Situated in the Old School, Blair Atholl, it has a large collection of photographs complemented by a collection of local artefacts and stories, many donated by the community and from further afield. Unique exhibits include the only stuffed Highland cow in Scotland, the 8ft high Caledonian Shield for Scottish rifle shooting and a letter from Canada in 1906, clearly written on birch bark by local emigrant D. McBeath to his relations in Killiecrankie. A horse harness by local saddler and shoemaker John Seaton, a well-populated wildlife corner, a railway display, Donald McBeath’s story and the reconstruction of Trinafour Post Office, are among other favourites with visitors. Run as a charity on a voluntary basis since 2004 with 10 trustees, a group of volunteers and advice from a qualified mentor, the museum welcomes visitors from around the world. “This is a worthwhile, rewarding, voluntary position for someone interested in people and who can entertain and educate them in the museum on how life was lived in this Highland village and the surrounding glens,” said a spokesperson for the trustees. “The museum has close contacts with most organisations in this small friendly village which welcomes new comers. All this provides good opportunities for making new friends when people come to the village.” A job description and application form are available from Meredith Farron firstname.lastname@example.org or for further information contact the founder on 01796 481232. Applications should be lodged by October 17.
The Atholl Country Life Museum has organised a series of events 100 years after the death of Donald McBeath, the larger-than-life local son whose image is used today on the Welcome to Blair Atholl signs at the entrance to the village. The first event will be on Sunday, February 27, at 2pm, when a piper will play at Donald's grave in Blair Atholl Churchyard, followed by a few words about his life. This will be followed by tea and coffee at the Atholl Arms Hotel. John Cameron, voluntary curator and founder of the Atholl Country Life Museum, said, "Donald McBeath fought in the Crimean, making a name for himself as a sharp-shooter and saving life under fire. "He was in charge of the party of Atholl Highlanders escorting Queen Victoria to Deeside in 1861, she wrote about him in her diary. The 7th Duke of Atholl said he was 'the father of the Atholl Highlanders'." The museum has also organised a talk by Blair Castle archivist Jane Anderson on Donald McBeath's varied and interesting life at the Atholl Arms Hotel on Wednesday, April 13, at 7.30pm.
The spiritual home of The Black Watch took centre stage as it played a lead role in Scotland's first ever Festival of Museums. Balhousie Castle in Perth joined museums and galleries across the country in a giant celebration of the nation's living culture. Bright sunshine helped entice a large number of visitors to the regimental museum for a series of events that were among the highlights of the three-day festival, aiming to be a key cultural event on the European arts calendar. They were offered a rare opportunity to see The Black Watch in action, as the chaos of the battlefield was brought to life by re-enactors Veritas Vincit. Armed with swords and antique muskets, they staged a number of swordfights and fired volleys of gunfire throughout the day. The Battles of The Black Watch event also recreated an 18th century army camp and saw visitors young and old learn about a day in the life of a soldier. As if that were not enough, the regimental museum collections were also opened to the public, with exclusive guided tours offering glimpses of unseen areas and behind-the-scenes tours giving a rare insight into the goings-on at the museum. Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Murdo Fraser was full of praise for the exciting programme put on by The Black Watch Museum as part of the nationwide festival and paid tribute to the regiment and its glittering history. "The Festival of Museums 2011 Weekend is a fantastic initiative and it was welcome to see The Black Watch Castle and Museum take part and put on some spectacular events," he said. "The Black Watch has fought across the globe in some of the most ferocious and famous battles in history. They have fought in North America against Native tribes during the Seven Years' War, they defeated George Washington in the Battle of Long Island and they fought in the Boer War. "They fought at Waterloo, the Somme and Ypres. They were among the first forward in some of the most intense fighting of the Second World War, in Normandy after the D-Day landings, and the 1st Battalion of The Black Watch became the first British unit to enter German territory in the Second World War. "It is a truly spectacular history and, of course, The Black Watch is today one of the best and most exceptional fighting units in the world." Also playing a role in the festival was the Atholl Country Life Museum, which offered visitors the chance to learn about Donald McBeath, the larger-than-life son of Blair Atholl and "a true man of the hills." Not only was he a dedicated gamekeeper for 50 years but he was also admired for his heroism in battle. Queen Victoria was also known to be a fan and he was in charge of the party of Atholl Highlanders that escorted Queen Victoria to Deeside in 1861. An exhibition and a talk offered an insight into his life and explained why he remains well-known in the area to this day.
The life of the soldier whose striking image adorns the "Welcome to Blair Atholl" road sign will be commemorated at a talk this week. Atholl Highlander, Donald McBeath became known as 'the Father of the Highlanders' and is fondly thought of throughout the area. Atholl Country Life Museum will host Jane Anderson from the Blair Castle Archives in the Atholl Arms Hotel, on Wednesday, at 7.30pm, to tell the story of his life. Admission is £4. Born in 1831, eight miles into the hills from Blair Atholl at Ruidhe na Coillich almost in the shadow of Ben a ghlo, he started work at an early age herding cattle and as a ploughman. After gaining distinction in his youth in the Crimean War as a sharp shooter and for saving life under fire, he then became an Atholl gamekeeper. The Duke of Atholl appointed him sergeant major in his private army, the Atholl Highlanders, and as part of an escort party to Queen Victoria through Glen Tilt, the monarch noted in her diary "he was a man of presence and a fine-looking man, as all the Duke's men are". The museum's John Cameron said, "By the telling of Donald's story in this the 100th anniversary of his death, he will not only be known as a Highlander on a road sign but will become alive and recognised as a remarkable character in Atholl's heritage." Mr Cameron is also keen to hear from any possible descendants of Donald McBeath.
Amateur archaeologists are being invited to help uncover more clues to the life of a Perthshire Pict. A certain amount has already been learned about a skelton unearthed at Bridge of Tilt – including how he may have looked thanks to a facial reconstruction – but archaeologists believe more secrets remain buried in the area. It was in 1986 that the long cist burial was discovered near Blair Atholl containing the skeleton of a man who had died in his 40s. Analysis of his bones suggested that he was used to hard work and the burial was dated to AD 340-615, one of the earliest Pictish graves found so far. Archaeologists believe there is more to be discovered and over the last two years local volunteers have undertaken geophysical surveys in gardens and open areas around where the burial was found. This survey has identified a number of anomalies which will be tested by limited excavation. "You can never tell what evidence might be found in an investigation of this kind but the more people willing to help, the more likely we are to find something,” said Bob Will of Guard Archaeology. The Atholl Country Life Museum will be the base for a three-day investigation led by Guard Archaeology which will focus on areas around where the skeleton was discovered. Anyone interested in helping will be welcome and should go to the Atholl Country Life Museum in Blair Atholl. The dig will start at 10am on Friday August 18 and continue over the weekend to August 21. “Volunteers are welcome to come on any, part or all of these days and archaeologists will be on hand to offer guidance to volunteers on historical research, geophysical survey and trial trenching,” said Mr Will. “All equipment will be supplied.” The facial reconstruction of the man’s face was undertaken by forensic artist Hayley Fisher who attended Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Dundee University. The Atholl Country Life Museum, once the village school, has further information on the skeleton as well as many other exhibits about life over the centuries.
Poignant reminders of glories past and lives lost adorn every wall and fill every cabinet in Balhousie Castle. Over more than 300 years The Black Watch has carved out a reputation as one of the world’s finest fighting forces, earning honours in conflicts and theatres of war around the globe. As far back as 1745 then known as the 43rd Regiment of Foot the regiment saw action against the French at the First Battle of Fontenoy. Since then, in the Americas, West Indies, India, Crimea and South Africa in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, during the war in Europe and, most recently, in Iraq and Afghanistan, thousands have made the final sacrifice in its colours. Those behind the £3.5 million rejuvenation of the regiment’s spiritual home hope there will be many thousands keen to hear their gallant story. And with more than 400 passing the Black Watch Muesum’s doors as it opened to the public for the first time in 12 months on Tuesday those hopes appear set to be met. Arriving just seconds after 9.30am were Denis and Esther Platt from Eccles in Salford, who were given a warm welcome by Black Watch Museum Trust chief executive Alfie Iannetta. Mr Iannetta admitted he was stunned by the response and is already considering new staff for the attraction. “All I ever wanted was to see something created that would carry on The Black Watch name forever,” he said. “This is what we have been dreaming about for the past five years and I am hugely proud of what we have delivered here. “The important thing now that the museum is reopened is that people now come here and enjoy it. “Our first visitors arrived the moment we opened the doors and we’ve since welcomed around 400 people. It’s been incredible and way beyond any expectations we had.” The museum also welcomed its first school visit, with youngsters from Ceres Primary School enjoying a guided tour. They also became the first to make use of the museum’s new classroom, where they undertook a project on the Second World War. Meanwhile, the new caf was filled with happy eaters, who sampled a menu created through consultation with previous visitors and filled with nods to military life, such as the regimental breakfast. “I couldn’t be any happier with the reopening,” Mr Iannetta said. In addition to an extended educational outreach programme, a series of special exhibitions will be mounted, with the first entitled The Sword and the Pencil. Learning and audience officer Rebecca Berger said: “Our first special exhibition will highlight artworks from the museum’s large collection of prints, photographs, sketches and watercolours.” * Stunned museum staff discovered a haul of antique newspapers after opening a soldier’s rucksack which had been untouched for half a century. In preparation for the reopening of The Black Watch museum, curators opened the bag belonging to Major Sir Peter Halkett and discovered the precious haul. Some of the newspapers stuffed inside were more than 150 years old, with the most recent from 42 years later in 1900. The earliest is a copy of The Field, the Country Gentlemen’s Newspaper, dated Saturday March 27 1858, and the latest is a copy of the Times, dated Friday January 5 1900. The regiment, which became a battalion under recent army reforms, is mentioned in the 1900 paper in a letter written to the editor. Although the knapsack has been in the collection for a number of years, this is the first time the contents have been seen since they were originally placed inside. Halkett carried the bag as a lieutenant, and later a captain, in the 42nd during the Crimean War. Emma Halford-Forbes, the museum curator, said the find had come as a complete surprise, despite the familiarity of the object. She said: “The knapsack was used in the Crimean campaign and it was part of his kit. We assume he put the newspaper in to keep its shape when it didn’t have his kit in it any more. “We’ve had the object for 50 years and it was really interesting that nobody had noticed before.” Major Halkett was originally from Pitfirrane, which is now a part of Dunfermline. He fought at the battle of the Alma in the Crimea, carrying the colours which are also now housed at the museum a moment which is immortalised in a painting by military artist Robert Gibb, entitled Alma: Forward the 42nd. Find out more at www.theblackwatch.co.uk
The work of well-known Arbroath photographer Jim Ratcliffe will be the subject of a special display next week. Mr Ratcliffe, who died aged 78 in January, donated more than 75,000 negatives to the Signal Tower Museum’s archives in 2015. On Tuesday at 2pm, Fiona Scharlau, Angus Archives manager, is hosting a Jim Ratcliffe Collection drop-in at the visitor attraction. Visitors will have an opportunity to view a slideshow of photographs taken by Mr Ratcliffe in Arbroath during the 1970s. People are asked to come along and help identify people and places which were captured by Mr Ratcliffe’s lens. The freelance photographer operated in Arbroath since the 1960s and catalogued every picture taken in that time.
With the centenary of the start of the First World War being commemorated across the country, a Perthshire museum has a number of exhibits linked to the conflict on display. Among the exhibits at the Atholl Country Life Museum is a First World War British Red Cross VAD (Volunteers Aid Detachment) nurses uniform, worn by the mother of Blair Atholl resident Babs Shanto. The VAD nurses were not hospital trained but carried out important work in the field and hospitals, freeing up trained nurses for specialist duties. The uniform is part of a museum display of mementos from 1914-18 that includes embroidered cards, a Princess Mary 1914 Christmas gift box and a bronze medallion known as the Dead Man’s Penny. Due to the popularity of last year’s display marking 150 years since the railway arrived in Blair Atholl, it has been retained for the remainder of this year. The museum is now open for the season every afternoon from 1.30 to 5pm. During weekdays in July and August, it will be open 11am to 5pm.
The outbreak of the First World War and its effect in Angus is being marked in a new exhibition in Forfar. The exhibition uses iconic objects, artworks, poetry and slideshows to tell the history of life in the trenches, The Black Watch and of local recipients of the Victoria Cross. Visitors to the Meffan Museum and Art Gallery can also view a selection of war drawings by Sir Muirhead Bone, who was appointed Britain’s first official war artist in 1916. Photos by Kim Cessford.