MANY years ago a small, but determined group of residents from Ellon joined forces with other equally dedicated souls from Whitehills in the north and Kincardine O’ Neil in the south-west of Aberdeenshire to fight and win the battle of public toilet closures.
A march on Woodhill House was the turning point. For once, Aberdeenshire councillors saw and heard the strength of public opinion they had no stomach for the vociferous challenge from enraged citizens, rapidly turning tail in the face of such ferocity.
As is usually the case in these situations there were elected members who sought to appease the protesters with the platitude of saying it became publicly known that the decision had been reversed - “I was always on your side,”
It was a response which was quickly rejected by one member of the throng, who clearly saw through this particular act of cowardice.
Sad to say the councillor concerned was from Ellon, but fortunately is no longer a member of the council.
The lengths some communities were prepared to go were in fact quite astonishing, with Methlick leading the way by cleaning their public toilets on a rota system in which Lord Aberdeen was a key participant.
A great example of working together.
The community of Collieston was no less enterprising, leading them to acquire a key for the beach front conveniences, enabling them to proudly declare ‘business as usual.’
In the face of this action, Aberdeenshire Council had no chance, collapsing like a pack of cards in the face of a hostile electorate, though never admitting the folly of its bid to save cash.
Interestingly, very few other issues have prompted such an a reaction, mores the pity, not that I am proposing that citizens take to the street on a regular basis.
It does, however, prove that denying us the right to spend a penny was not very clever.
So, given the history of the public toilets, why were the Ellon riverside toilets not open two weeks ago on the morning of one of the town’s big days when visitors were in and about the area.
The Ythan Challenge is a well received event, and as the race comes along the river bank on its way to the Meadows there was a fair crowd, many of whom were amazed to find the loos shut, despite the notice saying otherwise.
In the end, some of them eventually made their way to the supermarket on the hill - which must have been a fairly significant inconvenience.
Not, in my opinion, a situation that reflects well on the town. Let’s just ensure is does not happen again.
As already conceded, civil unrest is not usually an answer, but there again the country has a fine record of civil disobedience which, just occasionally, is a last resort.