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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...

Perth & Kinross

Pair of pistols presented to Perthshire MP expected to fetch £20,000 at auction

March 2 2016

A pair of valuable pistols which were presented by the people of Perthshire to their MP proved a popular draw when they went on display in the Fair City. Expected to sell for £20,000 to £30,000 when they are auctioned by Bonhams in Edinburgh next month, the pair of Highland gold-inlaid flintlock belt pistols were part of an exhibition in The Black Watch Museum which ran alongside a valuation day by the auction house. Experts from Edinburgh were joined by colleagues from London in seeing a stream of people with items for valuation in return for a donation to the museum. “It has been a very successful day,” said auctioneer Charles Graham-Campbell of Bonhams. He estimated that upwards of 50 people had brought in a variety of objects. “We had a Military Cross grouping which would be worth a five figure sum and some valuable jewellery,” he said. The visitors also enjoyed viewing the items which will be sold on April 12/13. The stars of the collection were the pistols presented to the Marquess of Breadalbane by the electorate of Perthshire in 1836. John Campbell, 2nd Marquess of Breadalbane was born in Dundee in 1796 and was educated at Eton. He sat as Member of Parliament for Oakehampton from 1820 to 1826 and for Perthshire from 1832 to 1834, the year entered the House of Lords. He was Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Scotland between 1824 to 1826, elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1834 and made a Knight of the Thistle in 1838. The following year he was appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Argyllshire. It is expected to sell between £5,000 and £7,000 when it comes under the hammer.

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.

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.


Handgun ban safeguards and laws useless if they’re ignored

January 31 2014

Last week, Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, said the UK’s handgun ban should be repealed. Coming at the end of a week where Farage had turned himself into a political punchbag, this prompted almost every newspaper in the land to publish articles scorning him for his stupidity, writes Gareth Corfield. Except and I know I won’t be popular for saying this Farage was right. He’s wrong about an awful lot of things (and I don’t support UKIP), but he hit the nail on the head by branding the 1997 ban “crackers”. To be granted a firearm certificate in the UK your details are checked against a whole load of state databases this isn’t just a Disclosure Scotland paper exercise, we’re talking counter-terror, medical and Special Branch and interviewed by the police before they decide whether you are a fit person to be trusted with firearms. This is more or less the same system that was in force when Dunblane murderer Thomas Hamilton renewed his firearm certificate in 1992. A detective sergeant recommended that Hamilton’s renewal be refused. Indeed, Hamilton’s pistol club secretary told the police the same thing. Both were overruled. We all know what Hamilton went on to do. I shan’t dwell on that, beyond saying that all the laws in the world are useless if the people who enforce them choose not to. Now, people think that the pistol ban makes us all safer. It actually had the opposite effect; in the six years after the ban, the number of recorded gun crimes doubled. More to the point, the pistol ban does not apply to Northern Ireland, yet crimes committed with legally-owned handguns in the Province are all but non-existent. Does this not tell you that the pistol ban was, as Farage says, “kneejerk legislation” which didn’t make any positive difference to gun crime levels? Shooting is a popular and growing sport in the UK. It contributes more than £1.6 billion to the economy and is one of the very few sports where men and women compete on an equal footing. In the competition world there are events for disabled competitors, the young and the old, all across different disciplines. Indeed, the BBC’s Young Sports Personality of 2013 was 16-year-old Amber Hill, a clay pigeon shooter who jointly holds the world record score for skeet shooting. The pistol ban does directly harm lawful shooters by forcing pistol marksmen to train abroad. Unsurprisingly, this negatively affects our international pistol teams when it comes to competitions such as the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games, thus damaging our chances of medals at Glasgow 2014. More importantly, the pistol ban criminalises a sport practised by law-abiding folk who present no threat to anyone. We have processes to weed out unsuitable people all we want is to practise our sport as peacefully and safely as possible. * Gareth Corfield is a journalist and target shooter who has represented Great Britain

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.

Readers' letters

December 18: An absurd arsenal of military weaponry

December 18 2012

Sir, Adam Lanza was armed with assault weapons from home including the Bushmaster .223 M4 automatic rifle used by the Czech and Korean special forces. Possession of this firearm was made illegal by Bill Clinton’s Federal Assault Weapons Ban in 1994, but the 10-year bill has expired and the gun lobby has blocked any renewal.He also used a Sig Sauer, an immensely powerful, high-capacity Swiss service pistol used by the US Navy SEALs, German Spezialeinsatzkommandos and our own SAS.Finally he had a Glock, a highly lethal semi-automatic pistol pumping out dozens of rounds of ammunition without reloading and the weapon of choice for US criminals.Ironically, the first victim of the deranged killerwas the person who built up this absurd arsenal of military weaponry his mother.The pity is he did not stop there.Dr John Cameron.10 Howard Place,St Andrews. Time this was updatedSir, I was horrified and very upset by the senseless killing of those innocent children in Connecticut. But why is this continuing to happen in America?I hope that if any good can come out this tragedy it is that Americans can seriously rethink their gun laws. Following the tragedy in Dunblane the UK successfully changed gun laws making it almost illegal for any individual to own one. Why on earth can the same thing not be done in the USA?How many more tragedies have to happen before it changes its stance? The second amendment allowing citizens to bear arms was adopted in 1791. Surely it is time it was updated?Gordon Kennedy.117 Simpson Square,Perth. Ammunition control neededSir, The recent events in Newtown, Connecticut, are but the latest of many previous shooting incidents in the USA. The National Rifle Association claims that it is the constitutional right of every American to “bear arms”. This “right” was enshrined in the Declaration of Rights which became the Constitution of the USA. The “arms” referred to were flintlock muskets and pistols. Modern day weapons were quite unimagined.Let the American own as many weapons as he/she wishes. But exercise rigid control over ammunition. No ammo, no firing of weapons, at anyone or thing. Breach of “ammunition law” must be punishable by incarceration for as long as the seriousness of the illegal possession is deemed appropriate.This solution would address many of the concerns of those wishing to change the Constitution of the USA, which seems a remote likelihood.A T Geddie.68 Carleton Avenue,Glenrothes.Resorting to bullying?Sir, From what I have read in The Courier about the proposed strike by the RMT union, it was supported by only 25% of the members. Surely the appropriate way to proceed with the sacked employee’s case would have been for the RMT to take it to an industrial tribunal, claiming unfair dismissal?Perhaps the RMT thought that they did not have a case that would stand up so decided, as so often before, to try bullying tactics?John Dorward.89 Brechin Road,Arbroath.So grateful to young helpersSir, I would like to thank the boys and girls on the 10.07pm train to Dundee on Saturday from Waverley Station in Edinburgh. We (two OAPs) had just made a 10-hour train journey from Southampton and wanted to get home to North Queensferry.The train was packed but there was a small standing space in one carriage so, with four pieces of luggage, we got on board. At the door four or five boys with pushbikes helped us to get the luggage in and looked after us. One boy in particular was really helpful and organised the people standing at the door to pass out our luggage so we could head off quickly.So, thank you to all the boys and girls who made the final part of our journey as smooth as possible.One last detail, there were no station staff there to help sort out baggage and direct us to the main hall and there was a charge of £1 to get a trolley. How mean is that?Alan Hay.North Queensferry.Blackford fits the billSir, The improvement of the access road to Gleneagles is welcomed, however, it is of concern to the COBRA (Campaign to Open Blackford Railway station Again) committee that Perth & Kinross Council funds are being spent on a road that is not adopted at this time.Are we to assume the council will take over the maintenance of the Gleneagles station access road at council taxpayers’ expense?The cost of the road and station upgrade, without an upgrade of passenger services would seem a pointless expense. Railway station services today should ensure easy access for foot, cycle, car, disabled and pram but Gleneagles station layout will not deliver these things unless enormous amounts of money are spent.A re-opened Blackford station, however, would be ready to fulfil all the requirements of a safe, accessible station for a much reduced sum of money.Jennifer Gordon.Secretary, COBRA.