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Major exhibition to open on Aberdeenís Great War


Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums will mark the anniversary of the commencement of the First World War with a major exhibition.

Chris Croly, exhibition curator with the Sir James Taggart stories book and Matt Fyfe, George Cruickshank and Alistair Black,members of the Aberdeen, Banchory & Kincardine British Legion that gave their support to the exhibition. Aberdeen's War will open to the public on Saturday 22 March at Aberdeen Art Gallery, Schoolhill.

Drawings on the city's rich collections, the exhibition will explore the different aspects of Aberdeen's involvement with the Great War, one of the most important events of the 20th century.

One poignant reminder of the human impact of the war is a letter from Aberdonian George Rennie to his mother, dated 15 May 1916. George, of Esslemont Avenue, joined the Royal Navy and was present at the Battle of Jutland. The letter was the last he wrote home to his mother before he died in action at the Battle of Jutland, fought on 31 May and 01 June 1916. He signs the letter off by asking his mother to tell Violet he will be home in a month's time.

On display are sketches from the Front Line drawn by Gilbert Marshall Mackenzie, the youngest son of local architect Alexander Marshall Mackenzie, who designed Aberdeen Art Gallery. Gilbert Marshall Mackenzie was killed in action in 1916.

James McBey War Artist is an exhibition within the exhibition. McBey, was a self-taught artist, born and raised in Aberdeenshire, who went on to become an artist of international renown. His wartime prints, which include etchings that evoke the devastation he witnessed in France and in Palestine, will be on display along with sketchbooks and original photographs in the McBey Room.

Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums was bequeathed McBey's collection of photographs, sketches, etchings and writings from this period by his widow Marguerite. This remarkable collection illustrates both military and civilian aspects of the war, and sheds light on a theatre of conflict that is often overlooked in public commemorations of the Great War.

The exhibition includes creative work, inspired by James McBey's wartime experience, produced by participants in a project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Great War with James McBey, saw three groups of local people paired with artists Graeme Milne, Gabrielle Reith and Phil Thompson to explore McBey's remarkable wartime story as well as the impact of the Great War on life in Aberdeen. Artist and Historian, Ashleigh Black with her work that was included in the James McBey inspired art book.

Two operational orders issued to the 9th Gordon Highlanders, Pioneers including one which instructs a Non Commissioned Officer (NCO) to select six men to leave the trench and construct a new line of barbed wire between their trench and the enemy, some 49 yards away, will also be on display.

Chris Croly, historian at Aberdeen City Council and curator of the exhibition, said: "We will tell the story of Aberdeen and Aberdonians involvement in the Great War in pictures, paintings, letters, poems and objects. It is clear the war meant different things to different people at different times and we have tried to capture some of the ways in which people experienced the war. Some reacted with humour while other stories and objects are very personal, touching and salient reminders of the sacrifice of so many people at the time."

Opening hours

Tuesday – Saturday 10am-5pm

Sunday 1pm-4pm

Closed Monday

Admission free