Ellon set for Middle Eastern Christmas

ELLON will play host to three very unusual visitors this Christmas, after local members approved a scheme to recreate the nativity in an open air event.

Real camels will be brought to the town for the event on December 19, which will involve pupils from Auchterellon, Meiklemill, Ellon Primary and Ellon Academy, led by Auchterellon head teacher Morag McGowan. The pupils will meet on Station Road, before proceeding down Bridge Street to the Market Street car park. The event will include, according to the top-up funding application, a tableaux of the nativity and penned area for the camels, and narration by local school chaplains. Organisers have described the event as a participative event for children, adults and businesses alike.

Eyebrows were raised at the Formartine Area Committee regarding the cost of transporting the camels, quoted as £1700, with £1000 to come from the area top-up budget. The project has already attracted hundreds of pounds worth of support from Ellon Rotary, as well as contributions from the schools themselves.

Local members agreed to provide the funding, on the basis that the attraction would be a boost for the local economy.

Cllr Rob Merson said that the animals would be unlikely to react adversely to the crowds, citing that in his experience, camels were “remarkably sanguine.”

Cllr Debra Storr said that she could not support the project, however, saying that she suspected the animals would be unhappy with the crowds and that as a species better suited to the Middle East, the December chill would not be amenable to the desert visitors.

“It’s an uncontrolled environment, and these are Sub-Saharan animals,” she said. “It’s not something I’d be comfortable supporting. The mood of the meeting is against me, though.”

Chairman John Loveday told the committee that the nativity play would bring visitors to the town, saying: “It will be quite an attraction for Ellon. Though we’ve turned down justifiable causes for top-up funding, I’d like to make it clear that the funding will help Ellon’s economic development.”

Cllr Isobel Davidson added: “It’s a one off, innovative project which will boost the town’s businesses by bringing people in.”

Area Manager Keith Newton told the committee that the council did not have any official policy on the use of animals in parades, following a question from Cllr Allan Hendry.