Review of the Year

Copyright Andy Thompson
Copyright Andy Thompson

Our annual review of the year takes in the first six months of the year with the second half of the year in next weeks edition.

JANUARY

Stonehaven Feein' Market. 'The Lindsey School of Dance in action. 'Copyright Andy Thompson Photography / ATIMAGES

Stonehaven Feein' Market. 'The Lindsey School of Dance in action. 'Copyright Andy Thompson Photography / ATIMAGES

2015 was ushered in on a high, as Stonehaven welcomed thousands for their traditional Fireballs ceremony.

Some 46 fireballs swingers took part in the ceremony, as well as a pipe band, traditional drummers and other entertainers.

Meanwhile, scores more turned out for the Open Air in the Square concert, which featured The Human League, the Peatbog Faeries, rising Scots singing star Carrie Mac and X Factor starlet Emily Middlemass entertaining the crowds in the town’s Market Square.

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Residents of Malcolm’s Way in Stonehaven announced that their spectacular Chrsitmas lights display had raised an amazing £5500 which was donated towards a kidney dialysis unit for Stonehaven.

And Debra Henry’s Christmas garden raised an impressive £119.22, which she donated to the RNLI.

FEBRUARY

February brought a flurry of wintry weather, with snowfall affecting transport routes throughout the area.

Long queues and several minor accidents caused chaos, and transport to Lairhillock Primary was cancelled.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom, however, as many youngsters relished the opportunity to enjoy the snow.

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Plans were announced to extend and refurbish the 15th century Tolbooth building adjacent to Stonehaven Harbour.

Two architects were engaged by the Stoehaven Tolbooth Association the charity which runs the Tolbooth museum, to provide visions for expanding the museum within the current footprint of the building.

They also said the opportunity would be taken during the building work to refurbish many parts of the building, which are showing signs of disorientation.

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Scottish legends Big Country took their show to Stonehaven Town Hall in February, and locals responded enthusiastically, with the gig selling out weeks in advance.

Stoney’s own Colin Clyne and the Carrons were the support act.

MARCH

It was revealed that plans had been lodged with Aberdeenshire Council for an £80 million golf course and 90 homes at Ury Estate.

An independent socio-economic report, by EKOS, commissioned for the planning application, said that the proposed championship golf course and associated housing development will generate £55.5million into the Aberdeenshire economy over a 15 year period and create 200 new jobs.

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Something that all of us that live here already knew was confirmed in March, when Stonehaven was named by the Sunday Times in their Top 50 Best Towns and Suburbs in Britain in which to live.

It came in at number 46, with only two other Scottish locations making the list.

The annual supplements combine data and statistics, such as crime rates, house prices and school performance with the local knowledge and expertise of Sunday Times writers, to compile the definitive top 50 towns and suburban locations in which to make your home.

It said about Stonehaven: “This charming fishing port and holiday resort is dominated by the dramatic ruins of Dunnottar Castle, a brooding medieval fortress perched on a rocky crag above the North Sea.

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The people of Kincardine and Mearns joined millions of others around the country to witness the solar aclipse which took place on the morning of March 20.

A lucky break in the clouds meant that it was witnessed by many in the area and the Mearns Leader was inundated with photos of the event, which saw 97% of the sun’s face covered by the moon as it passed in front.

Another eclipse will not occur until August 12, 2026.

APRIL

The headliners for Stonehaven’s 2015 Open Air in the Square were revealed as Scottish chart-toppers Deacon Blue in April.

They were announced as the head-liners for the latest event, following in the footsteps of previous acts Simple Minds, The Human League and the Red Hot Chilli Pipers.

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Official plans were lodged for Portlethen’s long-awaited new Hillside Primary School, with an expected price-tag of £13 million.

Building work has now begun on the new school, which is intended to relieve pressure on Portlethen’s existing primary schools, Fishermoss and Portlethen, due to the sharp increase in Portlethen’s population in recent years.

When finished, it is expected that the school will hold a role of 255 pupils with approximately 62 staff, and will also provide additional community facilities to the area, including playing fields.

The development of the Hillside area has seen an additional 800 homes in the town, putting pressure on infrastructure.

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Dunecht Estates, owners of Dunnottar Castle, gave a presentation to the April meeting of Stonehaven and District Community Council and Catterline, Kinneff and Dunnottar Community Council in which they outlined ideas for a £1.5million visitor centre at the tourist attraction.

It was also noted that there are plans to upgrade the coastal path adding in new viewpoints and paths which would lead down to the beach beside the castle.

Stuart Young, Chief Executive of Dunecht Estates, told the meetings that they were in no hurry to lodge the plans, and were just looking for comments.

No plans have yet been lodged. Inside the visitor centre plans were included for a cafe with a terrace view, toilets, exhibition space and retail.

MAY

The community of Johnshaven, as well as the Mearns Leader staff were in mourning as long-time correspondent for the area, and community stalwart, Clark Simpson, died aged 79.

Clark was behind the weekly ‘Johnshaven Jottings’ column which ran in this newspaper on a weekly basis for more than 30 years. He retired from the role in October 2014, but continued to contribute on a semi-regular basis until March this year.

Clark was well known in the Johnshaven community and beyond for his commitment to the village. He worked as a teacher in the area for many years. Clark was hugely respected by all staff, past and present, at the Mearns Leader, and is sorely missed.

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It was revealed that Aberdeenshire Council had agreed to a £15million flood protection scheme for Stonehaven.

The Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee gave their backing to the project in the hopes of preventing the kind of flooding the town saw in 2009 and 2012.

The project will include flood walls along the River Carron as well as a self-closing barrier between the White Bridge and the Bridgefield crossing.

Councillors also approved the area’s flood management and coast protection programme for 2015-2016.

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Members of the Laurencekirk Development Trust spoke out about their concerns regarding a lack of sports and swimming facilities in the design of the new Mearns Academy.

Aberdeenshire Council officers attended the meeting to explain the current circumstances and the inability to provide any more sport or leisure facilities during the current period of austerity.

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Talent Scouts for TV talent show The Voice arrived in Stonehaven in May, on the hunt for a new singing star for this year’s series.

Auditions, or ‘informal meet and greet’ sessions were held in Stonehaven Town Hall, with successful applicants being invited to progress to the next stage of the competition.

JUNE

Mearns Leader Deputy Editor Rachel Campbell and Reporter Lee McCann were delighted to kick off June by opening the annual Feein’ Market.

As always the Feein’ market was a huge success and praise must be given to the volunteers who organise the annual event.

They were also invited to judge competition and name the best stall. A great day was had by all.

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June 18 marked the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, and the Mearns Leader revealed at the time Stonehaven’s links to the historic event.

Andrew Kennedy was born in Inverness and served with the 79th Cameron Highlanders, a regiment formed in 1793 and based in Inverness. We do not know when Andrew joined the army but he may have served in the campaigns of the Peninsular War including the Battleof Salamanca in 1812.

However in May 1815, the regiment was sent to Belgium and took part in the battle at Waterloo, when the Duke of Wellingtom successfully defeated the army of Napoleon.

We are not told what part Andrew Kennedy played in the battle, but the interesting fact is that he was accompanied to Waterloo by his wife Rebecca Ferguson. Rebecca was born in Stirling in 1793 and would have been 22 in 1815.

The reason that we know Rebecca accompanied Andrew to Waterloo is that it is recorded on their gravestone which is in Dunnottar Cemetery, Stonehaven.

The 1861 census shows Andrew nd Rebecca living at 5 Bank Alley in Stonehaven which may have been a lane behind the Bank of Scotland on the corner of Market Square, now the British Legion premises.

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More than 4,800 people (including Mearns Leader reporter Lee McCann) flocked to Baird Park in Stonehaven to attend the first Midsummer Beer Happening.

A massive £16,000 was raised for charity at three-day celebration of brewing, held over three days in a purpose-built marquee.

The Happening, saw 138 beers – craft, Belgian and real ales – on offer, while a range of bands entertained visitors.