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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...


Top accolade for Wemyss Caves’ 4D website

July 22 2014

The Save Wemyss Ancient Caves Society (SWACS) has expressed delight that it has been awarded a certificate of excellence at the British Archeological Awards. The honour was awarded for the creation of Wemyss Caves 4D interactive website. SWACS 4D website gives virtual access to one of the most archaeologically important cave systems in the world, highlighting an extraordinary rich array of ancient Pictish and Norse markings in one particular cave and allowing viewers to interact with it. The project is the result of a collaborative visualisation project involving SWACS in partnership with YAT (York Archaeological Trust), SCAPE (Scottish Coastal Archaeology and the Problem of Erosion), with community input. Of the hundreds of entries only 18 made the shortlist, with three projects nominated for each of the six categories. Wemyss Caves 4D had been shortlisted in best public presentation of archaeology along with Channel 4’s New Secrets of the Terracotta Army and York University’s archaeological journal Post Hole. New Secrets of the Terraccotta Army were overall winners, with Wemyss 4D and Post Hole both highly commended. Dr Tom Dawson of St Andrews University and SCAPE said: “The project with SWACS was very rewarding, and not only did we manage to capture fantastic 3D images of Jonathan’s Cave and its carvings but were able to scan some fantastic images showing how rapidly the coast had eroded around East Wemyss, together with some fascinating oral history. “Some of this is already included on the 4Dwemysscaves website but we will be adding more over the coming months.” Dr Gavin MacGregor, who headed the team of specialist digital archaeologists from York Archaeological Trust (YAT) and Northlight Heritage, said it had been a privilege to work with SWACS. “We’re all passionate about the same thing,” he said. Dr Sue Hamstead, education officer of SWACS, said: “We’re learning so much from this project and we’re really keen to continue working with our partners from YAT and SCAPE to sustain this innovative trend and bring the best techniques available to the investigation and recording of the rest of the caves.” Pam Cranston, secretary of SWACS, said: “It was quite an experience seeing our project profiled in this way and interesting to see what others are doing. “The support we had and continue to receive from SCAPE, YAT, the archaeological and the local communities is crucial to the cause of preserving and understanding these unique caves. “We will be back.” The award-winning website is at www.4dwemysscaves.org.

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

This student took his Tinder profile to the next level by turning it into a PowerPoint presentation

February 21 2018

Standing out from the crowd on Tinder can be tough, but with the help of Microsoft PowerPoint a British student has managed just that – and gone viral in the process.Sam Dixey, a 21-year-old studying at Leeds University, made a six-part slideshow entitled “Why you should swipe right” – using pictures and bullet points to shrewdly persuade potential dates to match with him on the dating app. The slideshow includes discussion of his social life and likes, such as “petting doggos” and “laser tag”, and “other notable qualities and skills” – such as being “not the worst at sex” and “generous when drunk”.It even has reviews mocked up from sources such as “Donald Trump”, “Leonardo Di Capri Sun” and “The Times Guide to Pancakes 2011”.Sam told the Press Association the six-slide presentation only took about 20 minutes to make and “started off as a joke”.However, since being posted to Twitter by fellow Tinder user Gracie Barrow, Sam’s slideshow has been shared tens of thousands of times across social media.So, it’s got the seal of approval form Gracie, but how has the slideshow fared on Tinder? “I’d have to say it has been pretty successful,” Sam said. “Definitely a clear correlation of matches and dates beforehand to afterwards.“Most of the responses tend to revolve around people saying ‘I couldn’t help swipe right 10/10’ but I’ve had some people go the extra mile and message me on Facebook.“Plus some people have recognised me outside, in the library and on dates.”A resounding success.


Award-winning Tayside song writer Eddie Cairney immortalises Queensferry Crossing in tune

October 25 2017

An award-winning Tayside song writer who immortalised the 50th anniversary of the Tay Road Bridge in music last year has released an EP which pays tribute to the newly opened Queensferry Crossing over the Forth. Perth-born Eddie Cairney, 65, who now lives in Arbroath, has released an album called ‘Sketches o' the QC’ which includes songs dedicated to the “isolated” workers who were employed during construction and contrasts the old Forth Road Bridge to the new crossing with its wind shields designed to keep traffic flowing during storms. Eddie, who delayed the release of the album due to family illness and bereavement, said: “It's just another quirky album like I did for the Tay Road Bridge. https://youtu.be/Z6BblA_Zev4 “As you can probably imagine, how do you write six songs about a bridge? “I usually end up using a process of creative journalism. I get a few facts or even just a single fact and then I let my imagination take over. “With each album early on in the writing process I draw a blank and think there's nothing here I can write about but there's always something to write about. “You just have to hang around long enough and it comes eventually. https://youtu.be/a9NyQAFjDsY “I just took threads from here and there. I was going to call the album The Queensferry Crossing but thought that was a bit boring so I went for Sketches o' the Q.C. “It introduces a bit of ambiguity. If you Google the name you get lots of drawings of court scenes!” Eddie was inspired to write Columba Cannon after reading an article about the general foreman for the foundations and towers. https://youtu.be/y_y1y8oV7vo Eddie said: “It was the name that got me and that gave me the first line of the song "He is a bridge builder wi a missionary zeal" Has to be with a name like Columba!” Fishnet bridge was set in a meditative light, describing the bridge as a “thing of beauty that looks like a big fish net glistening high above the Forth but it is a symbolic fishnet with the song taking the form of an imaginary conversation with the bridge.” https://youtu.be/dJgsl2WQ5G0   “Midday starvation came from an article which highlighted the isolation of the workers working high up on the bridge,” he added. https://youtu.be/Dme-bfCXHRI “If you forget your piece you've had it and you starve for there's no nipping round to the corner shop for a pie. The article also said that a local pizza delivery firm regularly delivered a pallet load of warm pizzas to the bridge so that was "midday salvation"! Meanwhile, The boys frae the cheese is a play on words. https://youtu.be/phtQ2-Xx1I0 He added: “I read an article that said The Forth Estuary Transport Authority (FETA) could have acted sooner and avoided the costly closure of the bridge at the end of 2015.” Eddie is no stranger to music and song influenced by Dundee and wider Scottish history. In 2015 he featured in The Courier for his efforts to put the complete works of Robert Burns to music. With a piano style influenced by Albert Ammons, Champion Jack Dupree and Memphis Slim, and a song-writing style influenced by Matt McGinn, Michael Marra and Randy Newman, the former Perth High School pupil, who wrote the 1984 New Zealand Olympic anthem, has organised a number of projects over the years including the McGonagall Centenary Festival  for Dundee City Council in 2002. Last year’s Tay Road Bridge album included a tribute to 19th century poet William Topas McGonagall and also honoured Hugh Pincott – the first member of the public to cross the Tay Road Bridge in 1966. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y51tixl9GEs Thanks to The Courier, he also became one of the first to cross the Queensferry Crossing  when it opened to the public in the early hours of August 30.

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.

Angus & The Mearns

Angus Council committed to bidding for Carnoustie treasure trove

August 18 2017

Angus Council has reaffirmed its intention to bid to keep the Carnoustie treasure trove in Angus as research work on the hoard continues. The remarkable haul of ancient artefacts at Balmachie has been described as being of international significance and the magnitude of the find unrivalled in Scotland. A gold-decorated spearhead, a bronze sword and a leather and wooden sword sheath — believed to be the best preserved late Bronze Age scabbard in Britain — were found at the site beside Carnoustie High School. The discovery has led to calls for a museum to be established in Carnoustie to display the items. However, treasure trove rules meant the items are claimed automatically by the Crown and must be reported to the Scottish Archaeological Finds Allocation Panel. The panel is responsible for recommending to the Queen's and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer which museum should be allocated the finds. An Angus Council spokeswoman said finding a home for the trove may require alterations to exhibition spaces in the county if the local authority’s bid to have the items returned to Angus is successful. She said: “The final care of the finds will be carried out in keeping with Scottish legal requirements as set out in the Treasure Trove Code of Practice (2008). “We will be making the case for the retention of the finds in the Angus area. “This will require adequate archiving and display opportunities and the council has still to determine if any alterations will have to be made to existing exhibition spaces.” Roundhouses, jewellery and pottery dating from around 2200-800 BC were also found during the 18-week dig. The excavation also uncovered the largest Neolithic hall ever found in Scotland, dating back to 4000 BC. The council’s contractor for the archaeological excavation, GUARD Archaeology, has submitted a report on all findings and has provided a post excavation research design. This outlines the detailed analysis, publication and archiving of the results of the excavations required. The council spokeswoman added: “We will shortly be tendering for these works, which we anticipate will be carried out in the next 12 to 18 months. “In the meantime research and conservation of the fragile hoard items, including a bronze sword and gold-decorated spearhead, continues at GUARD Archaeology to ensure their preservation for future display. “We will submit a final report to both the archive of the National Monuments Record and the Angus Sites & Monuments Record archive.”

Perth & Kinross

Volunteers urged to uncover the mystery of Moredun Top

July 14 2015

The chance to play a part in unravelling an archaeological mystery is on offer in Perth. A team led by David Strachan from Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust is planning detailed excavations to uncover the secrets of Moredun Top Hillfort on Moncreiffe Hill, Perth, in September with the help of volunteers. The fort excavation follows on from a dig on another fort on Moncreiffe Hill which unearthed ramparts and evidence of the lives of the ancient inhabitants. The project is being delivered through the Tay Landscape Partnership and it hopes to reveal the past of the familiar landmark. “Tay Landscape Partnership is looking for volunteers interested in archaeology and the nation’s past to help excavate the site and play an important role in allowing this project to happen,” said Mr Strachan. “No archaeological experience is required and full on-site training will be provided. “Moredun Top hillfort is the larger of two hillforts on Moncreiffe Hill, to the south-east of Perth. “The hill itself is a key geographical feature in the landscape, located at the meeting of the rivers Tay and Earn and so dominating the lower straths of both rivers. “The site is clearly multi-period with the remains of at least two forts of late Iron Age and/or early historic date, as well as traces of other buildings. “Its location exploits the naturally defensive cliffs on the south face of the hill, and affords extensive views of the surrounding landscape in all directions, truly dominating the landscape at the tryst of these important river systems.” Hillforts feature regularly on the landscape of the Ochil and Sidlaw hills and a number have been excavated and studied in the past. Many were undertaken by Victorian archaeologists, who had no access to carbon dating, but the sites are likely to have been used over a wide time-frame. The opportunity to play a role in unearthing the past is being offered free of charge to anyone aged 16 and over. For more information and to find out how to get involved visit www.taylp.org. The Tay Landscape Partnership is a four-year project celebrating the landscapes of where the Tay and Earn meet and is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Gannochy Trust, Scottish Natural Heritage, Perth and Kinross Council and other bodies.

Perth & Kinross

Perthshire project recreates the ancient past

June 21 2017

A recreation of a Perthshire loch dwelling which gives visitors a taste of how people lived 2,500 years ago has attracted half a million visitors over the past two decades. To mark 20 years of captivating visitors with living history and experimental archaeology a special reception was held at the Scottish Crannog Centre on Loch Tay. Created and led by the husband and wife team of Dr Nick Dixon and Barrie Andrian of the Scottish Trust for Underwater Archaeology, the centre began with the building of an authentic recreation of an early Iron Age loch-dwelling, based on the team’s underwater research, which first opened in the summer of 1997. During the last 20 years the iconic, authentic roundhouse over the water near Kenmore has become an award-winning, internationally acclaimed heritage attraction. Provost Dennis Melloy hosted the evening and provided civic hospitality for the event which was thought particularly appropriate as part of the celebrations for the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology across Scotland. Music was provided by the Strung, Drawn and Quartered ceilidh band which included pupils from Breadalbane Academy. Friends and supporters who joined the Crannog team for the celebrations included Cabinet Secretary for Culture and Tourism, Ms Fiona Hyslop, and John Swinney MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills. Following an introduction by the Provost, Ms Hyslop said: “Millions of visitors come from all over the world to view and experience Scotland’s history and heritage. “The evidence is clear that at every level of the tourism industry in Scotland, these are major assets for us. “In 2017, the spotlight is shining on Scotland’s wealth of fascinating and inspiring history, heritage and archaeology. "The Scottish Crannog Centre, celebrating its 20th birthday, offers hands on experiences to help us understand what life was like for our ancestors. This is a place which looks forward, inspiring while it informs.” Following the speeches, guests spent the evening on site where some of the crannog team showcased early Iron Age crafts. Hands-on demonstrations included tools and technologies, fire-making, textile work and prehistoric cooking, all of which have helped make the centre popular over the years.

Farming news

Aberdeen-Angus DNA test hailed by Victor Wallace

February 13 2015

The adoption of a new DNA test to authenticate the pedigree of all Aberdeen-Angus calves will put the breed in the vanguard of genomic technology, retiring Aberdeen-Angus Cattle Society president, Victor Wallace, told a packed annual at Stirling. The society has decided to collect blood samples using special ear tags which incorporate a small uniquely identified receptacle. As the tag is inserted soon after birth the small amount of displaced tissue and blood is captured ready for future DNA testing. Responding to criticism of the society’s decision to use only one company, Caisley, for the collection of samples, Mr Wallace insisted Caisley was the only ear tag company which had the technology to meet the society’s required specification. “We invited a number of ear tag companies to tender and some didn’t bother to reply while others couldn’t meet the spec,” said Mr Wallace. “It is a simple and inexpensive system which most breeders are finding easy to use.” The aim is to collect blood samples from all bull calves to enable the sire of all calves to be verified in the case of any uncertainty or dispute and to authenticate beef being sold as Aberdeen-Angus.” The move by the society has been welcomed by major supermarkets selling Aberdeen-Angus beef. Mr Wallace added: “This process was extensively and rigorously tested with management and council visits to the manufacturers in Germany and the completion of field trials. After this process it was brought back to council and unanimously approved. “Like all changes, there has been some resistance but I am convinced that putting the society in a position to be leading in genomic testing can only be a good one. “We should be leaders, not followers.” Mr Wallace admitted that a £34,000 re-branding exercise carried out over the past year, which included the dropping of the society’s long-established black, green and yellow colours, left room for “significant improvement”. The issue, particularly improvement to the website, would, he said, be addressed in the coming year. The decision to prop up the pension fund of chief executive, Ron McHattie, by £120,000 in four tranches was defended by new president, David Evans, who explained that it was a “catching up” operation as the funding of the pension had not been addressed for 11 years and annuity rates had halved in that time. Mr Evans, who works as a financial adviser, runs a 60-cow pedigree herd in Cleveland with his wife, Penny, and has been chairman of the society’s breed promotion committee. He is planning a series of open days throughout the country this year to promote the commercial attributes of the Aberdeen-Angus breed. “There is a huge and growing demand for certified Aberdeen-Angus beef with the active involvement of most of the leading supermarkets in the UK and registrations in the Herd Book are at a record level and continuing to increase,” said Mr Evans. “But we can’t stand still and it is important that the breed adopts all the latest technology to take the breed forward in the future.” New senior vice-president is Tom Arnott, Haymount, Kelso, while Alex Sanger, Prettycur, Montrose, was appointed junior vice-president.