The Incorporation of Hammermen held their Annual Dinner on Friday night in the
Allan Park Hotel. Guest speakers were Bruce Blanche and Michael Giannandrea.
Deacon Stuart Campbell introduced the meeting with a run through of the successes
of the year.
Hammermen funds had been used to present awards to the top Historic Scotland
students at Forth Valley College, a set of woodworking tools had also been
presented to local lad Rowen Baird, training to become a traditional joiner. On a
more social front, there was a successful Burns Supper thanks to David Sibbald, a
visit to Duncarron village, a whisky tasting thanks to Calum McMillan and a joint
ceildh night with Stirling and Caledonian Strathspey and Reel Society, raising £620
for Strathcarron Hospice at which a new reel composed by David Gardner was
played called “Hammermen of Stirling”.
On a more serious note, the highlight of the year had been the Walking of the
Marches where numbers were up by 25% with Historic Scotland agreeing to donate
three more March stones. Deacon Stuart reported that the new replacement Blue
Blanket has been started by the Embroiders Guild and will be ready for the 2016
walk. Finally members attended the Remembrance Sunday service at the Holy Rude
and a wreath was laid at the war memorial.
Master of ceremonies Bailie Andrew McEwan, then introduced the first Speaker,
Bruce Blanche who spoke about Camp 21, a “black” POW camp at Cultybraggan
where category A POW’s were held. They were mainly POW’s considered to be the
most committed and fanatical Nazi, mainly young Waffen-SS, Afrika Korp and U-boat
crew all policed by Polish guards. They had travelled mainly from Devises by bus and
train following the foiling of a mass breakout in 1944. Bruce told the audience of
tunnel building, the infamous murder of Wolfgang Rosterg but also touched on the
more creative side showing pictures of items prisoners made from wood. Following
the war, the camp became an army training camp up until it closed in 2004, where
Bruce himself once stayed as a reservist. The camp now listed by Historic Scotland is
owned by Comrie Development Trust and is a multipurpose venue with local
businesses, allotments and exhibitions about the camp itself.
On a complete change of subject the second speaker was Michael Giannandrea a 2 nd
generation Italian Scot. He charted the development of the Italian families in Stirling
including his own and how they had expanded throughout the town with their
businesses and shops. They had come to Scotland originally around the 1890’s as
their expanding families in Italy had small farms and were unable to support the next
generation. He charted the emigration of the Stirling families, where they had come
from briefly touching on their dislike of officialdom. They successfully integrated into
the local population and fought for King and Country with members being decorated
in both wars despite some of the families being interred in the Isle of Man during
WW2. Fascinating old Photos of Stirling were shown with shop locations bringing
back many memories to the locals amongst the audience. Both Bruce’s and Michael’s
talk were enthusiastically received by the Hammermen.
The meeting was rounded off by a vote of thanks from Bailie Robin Mair.
Pictured below L – R
Bailie Andrew McEwan, Bruce Blanche, Michael Giannandrea, Deacon Stuart