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Angus & The Mearns

Much-loved photographer Jim Ratcliffe’s life through a lens on show at Signal Tower

March 12 2016

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.

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...

Angus & The Mearns

Pirate fun at Signal Tower Museum

May 10 2016

An Arbroath attraction is to host a day of piratical fun for all the family this weekend. As part of the Festival of Museums, the Signal Tower Museum will have a pirate-themed fun day including a live painting demonstration on Saturday. Local artist and performer Neil Paterson has researched the history of the bombardment of Arbroath by the French privateer captain Fall in 1781. With his banjo playing pirate colleague Brian McKay, Neil will recreate the events around this cataclysmic event using songs, tunes, costumes and live painting action. There will be pirate-themed activities including quizzes, trails and crafts to enjoy in the museum all afternoon, ages four and above. The live painting demonstration will take place outdoors and starts at 11am and will last approximately an hour. The craft activities will take place inside the museum after the painting demonstration. Admission to the museum is free but it is recommended to arrive at 11am for the painting demonstration, otherwise drop in between noon and 4pm.

Angus & The Mearns

Bell Rock lens room shines again after years in the dark

April 7 2017

Arbroath’s Signal Tower Museum has shone new light on an important piece of local maritime heritage with the re-opening of the Bell Rock lens room after several years in the shade. Closed since 2010, the lens room has undergone an extensive refurbishment, thanks to funding from the Northern Lighthouse Heritage Trust. The seafront building’s keepers, ANGUSalive, can now show the stunning lens in a new and contemporary display that highlights its structure and beauty. Museum officer Kirsten Couper said: “We are all delighted to open the doors to the lens room once again. "We are often asked by visitors about the lens and having this space re-opened is a wonderful addition to the telling of the story of the Bell Rock lighthouse. "We are sure the public will share our pleasure at seeing the new lens room.” Originally the shore station for Robert Stevenson’s Bell Rock lighthouse, which lies 11½ miles off the Angus coastline, the Signal Tower now acts as a beacon of local heritage, promoting education and learning, as well as illuminating visitors on the history of lighthouses and lighthouse keeping. The Bell Rock is the world’s oldest surviving sea-washed lighthouse and has protected the Angus coastline and its people using a number of different lighting and lens mechanisms since its completion in 1811. Its electrification in 1964 saw it fitted with a new powerful light - surrounded by eight panels of lenses - which was originally used by the Isle of Man’s Chicken Rock Lighthouse. The lens was then gifted to the Signal Tower Museum by Northern Lighthouse Board in 1988 during the automation of the lighthouse. Refurbishment work has included some restoration of the lens and its mechanism and the museum room features new interpretation panels explaining the history of lighthouse lenses and lighting mechanisms as well as graphics giving a photographic panorama of the view from the Bell Rock itself. Children from Arbroath's Timmergreens primary and local band Slipway combined at the re-opening ceremony to perform the Bell Rock Light and The Smokie Song for invited guests that included Peter Mackay, chairman of the Northern Lighthouse Heritage Trust.

Angus & The Mearns

The Ratcliffe Collection: Thousands of Angus photographer’s pictures snapped up for archive

January 30 2015

An Angus photographer has donated his life’s work of more than 75,000 negatives to a museum’s archives. Freelance photographer Jim Ratcliffe has operated in Arbroath since the 1960s and meticulously catalogued every picture taken in that time. The collection has been gifted to Arbroath’s Signal Tower Museum to be archived by Angus Council. Mr Ratcliffe said: “My wife said she wanted the space back in the loft of our house so I wanted to find a good home for the negatives. “They show the changing face of Arbroath and other towns in Angus over the last 40 years and I think there will be a lot of pictures of interest for the council’s archive. “I’m delighted the Signal Tower Museum took an interest in them.” Mr Ratcliffe, 77, started as a part-time photographer in the late 1960s when also working for the hydro board maintaining high-voltage equipment. He opened his own studio in Lordburn, Arbroath, in 1974, which he operated for 30 years. He started off with a Mamiya Press camera, which produced 6cm by 7cm photographs with eight images on a roll of film. He then moved to the lighter Mamiya 330, then a Bronica ETRS and a Canon F1 before switching to digital cameras. “I loved doing the job there aren’t many occupations where you go to so many places and meet so many people and get paid for it,” Mr Ratcliffe said. “Highlights included Andy Stewart and the Territorial Army both being given the Freedom of Angus. “In 1976 I had the pleasure of going up in a helicopter with Courier reporter Ian Lamb to take a series of aerial photographs. We flew all over town. “I photographed the Queen Mother so many times that there were occasions when she would come over to check I wasn’t getting tired if it had been a long day,” he went on. “Doing the wrestling was great fun. Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy would frequently come to Arbroath and I’d have great craic with them.” The donation was welcomed by the Signal Tower Museum’s curator Colin Easton. He said: “It’s a huge collection which shows how Arbroath and the rest of Angus has changed over the years. “A huge bonus is that there are descriptions for all the negatives. At the moment we have a large number of pictures in our archives but we don’t always know what or who the photo shows. “I’d like to thank Jim for the donation. The collection will be passed to Angus Archives for them to study.”

Perth & Kinross

Perthshire connection helps Russian war veterans to victory

April 16 2013

A group of Russian war veterans have won their latest battle with a little help from The Courier. The air force veterans marshalled the power of the press as they fought a rearguard action to save the Museum of the Transport Air Force Division at Vnukovo in Moscow from closure. The museum was created in the 1970s as a tribute to the heroism of pilots during the Second World War and houses a collection of more than 4,000 items of memorabilia, documents and military awards donated by the air force veterans and their families. The future of the museum came under threat after it was decided to close the municipal cultural centre where it is located for renovation. Incensed by the prospect of losing the museum, the families of the war heroes started a petition and held a protest at the local war memorial. They even enlisted the help of a modern aviation hero, pilot Evgeny Novoselov, who in 2010 made a miracle emergency landing of his aircraft, saving the lives of all 81 people on board, who wrote a letter of support to President Vladimir Putin. As part of their plan the veterans armed themselves with copies of articles from The Courier which told of a mysterious wartime mission by Soviet airmen to Perthshire which showed the amount of foreign interest in the veterans’ story and proved vital to their fight. News of the success came from Anna Belorusova, a Russian woman who has made a pilgrimage to Errol airfield to learn more about her heroic grandfather Peter Kolesnikov, who served with the squadron. “What became the turning point in sealing the museum’s future came from Scotland with the recent Courier articles disclosing the mystery wartime mission of the best airmen of the Vnukovo Transport Air Force Division at the RAF Errol base, as part of 305 RAF Squadron,” she said. “The Courier articles closing the gap in the division war history and confirming that the memory of the Russian airmen war time presence is still alive in Scotland, have given the second breath to the Vnukovo museum defenders. “The Scottish articles were seen and appreciated at the top Moscow offices and the happy ending came last week. It has been decided that the museum is to stay and to develop, for the 70th Victory Anniversary and further on. Elena Nikitina, the chief curator, said: “We are very grateful to the Scottish people for their friendly hospitality to our airmen in Errol during the war, which they had very fond memories of.”

Angus & The Mearns

Community shows its support to project to remember men who died in the First World War

July 6 2016

An Angus museum has been stunned at the response by the community to its project to commemorate men who lost their lives during the First World War with handmade poppies. Hundreds of poppies have been created at the Signal Tower Museum in Arbroath since the ambitious project started almost two years ago. It was hoped that there would be enough interest for a poppy to be created for each of the 830 men on the Roll of Honour from the Arbroath area who died during the Great War. The commemorative poppies created have a man’s name, age, rank and regiment written on their backs and are put on display at the museum. There are currently around 500 poppies on display at the museum with more continuing to be produced. Museum officer Kirsten Couper said she was absolutely thrilled at the response. She said: “When we started the project we had no idea how successful it would be and how many poppies would be made. We are absolutely delighted. “The project has been really popular and visually very striking in the museum. “It has captured the imagination of local people, holiday makers, school children, and everyone wants to do their bit to remember the men.” The project will continue until November 2018. When all 830 men from around Arbroath have been commemorated with a poppy, any additional poppies will be dedicated to all the men in Angus who died during the First World War. Staff at the museum are appealing for anyone who has red card or materials to donate them to the museum to meet demand. The museum marked the centenary of the start of the Battle of the Somme last week with some of the poppies. It is thought 75 Arbroath men died at the Somme but the figure could be higher. Staff from Signal Tower Museum laid a handmade poppy wreath at the Arbroath War Memorial as a mark of respect to the Arbroath men lost at the battle. Kirsten added: “Primary four and five pupils from Borrowfield Primary School in Montrose visited Signal Tower Museum last month on a school trip. “The children were so impressed with the poppies on display that they asked the teacher if they could make their own poppies in class. “The teacher agreed and last week the teacher handed in 21 handmade unique poppies. “Some of the poppies were used to create a wreath and the wreath was laid at Arbroath War Memorial to mark the anniversary of the Somme.” The town also witnessed huge losses in May 1915, when many Black Watch men lost their lives at the Second Battle of Artois and in September 1915, during the Battle of Loos. People of all ages are still encouraged to take part in the poppy project, by dropping into the museum at any time.

Angus & The Mearns

Tributes to famous war leaders on show at Arbroath museum

July 2 2015

A trove of First World War memorabilia is on display in a Tayside museum. Some of the most recognisable figures from the conflict were preserved as Toby jugs by cartoonist Sir Francis Carruthers Gould between 1915 and 1920. A collection have gone on display at the Signal Tower Museum in Arbroath and will be open to the public until September 30. Curator Colin Easton said: “Some of the best ceramic memorabilia items ever made were limited edition Toby jugs of First World War political and military leaders. “They were designed between 1915 and 1920 by Sir Francis Carruthers Gould. Gould was a well-known cartoon artist and his designs were popular at the time.” The jugs were produced by Arthur J Wilkinson of Royal Staffordshire Pottery. Public opinion was mixed about some of the leaders commemorated by Gould’s series of jugs. Lord Horatio Kitchener was Secretary of State for War from 1914 to 1916, when he was one of 600 who drowned when HMS Hampshire struck a mine laid by a German U-boat. Sir John French was a field-marshal and Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force at the outbreak of war, before he was forced to resign in 1915 after costly losses. The most divisive figure among modern British military historians for some decades, Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig was commander during the Battle of the Somme in 1916 the battle with one of the highest casualties rates in British military history and Passchendaele in 1917. Gould was well-known in Edwardian society for his 1904 novel with Charles Geake, John Bull’s Adventures in the Fiscal Wonderland. It is a political parody of Lewis Carroll’s two books, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, featuring 48 satirical drawings based on originals by John Tenniel. The display is part of the museum’s commemoration of the centenary of the conflict. The Signal Tower Museum is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm and further information is available from museum staff on 01241 435329.

Angus & The Mearns

Signal Tower Museum shipshape for Year of the Light celebrations

January 29 2011

A £425,000 overhaul of the Signal Tower Museum will benefit Arbroath for years to come, it has been claimed. Councillor Jim Millar said the investment in the museum would pay off by boosting tourism and the local economy. The Signal Tower at Beacon Green, built as the lighthouse's shore base, housed the lighthouse-keepers' families and the keepers themselves when they were on shore leave. The refurbishment is an integral part of Arbroath's Year of the Light celebration of the Bell Rock Lighthouse's 200th anniversary. "One of the reasons we are pushing this so hard and the council is investing so much money is to try and capatalise on the worldwide interest in the Bell Rock and its history," said Mr Millar. "Arbroath will benefit from this investment for years to come. The Signal Tower Museum needed investment, it was very tired and dated and we have given it a focus now that it didn't really have before. "When I first mooted this, the idea was to bring it in line with the way museums are evolving elsewhere and give it a strong focus to attract visitors. It's important that we share our history with other people." The keys were handed back to Angus Council's neighbourhood services department by contractor Muirfield Contracts at a ceremony on Monday. The council will now begin installing exhibits, new and old, with reopening anticipated by early summer. "I am delighted the work is completed," said Mr Millar. Harry Simpson, who chairs the Year of the Light steering committee, said the tower represented an important lifeline between the lighthouse keepers on duty and the mainland. Each morning, a copper signalling ball would be raised from the top of the tower. Mr Simpson said the signal had other uses, too. If a keeper's wife was pregnant, he was not given leave to come ashore for the birth. "When the baby was born, the signal was a pair of trousers flown from the flag pole for a boy, a little dress for a girl," he said.

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