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60 Years of the Mini (Snippet – Sept / Oct 19)

At the Grampian Transport Museum – Sunday 25th August

Sixty years after being launched by the British Motor Corporation (BMC), on 26 August 1959, the Mini remains one of the most recognisable and loved vehicles ever made – it was, also, arguably the world’s first classless car.
The Mini is an enduring symbol of the swinging sixties: it gave its name to the mini skirt and countless small versions of other products; it was bought by a wide spectrum of society from royalty to impoverished students – and in Mini Cooper formats, excelled in motor sport on stage rallies and on tarmac circuits.
In 1959, as the country emerged from post-war austerity, just over 58% of UK households owned a television set, 13% of households had a refrigerator and only 35% of households owned a car. By 1970 over 50% of households owned a car.

The Mini was a key component in all this change. In 1965, it was the UK’s 3rd bestselling car and ten years later, it was the UK’s 3rd bestselling car again. By this time, it was BMC’s bestselling car.
When production ceased in 2000, over 5.5 million Minis had been produced in car, van, estate car, pick up and Moke form.
Mini production peaked in 1971, with over 216,000 of the 318, 475 cars produced being exported.

To read more, please find The Knock News in shops, or purchase a digital version in our online shop.

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Walks & Wonders – Castle Country (Snippet – Sept / Oct 19)

By John R. Barrett

After a fortnight of being wet on the Tap only our lightweight boots and socks are dry enough to wear. So we chose a walk that is nearby and without watery challenges. Bridgend of Livet is close to home (for us).

There is a convenient parking place beside the little Glenlivet graveyard. A quiet place – one of several where MacDonald of Duart is said to have been buried after the battle of Glenlivet. We walk on the tarmac for a short half mile eastish. The swollen Livet foams under the remaining arches of the old bridge. (It is not a packhorse bridge – though doubtless packhorses used the crossing. Why are old bridges always ‘packhorse’ bridges?). Then on to the prettily beflowered Glenlivet hall where ‘Tea in the Park’ wafts cakey temptations to passers-by. My doctor should applaud my abstemious resistance as I resist.
A tarmac track (left past the hall beside the recycling bins) bends up hill. The masonry facade of a lime kiln looms at the roadside. At Deskie farm, a big prosperous place with a double-pile house surrounded by stately sycamore and conker trees, we turn left, through a gate to follow a track through the field. Sheep scatter ahead. At the end, beyond a gate and a fence, the land drops into a nettly and tuffocky strype. We slither down the bank and go ankle deep into the boggy bottom. Rising above is a grassy platform with the greened-over earthworks. Probably this is an early castle. But nothing is known. Even the castle might be doubted. Possibly, though, it is an Anglo-Norman stronghold: probably built in the twelfth century by one of the immigrant lords who received land confiscated from Gaelic supporters of the native line of Moray kings, descended from Macbeatha, Lulach, Máelsnechtai and Óengus.
We return to the Deskie Farm turn and take the Speyside Way path northwards uphill. This narrow and little used section of the Way is overgrown with tuffocky grass and tall nettles. But the uphill walk is worthwhile. Beyond a stone wall of head-dyke the unenclosed grassy muir is dotted with ‘hut circles’. These faintly visible circular stone founds are the remains of substantial Iron-Age roundhouses, extending ten metres or fifteen metres in diameter and rising as tall conical two storied dwellings for prosperous farming families…

To read more, please find The Knock News in shops, or purchase a digital version in our online shop.

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March 2018
Planetary Rover

Planetary Rover
By Bill Graham

Bill Graham started his working life at the coal face – as an apprentice mechanic of the mine for the National Coal Board in the collieries of his home county of Fife. It was a Coal Board scholarship that enabled him to go on to study for a BSc in engineering at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh.

He graduated with first class honours and went on to take a Master’s degree, with a thesis on aspects of thin gas films in lubricating high-speed low-friction bearings.

That link between abstract theory and direct practical hands-on application is something that’s been a feature of so much of what he does. His career has taken him from managing a large industrial laboratory to meeting astronauts and making a model Mars rover from scrap!
From university he went on to the Mining Research Establishment at Isleworth in London, working on the design of automotive mining machinery for remotely-operated long-wall coal faces. The machinery was guided along the coal face through tiny quantities of radiation scattered off the coal-rock interface.
His next job would give him an opportunity to travel in a different direction and take a pilot’s licence in spare time. “It was quite a change indeed,” he says. “After working deeper than 2,000 feet underground in my early days in Fife, I was up to 11,000 feet in the air, in Cessna and Piper aircraft. This was at Cambridge where I went to work at Hinxton Hall, home of the TI Group’s research laboratories.”
The TI Group of more than 140 companies manufactured a vast range of products – from steel to machine tools, from gas cookers to aircraft components. They set up research laboratories at Cambridge to develop the use of new materials such as plastics and ceramics, and they had the most advanced research equipment of the time and leading scientists and engineers to work with it. And they were set up with a vision. Basic research had contributed so much to winning the war and now in peacetime it would be applied to solve problems and create new opportunities for a post-war resurgence of industry…

To read the full story, be sure to pick up a copy of the March 2018 issue, or download a copy from our shop!

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September 2016
Deveronvale FC

In an unexpected spasm of sporting generosity, the boss offered to chauffeur his football-mad sidekick to watch Deveronvale FC in training.

The August evening sun was bright and it was very hot. The club train adjacent to their stadium, the Princess Royal Park in Banff. If you do not speak ‘football’ you may have wondered what goes on there!

When we arrived, the goalkeeper coach, James Blanchard, was busy setting out training cones for a few members of the junior team to practise; this they did, throwing, catching, jumping and energetically diving about.

After a while the ‘first team’ that we had come to observe ran on to the pitch with their coach, Steve Dolan, and the training ground filled up. Training started with warm-up circuits, intervals and running exercises and then developed into possession-based drills. There is certainly emphasis on fitness. As the sun disappeared behind the buildings it began to cool and the players were still engaged in match-based scenarios under the watchful eye of the coach. The team were also preparing for their weekend clash against Cove Rangers, last year’s champions, and there were a few earnest ‘tactical’ looking discussions breaking up the training.

Deveronvale play in the fifth tier of the Scottish Football League, competing with seventeen other teams vying to be crowned champions of the Scottish Highland Football League. They accomplished this in 2002/03 and 2005/06. In order to gain promotion to Scottish League Two – the fourth tier – the champions of the Highland Football League would play the champions of the Lowland Football League. The winner of this game would then play against the team which finished bottom of League Two. The victor would then play in League Two the following season, whilst the loser would join, or remain in, either the Highland or Lowland Football League…

To read the full story, be sure to pick up a copy of the September 2016 issue!

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August 2016
Functional Art

The Furniture of Mike Whittall
Photography by Craig Stephen

Two years ago, Mike Whittall made a dramatic change to his life. He left his accountancy-based career of twenty-five years – which had included working for Customs and Excise, Grant Thornton and Deloitte in the south and London – and moved to Scotland. He started in Aberdeenshire
working for Deloitte and after some time freelancing and
working, settled in Netherdale, near Aberchirder.

His new home, which he shares with wife, Jane Craigie – who runs a marketing business – is also the site of his new business venture. He will run ‘Ochre & Wood’, furniture-making and restoration in a steading workshop, which he is converting as we write. Mike gained an appreciation for woodworking from the age of five – from his grandfather and his father who were enthusiasts. Now Mike is in a position to realise his dream to be a professional woodworker. Although he is largely self-taught, he did attend a recent nine month course at the Chippendale International School of Furniture at Haddington – tutored by
Anselm Fraser. Until now he has been travelling back and forth using the
school’s well equipped workshops and has produced some outstanding sample pieces.

His aim is to use our local Scottish woodland heritage for the raw material.
Despite centuries of felling for fuel and building, our countryside is still home to some 1.4 million hectares of forestry – three quarters of which is coniferous and the remainder broadleaved trees. He is a firm believer in sourcing his timber locally where possible. Apart from the obvious ‘wood mileage’ benefits – his resulting pieces will have provenance. Mike’s philosophy is that ‘every tree has a story’…

To read the full story, be sure to pick up a copy of the August 2016 issue!