Welcome to The Friends of Brechin Town House Museum Website.
The Ancient Cathedral City of Brechin is in Angus, Scotland.
I welcome you to this our 12th Annual General Meeting and I present to you my sixth and final annual report. This will be my last annual report as the constitution of ‘The Friends’ limits the continued service of chairmen to a period of six years and no longer unless there is a break of two years.
Over the last year, I am pleased to report that the committee - despite having relatively few members - has managed to encourage the use of the museum with considerable success and I hope that this can be continued as a contribution to good community use of the building. It must be emphasised that the museum is there for the benefit of the community and, like any other Angus Council public building, not just during the official open times of the museum but also, with special arrangements and availability of staff, at other times where, when necessary, members of ‘The Friends’ may be available to assist in the supervision of the building and its contents.
However, there is little doubt that the most successful way for ‘The Friends’ bringing people into the museum is its series of presentations that were started a few years ago and have become popular with both Brechiners and non-Brechiners.
During this financial year we started our presentations in April 2015 with Dale Haigh’s insight into 17th century Scotland and continued in May with Rhian Evans on the re- introduction of the White Tailed Eagle to eastern Scotland. This was followed by our summer break and then in September we had a talk on David Waterson, the late Brechin artist, by our own David Adam. October brought us former manager of Cultural Services of Angus Council, Norman Atkinson, to speak on the life of William Lamb, the Montrose sculptor. The following month photographer and naturalist Mark Caunt gave his presentation on Central America and he was followed in December by Rev. R. Graham on the history of Brechin Cathedral. Our last talk of the session was in March 2016 when Mary Liddiard gave a talk on Florence Nightingale.
In addition to these presentations - and at the suggestion of David Adam - we had an open day on Saturday 29 August when a large number of people dropped into the museum to see the old farming methods as portrayed in Jim Wallace’s cd “How it was done of the Farm”. The open day proved very successful being popular with not only older people but also younger individuals seeking to find out a little of the social history of the area. Hopefully, the open day will become an annual event.
After careful thought, and to bring ‘The Friends’ in line with other similar organisations, we announced that we would be introducing a small charge of £2 for non-members of ‘The Friends’. Membership of the latter will continue to mean free access to all presentations. Light refreshments are usually provided and contributions from all participants are most welcome. I must thank the full-time museum staff and our own committee members for helping to add this to the general hospitality of the talks.
I must also extend my compliments and congratulations to the museum staff in their endeavours which have resulted in a comprehensive use of the building. This along with the efforts of ‘The Friends’, the welcome and regular use of the building by the Pictish Art Society and other organisations such as the Watson-Watt Society of Brechin, have all contributed to the good use of the museum. It is, however, the professionals who are in the main responsible for the over-all successful use of the building and this should be acknowledged. The status of the staff changed in December 2015 when they became the employees of Angus Council’s new arms-length company, Angus Alive, which is in effect a trust covering culture, leisure and sports activities formerly directly controlled by the council. I think and hope that one consequence of Angus Alive is that there will be greater responsibility devolved to the hard-working staff of Brechin Town House Museum.
I must emphasise the absolute need for more individuals to join our committee: we on the committee are now no more than six active members – and ageing! So ‘Friends’ please consider joining us and help to plan and organise our work in supporting the museum in being an important and useful component of the Brechin community.
In ending I must thank all committee members for their sterling efforts over the financial year but again my special thanks to David Adam, our secretary – and we all know that in any organisation the secretary carries the biggest brief – and to Ann Mitchell, our treasurer, who keeps us solvent. I thank all for their great support over the years and I wish the very best to ‘The Friends’ for the future.
Brian Mitchell - Chairman
New chairman George Mitchell presenting Brian with a Brechin distilled gift.
Welcome to this our 11th Annual General Meeting and I present to you my fifth annual report. While there have been some anxious times – particularly for the staff – when there was an apparent threat to the opening times of the museum, these have been resolved with the building open five days weekly. The ‘Friends’ have continued its best efforts to encourage the use of the museum and this has contributed to a steady number of visitors to the building.
It is obvious that the series of presentations produced by ‘The Friends’ is our main contribution in encouraging visitors to the museum and this year was certainly no different. We were indeed fortunate in having many willing and very able speakers coming along to give their interpretations on a very eclectic range of subjects.
We started in April with the first presentation of the year by Steve
Nicoll on the radar pioneer, Robert Watson-Watt which was followed in May when
married couple Agnes and Gilbert Lowden gave and illustrated presentation on
Glenesk. This was followed in June with David Adam’s talk on Brechin artist
David Waterson. There was a radical
change in subject when, in October, Jim Wallace provided an illustrated talk on quarries in Angus and
We had a break during the festive season but another session of talks started in February with Steve Nicoll’s account of ‘The Beatles in Scotland’ and in same month Andy Malcolm, a Glenesk gamekeeper/stalker, delivered his talk based on his year- long exchange job in an African game park. The last talk of the year was given by Mary Liddiard on the life of the Marquis of Montrose.
All the presentations proved popular and while we had a core of Brechin supporters attending, many of the talks had as specific interest drawing in new faces from throughout Angus. While admission is free, the tea and coffee provided does bring welcome donations from those attending.
I must congratulate the museum staff on their varied activities which play the major part in seeing a steady stream of visitors to the building. Over the year, they have in addition to other features, introduced a very wide range of exhibitions to the museum. I am pleased that ‘The Friends’ were able to fit in two presentations, Steve Nicoll’s on Watson-Watt and Forbes Inglis on Montrose Airfield during W.W.I., during relevant exhibitions in the museum.
I thank the present committee for their continuing support throughout the year and have to say that without them there would be no ‘Friends’. Once again I would offer additional thanks to the two ‘work horses’: Anne Mitchell, our treasurer, who manages to not only to keep the accounts in order but also to recruit new members and generally maintain membership, and David Adam, our secretary, who also plays an immense part in the running of ‘The Friends’. Along with Marcia May, both the fore-mentioned provide the valuable service of catering during the break in the presentations. I thank them and the ladies of the staff for their assistance in this.
I emphasise that ‘The Friends of Brechin Town House Museum’ is able to operate – and does so effectively – only because of the work of the committee who cooperate well to provide support for the museum. However, like all committees, it requires new members to join and help in its efforts. Most of the current members belong to the ‘silver hair’ section of society and new blood is essential if the committee is to continue to thrive. For this reason, I would like to make a strong appeal for new individuals to join us. Without the involvement of new committee members, taking into account the limited ‘shelf-life’ of several present members, the existence of the committee and ‘The Friends’ will fail. I believe this would be bad for the museum and also for the town itself.
Brian Mitchell - Chairman
I welcome you to this our 10th Annual General Meeting and this is my fourth annual report which I now place before you. It has again been an eventful and rewarding year and I believe that ‘The Friends’ have again acquitted themselves very well in achieving their desired aims in contributing to the health and wellbeing of Brechin Town House Museum.
We continued at the beginning of this financial year with our programme of presentations with the excellent ‘Mud House of Logie’ by Joe Wishart and then the equally entertaining ‘Music and Memories’ by Dr. Gordon Penman and Mrs. Isobel Luke. This was followed in June by another radically different presentation by Brian Gallagher who described in illustrated detail how he constructed one of the museum’s excellent exhibits: the model of old Brechin (c1822).
Following our summer break we introduced a new series of presentations beginning in September when the museum organised an exhibition of the art works of our Secretary, David Adam, who also gave a very informative talk in relation to the exhibition. This was followed in October with Brian Stephen outlining the history of Brechin United Co-operative, and then in November I gave my own interpretation of Jacobites in the Brechin area. We ended the year in December with George Mitchell relating his comprehensive study of the history of Brechin Railways.
We re-started the series of talks in March 2014 with Gordon Sneddon recounting stories from the glens of Angus and our final talk for the year (although technically in the current financial year) with Sheila Mann whose subject was Violet Jacob.
Our programmes of talks continue to be well supported with an average of 35 people attending each event. We must endeavour to maintain the presentations in future years, and, although this may be quite difficult, we must continue to seek new speakers and new subjects. I would appeal to all our members and supporters for any suggestions they may care to offer. One member has already suggested Lord Boyd Orr, the nutritionist, as a subject and I will do some research on this matter over the summer.
David Adam suggested that, in an effort to recruit new members, ‘The Friends’ hold an open event which was done in February and proved to be an outstanding success. Several new members were recruited and I think that such events should be repeated in future years.
‘The Friends’ have contributed in other ways to promote Brechin Town House Museum. We continue to provide lunch-time cover for staff during shortages but this only occurs occasionally. In the September I was pleased to assist in an evening visit by Brechin Tangent Group giving them a brief presentation.
I was asked to ‘supervise’ the spouses of delegates to the Guildry Incorporation’s national conference held in October 2013. I introduced around fifty individuals to our museum and although only present for twenty minutes or so, several ladies were so impressed by the building and its exhibits they expressed their intention to re-visit the museum in the future.
While ‘The Friends’ contribute in a small way to bring people into the museum, it is the staff who have done most of this and done so in an exceptional way. The museum ladies have provided a wide range of exhibitions and competitions for adults and children so bringing large numbers of the public into the building. They have also developed a close relationship with BRAVO (Brechin Retailers) involving the museum in that organisations’ ongoing campaign to bring increasing numbers of people into Brechin. This was so last year when the museum became the location for Santa’s Grotto which alone saw a record number of visitors to the museum on any one day! I congratulated the museum staff for their continuous hard work.
I must, of course, thank all members of ‘The Friends’ committee for their efforts and support during the year. In particular I would like to offer my special thanks to the Secretary (David Adam) who bears much of the workload, the Treasurer (Anne Mitchell) for her ability to maintain the accounts and membership with such efficiency, and the Vice-Chairman (Steve Nicoll) for his strong support. I am very sorry that Steve has decided to leave the committee but I know that he will remain a supporter. Our provision of catering at our presentations has developed into an important fund-raiser and I greatly appreciate the efforts of Anne and Marchia May for their efficiency in running this popular service.
Brian Mitchell - Chairman
As I was planning this, my second, annual report to ‘The Friends’ I realised that we have been in existence since 2004 and that this isour eighth AGM. I am quite confident that, since our inaugural meeting, we have been successful in encouraging an interest in the history and heritage of our area.We have aided the museum staff in quite dramatically increasing the footfall in Brechin Town House Museum. While much of the credit for this has to be attributed to the hard work of museum staff, ‘The Friends’ have consistently contributed immensely to this in a variety of ways.
Importantly, during the past year we have continued to produce presentations with a variety of subjects including ‘Brechiners at War’ and ‘Angus Victoria Crosses’ (Steve Nicoll), ‘Working in the Factory’ (George Mitchell), ‘Images & Memories’ (Brian Mitchell). It was appropriate that our last speaker of the year was Sarah Kettles, Brechin THI Manager, whose subject was ‘Brechin THI – The Merchant’s House & Other Key Projects’. One of these projects was Brechin Town House which saw its restoration and the whole building again open to the public. The last two presentations of the current programme extended into the 2012/2013 financial year. The presentations generally have proved to be popular with local people but they also brought visitors from neighbouring burghs. We will soon be planning the next series of talks to start after the summer.
In addition to these ‘in house’ presentations Steve and I also gave talks, under the auspices of ‘The Friends of Brechin Town House Museum, to several local organisations including Brechin Rotary, the Round Table, the Probus Club, the Montrose Society, Brechin Cathedral Guild and Bearehill Care Home.
was invited in August to help host an evening visit by Brechin Inner Wheel to
view the David Waterson exhibition. I also assisted with a visit to the museum
by school children from
appropriate publicity, we re-commenced the collection of photographs relevant
to the Brechin area and these were copied and stored electronically in the
archive. This process is continuing and images are still being donated and I
was particularly pleased to obtain an image of one showing Brechin Gala c. 1950
organised by Brechin United Co-op. I was also delighted to receive from Brian
Stephen his photograph of an old building at the west end of
October, with the agreement of Committee, I contacted Sarah Kettles, Manager of
Brechin THI, suggesting that the children of the last occupier of one of the
retail units in The Merchant’s House be interviewed and their memories of the
building recorded. Sarah agreed and received permission for the THI to fund
such a project. As a result, I interviewed the three Currie siblings whose
father Bill had operated a hairdressing business on the ground floor.
Arrangements were made to have Bill’s sister, a nonagenarian now living in
We joined with museum staff to support the local retailers’ ‘Christmas Switch-on’ in December and presented a slide show of the full range of the collected photographs. This, along with the efforts of museum staff, contributed to a dramatic increase in the footfall in the museum. It was rewarding, too, insofar as more photographs were subsequently handed in for copying and a David Waterson image, taken by the artist early in the 20th C, was recognised as the small farm that was located near the foot of The Vennel (Nursery Lane).
It is pleasing that many of our suggestions to Museum staff have been accepted and are being adopted. This includes improvements to the exterior of the museum by placing displays in the windows illustrating current exhibitions. Suggestions, too, for future exhibitions have also been taken on board by staff and we hope to see in the not too distant future more exposure for the life and work of Catherine Hollingsworth and Steve Nicoll’s suggestion of an exhibition of Brechin City F.C. including reference to the late David Will. We are also happy that other famous Brechiners will eventually feature within the museum.
applaud the sterling efforts of
We continue to support the staff including lunch cover when we are able. However, increasingly this is becoming difficult with committee members having so many other commitments. I would appeal to all members of ‘The Friends’ to consider giving an
hour of their time on an occasion basis when they are free. In this way a larger pool of volunteers would be better able to do lunch cover more comprehensively.
I have enjoyed my second year as Chairman but I depend greatly on the assistance of all committee members and I thank them for their help. I thank in particular Treasurer Anne Mitchell, Secretary David Adam and Vice-Chairman George Mitchell for their efforts in supporting me and what they do for ‘The Friends’. I would also like to express my thanks to Steve Nicoll who has undertaken research enthusiastically and contributes regularly at all levels of our activity.
Brian Mitchell, Chairman.
I was very surprised but honoured to be elected Chairman of ‘The Friends’ at last year’s AGM and I now find myself again taken back that a full year has passed since then.
With the re-opening of the beautifully restored Brechin Town House Museum, the year 2010 was important and dramatic not just for ‘The Friends’ and museum staff but for the people of Brechin. Thanks to the involvement of Brechin Townscape Heritage Initiative (BTHI), this historically important building was brought fully back to life within the public realm. The result of this was to extend the floor space museum at ground level and provide exhibition space within the Gallery and smaller room on the upper floor. It was appropriate that when the museum was officially re-opened on 30 August 2010, it included an exhibition of the works of David Waterson, the Brechin artist, in the Gallery.
As well as congratulating the council architects and the manager of BTHI, we must also praise the hard work and skills of Cultural Services staff who have succeeded in providing the Ancient City of Brechin with a small but imaginatively designed exhibition of artefacts and information reflecting its long and tangled history. Very obviously the numerous visitors from the town, from elsewhere in Scotland and from abroad are in agreement and have clearly indicated so in the visitors’ book. I am sure all of us would encourage members of the public to pay a visit. I am certain that the proposed rolling programme of exhibitions in the Gallery will prove to be a continuing attraction.
I think this is an opportune time to remind ourselves that the Friends of Brechin Town House Museum is a community group that is concerned with promoting the history and culture of our area and specifically to support Brechin Town House Museum and its staff. While the restoration of the Town House has taken place our activities have obviously been limited, but with the re-opening we have again taken a more active part in encouraging interest in our heritage.
An award from the Community Grants Scheme allowed us to have the 55 hours of the unedited Brechin Oral History recordings digitised to ensure their permanent storage. These were then handed over to the museum for safekeeping and use by the general public. I hope to adapt the two presentation packs previously developed in the oral history project as introductions to the main collection. It is also planned during this summer to work with museum staff to invite the people of the area to permit us once again to scan their photographs and add them to the archive created a few years ago.
The ‘Friends’ re-commenced a series of relevant presentations held in the Gallery although the first talk in early December (2010) had to be postponed because of the bad weather. Nevertheless, we did manage to have two well-attended presentations by David Adam and myself by the end of the financial year. The programme of talks will continue although the intention is to have a break during the summer before re-starting in the autumn.
I think that it has been a successful year but only because of the sterling work of an excellent team, the Committee. I thank them all and particularly George Mitchell, Vice-Chairman, David Adam, Secretary and Anne Mitchell, Treasurer, for their support and efforts over the year. I also thank the staff of the museum for their assistance and support. I must also congratulate the latter on their continuing efforts in creating seasonal projects for school children and exhibitions, including the excellent wedding artefact display that was been created to coincide with the royal wedding in April.
The Friends of Brechin Town House Museum look forward to another year of their endeavours to encourage a wider understanding of the heritage of the Brechin area.
Brian Mitchell, Chairman. 22 June 2011
The Friends have had a successful year and have continued current activity. The Townscape Heritage Initiative Bid to complete the renovation of the Brechin Town House enabled work to start. This means that the museum was closed from September 2008. We have been able to hold our meetings in The Old Registrar’s Office, courtesy of the THI Project. We are all very pleased that funding has been found for this project and are looking forward to the opening which is expected in April 2010.
When it is re-opened, there will be an exhibition of the Waterson pictures which are in the care of Angus Council .There will also be a permanent place for the Brechin Waterson pictures to be on public show.
A group of members and the Civic Trust have been looking at Mason’s marks at the Brechin Cathedral and Kinnaird Castle. At the Castle they have found marks similar to marks at Rosslyn Chapel.
The Friends, THI and Civic Trust have held a series of talks at The Old Registrars Office. These have included -Marion Greig , Archeology services to Angus on Mason’s Marks-David Easton ,Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments Scotland, Angus Airfield and other military matters- George Haggart, Archeologist , Sottish Ceramics.
Following the successful completion of the HLF funded oral history project, the Friends have produced a limited number of boxed sets of discs of the recordings. They are audio only and in boxes of 10 discs each lasting 1 hour. In the future we hope to transcribe these edited discs. We also hope to obtain funds to transcribe all the unedited tapes from magnetic to CD, about 55 hours of audio recording .
The photograph archive has been very successful; there was an ongoing exhibition at the museum and we hope to restart this when the museum opens again.
We are grateful for the support that we receive from Angus Cultural Services ,Norman Aitkinson, Willie Milne and the museum staff.
Dr. Robert Martin, Chairman
The Friends have had a successful year and have continued
The title is
Memories of Home and Working life in Brechin and District in the 20th Century.
Presentation packs have been produced for use in schools
are now attractively finished in 50 packs of 10 discs which
Dr. Robert Martin, Chairman
The Friends have had a successful year and have continued current activity and also are developing new projects. The membership is 63 including a member from Australia. We are hoping that the Townscape Heritage Initiative will be successful and that work on the complete renovation of the Brechin Town House will start this winter This will mean that the museum will be closed for 6-9 months. The Council is looking at temporary accommodation for the museum. When it is re-opened, there will be an exhibition of the Waterson pictures that are in the care of Angus Council. Some of these pictures need restoration work and funds will be needed.
We held a well attended lecture evening in March in partnership with the Civic Trust .The lecture was given by Professor Charles McKean who gave an illustrated talk on-The Guthries, an Edwardian family in Brechin. George Mitchell arranged a successful raffle and David Adam kindly donated a picture. The Annual Civic Trust wine and cheese night was held in April .The Civic Trust agreed to share the proceeds with the Friends.We were very fortunate that Andrea Brymer agreed to open the event and to help The Watson-Watt Society of Brechin launch their leaflet. We have arranged a talk on October 25th by Mary Brownley on the House of Dun and Andrew Kennedy and we plan to hold a talk by Trevor Royal in February 2008.
The Friends produced a card with a snow scene picture of Brechin Cathedral by Moonlight by David Waterson. This was done with the help of Angus Council and thanks to Norman Atkinson and Jim Boon for their work. The picture is one of the Watersons in the care of Angus Council. Cultural services received 500 cards and The Friends also have 500 cards, and we are very pleased that 200 have been sold to date. They are available from the Office bearers at 90 pence each or £6.00 for 10 for members and retailers. It is a very attractive card and we would like to encourage members to obtain it.
The major project for the Friends over the past year has been Oral History. The Heritage lottery awarded £11,800 towards this. The contribution from the friends is £1,608.The sub-group is Brian Mitchell, Robert Martin, George Mitchell, Ann Mitchell, Brian Stephen and James Snedden who are giving their time to the project. Two members of the group attended a course for one day on oral history at Dundee University led by D.Murray Watson. The title is Home and Working Life in Brechin and District in the 20th Century. The recordings are made at the Angus Digital Media Centre which is at the Industrial Estate in Brechin. We have recorded 30 individuals and 20 hours of recording so far. The recordings will be edited and transferred to digital discs and held as a primary source of living history for the present and future generations. Presentation packs will be produced for use in schools and with adults to promote an interest in the heritage of the Brechin area. We plan to produce 9 discs and 2 presentation packs. We are collecting photographs from the interviewees to use with the discs. The group has aimed to interview a good cross-section of people from different backgrounds. We have given presentations to the Dalhousie Day Centre and residential homes and recruited some people from there.
The museum continues with their excellent seasonal displays and a recent interesting display of the secret war. The committee are concerned at the external appearance of the museum, the blinds give it a closed look and this has been noted by many people. We have made representation to museum services that this must be improved. We also hope that the photograph archive will be further developed. I would like to thank Norman Atkinson and Willie Milne from Angus Council for their excellent support. All being well with the THI we are looking forward to the complete restoration of the Town House next year.
Dr. Robert Martin, Chairman
The Friends have had a successful year continuing current activity and also developing new projects. The membership is 63 including a member from Australia. The first stage of the Townscape Heritage Initiative was successful and the second stage application has held their first public consultation meeting. We very much hope that this will be successful because it will provide funds to fully restore the Town House. One of Angus Council's architects has started to prepare more detailed, costed drawings for the full restoration of the Town House.
We held two lectures evenings during the past year. We decided to work in partnership with the Civic Trust for this activity. In October, Mr Peter Grace gave an excellent talk on Robert Watson -Watt - the radar man, with video and models of the radio towers. This was followed by George Mitchell who talked of his work experience in a jute factory. In April, John Smart talked about the work of the weaver with reference to Smarts factory in Brechin. He was followed by Rachel Benvie who spoke about Archeology inAngus with slides. We were very encouraged by the attendances to these events. The initial part of the oral history project was completed and 6 compact discs werehanded over to the Town House Museum. Subjects include, social history 1920s to 1960s, farming 1930s-1960s, wartime and post-war memories. Following on the success of this project we decided to undertake a larger oral history project and we have applied to the Heritage Lottery Fund. The project will preserve details of domestic and working lifin the Brechin area. The memories will be stored on digital discs and will be freely available to the public.
A photograph archive is to be developed at the museum. A scanner has been ordered and once the system has been set up, we will encourage the people of Brechin and district to bring their photographs along to be scanned.
A grand visual arts competition has been arranged with the Civic Trust and Brechin Photographic Society. The purpose is to celebrate the built heritage of Brechin. This will run in the Mechanics during the art festival and so far there are 36 participants. Works of art will be on sale.
The friends hope to produce Christmas cards and a winter scene by David Waterson has been chosen for this. Angus Council has created a new electronic catalogue of David Waterson's works which are in the council's collection of 77 framed works. During the year the Watson-Watt society of Brechin was formed to encourage more information on his work and to raise a permanent memorial in Brechin. It was decided that this society would be best stand alone than be affiliated to the Friends.
The Museum continues with their excellent seasonal displays. I would like to thank Norman Atkinson and Willie Milne from Angus Coucil for their very helpful support.
Dr. Robert Martin, Chairman