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Issue 52 - Snapshots from my life

Scotland Magazine Issue 52
August 2010

 

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Snapshots from my life

Roddy Martine shares some candid photos with us from his career in journalism.

So far as I am concerned, photography has always been a hobby. Although at one stage I spent hours in darkrooms mixing developer and fixer, it never occurred to me to turn professional. So far as I was concerned, were those far more skilled than I with a camera, and in my writing career I have been fortunate enough to work with some of the UK’s greatest – Brodrick Haldane, Fritz von der Schulenberg, Christopher Simon Sykes, Eric Thorburn, Patrick Douglas-Hamilton, Eric Ellington, David Ward, Antonia Reeve, Mary Greig, Moira Leggat, Steven Gibson of the Scottish Daily Mail, more recently, Shannon Tofts, and, in the USA, Bill Milne.

When I first joined Holmes McDougall, the magazine publishing arm of Outrams, in 1975, there were two full-time staff photographers, George Alden and John Watt.

First George retired, then John. It was the end of an era. From then on I had to buy in images from freelance photographers.

In 1977, I was appointed an editor, and it was then that my executive editor Eric Baird took me aside and suggested I trade in the old company camera for something more modern. “Always take a camera with you when you go to interview people,” he advised me. “Often as not it is impossible to get somebody to go back and replicate what you saw. You need to capture the moment yourself,” he said. How right he was.

From then on, I followed his advice, but invariably did not have to do so as for several years I was accompanied by the Kirkintilloch-based photographer Eric Thorburn, a true genius with a lens. Like the caricaturist Emilio Coia, who worked with me in drawing my interview subjects, he became a great friend. It was only when I came across people at parties and in out-of-the way places, that my having an Olympus Trip strung around my neck proved a godsend. After I left Holmes McDougall in 1985, I regularly provided magazines such as Scottish Field, Priceless, Tatler, and Caledoniawith social pictures from some of the more exclusive events that I was invited to.

A camera enabled me to work the room. My old friend Brodrick Haldane, whose biography I wrote in 1999, told me how he had fallen into photography almost by accident; how he had simply begun by taking pictures of his friends during the 1920s and, with their agreement, selling them to the various popular magazines of his generation.

With me it was much the same. When I coedited Cockburn’s Diary on the Sunday Times Scotland and later launched Boswell’s Diary in the Scotsman, it was often my snapshots that accompanied the text.

The accumulated negatives in an old suitcase speak for themselves. Here are some favourites.

1Dame Barbara Cartland For over sixty years, the romantic novelist Dame Barbara Cartland would annually take up residence in the autumn at her family’s sporting lodge near Helmsdale in Sutherland. I went to visit her there on two occasions, the last time in 1992, and, in her ninety-first year, she regaled me on how she wished to be remembered – as somebody who campaigned for the rights of gypsy children to attend schools, for women to be paid to stay home and after childbirth, for designing the aeroplane-towed glider, for designing wallpaper, and not just for being someone who wore pink!

On that same occasion, the telephone rang and she asked me to answer it. “If it’s a man, I’ll speak to him,” she said. “If it’s a woman, say I’m not available. Their voices are too high and I can’t hear what they are saying!” 2Billy Connolly During the Edinburgh Festival of 1979, the editor of the Edinburgh University magazine Festival Times asked me to go along to the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket to seek out Billy Connolly who was performing in Tom McGrath’s play Animal. The Castle Trades Mission was on the brink of being closed down and I found Billy standing outside in the street with a group of its occupants.

3 Clansfolk at Grandfather Mountain Highland Games I have twice been to the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in North Carolina, the largest Scottish gathering in the world, and enjoyed myself immensely. This photograph was taken in July 1983.

4Sir Iain Moncreiffe of that Ilk Claiming descent from the Emperor Charlemain, Count Dracula the Impaler, and Princess Elizabeth Bathery, who drank the blood of virgins, Sir Iain was sometimes referred to in the media as the “World’s Greatest Snob.” But this could not have been further from the truth.

Although his first marriage was to the Countess of Erroll (in her own right), and he had inherited a baronetcy, he was kind and courteous to all be they humble or grand. He was fascinated by heraldry and ancestry, being made Albany Herald at the Court of the Lord Lyon King of Arms.

Once when obliged to attend an official function wearing his ceremonial Albany Herald Tabard, he was found hiding under the dining room table, refusing to come out.

When dancing with Her Majesty the Queen, he is alleged to have said to her, “M’am, I love you. I love you,” to which she allegedly replied, “I know, but don’t tell Philip!” 5The caricaturist Emilio Coia with the novelist Naomi Mitcheson In my working career I collaborated regularly with the Scots-Italian caricaturist Emilio Coia, with him drawing portraits of my interview subjects. We drove north to Argyll to visit the novelist Naomi Mitcheson at her home at Carradale, on the Mull of Kintyre. I remember there being a ten mile traffic jam caused by roadworks on the Campbeltown road and Emilio singing virtually the entire score of La Traviatta.

6 Ewan McGregor with the McGregor Pipe Band At a dinner given by the bus tycoon Ann Gloag in Fife, I found myself sitting next to Carol and Jim McGregor, the parents of Ewan, who told me about the McGregor Band, which was made up exclusively of sixteen members of their family. I liked Jim and Carol immediately, a very warm and unaffected couple.

Since I was planning to attend the Tartan Week 2000 celebrations in New York, and they were taking part in the parade, Carol later telephoned to invited me to a rehearsal of the McGregor Band at Morrison’s Academy in Crieff. “Be sure and bring your camera with you,” she said.

When I arrived, I was met by Ewan in the car park and he introduced me to his various relatives, especially to his nephew Jamie who was the McGregor Band’s mascot.

I recall his aunt saying to him that she’d seen him on television the previous week and that he had looked “scunnered.” “You would be too if you’d had a hundred photographers all flashing away at you,” he responded.

It was then I realised how clever his mother had been. She wanted photographs to publicise the band and knew that if she asked me to take them, he wouldn’t object.

I was very flattered.

7Moira Anderson The legendary singer Moira Anderson was possibly at the height of her fame in1983 when Emilio Coia and I went to visit her at her home in Kilmacolm. Having presented a string of extremely popular radio and television programmes over the 1960s and 1970s, she, in company with the tenor Kenneth McKellar, had come to epitomise the songs of Scotland to such an extent that they became almost a Scottish cliché. Even Monty Python’s Flying Circus made fun of her in one of their sketches.

Moira, apart from her lovely singing voice, brought an immense glamour, style and elegance to the hitherto folksy portfolio which up until then had made up Scotland’s traditional songs.

Arriving at her home, I pressed the door bell which went ding-dong, and then,as if on queue, I heard Moira singing as she came to let me in. “O gin a body meet a body, comin’ thro’ the rye . . .” It was a surreal experience. “Do you always sing when you answer the door?” I asked her.

“Always when I’m happy,” she replied.

8Sir Paul McCartney In 1978, Paul McCartney with his wife Linda re-formed the rock band Wings and the following year came to Edinburgh to play at the then ABC Cinema. I went along and was allowed to sit at the foot of the stage to take photographs.

I can remember Linda McCartney feverishly banging cymbals at the side of the stage and never taking her eyes off her beloved husband.

9 The Rt. Hon. The Earl of Elgin & Kincardine, KT, Chief of the Name of Bruce Having been Lord High Commissioner to the Church of Scotland on two occasions, Lord Elgin has, throughout his life, pursued his many and varied public duties with enormous distinction. When described as a direct descendant of Robert the Bruce, he observes that this is not strictly true. King Robert was, in fact, descended from Lord Elgin’s family.

Indcidently, the 700th anniversary of King Robert’s great victory over the English takes place in June 2014 10 Sir William macpherson of Cluny and Sir Tommy Macpherson of Bialid Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, 27th Chief of Clan Macpherson, is the retired High Court Judge who was the author of the controversial report into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. In this photograph, taken near Kingussie, he is with Sir Tommy Macpherson of Bialid, Britain’s most decorated soldier.

In early October 1941, Sir Tommy Macpherson was second-in-command in planning the raid on General Rommel’s headquarters at Cyrenica.

Having embarked on the submarine Talisman, he was landed near Apollonia, but failed to make the pre-arranged rendezvous.

He attempted to walk to Tobruk, but was captured and held prisoner in Germany until 1943.

Having escaped via Sweden , he resumed active service, working with the French Maquis and Italian irregulars in North-East Italy. Towards the end of the war, he was responsible for bluffing 23,000 crack German troops into surrender.