Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Plans to save Helensburgh’s Morar House may become reality

While I have to confess to only ever making it to Mackintosh’s famous Hill House in Helensburgh (yet have visited the town hundreds of times), I also have to admit to failing even to notice the house across the road, Morar House, also once known as Drumadoon.

More conventional than its famous neighbour, having last served as a nursing home, it has now been lying derelict for some years, but it now seems there is news of serious plans by developers All Saints Living for refurbishment and internal development of the property.

Obviously, I haven’t seen inside the place (and it not nearby), but I can only guess at the horrors that may have been exercised on it in order to make it compliant with the regulations for a nursing home. There will be a lot of work needed, and that does not take account of the effects of abandonment, and any vandalism that the property may have suffered.

Change of use from nursing homes to dwelling house and office was granted Aug 2000, followed by a number of planning applications:

2013: Full Planning Permission and Listed Building Consent for extension and conversion of Morar House to form 11 flats, 1 mews with the erection of 1 dwellinghouse within the surrounding grounds are under consideration with Argyll and Bute Council ref: 12/02754/PP & 12/02755/LIB.

2014: Listed Building Consent for conversion, part demolition and extension of the former nursing home into 12 flats and 3 dwelling houses has been lodged with Argyll and Bute Council ref: 13/02904/LIB

2016: Listed Building Consent for subdivision, part demolition and conversion to form flats with associated new build is being sought ref: 16/00449/LIB.

Helensburgh Heritage writes that:

These will be explained at a drop-in briefing session hosted by the Chamber on Wednesday February 15 as they need help to give the William Leiper mansion, originally the home of the Hogarth shipping family, a new lease of life.

All Saints Living ask: “Do you have skills to contribute? Are you a builder, roofer, landscape gardener? Have you talent to offer in a new build in the grounds? Interior design perhaps? Plasterer, painter, joiner, builder’s merchant?”

Via Morar House Restoration Plan

Also:

All Saints appeal:

We are seeking local construction subcontractors and suppliers to help deliver our prestigious scheme, MORAR HOUSE, HELENSBURGH.

When: Wednesday 15th February – 15:00 – 19:00

Where: Helensburgh Parish Church Hall, Colquhoun Street G84 8UP.

REFRESHMENTS WILL BE PROVIDED

Come along to the event or for more information, call Susan on 0191 211 4130 option 1 or email info@allsaintsconstruction.co.uk

Morar House Helensburgh

Morar House Helensburgh pic via All Saints web appeal

See also Buildings at Risk Register: Morar House, 17, Colquhoun Street Upper, Helensburgh

February 12, 2017 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

Save Hill House (and others) from ‘fake news’

I don’t work in the media, so have no need to come up with a constant stream of stories to convince the editor to give me a cheque, or to keep me on rather than fire me.

Headlines have recently referred to the proliferation of ‘fake news’ and the problems it causes, which is almost a ‘fake news’ story in itself, as the impression given is that it is new. I don’t think it is, and the real problem is that ethics and honesty are being subverted, and these stories are being created by people who have no concept of truth, just how many clicks (or cheques) they can bank on. They’re quite happy to spread plausible made-up lies as truths, so long as they get ‘paid’ and fly just below the line of prosecution or court by remaining anonymous, or avoiding accountability.

A few days ago I noted a planning application that could see the Old College Bar in Glasgow demolished. Part of the reasoning was apparently a claim by the developer that the building had been inspected and declared unsafe, but checks with Glasgow City Council confirmed that the building was safe, and no such declaration had been made.

Then I read that Mackintosh’s Hill House in Helensburgh, designed and built for publisher Walter Blackie, could be sold or leased to help solve problems with running costs and falling visitor number to National Trust for Scotland (NTS) properties. One claim was that it was to be sold for conversion into a hotel.

NTS responded by stating this was all “Untrue”, said that while significant monies were needed for maintenance, plans were underway to both fund and carry out the needed work, and that visitor numbers were NOT falling: “According to figures from the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, 25,340 people visited the Hill House in 2015 – an increase of 8.5 per cent on the previous 12 months. ”

There’s more detail in the original story here: ‘Millions needed’ for Hill House repairs – but it won’t be sold

That’s only two examples. Sadly, a dig around would soon find more.

It’s a shame that both the creators of these pieces of fake news, or to be honest, lies, aren’t held to account for them and the damage they can do, and the same goes for the media that happily publishes such nonsense, clearly without any fact-checking or verification.

None of them care, just so long as they can push out something that will attract clicks to their material, true or otherwise, the ad-revenue will roll in.

Meanwhile, places such as Hill House (or the NTS as it tries to look after the them) had to shuffle around, cap in hand, begging for donations and funding from grants and other sources.

It’s a shame that the very features that give building such as this their unique appearance are often the same ones that cause them problems decades later, as Scotland’s weather takes it toll on anything but the most traditional of techniques.

Coastal areas, such as Helensburgh, can be even tougher to cater for, thanks to and even damper environment and salt air. I used to get to Bute regularly, and watched some new flats going up towards Craigmore. I’m guessing the builder was not a coastal building specialist as it was not long before the nice white rendering was running with rusty brown weeping ‘sores’, and the finish was bursting and buckling off the façade as the presumably unprotected steel fittings behind rusted and expanded.

In comparison, Hill House probably weathered better:

Hill House Helesnburgh

Hill House Helesnburgh

February 11, 2017 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

Glum Helensburgh esplanade lighting story

Sad to say, I misunderstood the meaning of the headline on the following story on first sighting:

Lighting to be installed on Helensburgh seafront | Helensburgh & Lomond | News | Helensburgh Advertiser

Recalling the old days of the Clyde coastal resorts, I erroneously interpreted this as a reference to decorative illuminations of some sort, and not merely street lighting.

And it got worse as I read on, with:

one Helensburgh resident and business owner is concerned the seafront is ‘unsafe’ due to the lack of handrails, permanent barriers, and adequate lighting.

He said with summer on the way, tourists who don’t know the area may be in danger of taking a wrong step and tumbling into the sea at night.

He told the Advertiser: “If someone’s walking along near the edge and trips they might just drop into the sea and that could be the end of them – especially is there is a storm or if it’s high tide.”

I don’t know the statistics, but I have been a regular visitor, and can’t recall stories of visitors spontaneously falling into the sea, and if it’s stormy, then wandering along the edge is acting irresponsibly. Describing the seafront as ‘unsafe’ seems rather extreme and possibly politically motivated, as there are many Scottish seafronts with considerably less lighting or barriers etc than Helensburgh, and we don’t appear to have any significant problems as a result.

It will be interesting to see the result of the work mentioned in this story, as one of the nice things about spending a late evening on the esplanade at Helensburgh is the relative darkness and quiet, both things we miss if we live in or near the city. I hope that sitting on the pier (in the car park) enjoying a locally procured fish supper and watching the light on the opposite shore come on as dusk falls will not become little more than a memory.

I’m also somewhat amazed that no-one attempted to blame this resident’s outburst on some mythical and non-existent Health and Safety requirement. Maybe the Advertiser has been fingered for promoting such nonsense in the past, and doesn’t want to be held up as an example of that particular type of headline-making nonsense.

On the other hand, the article does go on to describe works which are being carried out to improve the appearance of the area, and remove potential tripping hazards, repair road/footpath surfaces, and install various items of street furniture – and that’s all good to hear.

The pic below is from April 2014, so the work mentioned in the report is not just a promise, but actually taking place:

Pity they’re not installing some good old-fashioned illuminations (as well).

May 30, 2014 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

Helensburgh submarine museum funding on council agenda

submarine

I’ve been watching out for mentions of the proposed submarine museum in Helensburgh, and waiting until something positive appears that suggests it is moving forward and will materialise one day.

I’ve jumped on earlier mentions of forthcoming project of a similar nature in the past, because I want information about their existence to be out there, as it might be spotted by somebody who matters, but so far, feel as if I am getting my fingers burnt, as they all seem to fizzle out.

I’m not going to mention any specific past project, in case I say something wrong, as I am not privy to any special knowledge, but on the other hand, do know that one or two of these projects are still being pursued, but perhaps by different people and/or in slightly different directions.

So, back to the submarine museum:

Funding to the tune of £140,000 is also expected to be released by councillors for the Scottish Submarine Trust specifically towards the development of The Submarine Museum in Helensburgh. The condition of the funding mean the cash must be split evenly and released in two instalments of £70,000 when the following milestones are achieved; proof of legal ownership of the building; and receipt of Listed Building Consent. The museum aims to tell the history of the Royal Navy’s Submarine Service will be told using new media and immersive 3D projected imagery and exhibits.

A 39 tonne ‘X’ Craft – or mini submarine – will be displayed as the centrepiece to the museum, which will also house an interactive electronic memorial in Remembrance of the 5,329 submariners who have given their lives in the Royal Navy Submarine Service.

The project, which aims to attract 10,000 visitors to the Burgh, is spearheaded by Visit Helensburgh.

The museum will be within the hall of the former St Columba’s Church, and the company will take formal ownership of the property on March 28 of this year.

Via: Submarine museum on today’s council agenda | Helensburgh & Lomond | News | Helensburgh Advertiser

May 14, 2014 Posted by | council, Maritime, military, Naval, World War II | , , , | Leave a comment

Political church might sink Helensburgh Submarine Museum

While I’m not someone who nurtures any particular religious or political views, that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the irony of seeing how the clergy often manage to turn a blind eye to the many thousands of dead that litter history thanks to the church and its assorted dabblings and favouritism with various political parties over the centuries. Yet it’s not slow to point at others.

I should have realised that things were going too smoothly when I noted the inclusion of the proposed Submarine Museum at Helensburgh (along with project at St Peter’s seminary) on the agenda of Argyll & Bute Council.

While the council ultimately voted in favour of awarding £140,000 to the project, it seems that not all is well – and anyone who ever reads about Argyll & Bute Council in the media will probably not be surprised that as soon as it was awarded… the problems began to arrive.

In this case, it seems that some are not satisfied with what is known about the Scottish Submarine Trust and its plans.

I’m not privy to the meeting, so can’t really comment, but it seems odd that councillors should feel confident enough to vote the award through if there was insufficient information to back up the application, or if the were concerns over those making the application. I also find the suggestion reported from one SNP Cllr Trail, who said the project has been pulled together ‘astonishingly quickly’ to coincide with the Commonwealth Games, a little hard to fathom. I have no time for the nonsensical games, but I’d find it hard to think I’d get any credibility by blaming events taking place in Helensburgh on them.

Here is Argyll & Bute Council’s Scottish Submarine Museum Evaluation of Funding Request

We’ll see. We can only watch and see if this descends into yet another fiasco.

What is perhaps a sadder and even more desperate clawing at straws in order to make some sort of point is the arrival of the church and its hypocritical opinion.

The museum has managed to secure premises in a former church hall in the town, although its initial – and ultimate – aim is to house its collection on Helensburgh pier. The latter appears to have been deferred for the moment, due to a lack of knowledge regarding council plans for the future of the pier.

However, Rev Fred Booth, who was the minister at St Columba for 23 years, upset about the hall being used to house ‘memorabilia of war’.

It’s not worth the hate mail I know would follow.

The same is true for the comments of the Rev Ian Miller, formerly of Bonhill Church, who successfully managed to twist this story into an opportunity to rail against Trident.

I was going to comment on the irony or hypocrisy of this thought on their part – then decided not to.

However, I will say I would have respected both of them if they had supported the museum, and worked toward ensuring it served as a memorial to those who lost their lives serving on submarines, as this is often overlooked, and has only recently seen a memorial raised in Dundee, at HMS Ambrose.

Via Row surfaces over planned Helensburgh submarine museum | Helensburgh & Lomond | News | Helensburgh Advertiser

Church razes Cold War relic

Thanks to the church, Scotland lost a potential artefact relating to the Cold War…

Ayr was the Royal Observer Corps’ No 25 Group HQ, in the UKWMO (United Kingdom Warning and Monitoring Organisation) Caledonian Sector. The owners of 25 Group ROC HQ at Ayr, who were the local church, decided they have no use for the building and that it should be demolished at the earliest opportunity to provide extra car parking space. What they really meant was that from their perspective, they could morally support the continued existence of the building.

Strange that their morals didn’t prevent them acquiring it in the first place, only to destroy it.

See AYR: ROC group HQ No 25

April 8, 2014 Posted by | World War II | , , | 1 Comment

Submarine museum and St Peter’s seminary projects on council agenda

It’s a while since we saw the last positive rumblings regarding moves to preserve at least some of St Peter’s, but it looks as if the various ideas are gaining traction, and potential funding, as noted below.

I was also pleased to see positive reactions to the submarine museum which was proposed for Helensburgh. I’ve deliberately avoided mentioning this so far (in other words, I forgot, and also just never got round to it), because when I mentioned similar projects in the past… they just evaporated and never seemed to attract any interest. In my opinion, however, they were doomed before the started. The project I recall had projected funding requirement in the order of £10 million, and I would think that potential backers would have run a mile from such a suggestion, on the basis that they are not fools, and the knowledge that all these project end up way over budget. Starting with such a high initial figure may be honest, but in the real world, any smart backer would multiply their potential commitment by two or three to arrive at the figure they were likely to be asked to come up with to see the project through to completion – and would have run to the hills to hide.

COUNCILLORS will discuss the multi-million pound St Peter’s project and the Scottish Submarine Museum, amongst a busy agenda at today’s full council meeting.

On Thursday, March 20 elected members will meet in Kilmory Council Chambers where they will also be asked to release £25,000 funding to NVA at the beginning of the financial year 2014/15 for an Audience Development Strategy relating to the Kilmahew/ St Peter’s Project near Cardross.

The project – which will cost more than £7m in total – aims to transform the derelict site of the former St Peter’s Seminary buildings and the surrounding woodlands of Kilmahew which has lain abandoned for more than thirty years.

Situated on the edge of the village of Cardross, the site covers approximately 40 hectares and is predominately wooded. Each of the structures from medieval to modern is now in a ruinous state.

Funding to the tune of £140,000 is also expected to be released by councillors for the Scottish Submarine Trust specifically towards the development of The Submarine Museum in Helensburgh. The condition of the funding mean the cash must be split evenly and released in two instalments of £70,000 when the following milestones are achieved; proof of legal ownership of the building; and receipt of Listed Building Consent. The museum aims to tell the history of the Royal Navy’s Submarine Service will be told using new media and immersive 3D projected imagery and exhibits.

A 39 tonne ‘X’ Craft – or mini submarine – will be displayed as the centrepiece to the museum, which will also house an interactive electronic memorial in Remembrance of the 5,329 submariners who have given their lives in the Royal Navy Submarine Service.

The project, which aims to attract 10,000 visitors to the Burgh, is spearheaded by Visit Helensburgh.

The museum will be within the hall of the former St Columba’s Church, and the company will take formal ownership of the property on March 28 of this year.

via Submarine museum on today’s council agenda | Helensburgh & Lomond | News | Helensburgh Advertiser.

March 26, 2014 Posted by | Appeal, council, Naval, World War II | , , , | Leave a comment

Helensburgh’s oldest hotel has just closed its doors

It was sad to read news of Helensburgh’s oldest hotel having to finally close its doors as the owner pursues ‘other business interests’ – in other words, there are not enough ‘bums on seats’ to keep it viable.

Reportedly refurbished only last year, the Imperial Hotel in West Clyde Street is already said to be on offer online for rent at £35,000 per annum. Dating from the early 1800s, the horse and cart age when it once provided stables and accommodation, first as the Tontine Hotel, then as the George Hotel, and finally (possibly) as the Imperial Hotel.

The hotel, known locally as The Imps, was (in its day) ideally placed, overlooking Helensburgh’s pier and therefore one of the first to be seen by holidaymakers arriving via steamer. But Helensburgh (like  most of the Clyde coast) is no longer a holiday destination, and sees the bulk of its visitors in the form of day trippers. Times have changed.

I’ve certainly never been any help, being close enough to drive to Helensburgh to enjoy an evening fish supper in the pier car park while watching various happenings on the Clyde.

Nevertheless, while some parts of the town are seeing some recovery, and some small business and catering operations are prospering, others are suffering the changes badly, and I see a number of older establishments closing down and being boarded up. This fate also seems to be placing some of the fine ‘big houses’ (mansions) that once served as guest houses, business premises, and even care home, at risk, as they cannot sustain themselves.

Helensburgh’s oldest hotel closed last week | Helensburgh & Lomond | News | Helensburgh Advertiser

February 9, 2014 Posted by | Civilian, Lost | , , | Leave a comment

Parliamentary motion to commemorate the 125th anniversary of John Logie Baird’s birth

Jackie Baillie MSP has proposed a motion in the Scottish Parliament to recognise John Logie Baird’s contribution to the television industry.

The motion read:

That the Parliament commemorates the 125th birthday of John Logie Baird; notes that the television inventor was born in Helensburgh on 14 August 1888 and considers that his legacy is truly global; acknowledges that the Helensburgh Heroes Project has purchased John Logie Baird artefacts to add to its Heroes Centre collection and has the backing and support of John Logie Baird’s family to promote his achievements in the town; recognises John Logie Baird’s contribution to the television industry, and remembers his lasting achievement.

The motion was supported by a cross-party group of MSPs — Jim Hume, Dennis Robertson, Nigel Don, Clare Adamson, Jayne Baxter, Angus MacDonald, Jackson Carlaw, Adam Ingram, Colin Beattie, Annabelle Ewing, Neil Findlay, Kenneth Gibson, Anne McTaggart, Richard Lyle, Mike MacKenzie, Stuart McMillan, Kevin Stewart, Sandra White, David Torrance.

Motions, Questions and Answers Search – Parliamentary Business :  Scottish Parliament – Motion S4M-07617: Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 06/09/2013.

Via Holyrood recognition for Helensburgh’s John Logie Baird | This Week | News | Helensburgh Advertiser

Also noted on Parliament recognises Baird

Which mentions that the inventor’s son, Professor Malcolm Baird, is honorary president and active member of the Helensburgh Heritage Trust, and that the Trust has a permanent exhibit of Baird equipment and memorabilia in the Heritage Centre at Helensburgh Library.

20true,%20″”,%20″”,%20false,%20true))”>Motion S4M-07617: Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 06/09/2013

September 21, 2013 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Highlands’ Charles Rennie Mackintosh house is up for sale

It’s not often I see a house I’d really like to buy, but over the years I’ve come to learn that it would date roughly from the 1930s and that it would be notably Art Deco.

In some way’s, I’ve achieved that already, as my house is in fact a product of the 1930s, but it’s designer was not overly influenced by the Art Deco style, and I believe what little evidence there is of the style was added by its first owners.

Art Deco was preceded by Art Nouveau, an organic movement that shared little with the later style, which was primarily a technological style of the emerging machine age.

For Glasgow, architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his artist wife Margaret Macdonald were pioneers of the earlier style, although they were not generally appreciated at the time. Recognition really only came after their deaths, and in more modern times, their later popularity has come to see them as victims of those who like to pour scorn on genuine genius and success.

Mackintosh had started on plans for a house for himself and his wife, but these were never completed. However, the house was built, eventually, and completed in 1992. As the owners downsize, it has come on to the market, but opening with a suggested price of around £895,000 no matter how much I like it, it won’t be on my little shopping list. Well, I couldn’t even afford to turn the heating on!

I note this was later clarified to be £650,000 for the house, with the studio offered separately at £215,000 – still not on my shopping list though.

WowHaus » On the market: Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed Artist’s Cottage & Studio and South House in Inverness, Scotland

The cottage lies off the road, and can be missed, but some years ago a sign and Art Nouveau installation was placed at the roadside, so it’s harder to miss.

The BBC story referenced below has a video showing the house:

An unusual house built at Farr in Inverness-shire to designs drawn up by a famous Scottish architect has been put up for sale. BBC Scotland was given a tour. The term unique is all too-frequently used. Especially by estate agents. But, on this occasion, the expression is justified. In 1900, the celebrated Glasgow architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh produced drawings for the Artist’s Cottage and Studio – a house intended for him and his wife Margaret, also a talented painter. However, it was never built,  in his lifetime at least. Scroll forward 92 years and the building was finally completed on a site near Inverness, Mackintosh enthusiasts remaining meticulously faithful to the original designs, now held by the Hunterian Art Gallery in Glasgow. The drawings only detailed the floor plan and exterior elevations. But the six-bedroom home has been painstakingly and studiously furnished in Mackintosh style, following genuine period details from interiors such as Hill House and Miss Cranston’s famous tearooms. And now the only house of its kind in the world is up for sale.

via BBC News – The Highlands’ Charles Rennie Mackintosh house. (January 16, 2013)

See also 6 bedroom detached house for sale in Farr, Inverness, Inverness-Shire IV2 – 27464145 – Zoopla

Just for fun – you might like to consider The Scotsman’s article on this sale, where it tells readers “A PROPERTY that was designed by renowned architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh but was not built for 90 years has been put up for sale.” Correct, of course, but it took them a while to notice…

Charles Rennie Mackintosh dream home goes on sale – Scotland – Scotsman.com. (March 27, 2013)

The Artist’s Cottage has been recreated to a similar standard, and in the same style as Mackintosh’s original work, and the galleries you can find showing the property confirm this. If you didn’t know, or wanted to pretend it was original, it wouldn’t be hard to fool most people. The biggest “tell” would be the lack of ageing of the material used, but even that will fix itself after a hundred years or so.

You can see a collection of more than thirty images of the cottage in this Canmore entry:

Site Record for Farr, Artist’s Cottage

Mackintosh Artist's House

The Artist’s Cottage

Artist's House and studio

Artist’s Cottage and studio

Not mentioned by most reports is the presence of two other house in the same style, neighbouring the Artist’s Cottage, which can be seen in background, between North House and South House.

January 16, 2013 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Appeal for MAEE Helensburgh, or RAF Helensburgh, staff identification

MAEE emblemWe have mentioned MAEE (Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment) Helensburgh before, just to make sure it was in the system, and that information about it could be found.

This time, the mention is slightly different, and is in the form of a specific appeal.

The photograph (click for a slightly larger version) below shows some of the staff posted to the establishment, and is thought to date from 1942-1943.

It comes from the collection of Robin Bird, whose father was the photographer for MAEE. Robin has written one book about the facility (now out of print) and is working on a second, which he would like to publish with the names of the staff. Unfortunately, the picture has no further information to offer. Although many such pictures had the names of those present on the back, the rear of this photograph is blank.

Any information regarding the personnel shown would be most gratefully received, and forwarded to Robin.

MAEE staff 1942-1943

MAEE staff 1942-1943 courtesy of Robin Bird

The appeal is also being made on the Helensburgh Heritage web site: Who were these MAEE staff? where Robin added:

Do you recognise anyone in this Second World War photo, taken about 1942-3 at the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment at Rhu, which was officially known as RAF Helensburgh for security reasons?

The man seated centre in the front row would appear to be the head of department, and he is surrounded by RAF and WAAF personnel and civilian trades people.

MAEE at Rhu was a mix of RAF and civilians carrying out research on seaplanes, anti-submarine weapons and air sea rescue until in 1945, at the end of the war, the establishment returned to Felixstowe where it was disbanded in 1953.

Unfortunately there are no names on the back. MAEE does not have an old comrades branch or an RAF Squadron association to keep people in touch.

Perhaps someone may recognise a face — many MAEE people had digs in local houses — I know it is a long shot!

The important point to glean from this note is that the facility was not generally known as MAEE, and was in Rhu (a little way along the road), but was referred to as RAF Helensburgh – so it may be that there are records to be found, but that searches need to be done under a variety of heading, or important facts may be missed,

June 11, 2012 Posted by | Appeal, Aviation, Maritime, military, World War II | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

PS Comet bicentenary web site launched

Replica Comet on the Clyde

Replica Comet on the Clyde

We’ve been watching for events associated with the bicentenary of the paddle steamer Comet, and PS Comet bicentenary second newsletter.

When the last newsletter was published, mention was made of a forthcoming web site dedicated to the events around the bicentenary. This has now been placed online, and can be found at:

Comet Bicentenary

February 3, 2012 Posted by | Civilian, Maritime, Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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