President Frances Wallace welcomed some 17 members to the first meeting of 2021 and wished them all a Happy and Healthy New Year.

She then introduced retired Diplomat David Middleton from Auchenblae, who was guest speaker for the evening.

David was born and brought up in Aberdeen, before moving to the North of England and attending University there. From there he secured a teaching post in Vermont in America in the 1970s. This enabled him to provide the ladies with a fascinating insight into American Presidential matters of that decade.

Spiro Agnew had resigned after charges of tax evasion as 39th Vice President of United States in 1973 and was replaced by Gerald Ford. President at this time was Richard Nixon who had two terms of office as President from 1969-1974. In late 1973, Watergate escalated, costing Nixon much of his political support. On August 9, 1974, facing almost certain impeachment and removal from office, he became the first American president to resign. After his resignation, he was issued a pardon by his successor, Gerald Ford.

Ford took office in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal and in the final stages of the Vietnam War, both of which engendered a new disillusion in American political institutions. He was succeeded by President Jimmy Carter who became 39th President of America in 1977.

The issues arising in America presently, with the inauguration of Joe Biden and the possible impeachment of Donald Trump emphasise the volatility of American politics now as was the case in the 70s. To quote George Bernard Shaw – “England and America are two countries separated by the same language.”

David stated that this was all good preparation for his next career as a Diplomat which he joined in 1982 after a language aptitude test at the Foreign office. At this point David likened the aims and objectives of Inner Wheel to those of the Diplomatic Service.

His first posting in1984 (10 days after being married) was to Japan where he was accompanied by his new wife Georgie.

He settled in Kamakura which is a coastal town in Kanagawa Prefecture, less than an hour south of Tokyo. 2 out of 7 residents here were Westerners.  Whilst there he attended language school. His evenings and weekends were spent socialising. He went to see Sumo wrestling, Japanese football and travelled within Japan.

During his time in Japan David visited schools where he spoke to the students about William Shakespeare. This proved a particularly challenging experience.

Many young people were keen to buy their own homes as privacy for them was at a premium. This proved exceedingly difficult for them, however.

He had observed very extreme behaviour in the young after their work was done; with excessive drinking and a chauvinistic attitude to sex being prevalent in young men at this time.

Following the surrender of Japan at the end of World War 2 Emperor Hirohito remained as leader until his death in 1989. He was then succeeded by Emperor Akihito who abdicated due to his age and declining health in 2019. There have been subtle changes in Japan since his son Emperor Naruhito who has pledged to fulfil his role as a “symbol of the state and unity”, came to power in 2019.

David Middleton then spoke about Japan’s connection with the North East of Scotland.

He firstly referred to Richard Brunton. He was the so-called “Father of Japanese lighthouses”. Brunton was born in Muchalls in 1841. He was employed by the government of Meiji period Japan as a foreign advisor primarily to build lighthouses.

Over a period of seven and a half years he designed and supervised the building of 26 Japanese lighthouses in the Western style, which became known as Brunton’s “children”. To operate the lighthouses, he established a system of lighthouse keepers, based on the one used in Scotland. He also helped found Japan’s first school of civil engineering. In 1871, he was received by Emperor Meiji in recognition of his efforts.

David then spoke about Thomas Blake Glover who was born in 1838 in Fraserburgh. In 1859, aged 21, Glover crossed from Shanghai to Nagasaki and worked initially buying Japanese green tea. in 1865 he was also responsible for bringing a small-scale steam locomotive and cars to Japan, which he demonstrated on a short track in the Oura district of Nagasaki, causing a sensation and alerting Japan to the benefits of railway transportation.

Glover was a key figure in the industrialisation of Japan, helping to found the shipbuilding company which was later to become the Mitsubishi Corporation of Japan. Glover also helped establish the Japan Brewery Company, which later became the major Kirin Brewery Company, Ltd. His association with the rebellious samurai clans of Satsuma and Choshu, and his interest in samurai generally seems to have contributed to his being referred to as the “Scottish Samurai” in Scotland.

The Glover series of whiskies was launched in October 2015 to celebrate the life of Thomas Blake Glover and honour the long-standing relationship between Scotland and Japan.

Glover’s former residences in Nagasaki and Aberdeen have both since been turned into museums.

As David, has also been a diplomat in Africa, the Middle East and Europe, it was suggested by Mavis Cowie that he could share further tales of his experiences in the Diplomatic Service with the club on another visit – this time perhaps when we return to our monthly meetings at the Panmure Arms.

Kathleen Murray

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