2004 Silver Jubilee Exchange Visit to Aberdeen
Perhaps the most special exchange visit that we ever experienced was this one, to celebrate our
Silver Anniversary as Sister Cities - 25 years since we organized and began this relationship.For photos and a narrative of the Silver Jubilee ceremony, click SILVER JUBILEE.
We began arriving at Aberdeen Airport at 10 AM on Tuesday, the
31st of August and continued as others arrived on later flights, and each flight was met by a group of hosts to be
sure we were transported to the Copthorne Hotel in Aberdeen, our headquarters for the week. We
were made to feel as if the hotel and indeed, all of Aberdeen were dedicated to our visit and to
be sure we enjoyed every minute of it.
After a "free" afternoon, the festivities began with a reception and buffet
in the ballroom of the hotel. This reception was sponsored by the hotel and in fact, each event
we attended was sponsored by some member or members of Grampian-Houston. We were welcomed at the
reception by David Paton O.B.E., Honorary President of GHA.This set the tone for
our visit and created great expectations of the events of the week, and they were
Wednesday, September 1, was a huge day for us. It began with a prompt departure
for a wonderful sight-seeing city tour on Peace Coaches, who transported us to each and every event. Our
escorts and guides for this morning were Margaret and Geoff Hadley, who did a splendid job of
narrating our tour. This excellent but quick view of Aberdeen took us, among other places,
to historic St. Machar's Cathedral and to Kings College, where Bita Kakebeeke graduated.
At 11 AM, we arrived at Duthie Park to see the Rose Mountain, covered with
120,000 roses and to tour the David Welch Winter Gardens where our Silver Jubilee celebration
would take place. It was in the Arid House there that we celebrated the unveiling of the Silver
Jubilee commemorative plaque by Lord Provost John M. Reynolds J.P. On hand, in
addition to our group, were media representatives who provided excellent coverage
of this landmark occasion, both on television and in the newspaper.
Following our memorable celebration, we departed Duthie Park for
the Holiday Inn, Bridge of Don, which provided and sponsored a delicious lunch for us.
Following lunch, we walked next door, to the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference
Centre to hear a briefing on the local economy by Rita Stephen, Head of Economic
Development for the Aberdeen City Council, and then went on to the Northern Light
Tower at the Exhibition and Conference Centre for a bird's eye view of Aberdeen.
We returned to the hotel to rest up for the spectacular evening that awaited us.
For the evening, we were the guests of Lord Provost John
Reynolds J.P. and the members of the Aberdeen City Council at a civic reception pictured above,
and a gourmet dinner at the Aberdeen Town House. We were escorted to this event by Jean
Cameron and Marlene and Ian McLeod. City Councillors sat at each table to visit
with us and we were entertained by students from the Aberdeen City Music School
based at Dyce Academy, pictured at the left.
The head table is picured below with HGA members Mary Metz, John and Jane Fowler,
Lord Provost John Reynolds and Grampian-Houston dignitaries. Remarks were made
by Jimmy Hay, Chairman of GHA, and by the Lord Provost and by John Fowler.
Not to let any grass grow under
our feet, our escorts for Thursday, Andrew and Katie Lewis, Bill and Doreen
Gordon, and Alex Masson had us on the coach and on the road by 9 AM. We drove
through the Grampian countryside to the Glenfiddich Distillery at Dufftown for a guided
tour to see single malt whiskey made and bottled. Yep, we sampled it too. From
there we drove to Ballindalloch Castle in the Spey Valley for lunch and a personal
tour by Clare Macpherson-Grant Russell, Laird of Ballindalloch and her husband,
Oliver Russell, who was attired in custom-made Justin cowboy boots.
Ballindalloch Castle is open to
the public for tours, but in our case, this was the sharing of their home by the
Russells, as they live there and manage the business of the
estate, which includes the original herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle in the world. It is a splendid
castle and has been home to the Macpherson-Grants since 1546. As part of the
castle tour, we also toured the rock garden and rose garden.
The Russells spent considerable time with us sharing the history of the castle
and of their family, and they were indeed, most personable and gracious hosts. On the journey
back to the hotel, we stopped at the Forbes Arms Hotel, Bridge of Alford for
Scottish High Tea, a lovely and delicious event sponsored by Douglas Craig and
The Craig Group. Our group is shown below with the Laird on the lawn in front of
Friday morning signalled the
time to do business and we had a joint Board meeting of GHA and HGA, at which
we discussed our opportunities and challenges and also the next exchange visit
of the Grampians to Houston, which will occur sometime in 2006. Of note was a
good discussion of our areas of common interests to identify new venues to use
for the launch of joint activities. Some 12 areas of common interest were
identified, and an early priority will be given to horticulture. Aberdeen's
Duthie Park, with it's lovely roses and other floral areas was the place for our
silver jubilee celebration, and Houston has similar areas, such as the arboretum
on Memorial Drive and the Rose Garden at Hermann Park, which might be approached
to become an area of involvement of our two organizations. Below, gathered for a
group photo, are members of the combined boards of directors of GHA and HGA.
Following the joint Board meeting
we were taken to the Institute of Medical Sciences (IMS), Aberdeen Royal Infirmary,
Foresthill, to hear presentations by their medical staff about their reasearch activities
to bring modern molecular and cellular
technologies to bear on investigations of disease processes and to carry the results forward into
clinical practice.We split into groups in order to tour their most
impressive facilities. Our escorts for this event were Margaret Hadley, Jimmy Hay,
Jean Cameron and Bill Gordon. IMS arose from a fundamental re-structuring of biomedical
research groups to maximize the research opportunities arising from partnership in one
of the largest teaching hospital sites in Europe.We were astounded at the accomplishments in medicine
of this facility and the many pioneering initiatives it has launched. A lovely
lunch buffet was provided at the Medical Institute, and sponsored by Professor
C.Duncan Rice, Principal.To learn more about IMS, just click the photo above.
Following an afternoon in which
we were free to rest, golf, shop or to relax in any way we wanted, we convened our Silver
Jubilee Formal Dinner at the Copthorne. It was an event for formal Highland dress
and was a celebration of our years together in a royal manner. We began the evening
with a cocktail reception sponsored by Stewart and Joy Gordon. At the dinner, we
had an opportunity to meet the young artist winner from Aberdeen, Terry Morton,
from Lossiemouth High school, who was the first student ever to place in this
competition. He is shown at the left with Bita Kakebeeke and Bob Davidson, and you
can see his painting by just clicking the photo.
Our speakers at the dinner were Jimmy Hay, Chairman of GHA and our
own President, John Fowler, and appropriate toasts were made and gifts given to
express the mutual good feelings between our organizations. Very enjoyable
entertainment was presented by a husband and wife team called Cantando. Their
appearance was sponsored by Graeme Wilson M.B.E. and in addition to entertaining,
they also provided music for dancing. The evening ended as the group formed a circle,
joined hands and in our long-standing tradition, sang Auld Lang Syne.
If one thought the formal dinner
would end the week, one would be quite wrong. At 9 AM Saturday morning we were up
and at it again, as our escorts Mary Michie, Bill and Doreen Gordon and Bill
Neish had us on the go again. We should add that John and Mary Michie were the
gracious sponsors of our coach travel. We departed for the Highland Games at the
Braemar Gathering, but first stopped off at Ballater and visited the Old Royal
Station to see the Queen Victoria Waiting Room and to shop and have refreshments.
From Ballater it was on to Braemar, where we first had lunch at the Gathering
Place Bistro, with Graeme Wilson as our luncheon sponsor. A favorite and tasty
item on the menu was Caroline Hadley Smith's Cous Cous salad, and due to requests
for the recipe, we have it for you if you will click on COUS COUS RECIPE.
Following the delicious
lunch, we entered the Princess Royal and Duke of Fife Memorial Park, and were
treated to great entertainment by 12 pipe bands, including the Band of the
Brigade of Gurkhas from Nepal pictured on the right, and delightful Highland dance competition shown left. The
pipe bands performed individually and also together as a group, led by the striking
6' 6" Drum Major Dick Hamilton of the Tayside Police shown in the photo above. The independent Kingdom of
Nepal is the home of the famous Gurkha soldiers who have fought so fiercely for
Britain since 1815. On hand also were
international athletes to compete in "heavy" and "track" events. Her Majesty The
Queen was present, enjoying the games and, pictured on the left, presenting awards to the winners
following the competition. She was accompanied by Prince Philip and Prince
Charles and an entourage of royalty and security and looked radiant, obviously
enjoying the day immensely.
As if the day had not already
been packed with sufficient activities, we were invited to be the dinner guests of
Juliette and David Paton at Grandhome House. At the door, we were met by their
sweet dogs, checking us out and being sure we were worthy of entering. We were treated to a cocktail reception and
a delicious buffet dinner and got to roam around the Paton's wonderful home and
to take in it's rich history. It has been the home of David's family
since the 1650s and was an incredible treat to behold. David "held court" in the
historic library and acquainted us with the history of the house and family as
we made our way there in small groups. He is pictured on the left with a group. Lord and Lady Provost
Reynolds were on hand with us and our escorts were Alex McLean and Jean Cameron.
Of course there had to be a final
day of activities, but it was indeed a fine day and one worthy of the finale of our
visit with our dear friends in Aberdeen. We departed the hotel at 10:30 AM on
Sunday to visit a 3500 year-old recumbent stone circle, Bronze Age burial ground
and sacred precinct at Loanhead of Daviot, near Inverurie. The Grampian Region
has the world's greatest configuration of pre-historic and early historic stones,
carved art and clusters of ancient settlements. The Loanhead of Daviot site is
regarded as the classic surviving recumbent circle because of its preservation
and excellent presentation. David Paton was our guide for this venture and is also
the Chairman of Friends of Grampian Stones. We were escorted by Heather Anderson,
Jimmy Hay, and both David and Juliette Paton. In the photo, you can see members of
our group viewing the stone circle.
Onward then, to our final event
which was a Burns Lunch at the Meldrum House Hotel, Oldmeldrum. The Aberdeenshire
Council hosted a champagne reception, and Aberdeenshire Provost Raymond Bissett O.B.E.,
Heather Bisset and Councillor J.A.Porter J.P. presided at the lunch. Provost
Bisset gave the Address to the Haggis and Toast to Robert Burns and did a
spectacular job of it. He is pictured below during his presentation. The haggis was piped in by Heather Mackay and a delicious
lunch followed.A group of tired but very happy Houstonians returned to the Copthorne
Hotel to begin packing and preparing to return home.
Some of our group departed on
Sunday and some had early morning flights the next day, but for those who were
still present and up for it, Margaret and Geoff Hadley invited us to their home
for an informal buffet dinner and refreshments and a chance to have a last visit
together before returning home. It capped a truly memorable time in Aberdeen,
one in which the weather, contrary to the forecast, was cool and clear the entire
time we were there, and the hospitality and friendship were the warmest anyone
could ever imagine. Our sisterhood with Aberdeen is indeed alive and well.
2002 Exchange Visit of Grampian-Houston Members
The group from Aberdeen joined us for a trip to the State Capitol in Austin and several points
of interest. We ended the evening at the famous Oasis Restaurant to watch the spectacular
One of the high points of our time together, was the formal dinner-dance at
the Braeburn Country Club. The dinner began with a parade of our leadership into the dining area,
led and piped in by Al Campbell. There were toasts and presentations worthy of our two groups.
A trip to Texas always means Texas barbecue and good old country and western
dancing, and we did it up right at Booth, Texas. The food was good and the music and entertainment
were great, and we left saying, "Ya'll come back now, y'hear?".
As we wound down the activities of the week, we visited Moody Gardens in
Galveston and saw the IMAX presentation and the incredible exhibits under the triangular domes
in the gardens area. It seemed a fitting way to wrap up a wonderful week.