Heritage Claik This is the on-line version of the Newsletter posted to all members.
Welcome to the first newsletter of 2015 and best wishes. As this is the first newsletter of the new year I feel it is appropriate to try out a new format. It's my intention in future issues to write a short piece of narrative, reflecting on a specific story referring to Fraserburgh's (or district's) rich heritage. This may be factual, legend or simply a good story handed down (and often distorted in the telling) over the years. Ideally, these articles will take up pages 2 & 3 of a four page newsletter. Pages 1 & 4 will keep you informed of what is happening, or has happened, at the Centre. I hope you will approve and enjoy this one and future newsletters.
2014 was a successful year for your Heritage Centre. Memberships taken out were slightly up on the previous year, visitor numbers and subsequently, income generated also showed improvement on the 2013 figures. According to Tripadvisor, the Heritage Centre was number one visitor attraction in Fraserburgh when we closed our doors in October to end our ‘open season'. There are many positive and encouraging comments in our visitor book. Our website is frequently visited and our facebook page has attracted many ‘likes'. We do not wish to become complacent but at this point in time we are ‘in a happy place' and the future looks rosy.
One recent change to our working practices is to restrict the regular Society meetings to once a year i.e. the Annual General Meeting (AGM). At our last meeting, the subject of Society meetings was raised and the general opinion was that the meetings served no great benefit to members. There was a feeling that these meetings were becoming somewhat irrelevant and information could be easily disseminated by regular newsletter. As a result, a proposal was passed to limit the meetings to the AGM. There being no counter proposal, this was agreed.
Don – The Hero Dog
When you enter Fraserburgh's new swimming pool and community Centre, look up and you will see a beautiful sculpture of an angel flying overhead. This sculpture was the creation of Carn Standing, the artist commissioned to enhance the new building. If you look around the walls of the new pool you cannot fail to notice there are nine works of art on the walls. These were also created by the same artist and depict landmarks or events in the Fraserburgh area. You will no doubt recognise the Dalrymple Hall, the Lighthouse and Wine Tower, Tiger Hill and beach scenes. There is the Invercairn Walk and flute band and a beach scene with a dog standing in the foreground.
Carn Standing produced these nine pieces of artwork on A2 size boards which were then enlarged and printed to adorn the walls of the swimming pool. The original nine pieces were donated to various groups in or around Fraserburgh and the Heritage Centre was gifted the one with Don.
You could be forgiven for not recognising the beach. It is not, in fact, a Fraserburgh beach, but rather, looking towards Rosehearty from the patch of sand at the far end of the Port Rae Bay. On closer examination you can see that the dog is wearing a rather bulky collar with the name Don etched onto it.
Who was this dog and why does he merit a special place in Fraserburgh's swimming pool? The artist Carn Standing did his research and has tried to capture some of the flavour and interest of Fraserburgh and its immediate environs. He must have heard the story of this wonderful dog Don and been captivated.
In October 1904 the German ketch Maria, under the command of Captain John Hagen was sailing from London to Wick with a cargo of herring barrels. A violent storm got up and despite the fact the ship was almost at its destination, the Captain lost control and his ship was driven by a northerly gale right across the Moray Firth.
On 6th October, depite the crew's valiant efforts, she was driven onto the rocks below Broomhill Farm. Rosehearty's Coastguards arrived on the scene, and pretty soon there was a large crowd hoping and praying for a dramatic rescue.
Conditions were atrocious with raging winds and driving rain. The Coastguards soon expended all their rockets in attempts to fire a line out to the stricken vessel. Even a fresh supply sent out from Fraserburgh could make no impression against the raging wind. All seemed lost for the poor souls aboard the ketch, Maria.
Mr Shirran, the local banker, and his big black dog, Don, came on the scene. Witnesses reported that Don took the rope in his mouth and ran across the beach to the water's edge. He bravely jumped into the bubbling, frothing sea and started to swim through the maelstrom, disappearing from sight several times as the water engulfed him. Each time he resurfaced and struggled on. He twice had to return to shore, but on his third attempt he did not come back. Tension in the crowd was electric as his head bobbed up and down. Several times he disappeared from sight. As he neared the wreck site the crew could be seen urging him on and encouraging him to get closer. Eventually he got close enough for the crew to grab the rope with a grappling hook, pull it aboard and then fasten it to the ship's mast.
Don then made his way back to shore and the coastguards were able to get the crew ashore by breeches-buoy. The crew were then taken to the Bankhouse where they were given warm clothing and food.
For his efforts Don was presented with a solid silver collar by the Canine defence League. Don's collar is in the possession of Mr Graeme Simpson, a descendant of the banker, Mr Shirran, Don's master. The inscription on the collar reads,
Presented to ‘Don', the noble dog of A.M. Shirran Esq. of Roserhearty by Mrs Braybrook, Vice President of the Canine Defence League for his courage in swimming out to the wrecked schooner ‘Maria' & bringing back a rope & thus saving the crew on Oct 4th 1904.
If you enjoyed reading about Don, the hero dog you can find more information in ‘Our Forgotten Heroes' by Liz and James Taylor. There is a copy in the Fraser library in the Heritage Centre. In their book there are many eye witness statements. You could also visit Fraserburgh Library and request to see the Heralds from 1904/5 and read the newspaper reports of the rescue.
Over the winter season our volunteers have been very busy decorating and refurbishing the Centre. The floor and some of the walls have been repainted and are now looking refreshed. We are hoping to brighten up the exterior of the building with new signage, a new flag and decorated boards to brighten up the covered windows. The window boards will feature some of the displays on exhibit within the Centre and will hopefully attract more visitors.
The model of Broadsea has been given a thorough clean and a ‘partial paint' in an attempt to freshen it up.
The Fraserburgh Town Council display has been revamped and Councillor Wilson Stephen's robes have been added to the display.
We are currently in negotiations with David Maltby who will be lending us some bikes for a display, showing the development of bicycles through the ages. This will be an entirely new display for the Centre and will be of great interest to cycling enthusiasts.
We are also in the process of extending the loan of artefacts for our WW1 display so we can keep the display going throughout the centenary of the entire Great War and not disband it after the centenary of the first year of the war. We may also be able to change parts of this display if we obtain more artefacts.
Research on WW1 has still been on-going and a new file on ‘Broch soldiers' should be complete and ready for the new season. This file will be added to those already on display in the Fraser Library.
Along with this newsletter you will receive a letter from our membership secretary, Ronnie McNab and a membership renewal form which I would encourage you to complete and return with your membership fee either to Ronnie or the Centre.
If you are a regular visitor to our Facebook page you will have seen that we are advertising for part-time staff from 1st April to 31st October. The Centre will be open seven days a week from 11am until 4pm. We hope you will be a frequent visitor. Your support is greatly appreciated.