US visitors to sign new twinning link

Phil Mills-Bishop, Ellen Wong, who supports the aims of the twinning group,  and Richard Holman-Baird
Phil Mills-Bishop, Ellen Wong, who supports the aims of the twinning group, and Richard Holman-Baird

Stonehaven is playing host over the next few days to visitors from its American ‘twin’.

A delegation from Athens in Alabama is in town to seal the partnership.

Mayor of Athens, Ronnie Marks

Mayor of Athens, Ronnie Marks

Twinning group representatives Phil Mills-Bishop and Richard Holman-Baird travelled to the Deep South in June to sign an agreement of intent with the Mayor Ronnie Marks.

Now Mayor Marks is spearheading a group on the return visit to cement the links.

The move was revealed last year by Mr Mills-Bishop, co-ordinator of Stonehaven and North East Scotland Twinning Group.

It came after Stonehaven’s success in establishing a partnership with the French town of Acheres during the summer.

The links with Athens come as part of the city’s bicentenary celebrations.

Athens State University Religious Studies Professor Debra Baird has been overseeing the project.

The Clan Baird Society Worldwide has been involved in stimulating interest in the new partnership. Professor Baird is president of the society.

Clan chief is Richard Holman-Baird, of Rickarton Estate, who is treasurer of the twinning group.

Mr Mills-Bishop told the Leader: “The twinning with Athens Alabama is with a city state three times the size of Stonehaven and takes the twinning group to a new level after the successful links with Acheres, our French counterpart.

“While with Acheres we have successfully helped increase the footfall of French people to Stonehaven with golf, rugby and now tennis tournaments, the twinning with Athens will greatly increase tourist visits.

“Additionally, it looks to foster local kids having a potential chance to go to Huntsville Limestone County Alabama where the US Rocket and Space Centre run space camps. “Reciprocally, young people from Athens and Limestone County will travel over here to learn Scottish clan history and culture.

“It will need local sponsorship but Ellon Wong, of the US Consulate-General in Edinburgh is looking to help make those aspirations a reality.”

A full programme of activities gets under way today (Thursday) for the American delegation.

It will include a visit this morning to Ury House and to Crathes Castle in the afternoon.

Friday will see a trip to Aberdeen University, a tour of the Tivoli Theatre and later meeting the Lord Provost.

The delegation will travel to Aboyne Highland Games on Saturday.

On Sunday, there will be a “Twinning Gathering” in the long room of Dunnnottar Castle which will include speeches by Aberdeenshire Provost Bill Howatson, Ellen Wong and Mayor Marks.

Shortly before noon, there will be an official signing of the accord.

The hosts and their American visitors will visit the Edinburgh Miltary Tattoo on Monday and they will tour the Scottish Parliament the following day.