Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Hunter Wellies finally confirm their status as fashion toys rather than serious footwear

Hunter Wellington

Hunter Wellington

The once famous and reliable Green Hunter Wellington boot has confirmed its status as nothing more than an over-priced fashion toy, a plaything for wasteful celebrities, as it prepares for its appearance in the glamorous world of fashion, and display by models on the catwalk at London fashion week later this month.

Models will be wearing a new “bespoke” version of Hunter’s original boots, and completing the rural look with a “water-resistant original clear smock”, also made by the company, as part of its autumn-winter 2014 range.

Hunter wellies get re-boot at London fashion week – The Scotsman

The company is not the original though, which collapsed into administration in 2006, and was bought out of this status two years later,  as Hunter Boot Ltd. This company closed the original plant at Heathhall, near Dumfries, ending production in Scotland, relocated it headquarters to Edinburgh, and shifted production (apparently not the manufacturing plant and equipment) to China. The plant was sold of, and seems to have gone to Serbia.

By 2012, turn-over was almost £75 million – but customers were finding their Hunter Green Wellies were falling off their feet and leaking – I’m not saying this, those who post comment on the original story are:

Hunter Wellies wade off into the sunset

You can still buy proper wellies made using the original equipment, as it seems that the former Hunter production equipment was bought up and moved to Serbia, to a company named as Tigar Corporation:


(Comment are closed on this post, but can be made on the originalHunter Wellies wade off into the sunset )

February 4, 2014 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Archeolink to close two years after it closed

It’s a little over two years since I wrote about the closure of Archeolink, so I was slightly surprised to see a new item about the plug being pulled on the former attraction.

Then I realised that it was yet another crazy council related story, this time Aberdeen City Council.

I’m beginning to see why some spend their life posting derogatory stories about councils… there seems to be a ready source of material for the lazy writer from this source.

Looking back at my original item on Archeolink, it looked as if the centre, described as “lurching from one financial crisis to another” after being opened in something of a fanfare attended by Tony Robinson of Time Team fame, had been closed, and then failed to attract any interest by anyone willing to take it over. I thought that was the end of it.

Archaeolink was billed as a Prehistory Park where visitors were invited to Travel 10,000 years in one day from the Mesolithic to a Roman Marching Camp, aimed at charting the North east’s Stone Age, Pettish and Roman past. It featured a reconstructed Iron Age farm and a walk to the remains of an Iron Age enclosure and hut circle

I’m forced to make some guesses here, as this isn’t anything like the businesses I have been involved with, but while a normal owner would presumably have wanted, or been forced, to divest themselves of the costs and responsibilities of owning the dead site, Aberdeen City Council has been sitting on it since the place closed. In the midst of the supposed recession, I have to assume the land and any assets that were on it have done anything but appreciate. So there will be two years of depreciation – a figure that can only be guessed at.

I do know the council poured £1.5 million of taxpayers’ money into in 2005, as it was failing to attract anything like the visitor numbers it was supposed to.

There also the cost of ownership:

Stephen Archer, the council’s Director of Infrastructure Services, states in a report to the area committee that the former tourist attraction is still costing the council in the region of £30,000 a year in rates, insurance, repairs and security costs.

Mr Archer added:

Archaeolink opened in 1997 as part of an initiative to enhance tourism in Aberdeenshire. The then council contributed in excess of £2million to the project and this was matched by European Commission funding.

The subjects were leased to a trust whose purpose was to advance the education of the public in archaeological, prehistoric or historical objects. From the outset, visitor numbers never met projections and, consequently, since opening the council has supported the project with funding of £1.96million. In February, 2011, Aberdeenshire Council agreed to reduce funding for the visitors attraction budget and subsequently the facility closed.

If it were not for the obvious addition of staff wages and other running costs, the council might almost have been better keeping the place open. They might have made some money instead of pouring more into the pit, and it might even have magically turned itself around and risen from its own ashes.

Or not.

Via Aberdeenshire Council to pull plug on Archaeolink – Top stories –

Forgetting the council, it’s still a shame to see another museum (if we use the term generally) being lost completely.

There’s seldom news of a new museum opening successfully, and more often than not, we notice and report of attempts and intentions to establish such a facility, only for it to collapse after year or two, or for it never to be heard of again.

Iron age round house at Archeolink by London looks, on Flickr

Iron age round house at Archeolink by London looks, on Flickr

May 31, 2013 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

Closure threat to University Marine Biological Station Millport

I’ve been watching developments regarding the future of the University Marine Biological Station Millport for a while, in the hope that something might have been resolved after the news that it had lost major funding and the likely result would be closure.

The station is the third-largest employer on the island in the Firth of Clyde, with 30 permanent staff, and attracts more than 1500 undergraduate students every year to carry out field work in the island’s coastal terrain. It also contains a museum and public aquarium that are one of Millport’s biggest tourist attractions.

A study by Jura Consultants in 2010 found that UMBC was responsible for 10 per cent of all employment on Great Cumbrae and contributed around £400,000 to the local economy each year.

Just two weeks ago it was awarded £100,000 from the UK Government’s Coastal Communities Fund towards renovation costs.

Closing the facility would also end more than 125 years of history that began when marine biologist Sir John Murray set up a floating laboratory at Port Loy in a disused barge.

Twelve years later local man David Robertson persuaded investors to fund a permanent research station at Millport.

It gained university status in the 1970s and has provided facilities for undergraduate, MSc and PHd students as well as hosting school field trips from around the country.

Via Threat to island jobs as Millport marine biology centre loses funding | News | Glasgow | STV

That news story appeared back in December 2012, just two weeks after the centre was awarded £100,000 from the UK Government’s Coastal Communities Fund towards renovation costs.


An online petition, which was collected in six days, was presented to First Minister Alex Salmond and Education Secretary Mike Russell on Thursday (January 17):

Last week, 42 Scottish marine academics, from six universities, signed an open letter to the Scottish government demanding “rapid” action to save the station.

Mr Russell responded by saying he had called a meeting of all those involved, including local MSP Kenneth Gibson, to discuss the situation.

Mark Blaxter, who co-ordinated the petition, said he was “humbled” by how many people had signed the petition.

“In only six days, thousands have registered both their dismay and their resolve, and are united in asking for swift action to save the station,” he said.

17 January 2013 – News of a Petition to save Marine Biological Station Millport

Millport biological marine station

Millport biological marine station © Richard Webb via geograph

Accommodation for those visiting the station is in a purpose built hostel, to the right of the station and just out of sight in the picture above. The station began in the centre building, but soon grew out of the space available, and the similar building to its right was later added to provide the space needed for its work to continue.

28 January 2013 – Video report on the station: Cumbrae marine research centre under threat of closure

Without wishing to sound critical of those speaking, they seem to suggest that the island and town are wholly dependent on the presence of the station, which some might say could be interpreted as damaging to the island’s much better known role as a holiday and tourism destination. The report suggests “Residents on the Isle of Cumbrae on the Clyde say the possible closure of a marine research centre will devastate the island’s economy”, and one lady was quoted on camera as saying “Might as well do away with the whole town.”

However, it does indicate how strongly they wish the station to remain in place, and that is important if their campaign is to succeed. Many similar efforts fade and fail because nobody cares – apparently not so on Cumbrae.

30 January 2013 – Redundancy talks mentioned in the video followed quickly: London University begins redundancy talks at Millport marine biology centre | News | Glasgow | STV

February 7, 2013 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, Maritime | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daldowie Garden Cafe has been and gone

I’m sometime down at Daldowie Crematorium quite often, not only for personal reasons, but because the grounds offer easy access to some interesting areas of the banks of the River Clyde, and the path of the National Cycle Network – Route 75, and Clyde Walkway which runs alongside at many places.

I didn’t manage to get there very often during 2012 though, but always try to wander along at New Year. Last year was memorable due to the snow and frozen ground, which made the walk to the river easier (despite the snow) since it effectively ‘fixed’ the wet and boggy ground found in many places away from the established tracks. Wellies are essential unless you want to walk back home with soggy feet, if you are not visiting in a dry summer). The frozen snow of Christmas 2011 also helped cover the many deep holes which can often catch the unwary, and if you miss spotting one, can find your leg disappearing almost 2 feet or more into a void. In summer, these can be hidden by clumps of grass and other undergrowth.

It was too dull and wet to have look at the river this year, so I just wandered around the gardens, and went to look at “The Garden Cafe” which I had spotted built into a room at the rear of the crematorium building. I’m always there ‘after hours’, to avoid disturbing any parties there attending ceremonies, so the place was shut, but it was obvious that it was in use, from the items on the tables and the counter.

I thought it was a good idea, as the place is nice and quiet, and while I am just around the corner and minutes away, I could see how those travelling some distance to visit the Gardens of Remembrance might appreciate having such a facility to hand – especially with our weather, which can change at the drop of a hat.

Sadly, it seems it was not sustainable, and when I walked around the back of the building, it was gone, together with its sign(s). I guess the number of people using it was just not enough to pay for the cost of supporting it and keeping it staffed.

A look through the window showed the counter was gone, and only a few of the tables and chairs were left scattered around the room, which was otherwise empty.

I shouldn’t really have been too surprised.

When I used to frequent a number of small (and maybe not so small) museums around the country, most of which are now gone, chatting with the staff suggested that they could only keep their cafes open on the basis of keeping them full, and that basically translated into special events, bringing in a lot of day visitors, or pre-arranged coach parties – neither of which is likely at a crematoria.

Good job I had a camera in my pocket the first and only time I saw The Garden Cafe, or I might not be able to convince anyone it was ever there…

Garden Cafe Daldowie

Garden Cafe, Daldowie Crematorium, 2012

Garden Cafe Daldowie

Garden Cafe, Daldowie Crematorium, 2013

January 2, 2013 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

John Hastie Museum – Strathaven – council closure announced

Sounding more like a traditional Glasgow City Council story – maybe South Lanarkshire Council has been looking around for inspiration – supporter’s are claiming that the council has no legal tight to close the John Hastie Museum because the building and land it stands on were a gift to the town, and have cited the terms of John Hasties’ bequest, within which the museum and park were given for “the free use, enjoyment and recreation, and to deposit his guns and all gear within a hall or house for the use and recreation of the inhabitants in the town of Strathaven.”

The council has approved the closure of the museum, which was opened in 1915, to make an annual saving of £20,000.

However, it has also given local groups and organisation a month to present alternative proposal for the building, issuing a statement:

“Although South Lanarkshire Council has approved the permanent closure of John Hastie Museum, it has been agreed that local organisations and groups are given time to produce proposals for alternative uses of the building.”

The council has said it doesn’t know how much it costs to run the museum, but that it knows it can make the £20,000 saving each year by closing it.

It also declined to provide a spokesperson to speak to STV, or allow the reporter to access the closed museum, and film inside.

The matter has been taken up by MSP Aileen Campbell, who just arrived in the post after winning the recent election. Speaking to STV News, the MSP said:

“There’s been no discussion or involvement with the community, so obviously I want to help the group who are concerned about this and help reverse this decision in some way, or at least have the council re-examine it.”

A local campaigner, Bob Currie, said:

“They’ve trodden over the people of Strathaven with their actions. It would be a loss culturally, historically, socially, educationally.”

MSP calls for rethink on Strathaven museum closure | Glasgow and West | STV News

John Hastie Museum, Strathaven:: OS grid NS6944 :: Geograph Britain and Ireland – photograph every grid square!

May 14, 2011 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, council, Lost | , , , | Leave a comment

Archeolink vistor attraction set to close in 2011

I have to confess to passing the Archaeolink Prehistory Park, an Aberdeenshire family attraction where visitors were invited to Travel 10,000 years in one day from the Mesolithic to a Roman Marching Camp. Apart from not being mad keen – but still interested – in such far back history, time was the real problem, as I was always en route to places further north.

Iron age round house at Archeolink by London looks, on Flickr

Iron age round house at Archeolink by London looks, on Flickr

The centre is now closed, and looks likely to stay that way unless financial backers are found to subsidise the attraction:

BBC News – Aberdeenshire tourist attraction Archaeolink to close

Archaeolink trustees in last-ditch attempt to reopen prehistory park – Press & Journal

Last-ditch bid to save Archaeolink – Evening Express

Sadly, I always find myself stuck between the proverbial Rock and a Hard Place when I read these stories. On the one hand, I believe we need to have such facilities in order to make the subjects they cover interesting, and to provide employment and education. On the other, I can’t see how they can justify their existence if they are not viable, and pay for themselves by bringing sufficient numbers through their doors.

Archeolink opened in 1997 (in a ceremony with Time Team’s Tony Robinson centre stage), and has been receiving a subsidy of £135,000 per annum from Aberdeenshire Council (for the past five years), and according to the media reports posted a loss of £130,000 for the period 2009-10, accompanied by falling visitor numbers, with 10,500 being reported for the same period – no indication was given of earlier numbers. However, it did state that each visitor was subsidised to the extent of £13 by the council, and a single adult ticket cost £6.10.

It seems it did not go down too well with the locals though, who branded it a “white elephant” from the start, and it failed to attract the expected numbers of visitors.

I’m not surprised, reading on, we learn that Audit Scotland once warned the local authority that it would have to repay a £2 million grant which had been received from the European Regional Development Fund if the trust which then ran the place was disbanded before June 2007. At the time, Press and Journal was told that the council “couldn’t afford to close it down”.

I suspect the problem is that it was built too far away from a suitable pool of visitors, and once everyone who could visit it had seen it a few times, they got bored, and people from further away would only make the trip once, so that stream of repeat business was never a reality. In all likelihood, potential visitor numbers were ‘massaged’ at an early stage, in order to endure the grant referred to earlier was won. Fine if the feet fall through the door, but in the harsh reality of daylight, no amount of visitor number projections will materialise if the distances are too far, and entrance charges too high – even if fair and subsidised. It’s all very well talking something up, but if it fails to deliver, it will ultimately fail as no-one will pour money into a bottomless hole forever. According to the local authority, it has assets worth £1.7 million as of 2010.

A petition was raised to appeal for support to keep the attraction open:

Save Archaeolink Petition, Aberdeenshire Scotland

Save Archaeolink Petition


On April 1, 2011, there was news that the feature could be saved, as the trust which runs it said it would find the money to pay staff from its own funds, and that there was an as yet unnamed party interested in the park.

BBC News – Archaeolink Prehistory Park could be saved


No joy for this park, as it is to finally be wound up.

Archaeolink Prehistory Park in Oyne opened in 1997 but was closed in March.

Negotiations to keep it open have failed to secure its future, and the trust which runs the project said this means the property will be officially handed back to Aberdeenshire Council

BBC News – Oyne’s Archaeolink Prehistory Park to be wound up

February 24, 2011 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

World-class startup lab at Dundee University closes

Medicine drugsHaving been in the position to go ‘cap in hand’ to bodies such as Scottish Enterprise in an effort to raise fairly modest sum of money to start or maintain small businesses, I’ve always looked in amazement at the way some startups can conjure up multi-million pound finance packages for what look – to me at least – some fairly speculative and risky ventures, often with promised of future returns that would probably have the Dragons falling off their chairs with laughter.

While I’ve never been involved in developing things such as drugs or treatments,  I do appreciate the costs involved, so it’s no surprise to learn that the Translational Medicine Research Collaboration (TMRC) needed an £11.6 million research facility, or that it was founded in 2006 with a Scottish Enterprise grant of £17.5 million.

Opened less than two years ago, by Scotland’s First Minister, the multi-million pound medical laboratory will be shut down my March 31, 2011, after which the building will be used by the university’s school of medicine.

The collaboration was a partnership between the universities of Dundee, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow, their corresponding health boards, Scottish Enterprise and global pharmaceutical company Wyeth. In a statement, TMRC said, ‘The TMRC partners are currently reviewing and evaluating the structure of this collaboration to develop a more sustainable model of operation.’

However, given the hoops I (or rather we) were forced to turn somersaults through for what amounted to only a few thousand pounds, I’m more than a little dismayed to see that this supposedly ‘world-class’ facility, which Scottish Enterprise said at the time would create 50 jobs at the ‘state-of-the-art’ lab, “rising to as many as 120 over five years”.

I can’t help but feel that someone should have seen that this was not really going to go anywhere realistic way back at the start, when the open hands were being held out.

A University of Dundee spokesman said 28 university employees were currently working at the research lab, 11 had been redeployed to other areas of the university, eleven have moved on to alternative employment, another had retired, and that nine staff were left, with the university trying to redeploy them and avoid compulsory redundancies.

BBC NEWS | Scotland | Tayside and Central | Disease research gets £8m funding January 2007

BBC NEWS | Scotland | Tayside and Central | £11.6m drug research lab opened April 2009

February 16, 2011 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Clydebuit Museum will close on October 16 2010

Clydebuilt museum

Clydebuilt Museum

The closure of the Clydebuilt Museum at Braehead has been announced due to lack of funding.

I had no idea this closure was on the cards, and find the news rather depressing – we seem to mention only museum closures, not openings.

In many ways though, I am not completely surprised. Having been there a few times over the years, it was like visiting a ghost ship, and despite fairly well assembled displays and interactive goodies to play with, I was usually there alone, or with only a handful of other patrons.

I suspect lack of interest rather than lack of funding is the true story (as my visits to the Scottish Maritime Museum at Irvine have been similarly lonely, and I thought the place was shut the first time I visited), which is a bit of a shame, since Clydebuilt is right beside the packed Braehead Shopping Centre – full of potential patrons, but it looks as if they are more interested in shopping than history.

BBC – In pictures: Clydebuilt

From its own web site:

Please be aware that Clydebuilt will be closing it’s (sic) doors for good in October, our last day will Saturday 16th. We would like to thank all our visitors over the 11 years we have been open. If you wish to join the Facebook campaign to try and save the museum, type in ‘Save Clydebuilt’ into the search bar on Facebook.

Save Clydebuilt | Facebook

Scottish Maritime Museum – Braehead

Specially built to house the exhibits it contains, and with various plans for waterbuses and other floating attraction during its life, these have never come to pass despite various promises.

Again, we just do not seem to be able to put ‘bums on seats’ any more – and it makes a mockery of the Scottish Government’s call for a massive increase in tourism over the next few years.

Other than the scenery, there will soon be nothing for tourists to come and see or visit – except the shops.

Ah, perhaps that’s the real master plan – a tourist separated from their money is worth more than one spending a £1 or four for admission (or even nothing for our free entry museums) and hours staring at exhibits.

(Yes, I know, I’m just an old cynic )

October 12, 2010 Posted by | Appeal, Maritime | , , , , | 1 Comment

Bute cheese set to become extinct

Isle of Bute cheddarIt was disappointing to see the news that the Rothesay Creamery is to cease production – meaning that at least 19 jobs will be lost on the Isle of Bute.

Operator First Milk announced plans to close the facility in light of a significant fall in the production of milk on the island. It seems that this has fallen by more than 25% over the past two years, with the result that the creamery is under-utilised, and losing money as a result. From the outside, it has seemed that there were problems, but that things were able to continue, but it would seem that the situation is no longer sustainable, and First Milk is having to consider its responsibilities in Campbeltown and Arran, where it also has creameries. The company has said it will continue to collect milk produced on Bute, and transport it to the mainland. There are currently 14 dairy farms on the island.

There will no doubt be the usual politicised views, posturing, blame and accusations to follow from various sources, and a 30-day consultation period on the proposal is set to begin next week.

Isle of Bute Cheddar is described as a high value product, and a respected brand – I hope, I’m afraid I’m a fussy cheese eater, and don’t like cheddar – so there is always a chance that there may be someone out there with different resources and facilities on tap, which can be utilised in a way to make the product viable under the given circumstances, so there is always a chance that it may be rescued or revived

Read further details and follow developments in:

Rothesay creamery set to cease production – Buteman Today

Update March 25, 2010

The Buteman published a verbatim account of an interview where it posed several questions to First Milk’s communications director, Paul Flanagan:

First Milk: big questions, important answers – Buteman Today

Worth reading, as it tends to suggest someone has a vivid imagination, or is a stranger to the truth, as Paul Flanagan suggests that, “It is important that Alan and Robert carefully check the facts before they make allegations.

Robert is councillor Robert Macintyre, Argyll & Bute Council depute leader, council spokesman on the economy, environment and rural affairs, and Bute dairy farmer, while Alan is Alan Kennedy, Bute NFU branch chairman. Both accuse First Milk of “serious mismanagement”. Both clearly have an axe to grind with First Milk, and Paul Flanagan refuted their joint claim with performance figures quoted from recent years, showing that First Milk had far exceeded the sales performance of those companies previously managing the brand.

NFU Scotland president Jim McLaren, and colleagues George Jamieson and Lucy Sumsion, met the 14 remaining dairy farmers on Bute at the island’s Kingarth Hotel to discuss the implications of the closure announcement:

Farming bosses in Rothesay creamery talks – Buteman Today

Update April 01, 2010

It just might be that some sort of sense might be seen on Bute (of a type generally lacking on the mainland) and that a change in market trends may see a sensible response where all parties work towards a solution (which may, or may not ultimately be palatable or popular), rather than adopt unwavering “Them and Us” stances from the outset, which makes the chances of a positive outcome somewhat less than likely.

After the negative sign of the opening salvos (noted above), where both the local councillor and the NFU chairman could have provoked First Milk by accusing it of “serious mismanagement” in an apparently unjustified outburst, the news is of positive discussions, where meeting attended by First Milk, Argyll and Bute Council, NFU Scotland, HIE (Highlands and Islands Enterprise), the Bute Estate, local dairy farmers and the island’s MP Alan Reid, among others, with enterprise minister and Argyll and Bute MSP Jim Mather in the chair, ended with the news that First Milk would be prepared to sell the plant if the right deal was made.

A £15,000 feasibility study is to follow, carried out by HIE in conjunction with First Milk, tasked with examining various options for keeping the Bute creamery open.

Signs of hope after creamery talks? – Buteman Today

Update April 28, 2010

News of the decision to en production at the Rothesay Creamery on May 07, 2010, was carried by The Buteman online on April 28, 2010.

A spokesman for the creamery said the decision had been made following the continuing losses being made by the plant, and the lack of any offers to purchase the plant following the original closure announcement which had been made in mid-March.

Although a feasibility study into the marketing of milk from Bute, being carried out by the Scottish Agricultural College, was still to be completed as this closure confirmation was announced. The news report noted that some employees may be retained for a time after May 07, to mothball the plant, implying that if a workable plan resulted from the feasibility study, the plant could be restarted.

News of the closure makes depressing reading. Not because of the closure itself, but the response by local dairy farmer Alan Kennedy, who also chairs the Bute branch of the National Farmers’ Union.

Since the first announcement, his comments have been anything but constructive towards First Milk and its management, and even though he is described as a local dairy farmer, and must therefore be running a business and have books to balance, he expresses surprise that the loss-making plant has been closed as its losses increase, and has even accused the company of intending to close the creamery regardless, and of not wanting anyone else there.

If I was sitting across the negotiating table from Mr Kennedy, and that was his attitude, I would close my factory and cut my losses at the earliest opportunity.

One doesn’t have to ‘cap in hand’ to negotiations, but a certain amount of discretion might be a good idea until the outcome is confirmed.

BREAKING NEWS: Closure of Rothesay Creamery is confirmed – Buteman Today

Update January 2012

THE site of the former creamery at Townhead was purchased by local firm Bute Island Foods Ltd, from First Milk.

The company manufactures and exports Sheese, described as a dairy-free vegan alternative to cheese.

Bute firm buys Rothesay Creamery site – Local Businesses – The Buteman

March 19, 2010 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

Suspected arson destroys Denbigh’s Cae Dai 50s Museum

Old car 1950Note that since April 2010, the owner has been able to open a small display in the community hall on the Cae Dai site.

A suspected arson attack on the night of December 1, 2009, has completely destroyed Denbigh’s Cae Dai 50s Museum in North Wales, together with all but one of the exhibits, the lorry used in The Great Train Robbery of 1963 – an Austin Loadstar which had been fitted with a secret compartment to hide the proceeds. The lorry was used by the gang during the robbery, then later recovered during a police raid on the gang’s safe house, Leatherslade Farm in Oxfordshire.

Also lost were the Ford Anglia used in ITV’s Heartbeat, a car owned by Diana Dors, and Ford Fiesta once owned by Christine Keeler. Other vehicles lost included a Chrysler Windsor, Mercedes-Benz saloon (payment to the owner for a bad debt when he ran a garage in London) , Riley 1.5 saloon, A55 hearse, pink Vauxhall PA Cresta, Standard Pennant, Berkeley sports car, “big bumper” Cadillac convertible, and a BSA motorcycle. An FX3 taxi from the 1950s had also been recently acquired, to transport visitors to and from the local railway station. There were at least 12 cars in the museum at the time. Outside the main museum, were an A35 and an A40, plus a collection of Reliant three and four wheelers,  two 195os shops, and a period garage. Also lost were Ronnie Biggs’ birth certificate, a mink coat in a glass case, and a collection of 1950’s boxing paraphernalia.

The museum was divided into a number of areas: Showbiz and Music, which featured a large collection of photographs, and a section on the owner’s own group of the 1950s, Sparrow and the Gossamers; Crime: the owner and his group had played at Esmereldas’s Bar, owned by the notorious Krays, who eventually employed him to run the bar, and featured various correspondence from them; Sports: the owner was an amateur boxer, with 200 contests to his name (and still runs the Denbigh Amateur Boxing Club – some 30 years after retiring from the ring); 1950s rooms: there were recreations of two lounges and two from the time, both fully furnished

The museum’s caretaker stayed in a caravan on the site, and was taken to hospital as a precaution measure in case he had suffered from smoke inhalation, but was released the following morning. The caravan he lived in while on the site was also destroyed by the fire.

The damage is estimated to be in the order of £100,000 with the building accounting for about £50,000 and insured, and the collection also at £50,000 but uninsured.

A 46-year old man was later arrested by police on suspicion of arson, and released on bail.

The Cae Dai 50s Museum web site is still online, together with its Guestbook where past visitors have been expressing their sadness at the loss.

The museum’s owner, Sparrow Harrison, has already indicated his intention to both restore and expand the museum, and offers of support and donations have already been reported.

Anyone able or wishing to help can get in touch with the 50s Museum through the web site given above, or by phone on 01745 817004 during office hours, or 01745 812107 at other times. The trust can also be emailed at:

I learned of this fire some time after the event, from one of my trade journals, but the incident was reported locally, The Leader – News from Wrexham & Flintshire – Suspected arson attack devastates Denbigh’s Cae Dai museum, and by BBC News – Arrest after 50s car museum blaze. The losses are unfortunate, and I have commented on the loss of many small museums throughout the country over the past decade, particularly in Scotland, not only to this sort of attrition, but to closure due to lack of interest or available finances or funding. I didn’t have the opportunity to visit Cae Dai, as it seems to have come into being just as my regular commutes to North Wales were coming to an end, so this is one I have definitely missed.

There may be later stories published on the web if more information comes to light, so it may be worth searching for the museum, to see if their is any conclusion to the story.

Cae Dai is more than just the museum mentioned above, and the following article which was published by The Independent in May, 1994, provides a more detailed description and background to the estate, and more current references can now be found on the web:

Shovelling dirt like ‘normal’ people: Virginia Ironside visits a Welsh estate that offers care and work to those neglected by the mainstream – Life & Style – The Independent

Cae Dai is Welsh for David’d Field. The Cae Dai Trust exists to help disadvantaged adults, and many of those who it assists also work within the Cae Dai programme. The trust was set up after the North Wales Psychiatric Hospital closed some time in the late 1980s.

Story update February 2010

I spotted an update to the above, in a letter published by Mr Sparrow thanking the various people and clubs that have come forward to offer help and support.

It seems that while the building were insured, the policy for the contents only came through the day after the fire. While the insurer is doing what it can, it seems that the fact that arson was definitely involved is complicating things a little. Because of this aspect, the owner is not touching anything, or starting any work until this issue is resolved. The local MP has offered his support too.

It’s just a shame that it’s so easy for some fool to ruin twenty year’s worth of someone’s work, and ruin things so completely for ordinary, decent folk.

I’m hoping there may be more details in the next month or so.

Good new – Update April 2010

I have to admit that I don’t look too closely at the news, as most of it’s depressing, so it’s a welcome change when something akin to good news is received.

In this case it’s the follow up to the Cae Dai story. As noted above, there was a problem with the insurance for the collection, as the documents were (I believe) one day out of date, therefore not in force. Following discussion and representations, the insurer has agreed to pay on both the building and the collection claims. The site is now reported to have been cleared, with only the remaining supporting structures present, although these have been condemned and will also be cleared before the restoration of the museum and collection proper begins.

It may have been the end of more than twenty years’ effort, but it looks as if the outcome will now be positive, and a ‘lost’ museum is on the road to recovery.

Temporary exhibition opens May 2010

Just at the end of April, I noted a news item telling of the opening of a temporary display in the community hall which lies on the Cae Dai site.

Owner Sparrow Harrison has noted that the number of visitors is similar to usual at this time of year, and that there is still plenty to see from the surving collection.

Admission is free, but donations are very welcome after the disaster at the museum.

Yorkshire Motor Museum closes

As if to emphasise my observation above that circumstances are changing, I also noted confirmation that the Yorkshire Motor Museum would close in 2010. Formerly known as the Skopos Motor Museum, located at Batley, West Yorkshire.

This was a more substantial affair than Cae Dai, and had around 70 vehicles on display, many belonging to the businessman Stephen Batte, who had created the museum. The remainder were on loan, meaning that the collection varied over time, making it more interesting. The museum had its own workshop, where restoration work could be carried out, and was a facility shared with the Northern Aeroplane workshop, which did work for the Shuttleworth Trust.

The museum was opened in 1996, by Lord Montague of Beaulieu, and covered everything from the earliest days of motoring through to the latest supercars. It seems that a change of landlord means the museum has to close by the end of January 2010, so it’s not only the tiny museums that can have survival problems.

Quoted from the museum’s own web site, which is still in existence as I type:

Yorkshire Motor Museum was founded by Stephen Battye in October 1993 as part of a regeneration scheme for Batley. it is the home of approx 40 classic and vintage cars. Some of which are owned by the museum and others are privately owned .

The museum workshop repairs and maintains the museum cars. Also, the museum takes in outside work for restoration repairs, and service.

It is also the home of the Northern Aeroplane Workshops (NAW) . The group is undertaking a “new-build” of a 1917 Sopwith Camel aircraft built to air worthy standards.

December 28, 2009 Posted by | Lost | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Glasgow loses Henry Healy chain

GroceriesAlthough they were never particularly close to any of my haunts, or places of employment in Glasgow, anyone that spent any wandering the length and breadth of Glasgow city could hardly fail to notice that there was more than one branch of Henry Healy to be found.

Although I knew the chain was long established, I had never counted the shops, or even thought about their history, but history is now the operative word, with the news that the six shops that made up the group have closed, meaning the city has lost yet another long established family businesses, and one of the oldest that still remained, reported to have been founded in 1913. Liquidators Begbies Traynor said the chain had suffered a downturn in the face of competition from national chains together with the impact of the recession. 27 people have been made redundant as a result.

The chain had been run by Henry Healy, grandson of the founder of the grocery shops, although they are now being described as sandwich bars.

The shops were sited in Hope Street, Queen Street, Howard Street, Mitchell Street, Stockwell Street and Sauchiehall Street.

October 16, 2009 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: