Saturday, November 24, 2012

Around Aberdeen: Gordon Highlanders Museum

On Gus' last day in Scotland, I treated him to a shave and a haircut at City Barber, and then we walked two miles, uphill, to the Gordon Highlanders Museum.

The museum is located here, in sort of western Aberdeen. Once we'd paid our admission (£5 for Gus, £3 for me as a student), we were directed into a little theater for a short film about the Gordon Highlanders. Before the film started, we were offered a few remarks by an elderly gentleman whom we assumed to be a veteran of the regiment. The video was informative, it discussed the regiment's formation in 1794 and their subsequent operations during the Napoleonic Wars (including a critical breakthrough at the Battle of Waterloo), the Anglo-Afghan Wars, the Boer War, World War I, World War II, and thereafter. When we emerged from the theater, we were once again greeted by the elderly gentleman named Tom... Who proceeded to guide us, completely unexpectedly, through most of our tour of the museum. This included the main gallery (the Grant Room), followed by the Armo(u)ry, and the regimental silver display room. Throughout the tour, our distinguished guide - himself a World War II veteran of operations in Europe from shortly after D-Day and thereafter - relayed the hallowed lore of the Regiment. The museum and its various collections would have been top tier even without our guide's presence, but his guidance and pride in the Regiment were invaluable. He made an excellent experience truly unforgettable.

Once we'd been handed off, we got to see the museum's dining hall, which is used for formal events (and can be hired out), after which we saw the rotating exhibition hall with a variety of Commando Comics-inspired bits and bobs from the history of the Regiment. Our volunteer tour guide was able to pull in another elderly Scot named Alex, who'd also served in the Regiment in World War II. We talked about General Patton, the Band of Brothers book and television series, Richard Winters, and a variety of other topics. Gus and I were thrilled! Conversations with two Scottish war heroes in a single afternoon!

We made our way back to the museum's entry, and made a couple of purchases - for me, it was a copy of Commando Country, a compilation of three of the Commando Comics editions on the desert campaigns, and a couple of CDs of the pipe and drum corps playing marches and such. Before we left, we got our picture with our tour guide, Tom. We left the museum at closing time - ironically, the first time in my memory that I've closed down both a museum and (subsequently) a pub in the same day.

If you're in Aberdeen at any point in the next week, you're a moron if you don't go to visit the museum. Normally closed in December and January (except for private hire events), the museum will close at the end of next week until April for some renovations. Seriously, folks: if you come to visit Aberdeen, you're cheating yourself if you don't budget two or three hours to visit the Gordon Highlanders Museum. I've been to a lot of museums, including a lot of military museums, and the Gordon Highlanders Museum is comparable in presentation quality and size of collection to great military museums like the Royal Marines Museum in Eastney, and the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico (though obviously regimental-sized). Like many things around here, I can't recommend it highly enough.

Once we were done at the museum, Gus and I made the two mile hike back to Lionel's so he could enjoy one last kebab shop dinner, after which we went to The Machar for drinks with Sister and Irish Jay. Once we'd shut The Machar down, we said our goodbyes and parted company. It was great to have him here, we did some great stuff while he was visiting, and made a lot of great memories in the process. And now, it's back to work.

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