This week, Dr Fiona-Jane Brown looks at the sensational and controversial murder case of Thomas Guyan, shot dead at point blank range by his wife's lover, Harry Burnett. The trial would lead to Harry's execution on the 15th of August 1963. Medical evidence at the time suggesting Harry had neurological issues which caused his "psychopathic personality" was rejected by trial judge, Lord Wheatley. Today it would appear Harry Burnett would have been treated very differently, and perhaps have still been alive. Public support was on his side at the time, and Margaret Guyan, Tommy's unfaithful wife was dubbed a "femme fatale" with poor morals who lead 21-year-old Harry astray.
First in our true crime specials. Local historian, Dr Fiona-Jane Brown presents one of Aberdeen's famous unsolved murder cases, that of 18-year-old Betty Hadden, apparently murdered on 12 December 1945, as only her forearm was ever found, the fate of the rest of her remains a mystery. She was last seen in Torry walking down Crombie Road late at night; her arm was found on the foreshore near the foot of St Fittick's Road by retired cooper, Alexander King, who was walking his dog. Police scoured the whole area to no avail, they never found out who it was that had been heard screaming around 2am on the 12th either. Detectives kept one lone house under surveillance for a fortnight after Betty's arm was found, but were unable to make an arrest due to lack of evidence. So, who killed this 1940s party girl?
This week, Dr Brown looks at the origins of a tune and a bothy ballad (worksong) associated with the Mearns/Kincardinshire, now part of Aberdeenshire; the first is the tune "Bonny Lass o' Bon Accord" penned by fiddle virtuoso, James Scott Skinner, a native of Banchory, who was inspired by Wilhelmina Bell, a girl who had fallen on hard times, and the second, the lesser-known bothy ballad "Atween Stanehyve an' Lowrinkirk" (Between Stonehaven and Laurencekirk) which local balladeer, Geordie Murison explains, was inspired by a true event at Clochnahill Farm, not far from his own at Mains of Craigiecat, both to the west side of the A92 Stonehaven Road. Clochnahill was originally owned by Robert Burns' grandfather, John Burness until 1745. The ballad was written in the 20th century, possibly by John Mearns, a popular folk singer in the 1960s, but the incident on which is was based, happened in the late 19th century.
Two stories from Aberdeenshire this week, looking at Crimond Kirk's famous 61-minute clock and its origins, why it had one too many strokes on the clock face, and how the village reacted to well-meaning Polish ex-serviceman who tried to rectify the problem after WW2; also Crimond Aerodrome and its part in WW2 as HMS Merganzer, run by the Admiralty. Both stories came from "Hidden Aberdeenshire: the Coast" published in 2014.
Most Aberdonians know that "Bon Accord" is our civic motto. When asked what it means, they either say "Happy to meet, sorry to part, and happy to meet again," (that's another story in itself) or "French for good agreement"! The legend goes that it was the password Robert the Bruce's army used to attack the occupying English forces at Aberdeen Castle in 1308. Historians have dismissed this as fantasy - join Dr Fiona-Jane Brown to find out what truths and half-truths there are behind this famous phrase.
An enduring legend of Aberdeen is that William Wallace's severed arm was displayed on the Justice Port of Aberdeen following his execution in 1305. It was believed that patriots stole the arm at night and buried it - either at St Machar Cathedral or St Fittick's Kirk in Torry. Dr Fiona-Jane Brown, the History Quine delves into this most fascinating of stories concerning Aberdeen's connections with the Guardian of Scotland
This week, we look at two lesser-known urban legends of Aberdeen; the Russel Head, a grotesque sculpture which is current affixed to the side of Provost Skene's House, believed to have been created by George Russel who owned a property on Ragg's Lane, opposite Queen St. He created it in a fit of rage against his neighbour across the road in Broad St, who he believed had reported him to the council and had his bakery closed... or did he? Secondly, investigating the belief that Hitler instructed the Luftwaffe not to bomb Marischal College, as he wanted it for his Scottish Headquarters when he invaded. First in a series of three.
In episode 3 we look at artists connected to Aberdeen, firstly John "Spanish" Phillip RA, who started his life as an apprentice glazier, then Theodore Gudin, married to Marguerite Hay of Seaton, who was a prominent artist in France, commissioned by the king to decorate the Palace of Versailles, and lastly, Joan Eardley, who fell in love with the coastal village of Catterline, just outside Aberdeen, and exhibited her work at the Gaumont Cinema which had a gallery in the 1950s.
Possibly unique to this, the most northeasterly spot in Scotland, Flying-gigs Wynd was a lane or alleyway dating back to the 16th century. "History Quine", Dr Fiona-Jane Brown investigates this curious street name and its back story.
First podcast in the History Quine Series! Mary, Queen of Scots had four, but so had Aberdeen (and many more), Maries who made a difference. Tune in to find out who these local quines were and what they did with their lives. Researched and narrated by Dr Fiona-Jane Brown, historian and author. Theme music "The High Reel" by Horslips.