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Old cine films bring Aberdeen family’s memorable moments back to life again

The old family cine films have been digitised to bring the past back to life for Lesley Simpson.
The old family cine films have been digitised to bring the past back to life for Lesley Simpson.

James Cameron and his wife Winnie beam with joy as they leave hospital in Aberdeen with their new-born daughter Lesley in July 1968.

Lesley’s ride home with her parents to Union Grove from Aberdeen Maternity Hospital was captured on film and provides a fascinating glimpse of the city’s past.

The footage shows James looking resplendent in his best suit as he pulls up outside in his car to take his wife and new baby home.

A nurse then brings Lesley out to the waiting car.

She is wrapped in a white blanket and accompanied by proud mum Winnie.

In an era before child car seats, Winnie then gets herself settled in the passenger seat before Lesley is handed over by the nurse.

She waves them off before they drive back home to Union Grove.

James Cameron with Lesley.

The slice of nostalgia was digitised from an old VHS tape which was gathering dust in a cardboard box.

The video contained a collection of cine films dating back to the mid-60s including family trips to Stonehaven open air pool and Kerr’s Miniature Railway in Arbroath.

Lesley said she was delighted to see generations of family members being brought to life again.

A nurse hands over Lesley after she leaves the maternity ward.

Lesley said: “The film belonged to my dad – he died in September and was a keen photographer.

“He had also taken a lot of cine film in his younger years that had been transferred to video tape many years ago and I had a copy.

“That’s where Grant Millar came in and digitised it for me so I could show my dad – he was delighted and his memory was as sharp as anything.

“I think he said the footage was taken by his brother but I can’t be sure.

“I tried to say the baby was my sister because it’s crying and looks grumpy but it’s me!

“So that would make it the summer of 1968 and that’s also why my dad looks pretty confident picking me up because I was the second born.

“I love the styles – being dressed smartly to pick up your baby, the clothes and the cars in the background.

“I wonder who the nurse might be, if she’d still be alive?”

Lesley didn’t know her father was dying when she digitised the footage but his smile was just as wide as it was back in July 1968 when he watched it again.

James had his own butcher’s shop at Kittybrewster for a number of years before giving it up to join Grampian Police in the control room and fingerprint department.

The family having fun at Stonehaven Open Air Pool.

However he kept his hand in as a butcher, doing ‘homers’.

Lesley said: “We had a spare bedroom known as ‘the butcher’s room’ and it wasn’t unusual to come in from school to see dad in his white coat covered in blood, sharpening knives with half a cow on the table!

“He enjoyed socialising and frequented many a pub in Aberdeen.

“In fact he could tell you the price of a pint and a nip in almost all of them!

“He suffered from ill health in recent years and had to have a leg amputated and landed back in hospital for some time just prior to his diagnosis of cancer.

“My sister Fiona and I arrived at the hospital to see him to find an empty bed.

“Fearing the worst had happened, we were then informed dad had gone missing.

“It was a locked ward on the sixth floor.

“Dad was eventually picked up by the police at the Carlton Bar in Castlegait enjoying a pint in his hospital gown.

“Despite his challenges, dad had a great zest for life and it was lovely to have the film and rebuild a relationship with him in the latter years.”

Lesley’s memories of life at Union Grove was more of an ode to a video nasty.

She said one thing that stands out was when work was being done on the stairs which disturbed lots of mice who had made it their home.

“My sister and I would scoop them up with our bucket and spades and flush them down the toilet!” she said.

“I remember standing on a dead one in my bare feet.

“Needless to say we moved from there in the early 70s!”

James Cameron in the police control room where he worked for many years.

Lesley, who now lives in Catterline, left Aberdeen at quite a young age to move to Dundee for work before settling down in Angus to raise a family.

She has four grown-up children and has worked in the Third Sector for many years and is currently working in volunteer development for a counselling charity.

“Seeing the footage is great as neither of my parents are alive,” said Lesley.

“I’ve also had contact with a cousin of my dad’s who I never knew – she saw the footage on a Facebook page and recognised my dad straight away and reached out – so we’ve been filling in gaps.

“There were a few gaps for me as I had quite an estranged relationship with dad and my parents also divorced when I was very young.

“At the time Grant digitised the clip I didn’t know dad was dying but I knew he would love to see it again.

“So yes, I guess that was a motivating factor – anything which would help us connect really.

“I have lots of video tape of my own kids now which I’m going dig out and get digitalised as well.”

Lesley Simpson with her father James Cameron.

Mr Millar, who lives in Monifieth, acquired a love of cine films from his father including a quirky habit of looking for old cine projectors in Dens Road Market in Dundee.

He has been working in marketing and communications since 2000 before he was made redundant in October 2020 and decided to make a living from digitisation.

A shot of the film which was taken at Kerr’s Miniature Railway.