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Fraserburgh memorial garden project for the Scottish Samurai moves forward

Plans for the memorial garden for Thomas Blake Glover
Plans for the memorial garden for Thomas Blake Glover

Plans for a memorial garden to mark the birthplace of a north-east industrialist have taken a step forward.

The Glover Birthplace – commemorating Thomas Blake Glover – is planned for 15-17 Commerce Street in Fraserburgh.

Before his death more than 100 years ago, Glover is credited with being a founding father of the industrial age in Japan – including playing in a role in the beginnings of a shipping firm which would grow to become Mitsubishi.

Thomas Blake Glover, the Scottish Samurai
Thomas Blake Glover, the Scottish Samurai

More than two million people visit his former home in Nagasaki – the oldest Western-styled building in Japan – every year.

And Aberdeenshire Council has now found a north-east firm to create the memorial space, which is hoped to become a tourist attraction.

KW Contractors has been awarded the £74,000 work to transform the site into a Japanese-themed courtyard.

The plans, approved in October, are expected to take around 18 months to become a reality.

Council leader and Fraserburgh councillor, Andy Kille, said: “I am delighted to see the Thomas Blake Glover garden take another step forward.

“This will be a great amenity for the town as well as deservedly commemorating one of Fraserburgh’s residents who went on to make a huge impact with his life.”

Work on Broch memorial garden to Thomas Glover to cost £80k and begin next year

The former homestead of the so-called Scottish Samurai at 15 Commerce Street no longer stands, with the site lying empty since the Second World War.

KW Contractors has been tasked with constructing “a high quality garden which will be of local historical interest and also function as a tourist destination,” the council contract states.

When finished, the council plans for a statue of the 19th century industrialist, artwork and specially-designed benches to be put in place.

Glover’s north-east roots have long been championed by both Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City councils, as they look to forge economic ties with Japan.

The Thomas Blake Glover in Balgownie Road, Bridge of Don
The Thomas Blake Glover house in Balgownie Road, Bridge of Don

While born in Fraserburgh in 1938, Mr Glover’s family moved to Aberdeen during his formative years, making a new home in Bridge of Don.

Mitsubishi bought the house in Balgownie Road in 1996, later gifting it to the Grampian-Japan Trust for use as a museum.

But the council, who took ownership of the site, closed the tourist attraction in 2012 due to a lack of visitors and rising costs.

Subsequently, £300,000 was spent making the building wind and water tight, and in 2017 plans were brought forward for use as a base for an educational exchange programme with Japan.

But fleshed out plans are yet to be made public.

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