A history of twin towns


Provost Davidson welcomes the delegation in 1967

I wonder how many people from Ellon know that we have a twin town in Belgium?

Hopefully the residents of Chievres Road homes, part of the Hillhead development, are aware of their illustrious connection.

It all started on November 11, 1918 at 11 a.m. sharp.

At the end of the terrible ‘Great’ War of 1914-18, the 5th Gordon Highlanders, centered on Ellon, with skirling pipes, led by Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Dudley G. Gordon (later to become Marquess of Aberdeen) marched on Chievres and liberated the war-torn Belgian city whose citizens hailed their liberators as heroes.

The Gordon Highlanders were to stay for six weeks and were hospitably received even though many ‘jocks’ were housed on farms so crowded as the town.

A friendship developed between Chièvres and the northeastern town, a friendship that was cemented decades later in a formal “twinning” (the French translation of twinning).

First, in May 1966, a delegation of dignitaries from Ellon visited Chièvres and a year later, this visit was reciprocal.

I remember everything but even better, my diary of May 20, 1966 notes “Dad left in a military plane for Chièvres”.

Dad was a veteran Gordon Highlander, a German prisoner of war from 1940 to 1945 but traveled as a clerk.

Ellon’s delegation was led by Provost James Davidson accompanied by Baillies John Cordiner and John Taylor and the Reverend Stanley Raffan.

Also in the party were Lord Aberdeen (Lord Dudley as he was affectionately called by everyone in Chievres) and other dignitaries, but it was Lord Dudley who was to be made a freeman of both towns.

Congratulations and gifts were exchanged.

Provost Davidson took with him a view of Ellon painted by Edi Swann then head of art at the Ellon Academy, incorporating the coats of arms of Ellon and Chièvres.

The visit to Chièvres was a great success – and enjoyable!

My father wrote a report for this same newspaper – Ellon and District Advertiser May 27, 1966 “Hospitality in Chievres Something Out Of This World”.

Dad wrote “on arrival at the Belgian Air Force base we were swept into the mess where beer and whiskey flowed – a taste of things to come”.

Four days of twinning ceremonies, marathon lunches, sumptuous dinners culminated in a Belgo-Scottish ball, where the inevitable liquid refreshment was ‘Dudley Scotch’, a rich export beer.

A year later, Ellon rose to the challenge for the return visit!.

Bunting was hung along Market Street, to Bridge Street and along Station Road.

The Belgian flag hung above the bourgeois bedrooms. Ellon Pipe Band led by Pipe Major George Cruickshank was very active.

The 25 Belgian delegates were accommodated in local houses.

Monsieur Rousseau, Dad’s counterpart, the clerk of Chièvres and Madame Rousseau stayed with us.

My twin sister Cacs and I have been asked for “translation” assignments.

Our schoolgirl French came in handy as my August 19, 1967 diary “spoke French at breakfast with Rousseaux”.

I added “26 for supper after the pipe band with the nobs at Ellon Castle Gardens”.

Oh dear!

Maybe I didn’t fully appreciate the meaning of pairing, but I do now.

The time has surely come to tighten this twin bond again!!!

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