Treasures to become available to the public

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THE Buchan Heritage Society is celebrating a Lottery windfall enabling it to restore an amazing collection of 650 photographs dating from over a century ago.

The collection of rare Aberdeenshire photographs will be used for educational and research purposes, making their way around the North-east on a regular basis when complete.

The photographs in the form of glass plates taken between 1890 and 1925 by James Morrison - were discovered in a blocked up cupboard at Stoneyards during renovations in the late 1980s. The plates were gifted to the Buchan Heritage Society by his two surviving daughters, Rosa and Mary Morrison.

Mr Morrison was born on August 31, 1865, on the farm of Newseat of Schivas Tarves, and grew up helping his father on the farm, around 1870 the family moved Stoneyards, Balmedie, where the pictures were discovered.

He married Helen Riddell in 1911 and supported his family of three children, after his father’s death, by selling, mending and manufacturing bicycles at Menie in the parish of Belhelvie.

Photography was a pursuit of his bachelor days and he did in fact have a scullery converted into a darkroom at Stoneyards farm. Although an amateur he possessed a high degree of skill and produced photographs of very high quality.

The Buchan Heritage Society has been proud owners of these photographic plates for over 20 years but had been financially unable to conserve and digitise this large collection. It recently applied for a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and was delighted to be awarded £16,300 which includes a 15 per cent contribution from the society itself.

The money means the society is now able to take this unique collection out into the wider community through workshops, exhibitions and presentations to schools, care homes, sheltered accommodation, community clubs and organisations including museums.

Part of this project is to carry out research on the collection and to identify people and places in the photographs, with the society hoping that the photos can spark a few old memories from members of the public.

Society chairman Sandy May, chairman of the Buchan Heritage Society, and his wife Vi are very enthusiastic about the project and the educational benefits it can bring to the North-east.

He told the Buchanie: “These photographs will prove to be of great assistance in the appreciation of the rich rural heritage of the North-east of Scotland.

“Most of the photographs were taken around the turn of the century and therefore provide a remarkable record of the daily life of that time and we are indeed fortunate to have unearthed material of such historical significance.

“We are very grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for their support in this very worthwhile project.”

Colin McLean, head of the HLF in Scotland, said: “This is an exciting opportunity for people in the North-east to share their heritage as shown in these photos. Hopefully the community can help identify some of the places and people James Morrison photographed.”

Some 45 prints from the collection were developed and made available over the years for exhibitions throughout the North-east but predominantly at Aden Country Park near Mintlaw.

Quite a number of the photographs were taken north of Aberdeen, Belhelvie, Menie and Udny areas and also Ellon, Methlick and Auchnagatt areas.