“…they walked beside the ocean of the end and the beginning” George Mackay Brown
There has been much speculation and hyperbole in the news and media over the Menie Estate residents’ protest against Donald Trump’s planned golf course, most of it celebrating the rebellious ‘local hero’ who will not budge, the Scottish ‘David’ who stands tough in the face of an American ‘Goliath’, or, as Vanity Fair put it, the ‘thistle’ versus the ‘bee’ (May 2008). This exhibition does something different.
Alicia Bruce’s photographic portraiture retells the stories of the Menie residents, not to monumentalize or misrepresent them but in order to fix their message more securely in the cultural imagination. By restaging compositions from celebrated paintings (the majority of them in the permanent collection of the local Aberdeen Art Gallery), Bruce eloquently carves out the residents’ place in Scottish heritage. Without over-romanticizing, these photographs play on a history of national mythology. These families will not be intimidated, neither by far-away business nor next door construction site. They will not be bribed or bought out. Whatever side you stand on over this issue, their stance demands to be respected rather than patronized.
The source paintings were hand selected by the Menie residents. These paintings are all figurative, many of them portraits or pastoral images of workers in a Pre-Raphaelite or Glasgow Boys style. This choice of aesthetic has influenced Bruce’s photographic compositions, and helps ground her sitters squarely in their own landscape.
Text: Dr Catriona McAra, University of Edinburgh, 2010
Eighteen photographs of the Menie dunes taken between 1pm and 10pm one day in August 2010. These ‘posts’ were found using a development map for Trump International Golf Links Scotland as construction of the course began. They indicated to development team where on the landscape each golf ‘hole’ would be. The final image is the 18th hole.
“They depict a scene of natural beauty with its lights going out. Playing on ordnance surveys, Bruce maps this coastal terrain which faces imminent destruction, ‘Trumped’ over by the proposed golf course and hotel complex.
The posts are evidence of the encroaching commerce that will swamp the area. But the tides are strong and many of the posts are already beginning to bend as metaphors of surrender.”
Text: Dr Catriona McAra, University of Glasgow. 2010
"I’ve stayed here for 43 year, if I didn’t like the place I wouldn’t have stayed so long. Ma history is doon here. All ma relations come fae roon aboot here & there’s nothing mare magical than Menie. The wildlife is just ootside ma door, or was till Trump came on the go. When the diggers are all working you dinna see the wildlife but since the diggers are gone for the Christmas holiday the wildlife is back. The media’s been camping on ma doorstep since 2006 but there’s only certain media that prints the truth. All I want is to be left in peace the same as all the locals. The only good thing this situation has ever done for Menie is brought all the locals together!" Mike Forbes
"Menie is unique. I’ve seen the Northern Lights from my doorstep. I’ve seen them every so often oot the back where we keep the hens, geese n horse. I stop for a while to look then get back to whatever needs done. Farr will we get another hame in a location like this? Naewhere round here is as amazing. I’ve stayed out the spotlight since this all kicked off. I just want to get on wi it wi nae hassel." Sheila Forbes
“The actual destruction of this area was brought home to me one day when bulldozers arrived and ripped out the young wood directly in front of my home, that’s the patch of earth behind me in the picture. The waste of it all was that they were taken away on trucks to further south on the estate and just buried in a hole that they had dug the previous day.
They now have problems with water lying there and they wonder why; trees drink lots of water lying there and they wonder why; trees drink lots of water.
This is just one example of the destruction, they also wish to destroy my home, which my husband and myself have spent years extending through our married life and has become part of us, it’s like our baby. We have built it with our own hands, it has our blood sweat and tears in the walls. It’s part of us and cannot be replaced as it is a one off, like each and every person is.”
“It was when the proposals came in to sacrifice the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) that the whole thing really kicked off for me. That was when I took a better look at what was meant to be the trade off and found there wasn’t one. After all the SSSI is a supposedly protected site meant to be retained to help keep the balance of the planet and here it was being sacrificed for unprovable economic benefit. When we looked more closely it became obvious even that was all down to a very qualified appraisal that has never yet been looked at by any independent organisation.
This was long before there was any threat against our homes. It was in March 2009 that lawyers for T3 applied for compulsory purchase order (CPO) for our homes and October that year that Aberdeenshire Council failed to make a decision on this subject. We have now endured two Christmases with this threat hanging over us, all five households, and our position has not changed and no substantive contact has been made by T3.
The SSSI has been dug away and no one knows what effect this will have on Forvie nature reserve further north or the wildlife that used to live in this area. The reputation of the North East of Scotland has been irreparably damaged by the cavalier and cowardly actions of a small group of politicians and self-interested business people who seem to think they can do no wrong, and that the long-term environmental destruction caused by this housing development is acceptable as long as they make a profit. They are wrong.
It needs to be remembered by all that we do not inherit this earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our descendants.”
“I’m a man of few words. We aren’t ragged trousered philanthropists here.”
“My family and I have lived in Leyton Cottage for nearly three decades. This is where we brought up our two boys Murdo and Finlay. We’ve expanded our home over the years. When we moved in it was a but ‘n’ ben, but we saw the potential and, like everyone who visits Menie, we fell in love with the location.
There is now a large bank of sand and road in front of our home which obscures the view and stops us from seeing our neighbours, Mike, Sheila and Molly.
I know Menie like the back of my hand, the wild flowers that grow, the way the dome moved, the beach, it’s just absolutely gorgeous. You don’t walk a dog every day for 28 years without knowing every kink in the landscape.
Of course, now we can’t get to the beach. Menie has become a building site. It breaks my heart. No-one’s going to have access to Menie it’s going to be a private development and it doesn’t seem to be about golf at all about, it’s about housing.”
“I wouldnae ken where to start… All this attention makes me feel like a celebrity and I’m nae. I’m just an ordinary person. I live in Paradise, my home in Menie, but it’s feeling less like Paradise these days.
The day Alicia photographed me we’d had nae water for eight days. A few days afore Michael was washing the car and he suddenly had nae water. He came o’er and told me be careful wi the water. At first we thought it was the dry weather and the spring had gone weak. After a week one o’ the boys came and said to Mike ‘have you no water?’ Mike said ‘nae for a week’; they brought bottled water and said they’d get it on again. The diggers had torn up the pipe. It was three days getting it fixed and finding the broken pipe that runs into the well, it was ten days in total. Mike had to bleed it to get it into his tank, it came to mine first. It took days to get clean as it was dirty so we still had to use bottled water.
Well, yi canna live without water! I was carrying water for ma hens and plants from the burn. I had a barra, twa watering cans and a paint pot wi a string. I wheeled the barra to the burn, I stood at the burnside, dippit in the paint pot lifted it up and poured it into the watering cans for the hens and the plants and to flush the toilet because they were aye needing water. If they’d read the plans properly they should have know exactly where the spring was as it’s all on the deeds. I had bother with my stomach but may not have anything with the water.
I cannae believe the amount o folk that’s thinking o us. A’ve had hundreds o Christmas cards showing support. I aye reply if they leave an address.”