Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Tales of the Oak Launch - Doors Open Day

We've been working on our Tales of the Oak comic for almost a year now, and we're really pleased to say it's finally away to the printers and will be available exclusively at the Dutch Gable House on Doors Open Weekend, 14th and 15th September. 64 fully illustrated pages of local terror featuring shambling tunnel dwellers, cursed hiflats, ghost pirates, zombies and evil cultists. Oh, did we mention that it's FREE.

Tales of the Oak is funded by Heritage Lottery Scotland, like our storytelling project and our childrens book Wee Nasties. We'll also have our last remaining copies of Wee Nasties available on the day, along with an exhibition of some of Mhairi and Andy's original artwork and sketches from the book and comic.

And that's not all you'll be able to enjoy. We've now moved lots of Sir Glen Douglas Rhodes furniture and curios out of storage and into his replica study in the Dutch Gable where you will be able to experience his life and times, the wonderful Newark Products shop will be open, selling a wide range of bespoke and handcrafted gifts, plus there will be folk music in the Back House and films in the Secret Cinema. It's all good.

We'll be along from 10 - 4 on both days, hopefully see you then.

And I don't want to panic ye or anything, but the last time there was a local heritage graphic novel, Identity The Archivist's Treasure, there were 4000 copies and they were all gone in quicksharp time. That's why you can only get it online now. There's only 1000 Tales of the Oak. So get em while they are hot...

Enjoy our trailer for the comic below...

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Inverclydes Great War - McLean Museum

McLean Museum

Your museum needs you: WWI poster collection to go online

The country’s largest collection of world war one posters will be given a new lease of life online.
For, thanks to a heritage lottery fund (HLF) grant of £51,300, the collection at Inverclyde Council’s McLean Museum will be preserved and published online through a new website.

The collection of over 300 posters from the First World War includes recruitment posters from the Great War encouraging civilians to sign up and serve in the conflict. It also includes propaganda posters encouraging those at home to buy war bonds and there’s a large collection of German occupation posters used by the military during their occupation of foreign countries.

The digital poster collection will be a key element of Scotland’s commemoration of WWI next year.
Inverclyde’s communities vice-convener, Councillor James McColgan, said: “Next year the entire country will remember the 100 years since the beginning of one of the bloodiest conflicts in history. Communities in Inverclyde, like many parts of Scotland were torn apart by the war with generations of families changed forever.
“The commemorations of the centenary next year give communities across the country the chance to remember the sacrifices made and the impact those sacrifices had on the shape of our country today.
“The poster which stands out in many people’s memories is the famous image of Lord Kitchener with the legend: Your country needs you. However this incredible collection of posters show the vast range of messages being promoted in the lead up to and during the conflict.
“There are recruitment posters urging men to sign up to join the battles, there are promotional posters urging locals to help fund the war through war bonds. There’s even a collection of rare German propaganda posters. The artwork and message of these posters reflect a different time and by being able to make them available online we can share this fascinating glimpse into that conflict with generations to come.”
The project will digitise the collection of over 300 posters. A collection of local newspapers from that period is also set to be digitised. A blue heritage plaque will be placed at the site of the Greenock headquarters of the 1/5th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Inverclyde was traditionally an important recruiting area for the regiment.

Colin McLean, Head of HLF Scotland, said “Saving our historic archives is important as they provide such a valuable resource for anyone wanting to explore their past. This First World War collection is bursting with images that give us clues about what life was like and how that has shaped us into what we are today.”
Workshops will be arranged and there’ll also be displays in Inverclyde’s McLean Museum in Greenock.

A play based on the letters sent back home from soldiers serving in the Battle of Gallipoli will be produced and performed in the museum and in local community centres. There will also be a leaflet produced and special tour programme created of the WWI graves.

 As well as the large collection of posters, the online website will also include muster rolls and residents will also be able to upload their own memories and photographs to add to the collection.
Inverclyde Council’s McLean Museum is based in Greenock.

You can get regular updates from the project on their facebook page.

About the Heritage Lottery Fund
Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) sustains and transforms a wide range of heritage for present and future generations to take part in, learn from and enjoy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. To date it has invested over £500 million in Scotland’s heritage. Website: www.hlf.org.uk

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

If Walls Could Talk....

This piece was written by Mark Jones, who rediscovered it recently and passed it on to us. Mark won our Tales of Unease competition last year with Moonlight Over Inverkip, and runs his own proofreading business Wordsmith Jones Editorial, which proofread the Identity : Kith and Kin book this year. Mark has very gamely just started republishing excerpts from his 20 year old teenage diaries on A Diary of Teenage Embarrassment, which gamely contrasts his painfully recognisable diaries with videos and images from the same period. Nice stuff.

If walls could talk, what would they tell? The Greenock house opposite mine could spin an intriguing yarn. I wonder if the current occupants know. I’m tempted to ask, but I won’t for it has far from a pleasant plot and no happy ending. Besides, who wishes to learn that their home once housed a man hanged for treason?

Its former inhabitant is Duncan Alexander Croall Smith, later known as Scott-Ford. Born in Plymouth, 1921, and raised there until his father – a sick bay attendant in the Royal Navy – committed suicide in 1931, Scott-Ford had, by June 1939, joined the Navy. With war looming, he sailed aboard HMS Gloucester, bound for Dar-es-Salaam, in modern Tanzania.

Here, he met a 17 year-old German girl, Ingeberg Richeter. Having visited her family home several times, the pair traded three letters, a fourth being returned to Scott-Ford after the Richeters repatriated to Germany – perhaps indicating that his ardour for the girl was stronger than hers for him.

A year later, Scott-Ford docked in Egypt. Escaping war for a while, he dallied with a prostitute whose fees impoverished him. He twice forged his Post Office book to withdraw non-existent funds, and was courts-martialed, discharged dishonourably from the Navy. However, following his mother’s repayment of the money, his prison sentence was reduced to honourable discharge. Thus it was, in July ’41, that he arrived amid the bomb-shattered streets of Greenock.

It’s uncertain how his mother and stepfather moved to Bannockburn Street, but evidence suggests they had family connections to the town. Scott-Ford’s reunion with his mother went badly. After accusing her of spending his wages on fur coats for herself and his cousin, he harangued her for sullying his dead father’s reputation. To the relief of all, he decamped to Union Street, and – once his Admiralty papers arrived – signed to a merchant ship.

After touring the Caribbean, Scott-Ford returned to lodgings on West Blackhall Street, before securing a berth aboard the SS Finland. On February 10th 1942, he sailed from Greenock to Lisbon – a course that would lead, ultimately, to disaster.

One evening, Scott-Ford repaired to a Portuguese bar, where he was joined by a stranger who introduced himself as Rithman, a sea captain. Scott-Ford chatted with Rithman, reminiscing about Ingeberg. Rithman offered to arrange the resumption of the young lovers’ correspondence, but only if Scott-Ford confirmed a rumour that all British ships were to return to port by June 28th. Rithman then handed Scott-Ford 1,000 Escudos – no fortune, but a handy sum for a seaman.

Perhaps Scott-Ford had no knowledge of this rumour but decided to string along his companion, for either the money or a reunion with Ingeberg. Yet in doing so, he must have known he courted danger. This, after all, was an era in which sailors were warned that ‘loose lips sink ships’. For Rithman to supply money suggested he was more than merely curious in the whereabouts of British ships. And to have promised to put Scott-Ford in contact with Ingeberg could only mean he had relations with people inside enemy Germany. This was not a conversation any British seaman should have pursued.

The pair met again the following day, along with a mysterious Captain Henley. Scott-Ford may have been drunk the night before, but he’d had time enough to sober up and reconsider Rithman’s bargain. Yet, still he went. Why? Evidence suggests Scott-Ford was something of fantasist: he later portrayed himself as part of the ‘international spy racket.’ He was never that, for all the damage he may have caused. Nor was he very intelligent: any intent on his part to collude with the enemy put not only his fellow crewmembers at risk, but also himself. He was either stupid, or suicidal. Had he inherited his father’s depressive disposition? It’s possible he blamed the Navy for his father’s suicide; possible too that he resented it for representing the only career option available to him.

During May and July, Scott-Ford collaborated five times. In return for money, he signed receipts, naively using his own name, allowing Henley to blackmail him with the threat of exposure to the British consulate. Consequently, Scott-Ford surrendered a wealth of increasingly damaging information. After providing anecdotal comments concerning attitudes towards Churchill and the state of morale following German air-raids on Britain, he gave details of his convoy and ships lost along the way to torpedoes. He also provided the location of an aircraft factory at Merseyside, and details regarding the training of troops for a planned invasion of Europe he claimed to have overheard from Royal Marines in Greenock.

Conversely, his German paymasters became exasperated by his inability to supply other information regarding Britain’s minefields, warships Henley claimed were being built, and up-to-date copies of Jane’s military annuals. In a report made after Scott-Ford’s later internment, he was described as having arrived ‘full of bombast, visualising himself an important figure in the international spy racket […] eventually shown to be the traitorous rat he is.’ Traitorous, certainly. But in truth, Scott-Ford was never the master spy he made out.

Upon returning to Britain, Scott-Ford was twice asked whether he’d been approached by enemy agents while abroad. Initially, Scott-Ford claimed he had been approached but hadn’t co-operated. Perhaps he hoped to provide an alibi for any mysterious disappearances his colleagues might report. Perhaps he wished to appear important enough for agents to have taken an interest in him, but admirable enough to have spurned them. Possibly, his claims drew suspicion rather than deflected it, his superiors wondering why he’d waited so long to report the incident.

Asked again, on August 18th 1942, Scott-Ford proffered a similar answer. But British intelligence already knew Germans in Lisbon had been talking to an informer they code-named ‘Rutherford’. Confronted, Scott-Ford crumbled, confessing all. His personal effects were searched and notes discovered not only of the Finland’s movements since it left Lisbon but the names and positions of all ships in the convoy, as well as details of the aircraft protection provided.

He was sent to MI5’s Camp 020 in London and subjected to ‘rigorous methods of interrogation.’ Complying with the authorities, he became ‘increasingly alarmed’ at his situation. Like Timothy Evans – wrongly hanged for the murders of his wife and child in the later Christie affair – Scott-Ford appears to have been a man of below-average intelligence whose overactive imagination prevented him from separating fact from fiction, leading him to tell outrageous lies in order to impress others. Professor AWB Simpson has speculated that he may have been spared had he provided information on the German intelligence system. Tragically for Scott-Ford, this was information he simply didn’t possess. He just wasn’t the calibre of spy he’d led his accusers to believe. Only when he felt the cold shadow of the gallows fall slowly over him did he finally realise that the very people he should have been convincing of his innocence were people to whom he’d wasted time bragging his guilt.

On the 16th October 1942, Scott-Ford went on trial, in camera, at the Old Bailey. Judge Birkett heard from Sub-Lieutenant Wood, of the Admiralty’s intelligence division, that Scott-Ford’s actions would have proven ‘extremely useful to the enemy.’ Asked if Scott-Ford deserved reprieve, the Commandant of Camp 020 replied, ‘death by hanging is almost too good for a sailor who will encompass the death of thousands of his shipmates without qualm.’ Scott-Ford’s fate was sealed and the prophecy he made upon arrest was fulfilled:

‘If they can prove I’m a spy, they’ll send me on the eight o’clock walk.’

On 3rd November 1942, at Wandsworth, Albert Pierrepoint led the prisoner to the appointed spot, placed a white noose over his head and – with the pull of a lever – sent all 5’5", nine and a half stone of Duncan Alexander Scott-Ford’s body plummeting through the dark, gaping trapdoor and into the world beyond. The following day, a report appeared in the Times, with a warning to all British seamen against fraternising with strangers who might ensnare and blackmail victims.

One can only surmise how the news was received in Greenock, particularly by his family.

Scott-Ford wasn’t innocent. Neither, on the evidence we have, was he a particularly pleasant person. As for his motives, they are impossible to comprehend. Perhaps it hardly matters. Just the very thought that in different circumstances he might still be alive today makes his story, and the waste of his life, seem all the sadder.

I discovered his story while failing to find stories of former residents of my own home. My walls, it seems, don’t talk. However, soft whispers from a house opposite have intrigued me. They have transported my mind across oceans, aboard ships I’d never heard of, to cities and brothels and scenes of which I could never have imagined, and into the dark mind of one of Greenock’s lesser-known inhabitants. It makes me wonder what other tales remain to be told of our towns, if only we listen. If the walls of your street could talk, what might they tell?

Tuesday, 6 August 2013


A few months ago, we offered folk the opportunity to come along and get some storytelling training, just the basics, the chance to get confident. The group had support from storyteller Allison Galbraith, as recommended by Scottish Storytelling Centre. We've met in The Dutch Gable House a few times and later in the summer we'll be hosting our own wee Storytelling Ceilidh...one of the group even wrote a song based on a local tale!

It's part of our Heritage Lottery Fund Tales of the Oak project, our aim is to encourage the telling of traditional tales locally, to celebrate and preserve our intangible cultural heritage.

If you are interested in attending our next set of training sessions later in the year, let us know by contacting aulddunrod@gmail.com.

We also had an excellent opportunity last week to work with the Kelpies heritage group. As part of an international exchange with Finland, we sat and shared local folk tales and stories with a group of young people from Inverclyde and Finland. Everyone went away with copies of Wee Nasties and it's safe to say The Catman was a particular favourite.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Port Glasgow Sculpture Vote

From Clutha Dreaming proposal by Andy Scott

I think I've made my feelings on the pros and cons of public art and sculpture fairly plain. I enjoy public art sculptures so much so that they are one of the main features of my book Tin Jimmy. I'm just not always so keen or convinced by the "engagement" which goes on around them...

HOWEVER....right now, you can vote on 1 of 4 potential new sculptures for the Port Glasgow roundabout. This is just down the road from me, so for once, I have a bit more inclination to be interested in how this one goes.

Once you get by the "waste of time and money" debate that will doubtless surround this particular piece given the timing, all art is subjective - we are all right and all wrong for our own contextual and aesthetic reasons. And so for me, hands down, its Clutha Dreaming on this one. I think we have a tremendous amount of sculpture and material which celebrate our shipbuilding heritage, in Greenock and Port Glasgow town centres, even on the cycle track, so it would be nice if we looked to our myths and legends for once. It's a right outside bet though, it was in last place when I voted, and its a guilty pleasure cos it is just a wee touch "new agey" for round our way. I'll even be honest and say I'm not 100% sure its not just my favourite cos its called Clutha. We are big fans of personified river Clutha and as well as starring in both our folklore books, the sinister Cluthee cult are also part of our new graphic novel due out next month.

So...thumbs up for Clutha....though if ye push me...that big red heid is pretty funny...
Is art meant to be funny? Whole other debate.

Like they say, writing about music is like dancing about architecture...