- Written by Colin Russell
Aberdeen Modellers Society
Back in the mid 1970's, I was approached by the Aberdeen City Leisure and Recreation Department to put on a display of models as part of the Council's annual Leisure for Pleasure exhibition held in the Music Hall in July. The exhibition covered a wide variety of hobby interests and included model boat clubs, model engineering societies, flying aircraft model clubs and a large number of craft groups. The event attracted thousands of visitors, taking place as it did at the start of the national school summer holidays.
During my two or three years of participation, several model builders spoke to me at length about the hobby and their lamentation of the lack of a club for like minded individuals in the City. I started taking notes of names and addresses of individuals who had expressed an interest in forming a new club.
Through contacts with these builders, I found that there had been an IPMS club in the City some years ago, but the group had folded. From these early enquiries, I resolved to start a new club.
Armed with the list of names and following a few telephone calls, an initial meeting was arranged one evening in the Five Farthings Hotel (now the Palm Court Hotel). From that meeting, the Aberdeen Modellers Society was born. We few - about 6 or 7 members - started meeting at the hotel each month, but the staff quickly sussed out that these lads could make a glass of Coke last all evening, and slightly annoyed glances were coming from the staff when they realised that they were not making much money from the group! A new venue had to be found and the Cults Community Centre became our regular meeting place from 1980 onwards.
The Formative Years
Advertising began for members through the kind offices of Brian Sheriffs Model Shop in John Street and a few Press articles and photographs in the Press and Journal and Evening Express. Numbers soon began to swell. The Committee had been formed early in this period and it met in the Amatola Hotel (now gone!) two weeks after each club night. It was very important to have an agenda for each meeting as a group simply meeting and chatting about modelling was never going to hold members. The agenda covered as wide a set of topics as possible to ensure that there would be something of interest for all members, irrespective of their own particular field. This format is a winner, allowing members to pursue their own hobby interests, but once a month hearing inputs on all aspects of the hobby. Speakers were invited from a wide range of topics – civil aviation, helicopter companies, the Press, commercial model builders – and internal members (sometimes with a little arm-twisting!). The result was a wide-ranging agenda which meant that members would always be hearing something new at club meetings.
I firmly believe that this is one of the main reasons that AMS has continued to hold members and attract new ones over the 36 years of its existence – so far! I know that the AMS is the longest continually running model club in Scotland.
AMS – The Continuing Story
Model shows were arranged in Aberdeen in the early years and soon we became involved in the Scottish modelling scene. The first foray to the Nationals was in the Albert Halls in Stirling, and the skills of several AMS members resulted in the first of many awards coming back to Aberdeen. The group became informally known as the Aberdeen Mafia'! Representatives from AMS were incorporated into the National committee, and I know that the way AMS is run is the envy of many other Scottish clubs.
Press coverage of our activities brought us to the attention of the Gordon Highlanders Regimental Museum, and I was approached by the then Curator Sarah Malone in 2004. The Museum was interested in commissioning the Society to build a series of dioramas depicting certain memorable activities the Regiment had been involved in during WW2. Following a series of meetings I had with the Museum staff and former officers from the Regiment, an application for a grant to cover the cost of the task was made to the National Lottery Home Front Recall. To my surprise, the cost of around £17,000 to complete the task was approved, and the members of AMS started on the most ambitious task it has ever had. Two years of very hard work followed, where every member of the Society was involved in building the models required, preparing the diorama bases, figures and buildings to the highest standards possible. In 2006, the dioramas were handed over to the Museum, and the members of AMS have the pride in knowing that their hard work will be a permanent fixture there for years to come. HRH the Prince of Wales has viewed the finished dioramas during a private visit to the Museum and I understand he was very impressed with the Society's work. There can be no finer accolade for a model building group that to have their skills recognised by a Museum, and I am personally very proud of that achievement.
At the end of the project, the Society fell heir to all the equipment we had to purchase – compressors, air brushes, paints and paint brushes – and as a result, equipment could be loaned to members to allow them to improve their model building skills.
The Society's home in Cults Community Centre came to an end and the group now meets in the very Museum which houses the dioramas! Membership continues to grow and the group is thriving.
I am proud to have been the Chairman of the group from its formation in 1980 until my last meeting in March 2008. The members have – and continue to be – a great bunch of people from widely varying backgrounds, all bound by our common interest in model building, and I wish them all the best for the years to come.
Founder Member and Past Chairman, 21 April 2016