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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...


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.

Angus & The Mearns

Passchendaele heroes added to Dundee war roll

August 10 2017

Three members of a Dundee family who survived the Battle of Passchendaele have been added to the city’s roll of honour. The Great War Dundee Project is the story of the 30,490 men that left the city to fight in the first world war and of the people left at home. Dundee gave 63% of its eligible men to the armed forces and the directory was updated following Saturday’s Courier article about the role the city’s Johnston brothers played in the war. Of the five Johnston brothers, Frank, Walter, David and Peachy were artillerymen, and the fifth, John, was an army doctor. Frank and Walter’s entries have now been updated while David, Peachy and John have now had entries created in the returnee section of the honour roll. Gary Thomson from the Great War Dundee Project said: “Following Saturday’s Courier article on the five Johnston brothers who served in the war, with both Frank and Walter paying the ultimate sacrifice and the fact that Frank, for reasons unknown is not recognised as a casualty of war, the Great War Dundee Project has updated the entries for both Frank and Walter on the new roll of honour. “Dundee paid a high price for her war efforts. By the armistice, over 4,000 men had made the ultimate sacrifice. “Their names are recorded in the city’s original roll of honour, a simple alphabetical list of names, ranks and regiments. “Over the years mistakes and omissions have been discovered by families viewing the list resulting in handwritten corrections to the record.” Mr Thomson said one of Great War Dundee’s main objectives is to produce an “inclusive, fully searchable online roll of Dundonians who contributed to the war effort” and in doing so honour the men and women who lost their lives and those who survived. He added: “Due to the fact that Frank was not recognised as a casualty his entry on the original Dundee Roll of Honour was very sparse with only his name and regiment listed. “Saturday’s article allowed us to contact Frank’s relative who provided us with a fantastic amount on information about Frank and Walter which have been added to their entry. “Not only that but the three brothers who survived, David, John and Peachy have now have entries created, in the returnee section of the honour roll. “It is thanks to people like Douglas that these entries now have added information and photos.” Frank is believed to have been wounded in Flanders in 1917 and he endured a prolonged and difficult death in November 1919 in a private nursing home in Dundee as a result of his injuries. The family have been unable to provide sufficient independent corroboration that he died directly of his war wounds as his army records have not survived. Frank’s great nephew Douglas Norrie from near Arbroath is trying to find documentary evidence to correct this. David and Frank were both with the Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA) and their batteries of large long range howitzers were deployed at Corps level and primarily used to attack specific enemy targets, particularly enemy artillery. Walter and Peachy served with the Royal Field Artillery (RFA) with their respective brigades being attached to infantry divisions and their smaller, highly portable field guns being used in support of infantry. The fifth of the brothers, Captain (Dr) John McPherson Johnston was a doctor and served with the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) and was awarded the Silver War Badge after being discharged with TB.

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


Line of Duty brings in Dundee director for new series

March 24 2016

More than four million viewers tuned in to the last instalment of the BBC Two programme Line of Duty but fans old and new can look forward to the direction of Broughty Ferry-born film-maker Michael Keillor in the new series’ first three episodes. The acclaimed police corruption drama is returning to screens tonight after a two-year break. Called in to investigate an armed response unit mission gone wrong, series three sees higher stakes than ever for members of the fictional anti-corruption unit AC-12. Already a fan of the series when he joined the project, Michael promised that viewers will be shocked and excited by the action in the season premiere. “It’s the most exciting domestic cop show on British TV,” he said. “There aren’t many contemporary police thrillers which have a political element to them.” The stakes have been raised by the introduction of an armed police unit. If a corrupt policeman is a danger to society, says Michael, a policeman with a gun is all the more risky. Now based in London, Michael’s success is happening at a time when local talent is making waves in film and TV. Fans of Jericho or River City may be familiar with the directorial work of Broughty Ferry native Robert McKillop and the Fife-born Andrew Cummings. McKillop, who hails from the same street as Michael in Broughty Ferry, recently directed three episodes for the new ITV drama Jericho. Cummings recently directed Kai, a short about a contemporary dancer struggling to reach the expectations of her choreographer. Michael is keen to encourage the next generation of film-makers to pick up a camera. With Dundee Contemporary Arts having celebrated its 15th anniversary this week and the waterfront regeneration well under way, he says now is a better time than ever for new talent. Compared to 20 years ago when his career began, Dundee is far more nurturing of the arts. Michael references two cultural landmarks as major turning points in his life the release of Trainspotting and the now closed Steps Cinema. “Steps was the only place for people like me to learn about different cinema,” he said. “Trainspotting showed that Scottish cinema could be the same as North American or European cinema.” Now aspiring film-makers can create films with just a mobile phone and a computer. Being from Dundee, in fact, can actually work to your advantage despite of any naysayers. Compared to Shoreditch, in which there are five film-makers in Michael’s building alone, directors in Dundee have the chance to stand out. “Don’t think you can’t be a film-maker just because you’re not from or London or Hollywood,” said Michael. “Film-makers come from everywhere. It’s about picking up a camera, having a go and not letting anyone tell you you can’t do it.” How can we see a better reflection of Scottish stories and people in the arts? With his work in high-quality television like Line of Duty, Michael’s focus is to create a bigger pool of talent in Scottish filmmaking. After all, creating shows like Line of Duty is part of his path to creating feature films primarily in Scotland. His current project is writing a homecoming tale set in the Highlands. “I hope articles like this will help guys like me who are sitting at home thinking ‘I could do that’.”


Part 3: The Michael Marra biography: Songwriter, actor, artist

October 19 2017

The third in an exclusive four-part Courier serialisation of renowned Scottish writer James Robertson’s biography. Among the numerous projects to which Michael was committed in the late 1990s was another major theatre production: he wrote the songs for, and acted in, Chris Rattray’s The Mill Lavvies. This hugely popular play was first performed at Dundee Rep in 1998, was revived in 2002 and again in 2012, just a month before Michael’s death. Set in the early 1960s in a Dundee mill where most of the workforce are women, the action takes place in the mill’s male toilets and dips into the lives of five men whose banter, tricks, petty cruelties and occasional kindnesses to one another reflect the changes going on in society around them. There is a particularly Dundonian underdog take on life in the scenarios and dialogue of the play. Michael’s songs are beautifully crafted to tap into this theme, and it is not doing an injustice to the strength of Rattray’s writing to say that they are the highlights of the play, partly because they slot so seamlessly into the narrative, enhancing and never disrupting it. For more from the series, click here Some of these songs, which teeter on the edge of pathos but never quite topple in, are rightly regarded as top-drawer Michael Marra creations, Big Wide World Beyond the Seedlies,  Broom Crazy and  Gin Eh was a Gaffer for to Be  among them. Oh Meh Goad, in which Erchie, the janny, is urged by his workmates to supply them with ever more surreal non-rhyming limericks, is a comic masterpiece. Perhaps the most memorable song, though, is  If Dundee was Africa, a geography lesson in sound-pictures. At one point in the play, Erchie wants to know where North Africa is but, since he is unable to read or write, one of the other men has to find a way of explaining its location to him without the aid of an atlas or globe. He does so with this song: If Dundee was Africa, And Fife was Antarctica, If Arbroath was India, And Perth was Peru, In that darkest of continents How happy Eh’d be, Cause that would mean Aiberdeen Was deep in the Mediterranean Sea, And a’body would agree That’s a no bad place for Aiberdeen to be.   As well as songwriting and musicianship, Michael wrote short stories and plays, acted, drew and painted, took photographs, manipulated the images he made, made collages, constructed objects, whittled sticks and invented things. Conversation, too, was a form of art for him. He enjoyed the company of visual artists and engaging with their ideas: he liked hanging out in their studios, and he counted Vince Rattray, Andy Hall, James (Jimmy) Howie, Francis Boag, Calum Colvin, Eddie Summerton and many more as friends. It was obvious to Michael’s friend Andy Pelc (a.k.a. ‘Saint Andrew’) that: "Michael was basically a rebel when it came to art or anything else. He was the rebel of the family. He was into art but almost anti-art in any formal or academic context. Anything that involved classical, formal training, he would reject that. I have it in my head that Michael might have applied to go to art school. But if he did apply, if he had been offered a place, I don’t think he would have accepted it, or he wouldn’t have stayed. He would have hated being told how to go about “doing” art. "In the same way, if you wanted Michael to, say, watch something on television, the worst thing you could do was tell him,'Watch this programme, you’ll really like it.' That immediately erected a barrier. He would take umbrage at you telling him what he should watch or would like." Back during the days of touring with Skeets Boliver and Barbara Dickson, Michael had found that a lot of hours were spent sitting around waiting for things to happen. To help himself relax before gigs, he bought himself crayons and felt-tip pens and started drawing – often very detailed, multi-lined images that needed a lot of concentration and a fair bit of colouring-in. The influence of modern masters like De Chirico, Matisse and Picasso is evident in his drawings and paintings, but his unique perspective meant that there was something identifiably Marra-like in nearly all of his output, which included a large number of cartoons and drawings enhanced by captions, speech-bubbles or other text. There was also always a sense that he wanted to break down boundaries between different art forms. He noted that wherever painters are working – whether they are artists or painters and decorators – there is usually music too, coming out of a wee radio or a big blaster. Music, as he put it on Candy Philosophy, is "the sound of painters painting paint". So why wouldn’t visual art have a powerful presence in a music studio?   Hermless: Michael's Scottish national anthem In the introduction to Hermless, Michael said: "This song was my suggestion for the national anthem of Scotland, and it’s one of my songs, and that would appear to be a very impertinent thing to do, especially in Dundee as, you know, we take a pride in our modesty. But, I must stress, at the time there were only two suggestions, and I didn’t like either of them really. Both of them were kind of military, or based on hatred of our neighbours, and I find that unacceptable, although we’re not alone in that, because I did a study of national anthemry the world over, and we are not alone, you know generally they are pretty duff. I think the South African one is beautiful, it’s celebratory and it’s up and you can tell it’s full of love, so I like that one. The Dutch one has a great tune. But apart from that they’re all pretty dodgy, I think. They’re either based on extravagant claims about themselves, or just plain simple hatred of their neighbours. In fact if you ever get a chance to read the Algerian national anthem, have a drink before you do. Anyway, this one is very simple. The chorus goes ‘Hermless, hermless, there’s never nae bather fae me/ I ging to the lehbry, I tak oot a book, and then I go hame for ma tea.’ Okay? Take great care over the word ‘lehbry’, it has a Latin root but it is definitely Dundee, that one."   Michael the actor If Michael had not been primarily a songwriter and musician, he could easily have had a full-time career as an actor. Theatre directors for whose shows he wrote music and songs were often quick to spot his talent for adopting a persona with complete conviction. One review of the show A Wee Home From Home, in which Michael appeared with his friend the dancer Frank McConnell, commented: ‘By standing still and doing, apparently, nothing, he created a dark violence which completely dominated the stage. Few actors have that gift.’ Michael’s acting ability was related to the way he prepared for music gigs. He was notoriously nervous before a gig - ‘stage fright to the power of ten’ was how he described it - but once he was at the piano and singing he was ‘in character’ and his anxiety was invisible to the audience. Similarly, he always maintained that his songs were not personal, not about him, even if they contained the word ‘I’. "Performance is an act," he used to say. "You’re like an actor, and that’s what an actor has to do: become someone else.’ He also likened it to being  "on a tightrope all the time you’re out there. You have to be the tightrope walker." Michael Marra. Arrest This Moment is published by Big Sky Books and is available from October 20 via all the usual stockists or direct from www.bigsky.scot. £16.99 for paperback, £24.99 for hardback.

UK & World

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.


Dundee hotel pool drowning inquiry hears manager ‘100% satisfied’ with health and safety

August 6 2015

The manager of a Dundee hotel leisure club where a Newport pensioner drowned has told a fatal accident inquiry she was “100% satisfied” with its health and safety measures. Jennifer Newcombe pulled Michael McDonald from the bottom of the pool at Livingwell Health Club part of the now-demolished Hilton Hotel in Earl Grey Place after fellow member William Tanner spotted him motionless in the water. The inquiry heard previously that despite the resuscitation efforts of Mrs Newcombe, 37, and a colleague, Mr McDonald died in hospital later that day. Mrs Newcombe was giving evidence on the final day of the inquiry looking at the circumstances surrounding the 73-year-old’s death in November 2011. She said that thorough risk assessments had been carried out on the pool, which was fully visible from the club’s reception desk and could be reached “in seconds” from anywhere in the hotel. She described Mr McDonald as a well-liked “regular” who she saw “five days a week for seven years”. She added: “Sadly, his health had started to deteriorate, in our eyes there were notable changes. We were aware he was suffering from Parkinson’s.” On the day of the accident, Mrs Newcombe said Mr McDonald briefly went to the gym, which he had not done for some time, before entering the pool. She said: “The way I was positioned, he was in my eyesight. I wasn’t constantly watching him, but I was aware.” She told depute fiscal Gavin Callaghan she became aware something was wrong “within a couple of minutes.” She said: “Billy Tanner came in from the gym and said, “Is Michael OK?”. I then saw him at the bottom of the pool.” Mrs Newcombe said after Mr McDonald was pulled from the water there were “no signs” of breathing but after performing mouth-to-mouth, his “colour came back” and there were signs of life. Barry Smith QC, representing Hilton Hotels, said: “Mr McDonald was a well-known older man with health difficulties who you looked out for?” Mrs Newcombe replied: “We all did,” adding that she and her staff were “very much” affected by his death. Mr Smith said: “If you had any concerns over the safety of the pool, would you have drawn it to the attention of Hilton?” “Yes,” she replied. “I was 100% satisfied with what we had in place.” Sheriff Lorna Drummond QC is expected to publish her determination next month.


Lochee links remembered in new Michael Marra portrait

October 24 2013

The first anniversary of the death of Michael Marra was marked in optimistic terms with the unveiling of a portrait and plaque in his memory. The engaging portrait, by Fife artist Donald Smart, has been hung in Lochee Library and was unveiled by Michael’s daughter and son, Alice and Matthew, watched by members of his family, friends, local councillors and Dundee West MP Jim McGovern. A plaque bearing a lyric from Michael’s ode Hermless was also revealed, as its hero often visited the library to “tak oot a book” before he went hame for his tea. Dundee comedian Saint Andrew, who recorded a version of Hermless with Michael and their band The Woollen Mill, invited the assembled audience to join him, Christopher Marra and Kevin Murray in a rendition of what is arguably Michael’s best-loved song. Donald, whose son Donald is married to Michael’s niece, said he painted the portrait as he was determined to contribute to the memory of Michael following his sad death on October 23 last year. Michael’s family decided to do the unveiling on the date as it would give them a focus for what was a very emotional time. His sister Mary said it was a poignant day for all the family and added: “I can’t think of a more fitting place than Lochee Library for the painting to be hung. “As children we were very enthusiastic borrowers and avid readers, because there was no TV in these days.” Introducing Saint Andrew, Michael’s brother Nick added: “My first duty is to thank Donald for what is a magnificent portrait.” He described the library at the heart of Lochee’s “historic quarter” and humorously listed their childhood activities together as the young Marras grew up in the local area. The event was also attended by Lochee councillors Norma McGovern, Bob Duncan, Tom Ferguson and Alan Ross. Donald Smart was born in Kirkcaldy and graduated from Edinburgh Art College in 1979. He said: “I worked in the same signs factory for 29 years, earning a crust or two through caricatures and the odd oil painting. “In 2010, I was invited by an old college friend to participate in his painting old masters class at his studio in Edinburgh. “Intrigued, I accepted, and practically every Sunday since then, I could be found at WASPS at Patriothall. There the portrait of Michael was conceived, through a desire to do something for the family, following Michael’s sad death. “I hope people like it...it has been my enormous pleasure to produce it,” he added.

Scottish League 2

Arbroath recall McWalter

April 3 2015

Arbroath have brought Kieran McWalter back to the club from his loan spell at junior side Lochee United. The 19-year-old played twice for Allan Moore’s squad this season before joining the Bluebells last October. Moore said: “Dylan Carreiro and Adam Hunter are both suffering and I want as big a squad as possible for the run in so that is why I have brought Kieran back.”