On Saturday 27 January 2024 we had a very successful launch of the James McBey Project with just over a hundred people attending a thoroughly enjoyable talk in Newburgh Village Hall about the life and times of James McBey by Alasdair Soussi, author of the biography of James McBey entitled ‘Shadows and Light: The Extraordinary Life of James McBey’.

In addition to the Trust, Phil Astley, Jane Bradford and Alasdair Soussi comprised the Project Team which came together to mark the hundred and twenty-fifth anniversary of the birth of James McBey on 23 December 1883.  The Project has delivered a wide range of initiatives including signage, plaques and a leaflet all of which is aimed to raise awareness of an artist of international renown. Lots of folk helped us along the way – too many to list here but they were all thanked at the launch of the Project. 

On the Sunday 28 January Alasdair led a walk in and around Newburgh and Newmill that have an association with James McBey’s early life.  Some forty hardy souls began the day at the top of the boardwalk at Newburgh beach and viewed the landscapes of sea, dune and land that inspired McBey and many of which appear in his art. We then visited McBey’s birthplace at Newmill and admired the new interpretive board there. Then it was a quick visit to the McBey/Gillespie family grave at the former Foveran Parish Church where the family gravestone has been restored and stabilised. We returned to Newburgh and admired the newly installed plaque on the side of 80 Main Street which was the childhood home of James McBey.  And then it was back to the village hall for soup and sandwiches and a blether!

Finally as part of the project, Bethan Edwards arranged for a group of primary school pupils from Aberdeen City to visit Newburgh where they spent the day at Newburgh Mathers School joining several of their classes. The pupils learnt about McBey’s life, sung some relevant songs and went down to the estuary to do drawing and painting influenced by McBey’s work. They finished the day with a ceilidh. The children were particularly excited to see the McBey plaque on the house in the village. 

This leads me onto to say that we hope to build on the work already achieved and have had a meeting with the Aberdeen City Council Archives, Galleries and Museums.  Aberdeen City was James McBey’s spiritual home so we’re keen to make the connections between City and Shire.  Topics we are discussing with the City include a possible exhibition in Newburgh of McBey’s artwork to coincide with North East Open Studios in September 2024, a City guided walk of places in Aberdeen associated with James McBey and further development and roll-out of the primary school initiative described earlier.