Archive for the 'heritage' Category

16
Mar
12

Friends of Grampian Stones 2006 Lammas newsletter Vol.XVII#2

2006 Lammas Newsletter Vol.xvii #2 August, 2006

The Lunar Wobble

The Apprentice Pillar, 15thC Rosslyn Chapel, see below

FOGS JUNE 2004 solstice newsletter started the alert for all this wobble-watching. Now, two months after the wobble — lunar maximum occurred Sunday, June 11, 2006 when the moon reached its major standstill — we on the 57th degree parallel are experiencing withdrawal from our companion in orbit.

Orkney, Shetland and Lapland watchers are even more deprived, as the earth’s satellite barely shows her face at full above the southern horizon. This, its wildest fluctuation in the 18.6-year Metonic cycle, will continue into the autumn months. However by winter solstice we shall once again have a companion in full visibility in the night skies.

Think of it this way: in the darkest days of December, the sun at our latitude rises in the south-east and sets in the south-south-west, barely grazing the tops of some of our frostly hills.

This summer, the full moon has been doing just that: rising qnd setting (on full moon night and a couple of nights on either side) in roughly those same compass points, reflecting in amazing precision the path of our solar partner.

That is a simplification. It means if we aren’t looking in the right place, chances are we’ll miss it. It is more precise to say that on October 22, 2005, the moon was closest to full (71%) while standing at its most northerly position in our skies for 18.6 years.


By definition, quarter moons stand at the most northerly point in the sky.

For an exact calculation, check Victor Reijs and our FOGS moon standstill posting, immediately below. There is a discussion group at Archaeocosmology.

Many archaeoastronomers believe that some cupmarks on NE Scots recumbent stone circles mark the maximum moonset for this cycle. If so, then the circle-builders’ technology predated Meton (432BC) by some 3000 years.

Those of us planning to attend FOGS’ 2006 AGM at Cothiemuir on September 16th will be able to check for ourselves as the large recumbent there displqys a cluster of cupmarks on its face with a view angled farthest to the SSW — the most extreme viewing position possible from within the circle. Cothiemuir, NJ617 198, is accessed from My Lord’s Throat, and is one of the earliest of the NE’s RSCs. Contemporary neighboring Old Keig has the largest recorded recumbent stone, weighing in at 53 tons.
©2006-2012MCYoungblood

Message in a Bottle: Crichie Past

Beaker grave cremation pot and horn spoon found in 1855 by Dalrymple at Port Elphinstone henge, 'Druidsfield', Broomend of Crichie

During last summer’s excavation by Dr Richard Bradley’s team from Reading University at Druidsfield, Crichie, Port Elphinstone, Inverurie, a communication from the past was unearthed. The henge itself left a few clues to its use as a sacred processional terminus during the Bronze Age (one-mile-long stone avenue between Kintore and Crichie), but the message-in-a-bottle was far more precise in date. It was found standing upright in a spoil heap left by a previous archaeologist, and contained small fragments of window glass wrapped in a sheet of the Penny Free Press & Northern Advertiser

The glass was inscribed with the names of antiqurian Charles Elphinstone Dalrymple, his two colleagues and the local farmer of Broomend, with the date of their excavation, November 22, 1855. Victorian antiquarians frequently left small tokens for their successors to find.

Dalrymple’s family owned Logie, near Pitcaple; sometimes called Logie-Elphinstone. The Port Elphinstone excavation was one of his favourites and showed most detail: including the avenue of 72 megaliths stretching between Crichie and Tavelty, Kintore. Only two of these avenue stones remain.

Another feature now lost to the Reading team which Dalrymple was fortunate to find and record was a triple-ring circle a few metres north of the Druidsfield henge — now forming basement and foundations of a Port Elphinstone housing development. It is hoped the Reading team’s interest in the Kintore corridor will help protect it from further blanket development. The corridor sadly runs parallel with the A96 dual carriageway between Thainstone Mart and the Kintore Industrial Estate. ©MCN

Aberdeen Pictish Conference

Pictish eagle fragment found on Tullo Hill at Forgue-- DES 1999:9 first Pictish eagle-stone to be discovered in the 'Kingdom'

University of Aberdeen’s Research Institute for Irish and Scots Studies will host a conference entitled Fresh Pict: Problems Revisited at King’s College on Saturday, November 28th, 2006. At that time papers previously addressed to the prestigious Leeds International Medieval Conference will be given. The list of speakers is impressive:

Lloyd Laing, Simon Taylor, David Dumville, Gordon Noble, Nicolas Evans, Strat Halliday, Andrew Heald and Mike King. It is refreshing to see work continuing in the NE where Pictish fragments continue to be found, viz. Forgue eagle-stone, left (DES 1999:9) and a ‘creature’ found in a garden wall at Rothiemay (DES 2002:11). More information available from the Institute, Kings College, University of Aberdeen.
DES = Discovery and Excavation Scotland, whose online documentation of earlier DES publications has reached 2008.

daVinci Sparks Interest in Rosslyn
Rosslyn Chapel, south of Edinburgh, has traditionally attracted the specialist visitor interested in its alleged connection with the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail. Following the release of Dan Brown’s ‘daVinci Code’, visitor numbers have tripled.

Rosslyn's 15thC barrel-vaulted ceiling divided into five compartments. The crypt has Templar carvings.

The Rosslyn Chapel Trust chose a timely moment to make a record of what is probably a unique example of late-Medieval ecclesiastical architecture of the pre-Reformation period.

The chapel was begun in 1446 at around the same time as work started on Glasgow Cathedral. It is one of the few remaining intact pre-Reformation chapels left in Scotland. It towers over the edge of Rosslyn Glen, whose layers of sand, gravel and clay have posed subsidence problems in the past. One exit from the crypt opens on to a gravel bed.

AOC Archaeology Scotland have been employed to create a laser scan record of both interior and exterior; they hope to avoid pitfalls encountered in photography, where a substantial exterior scaffolding canopy –needed for the work– masked several unique features. Scanning has resulted in remarkable three-dimensional and 2D images of the building and its extravagant architectural idiom. This includes the lavishly-decorated interior with its now-famous ‘apprentice pillar’. It is the first full high-precision record to be made on the site and will prove invaluable for research, conservation and for future generations to refer to as a baseline for the building as it now stands.

It is hoped many of the scanned images will be made available on the web.
©FOGS 2006-2012

15
May
10

Friends of Grampian Stones Antiquities List Vol. XV #3 2004

DECEMBER 2004

Clatt Dolphin when it was embedded in Clatt kirkyard wall (now moved inside building)

FOGS Grampian SITES AND MONUMENTS RECORD of Antiquities submitted to HISTORIC SCOTLAND with our request for scheduling.*

*HISTORIC SCOTLAND has traditionally chosen which monuments it deems ‘suitable’ for protection (‘scheduling’). If it does not choose to schedule a monument, no responsibility is taken by this Scots state agency to protect such monuments, should any damage or disruption to such sites occur. In 2006 HS even suggested it was considering ‘delisting’ some sites. Thankfully none of these is in the Aberdeenshire area. FOGS, however, believes this is an unacceptable state of affairs in the 21st century and is doing everything in its power to change the bureaucratic view. The following list compiled by FOGS was received by Historic Scotland, but HS would not confirm whether any or all would ever receive protective ‘scheduling’.

FRIENDS OF GRAMPIAN STONES list of Scheduled (bold) and unscheduled stone monuments – with their map reference – within the former Grampian Region: the counties of Aberdeen, Banff, Moray and Kincardine (alternately known in cooncilspeak as Banff and Buchan; Gordon, Moray, Kincardineshire; since late 2006, historical county boundaries have been abolished – but only in cooncilspeak; not in the eyes of historians). The following list was presented to Historic Scotland and note taken by the keepers of the Grampian Site and Monuments Record. It is recorded here as an internet record of proceedins Perhaps a future Scots government will take more care of this irreplaceable resource. MC Youngblood 2009-2010

COUNTY-DISTRICT
[scheduled monuments appear in bold]

    MAP REFERENCE ANTIQUITY

ABERDEEN
NJ 859 044 Blacktop (Cottage) cup & ring-marked stone 190m NNW of
NJ 844 105 Clinterty Home Farm standing stone 130m N of

BANFFSHIRE AND BUCHAN
NJ 679 481 Hill of Laithers (Carlin) standing stone 490m N of Raecloch
NJ 722 498 St Congan’s Church and Class III Stone 450m NW of Bridge of Turriff
NJ 839 562 Upper Auchnagorth, stone circle 290m SE of
(A98 between New Pitsligo and New Byth)
NJ 983 415 Skelmuir Hill, standing stone 500m SW of South Howe
NJ 982 417 Skelmuir Hill, standing stone 500 m SW of South Howe
note: Skelmuir is littered with flint sherds from prehistoric workings

Afforsk Pictish Class IV cross-incised boundary stone between ancient church boundaries - Monymusk and Chapel of Garioch - at Afforsk

KINCARDINE AND DEESIDE
NJ 411 063 Blue Cairn, recumbent stone circle 320m WNW of Ladieswell Cottage
NJ 622 031 Gownieburn, standing stone 140m N of (Learney Stone)
NJ 616 036 Sundayswells Hill, ring cairn 540m W of West Learney
NJ 4865 0349 Tomnaverie recumbent stone circle, Tarland (restored) with outlier markers (solstice sun rise/sets)
NJ 504 054 Culsh Earth House, Tarland
aligned to solstitial sunset over Tomnaverie RSC in valley below; cupmarked entrance stone to passage (HS)
NJ 603 035 Balnacraig, recumbent stone circle 150m W of
NO 287 951 Abergeldie Castle, standing stone 120m S of
NO 524 990 Image Wood, stone circle 370m WSW of Mains of Aboyne
NO 503 998 St Machar’s Cross, cross 400m NNW of Dykehead
NO 780 976 Park House, Class I Pictish stone 100m N of
NO 703 957 Banchory Manse Wheel Cross, Class III stone in N wall of garden, Raemoir Road (FOGS: moved?)
NO301 962 Rinabaich Chapel and standing stone 200m SW of Bridge of Gairn Road (FOGS: Chapel Marjorie)
NO 774 794 Court Stone, standing stone 250m E of Mondynes farmhouse
NO 741 961 Milton of Crathes two class III Pictish stones
NO 706 957 Banchory-Ternan church and cross-slab in graveyard 110m S of church, corner main road and Raemoir road
NO 820 778 Moray Stone, standing stone 500m N of Mains of Barras, Arbuthnot
NO 875 895 Kempstone Hill, cairns and standing stones 500m NE of Standingstones (Muchalls)
NO 847 975 Standingstones, standing stone 250m SE of; Netherley Road, Maryculter (second stone destroyed)

Rear ogham discovery on Dyce Class II Pictish stone, retrieved and retained by HS

GORDON – Central Aberdeenshire
NJ 498 271 Rhynie Market Square, two Class III Pictish symbol stones
NJ 470 266 Brawland, cupmarked boulder 300m SW of
NJ 497 263 Crawstane, Pictish symbol stone and circular enclosure 300m NW of Barflat
see recent (2011) excavation
results from Universities of Aberdeen and Chester project
NJ 551 265 Tofthills stone circle and cross-inscribed stone 100m SSW of
NJ 549 271 Sunken Kirk (Tofthills) stone circle and Pictish Class IV cross-inscribed stone at NJ 552 266
NJ 592 255 Braehead recumbent stone circle and cupmarked stone 350m WSW of
NJ 579 251 Ringing Stone., cupmarked stone 430m WNW of Cotetown
NJ 538 259 Clatt Kirk Pictish Class I stones in kirkyard* one dolphin; other double disc
*since compiling this list one stone (double disc) has been lost, the other moved inside building, now community center with limited access
NJ 539 468 Hillhead of Avochie, cupmarked boulder 280m SW of
NJ 698 066 Balblair, standing stone phallus (Christchurch) 420m NNE of North Lurg
NJ 683 156 Deer Park, Monymusk stone circle 170m ESE of The Clyans
NJ 602 177 Castle Forbes carved stone 450m NNE of Moonhaugh
NJ 626 186 Casstle Forbes carved stone 620m SW of Moonhaugh
NJ 676 257 Gowk Stane (Max Hill) standing stone (destroyed stone circle) 220m SW of Old Westhall
NJ 664 264 Westerton of Petmathen standing stone 400m NNW of
NJ 669 326 Cairnhill Class III stone 120m ENE of cottage gatepost (Culsalmond quarry)
NJ 751 077 Dunecht House Class IV cross-incised stone 80m SSE of
NJ 738 083 Old Wester Echt (HS calls New Wester Echt) recumbent stone circe 170, SW of farmhouse New W.E.
NJ 748 096 Nether Corskie (HS: Upper Corskie) recumbent stone circle remnant with Pictish carved stone 530m SE
NJ 766 132 South Leylodge recumbent stone and flankers 150m E of
NJ 762 132 South Leylodge 2 standing stone 550m W of
NJ 761 133 South Leylodge 3 standing stone 720m WNW of
NJ 769 130 South Leylodge 4 standing stone 180m SSE of
NJ 763 129 Leylodge School standing stone 160m E of
NJ 764 128 Leylodge School 2 standing stone 300m E of
NJ 723 149 Lang Stane o’ Craigearn standing stone 45m N of Littlewood

8thC Pictish Class IV Cross-incised stone embedded in steading wall Kirkton of Bourtie

NJ 710 134 Woodend standing stone 300m N of
NJ 730 123 Braeneil standing stone 270m NNE of
NJ 760 237 East Balhalgardy Pictish Class I in N facing lintel window
NJ 800 249 Kirkton of Bourtie steading and Bourtie Kirkyard wall, Class IV 8thC Pictish incised cross stones emvedded in steading and wall
NJ 768 377 Fyvie Kirk Pictish Classes I and III stones embedded in church E wall
NJ 801 063 Gask (HS Springhill) standing stone 500m NNW of
NJ 816 138 Cairntraidlin Stone, standing stone 350m WSW of
NJ 802 146 Ferneybrae standing stone 80m NW of
NJ 821 143 Kinellar Kirk recumbent stone and flankers embedded in kirkyard perimeter wall
NJ 821 144 Kinnellar Kirk Pictish Class I stone in vestibule of disused kirk
NJ 823 106 Tertowie Nether Mains, standiing stone 100m NW of
NJ 915 146 Lochhills standing stone 310m E of Bishop’s Loch
NJ 958 304 St Mary’s Church, Ellon Class III carved stone in N wall
NJ 921 348 Candle Stane, standing stone 200m NE of Drumwhindle Croft
NJ 823 136 The Scotsmill Stane, standing stone 400m SE of Cairntradlin

Part of an eagle wing with bird's feet on an unscheduled carved Pictish stone in Forgue

MORAY

NJ 039 588 Rosebank, St Leonard’s Road, Forres symbol stone in garden wall
NJ 149 259 Balneilean Class I stone 400m N of Tomintoul Distillery (N bank River Avon)
NJ 194 504 Redtaingy standing stone 1350m SSE of Upper Glenchapel
NJ 152 683 Camus’s Stone cupmarked stone 175m SSE of Inverugie House
NJ 145 681 Gallowhill cup-and-ring-marked rocks 330m NE of Backlands of Roseisle
NJ 162 627 Knock of Alves stone circle 700m S of Newton House
NJ 209 278 Bridge of Nevie standing stone 200m NNE of

Whitestones House, Rothiemay garden wall, Drumblair bird? Also Bourtie cross-incised stones in steading and kirkyard wall
DES 1999:9 Tullo Hill, Drumblair, Forgue (illustrated) partial wing and feet of bird (supposed eaglestone), Pictish carved stone in woodland, unlisted (FOGS discovery)
DES 2002:11 Garden wall Rothiemay unlisted Pictish carved stone

03
Dec
09

Friends of Grampian Stones 2003 winter solstice news vol.XV #1

FOGS MIDWinter Newsletter’ December 2003/ January 2004: Volume XV-1

Sine umbra nihil

Well-wishing for a new year is what we do in the Northeast when the calendar points to January. It was always so. Or was it?

In Gregorian, we count this 2004. It is already 5764 Jewish time. In a month (February 2004) it will be the Chinese year of the Monkey; on February 22 Islam moves into 1425. For Sikhs, new year (536) comes just before vernal equinox when Hindus (2061) and Persians (1383) celebrate, just as we used to before the Julian calendar adjusted new year from March to January.

Ethiopia still runs on the Julian calendar, which served most of the western world until 1752 or thereabouts, depending on one’s allegiance. Russia was slow to make the change, but that is no surprise to the Clavie Crew of Burghead (Moray) or to the fireball-swingers of Stonehaven, Kincardineshire. They still run on Julian time.

burning clave on flaming fire altar in Burghead's Pictish fortress

Burning clavie atop flaming 'Doorie' (fire altar) at Burghead; running on Julian calendar time

In Burghead, lighting the eternal fire and carrying it round the town reenacts the celebration of the return of new light after the longest night – the dark of our title, without which we have ‘nothing’. To the Clavie King and torch-bearers of Burghead, this is Aul’ ’Eel, pre-Christian Yule or winter solstice. Yule becomes interchangeable with Christmas south of the border but Scotland has held to its pagan festival of Hogmanay, itself a testimony to and turning point in that Roman calendar.

On Hogmanay night Steenhivers have a street party to end all street parties. Whereas Burghead (annually January 11) only spills combustible materials over the shoulders of Clavie-bearers, Stonehaven delights in spinning fire in clumps into the unwary crowd.

When Scotland changed calendars in 1752, there was much misunderstanding in the country districts – the loss of 11 days seen as having robbed them of important events. At that time, clavie-burning and local celebrations to mark the return of the light after midwinter were commonplace in all the northern and northeastern ports. Now only two remain holding to tradition from an earlier time, Burghead most precisely still counting its lost 11 days.

Fire for the clavie is ritually kindled from a peat ember – no match is used. Clavie king and crew dispense flaming brands from burning tar-barrel as tokens of abundance to important burghers, publican included! They circle the town sunwise and the final free-for-all happens after the clavie has been fixed to its fire-altar, the doorie, on a rib of the old Pictish ramparted stronghold, and left to die. Julian indeed.

Yggdrasil:the world tree

Every culture, beginning with the Polynesians, had its ‘world tree’, a great being of life and knowledge which connected through its forever-turning axis the heavens, earth and the nether realms.

It is to Norse myth that we owe a debt for transmitting the name Yggdrasil: an ash, at whose three roots were sacred fountains ‘of wondrous virtue’, and in whose branches sit an eagle (international symbol of visionary power), a squirrel (symbolic of activity and preparedness), and four stags (innocence and return to wilderness).

In our original state of grace the world and the heavens, time and space, were one, held in hologram by this great turning spindle, but then chaos intervened.

In Scandinavia, this great gyroscope or ‘mill’ was thrown into the deep, now forever grinding sand and stones, creating whirlpools and hurricanes. Greek Kronos/Chronos the Titan, child of heaven and earth – Ouranos and Gaia – after emasculating his father and throwing the great pole into the sea, became father of the gods. Romans separated the two into Saturn and Time, but the original dual concept was intentional.

It was left to subsequent generations who believed their ancestors to have been gods, to try to make sense of a universe spinning progressively out of kilter, a fact seen in the Greek ‘royal science’ of astronomy in the steady precession of the equinoxes: a cosmic mill forever churning stars which no longer return to their ‘right time’. The tree had been uprooted by giants and only heroes with like powers might replicate the act.

In Finland and India, it is called a mill from Sampo, Sanskrit skambha, in England it is an oak or mythic Excalibur extracted only by a ‘true’ prince.

In Northeast Scotland until at least 1945, sacred wells were still complemented by the presence of an ash, though uprooting it appears not to be part of the legend until the coming of bulldozers in modern development. That aside, if the discovery of ‘Seahenge’ in 2003 off the East Anglian coast connects us to our ancestors at all, it is through the ritual of a massive oak, carefully-placed upside-down, huge roots exposed to the heavens, within a sacred precinct of guardian tree-stumps at a place where earth and ocean meet.

Might we not be seeing some vestige of that ancient rite conceived by man to right his Universe and return it to that golden age (Virgil’s Saturnia regna) before the fall, when time was eternal and heaven-and-earth were one?
©MCY2004-2009

Winter Wonders

Several years occur when midwinter full moon does not completely tie in with solstitial sunset: 2003 was one of those years*. Full moonrise nevertheless was an impressive sight at two recumbent stone circles on either side of the Garioch plain: at Easter Aquhorthies (NJ733 208) and the Barra RSC (older country name for Bourtie, NJ801 249) where FOGS stalwarts braved the winter’s first storm to witness a lunar prelude to the darkest days. On December 8th, nearly two weeks before the shortest day, the full moon rose, regular as a cosmic clock, at the moment of sunset over the whitened slope of Crocker hill (compare our solar eclipse point in June n/l XIV-2). It is the same point for each circle, as both appear to be aligned on this double axis of solstitial summer sun and winter moon.
*at 2009 archive transcribing; full moon rose at same point on December 2nd

While the sunset is obscured at Aquhorthies by the lie of the land, it has full view of rising moon. In contrast at Barra, sunset is fully visible over Mount Keen (at latitude 57ºN this is 223º), but moonrise takes another five minutes to materialize on the Crocker (at 43º or NNE).

There may be another link between the two RSCs which time forgot. From the Easter Aquhorthies recumbent an alignment towards Barra and moonrise leads the eye directly over the huge red-jasper sentinel at the modern ‘entrance’. It is not a large leap in imagination to connect its fiery red with a dyiing sun.

What has not previously been noted is the presence of pink quartz in a NNE vector-like scatter in the two fields leading from the Barra circle upslope to the ‘moonrise’ rock (the ‘Bellman’, also sunrise rock in our previously noted summer newsletter) at 600 ft/185m, Barra has substantial quantities of white quartz stones ringing it radially in all other directions, but the NNE scatter is decidedly more pink: a synchronicity perhaps unnoticed by many of us, but not without apparent significance to the circle-builders.

©2003-2009 MCYoungblood

Sacred Journey
Lawrence Main, peripatetic extraordinaire, is making a sacred journey throughout Britain. He plans to spend three nights on Bennachie in Aberdeenshire as part of his communion with the earth, thanking the Mither for her part in holding a vision of what this ancient stronghold and Pictish kingdom meant to its people. We do not publish his dates, for privacy, but wish him well on his pilgrimage.

29
Nov
09

Friends of Grampian Stones Lammas newsletter 2003 Vol. XVI #3

FOGS Lammas newsletter XIV-3 August 2003

Ups and Downs
COUNTING on the state to care for our monuments has never been the FOGS way. In the northeast we like to check matters for ourselves and have always be quick to relay information to government when an ancient site appeared under threat. We are all aware of the lack of interest shown by Historic Scotland for ‘unscheduled’ sites – a situation where the local on-the-ground network triumphs in adversity, and we continue to maintain our stance for full protection for all monuments. It is unacceptable, however, to find ‘scheduled’ monuments not being adequately conserved, simply for lack of staffing or funding.

Such is the case at the recumbent stone circle of Balgorkar or Castle Fraser NJ 715 125 where one megalith, knocked over during close ploughing, has remained fallen and damaged for over a year.

One remedy suggested by FOGS as long ago as 1989 and taken to the level of ratification in a preliminary paper by government but then shelved, is to compensate farmers for leaving a ‘set-aside’ buffer zone around a stone circle unploughed.

This not only avoids accidents such as at Castle Fraser, but allows visitor access and something close to the ‘feel’ of the original.

As we know, FOGS helped create such a ‘feel’ at Kirkton of Bourtie RSC (NJ801 249) last September with a bale circle surrounding the stones. Our offer to compensate the farmer privately to keep the resulting precinct unploughed – up to the equivalent of government ‘set-aside’ – was turned down, not because of the money, but because no other farmer was doing it! The bale circle lasted until July, but close ploughing has again prevailed, making the circle look even more derelict than before. This is an HS matter.

Thankfully many farmers leave a respectful distance around stones, but there are glaring exceptions. Is it not time for our politicians – if they profess to look after our heritage – to put their(our) money where it does most good? Every NE farmer owning or renting a field with a ‘scheduled’ antiquity would cost the state approximately £200 per site at a generous estimate. Some (single monoliths or avenues) would rate less.

Bureaucracy is welll-placed to administer such a payment (combination of HS scheduling and agricultural set-aside systems), but close ploughing continues. Fourteen years is a long time for FOGS to remain silent. It seems it may be time for us to flex our stoney muscles once more.
©2003-2009MCY

2003 AGM at Balquhain

Balquhain recumbent stone circle and quartz outlier

Balquhain recumbent stone circle and quartz outlier

BALQUHAIN in the Garioch is one of those miraculous recumbent stone circles which has been left in best care: that of the landowner – continuity assured, passing father to son in the Strachan family for three generations. Although a scheduled monument on the Historic Scotland list, its survival intact is notable: no interpretative signboards or erroneous road signs costing a fortune; no twee carparks; just a simple farm track and field boundary access with a magnificent treasure at the end of it.

The horizon is blocked only on the North by Gallow Hill; other Garioch stone circles are clearly visible and, for those who like spectacular celestial events to mark their AGM, there is the Bennachie equinox sunset roll-down as a bonus.

This is your invitation to attend FOGS 2003 annual meeting at 2p.m. Sunday September 21st at Balquhain, NJ 735 241. From A96 1m N of Inverurie take Chapel of Garioch turnoff (W) for 1 mile, passing Echo Vale; turn N (right) at Mains of Balquhain farm with its 13thC keep, follow farm track, and park at cottar houses. Access to Balquhain RSC is by field march & will be FOGS AGM signposted. The stone circle has been carefully wide-ploughed by the Strachans, although, as mentioned in our solstice news, they receive no compensation for doing this. Its main megaliths are cupmarked and, unique in the Garioch, a full-size all-quartz outlier seems to have equinoctial possibilities! All but one of its perimeter stones are in original positions. We are hoping for a good turnout, to foster our usual multi-discipline expertise in art, dowsing, astronomical alignment, geology and engineering – not to mention history, ritual and conjecture!

The MARS Effect
WITH Mars much in focus at present, at its perihelion on August 30thm 2003, three days after its closest approach to Earth in nearly 60,000 years, it is gratifying to FOGS to find even local news stations giving the red planet a mention over the usual run of social unrest. After all, the last time we humans saw it so near and clear, we were emergent Neanderthals and it was 57,538 B.C. Or was it? Actually, Mars came close enough for a flurry of telescopes to appear in London on 23 August 1924 and on 18 August 1845. On both occasions the orb was within a similar distance from earth of 56 million km (34,646,000 miles). However it won’t come so close again until 28 August 2287.

Bourtie cross saved for public view

Eighth century Pictish cross slab built into farm steading at Bourtie in the Garioch

Bourtie steading 8thC Pictish cross

A BIG THANK YOU to all FOGS and friends who wrote, emailed, telephoned government departments or approached their local politician in support of conserving the 8thC Pictish cross-inscribed stone in a Bourtie steading. Because of the overwhelming response, it has been decided not only to keep the stone in situ but to reserve a small area of ground where a path will allow visitor access. Sometimes a little stone is worth a big amount of effort.
…but what about the others?

AS LONG AGO as 1990, FOGS questioned the stance of government (serving the public) in their acquiring portable antiquities but not providing adequate access to such acquisitions. A decade ago public access was not such a hot potato as it is now and, perhaps unnoticed, certain Pictish carved stones disappeared from view in the landscape.

Notable are the ‘Rhynie Man’ (in local government HQ Aberdeen), the Tillytarmont carved stones (in storage) and the Dyce Pictish and early-Christian stones. Historically local government has made little distinction between ‘rescue’ of a stone and where it was ultimately kept; the mere act of rescue seeming to outweigh the public access consideration. ‘Rhynie Man’ was ‘rescued’ and his former farmer owner compensated within ‘treasure trove’ legislation, but he remains on view only within office hours – inconvenient if you are a weekend visitor. Tillytarmont goose stone and its companions may only be viewed by permission – FOGS were once allowed a rare glimpse. The Dyce stones still languish in Edinburgh – rather a detour for an international visitor who has made the long trek to St Fergus chapel, Dyce, only to find a plaque in their stead. A Pictish landscape we may live in, but fewer Pictish stones are being seen in their context. And the public is not always as specialist as FOGS or as patient in its demands.

Ninth century Pictish Maiden Stone on slopes of Bennachie

NInth century Pictish carved Maiden Stone on the slopes of Bennachie

A recent local government idea by some tunnel-visioned bureaucrat was to remove the Maiden Stone from its Bennachie slope to stand sentinel in an interpretive visitor centre. Local opinion was outrage; so the plan was dropped.

Whether we agree or disagree with rescue per se, Pictish stones are a kind of grid or network by which we may measure our past and they belong to us all. Public opinion is presently swinging to full transparency and non-élitism; are the public servants listening?

FRIENDS OF GRAMPIAN STONES ARCHIVES ARE HERE DISPLAYED COURTESY OF CLEOPASBE11 and WORDPRESS
They consist of a random but chronological mix of newsletters of the Charitable Society which existed to promote the welfare and conservation of Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age and Pictish stones and monuments in Northeast Scotland from 1988 until it was dissolved in 2008. Further information is still available on its website

29
Nov
09

Friends of Grampian Stones solstice newsletter 2003 Vol.XIV-2

FOGS Summer Solstice newsletter Volume XIV number 2 June 2003:

A PRIVATE WORD

PRIVATE is a politically-incorrect word these days.

It is almost as if ‘public’ is the only recognizable form of sponsorship, activity, opinion, custodianship or, dare one suggest, even ownership. Private people, however, have for several generations borne the burden of expense and maintenance of our Northeast antiquities and, without fanfare, continue to do so.

Pictish carved wolf stone

Pictish carved Wolf stone

Next summer, 2004, the National Trust for Scotland will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its being given the estate and house of Leith Hall, Kennethmont, home to two Pictish carved stones: the Tod Steen (‘Wolf Stone’) from Newbiggin-Leslie and the Percylieu salmon-horseshoe stone, originally from the Salmon Well, Tofthills-Clatt.

NTS proudly proclaims its custodianship of antiquities on its properties, doing a remarkable job of continuity – reorganized under specialists in respective areas (archaeologist for antiquities; surveyor for properties; education specialist for information dissemination).

Pictish carved stone at Newton House in the Garioch

Pictish carved stone at Newton House in the Garioch


Newton House in the Garioch has recently changed hands, but descendants of the Gordons of Newton have for over a century maintained and protected two famous Pictish carved stones found on the estate – open to view by appointment with the new owners. The Newton ‘serpent’ originally stood on the march between lands of Rothney and Newton on the Shevock and the ogham pillar (plus ‘unknown script’), sometimes called the Pitmachie stone, stood at the tollgate of Shevock near the farm of Pitmachie. The proprietors of Whitestones House, Rothiemay continue to maintain invaluable records of the carved stones in their care, the few remaining (unscheduled) Tillytarmont-Rothiemay stones to stand within their original precinct – the rest are in Marischal Museum, Aberdeen.

Carving on interior door at Migvie kirk inspired by Class II cross slab in graveyard

Interior carved panel doors at Migvie kirk inspired by Class II stone

Thanks to the proprietor of Tillypronie, Tarland, the ancient Christian site on which the pre-Reformation church of Migvie was built and to which Migvie antiquities gravitated, has been lovingly restored, reclaiming a ‘lost’ stone kept at Aberdeen, re-siting the revered Tom-a-Char and highlighting the marvellous Migvie cross-slab whose images are arguably the most primitive in Pictish iconography.

The list goes on: the recumbent stone circle of Tomnaverie, Tarland could not have been restored and its disintegrating quarry walls shored up without funding from the MacRobert Trust. Antiquities on the Avochie estate – including a 5000-year old cupmarked boulder of huge proportions and Pictish cross-stone, both unscheduled – are in the care of the Avochie laird.

RSCs of Ardlair, Balquhain, Dunnydeer, Easter Aquhorthies, Nether Wheedlemont, Sunhoney, and the Candle Hills of Ardoyne, Rayne and Insch are all dependent on their local landowner for protection from ploughing and for the obligement of maintaining a ‘public’ access path as they receive no payment, grant or gratuity from the state.

Locals in Stuartfield still pay their respects to the White Cow quartz pillar, one of several avenue markers connecting RSCs on the Crichie estate whose laird is a keen regeneration tree-planter and stones conservationist.

Continuity on Forbes lands is without question – the Forbes line stretching back unbroken to O’ Connad Cerr mentioned in the Irish Annals in AD693. Antiquities in Forbes’ care include the venerable RSCs of Old Keig, Cothiemuir and Druidstone on the Brindy, along with a myriad other antiquities previously unrecorded until the present RCAHMS survey of Aberdeenshire.

FOGS have always valued the contribution made by landowners and shown our gratitude at appropriate times; many of our AGMs, after all, have been made possible by kindly lairds. With the ever-increasing influx of city-dwellers who now wish to live ‘in the countryside’, perhaps we are being called to show by example appreciation for the debt we owe to past and future lairds; thereby educating the new mindset into valuing not only our heritage, but those who keep it alive.
©2003-2009 MCYoungblood

FOGS web presence revamped
THANKS to Andy Sweet (Megalithic Sites of Perthshire), FOGS’ webpage has been updated and brought into the 21st century. This is no mean feat for a group whose minds are usually preoccupied with stoney material centred around 3,500 BCE. But we think you will be pleased. Our old URL still works, but try accessing through our new web presence:
2009 note: this website is kindly provided by cleopasbe11, as funding may soon not be available to maintain the globalnet site
our thanks to http://cleopasbe11.worpress.com/
Other Perthshire megalithic interests may be viewed here

Congrats to Northern Earth
SISTER organisation Northern Earth has reached the venerable age of 24 years and 94 issues keeping track of the neo-antiquarian scene. From August, when Third Stone bows out, NE will be senior sister. Well done, NE! http://www.northernearth.co.uk

Eclipse. . . a private view
FOLLOWING conflicting recommendations on best views of the annular eclipse of the sun on May 31st, 2003 a lone FOG decided to go for the local scene – cloud or no: a pre-sunrise walk along the ancient track which once connected Bourtie parish with that of Meldrum, passing the earthfast Bellman stone from which the Bourtie RSC, NJ801 249, is downslope SW. The Bellman stands at 600 ft/185m, a clear horizon marker from the circle for both winter moonrise and summer sunrise, but anyone standing on the rock would see the rising orb fully 5 minutes before watchers within the circle, because of the lie of the land.

Tumbled thoughts of four-minute solar eclipses jostled for position in a dawn-fog (in both brain and landscape): wondering whether it would be visible at all at such altitude, or all over before the sun came up. Wisps of floating haar added to the uncertainty. I pondered the awesome scene: pre-dawn light gave the fields rolling down to the circle an eerie pink glow, exaggerated by marvellous ‘set-aside’ all around; the valley of the Garioch including Inverurie was invisible within thick mist; only Bennachie stood above the clouds. There was utter silence: no lark sang.

This was the neolithic landscape, as close as if in a time-warp. At 4:45am, just when I thought it was all over, a deep red orb glinted through haar in the saddle between the Crocker hill and the Hill of Barra ‘entrance’ to the fort.

By 4:50, all haar miraculously dispersed, a red sun stood above the NE horizon with a decisive chunk bitten out at 8 o’clock: it was happening!

Not only was this not a four-minute eclipse, but one which continued to happen for another hour.

At 5a.m. the sun would just have been visible from the RSC below – still more than half obscured by the moon’s disc: what rituals this sight must have generated 5000 years ago – what dire consequences seen in the mind of primitive man.

And then, gradually, as seconds broadened into minutes, the shadow lessened and red turned to orange, the sun became too bright to watch, the valley reappeared from its mantle of mist, cows mooed, birds flew again, life in the Garioch started to wake up. Civilization went about its business and the lone walker wended her way back, pinching herself to remember which century shw was in. ©MCY2003

AGM in August
AGM notification will appear in our Lammas issue.

29
Nov
09

Friends of Grampian Stones 2003 Imbolc newsletter Vol.XIV #1

February 2003 IMBOLC FoGS Newsletter volume XIV number 1

Pictish Cross-incised stone – Sacred setting threatened

PICTOPHILES are aware of accepted classification of carved stones of Eastern Scotland into groups denoting a rough time period and sculpting method:

Pictish ‘class I’ for incised carving, roughly dating to AD6-7thCC (some have suggested as early as 5thC) and ‘class II’ dating from Nechtan’s national initiative to convert his people to Christianity in the 8thC.

These stones are usually carved in relief with elaborate decorated panel infill reminiscent of the illuminated manuscript art of the period, notably from anglian Lindisfarne (which influenced Nechtan’s ‘romanizing’ campaign, deliberately separated from that of Iona).

Class III Pictish stones display lords, kings, mounted horsemen

Class III Pictish carved stone of King, Lord and monastic attendant

‘Class III’ stones, usually showing mounted aristocracy plus cross art, are more numerous in Moray and Angus and less evident in Aberdeenshire, where a simpler style of conversion sculpture appears:
the plain incised cross, called ‘class IV’ by Isabel Henderson (‘Early Christian Monuments displaying crosses but no other Ornament’ in Alan Small’s The Picts: a new look at old problems Dundee 1987).
Where Aberdeenshire misses out on mounted horsemen, it certainly makes up in cross-incised ‘pillow-stones’, so called in literature of the time because of the monastic habit of sleeping with head on the cross and sometimes carrying these portable ‘pillows’ on pilgrimages of conversion.

Crosses, both elaborate (rounded terminals) and simply incised, have been found at Fintray, Deer, Monymusk, Botriphnie, Tofthills Clatt, Culsalmond, Aboyne and Dyce. They are an important record of our earliest conversion as a Pictish nation, as well as a reminder of Aberdeenshire’s conservative approach to anything new! The most recently discovered cross-stone, however, found in the wall of an early 19thC steading at Kirkton of Bourtie, adjacent to Bourtie Kirk, 4m from Inverurie (newsletter Vol.XII-4, 2001)appears not to be important enough in the corridors of Historic Scotland to assign it the protection of ‘scheduling’ (private comm. FOGS/HS 2002).

The reason given is that the cross-stone, almost identical to another carved in similar pink granite and embedded in the Kirkyard wall a stone’s throw away, is

‘not in situ’ (HS quote) and ‘best way of preserving the stone is for it to be removed from the steading wall and to be deposited with most local museum.’

While professing to protect our most fragile heritage in situ, it seems the lumbering giant of bureacracy is poised to strike again, with little thought given to the sacred context or to local opinion. It is admittedly true that the ‘class IV’ cross-stones of Inverurie kirkyard disappeared after the Ministry of Works assumed charge of the cemetery post-WWII, but the Bourtie crosses are both embedded in structures associated with and meaningful to the Kirkton and as such are more likely to survive and be appreciated where they are than in a museum drawer.

The situation is marginally complicated by the fact that the steading owner is presently considering an application for planning permission to convert it for dwelling houses, but local planning/heritage (Gordon House, Inverurie) are well aware of its significance and are meticulous and dependable on ‘delicate’ issues.

Local MP/MSPs are investigating the illogical manipulation of stones of ‘national importance’ by HS, who also unfortunately have power over buildings (to ‘list’ or not to list).

Pictish and early-mediaeval historians such as Lloyd Laing and Nigel Pennick have written deploring this cavalier attitude by a government department, and magazines like Pictish Arts/ Northern Earth have featured the threat to the stone in recent editions.

However, if we do not stand up for our own heritage locally, a fate may befall it similar to that of the Pictish stones of Dyce (still in HS vault, unlikely to be returned until money is found to do up St Fergus church, Dyce).

As it stands, a ‘catch-22’ situation exists: because the stone has not been ‘scheduled’, HS has no power to remove it; but because it is not protected by ‘scheduling’, a non-heritage-minded councillor in committee is free to overrule planning for economic gain. May we ask those of you who scan local news to keep this little stone firmly in the forefront of your awareness and either write to planners at the appropriate time and/or write to your MP/MSP asking for a change in legislation at government level. Thank you.
FOGS ©MCY2003

Sixth Dark Age Conference
THERE IS still time to register for the 6th Day Conference in this series to be held 22 February 2003 in the Purdie building University of St Andrews: ‘Landscape & Environment in Dark Age Scotland’, chair Barbara Crawford; send cheque (£15, conc.£12) to Dark Age Studies at Dept. of Medieval History, 71 South Street, St.Andrews KY16 9AL

Venus, Jupiter as ‘morning stars’
WHILE scanning the heavens, as circle-watchers do, we are currently blessed with Jupiter as the brightest orb in the night sky; but while presently at its closest to earth (even with smallest telescope, its belts & 4 largest moons visible), the planet seems still more beautiful in pre-dawn sky when it is joined by the rising Venus (SE, with Jupiter setting in W).

‘Crop Circle’ still there
FOLLOWING equinox item (VolXIII-3) on the man-made bale circle, it is pleasing to know both farmer Peddie and NE weather are cooperating in maintaining its position on this wild and exposed slope [NJ 801 249]. As a sculpture and reminder of how the original recumbent stone circle may have looked, its bales will remain until July when decisions to plant oil-seed rape will be made.

Congratulations to Meyn Mamvro

Cornish mysteries group

Meyn Mamvro magazine published since 1986

SISTER stones-loving organization Meyn Mamvro, who take care of business in Cornwall and have been instrumental in putting pressure on authorities to do a better job with sacred stones in the SW, have reached their 50th issue. We commend them on their work of 16 years. http://www.meynmamvro.co.uk/

Recommended Books
OCCASIONALLY we suggest titles from a list of recent publications: the following are recommended by our book reviewers:

Spynie Palace and the Bishops of Moray : history, architecture & archaeology by John Lewis & Denys Pringle 2002 ISBN 0-903903-21-0
Aberdeen: an in-depth view of the city’s past by Alison Cameron & Judith Stones 2001 ISBN0903-903-19-9 (both above are Soc.Antiqs monographs)
The Heirs of King Verica: culture & politics in Roman Britain by Martin Henig, Tempus 2002 ISBN 0-7524-1960-9.
Particularly interesting is his cultural commentary on Agricola, Mons Graupius (not a war historian).

Elphinstone lecture
MEMBERS may be interested in a contribution to the Elphinstone Institute’s programme for 2003 to be held in the Regent Lecture Theatre, University of Aberdeen: 18 February, 7:30pm Dr Emily Lyle of School of Scottish Studies Univ Edinburgh ‘The Guidman’s Craft & other special Places & Times’ £2.

17
Nov
09

Friends of Grampian Stones Autumn Equinox newsletter 2002 Vol.XIII #3

FOGS AUTUMN EQUINOX NEWSLETTER Vol XIII no.3 September 2002

Venus Pillars and Solar Dogs

Archaeoastrononomical Sunset into a horizon 'notch'

Sunset in Northeast Scotland, at equinox due West; at solstice at NNW

EQUINOX is traditionally the season for getting back to the time-old occupation of watching sunset, full-moonrise and the autumn heavens. It is onset of the aurora season when for some inexplicable reason there is more geomagnetic actiivity (related to solar flares) and, it seems, the time for other celestial phenomena. These include nacreous clouds – those wonderful ephemeral patches of rainbow light which appear and as suddenly disappear around the edges of evening cirrus. There have been seen lately a lot of what in American terminology are called sun-pillars and sun-dogs (in the case of Venus, Venus-dogs!) where the pillar describes a shaft of light extending vertically from the light body and the dog a similar extension of light in a lateral direction. With the gradual brightening of Venus, the chance of seeing this phenomenon becomes more likely.

full moonrise occurs at NNE opposite the setting sun (SSW) on winter solstice

midwinter full moonrise in the north-north-east at latitude 57ºN

Sun-pillars are a regular feature of sunset around autumn equinox, even lingering as a great shining after the sun has set. With the continuation of our spell of ‘Indian summer’ and exceptional clarity of light, we aren’t surprised to find a phalanx of photographers most evenings at the well-known recumbent circles in the Northeast and some even at those lesser-known.

On equinox night, a magnificent solar ‘roll-down’ occurred, as seen from Shieldon (non-recumbent) circle at NJ 823 249 near Whiterashes, due west to the Buck of the Cabrach where a little before 7pm (BST) the flaming orb of an equinoctial sun did its primeval tumble down the northern slope, setting into a notch of the Cabrach (Alexander Thom eat your heart out!) and flooding the Garioch with an almost ethereal light. It is no wonder that FOGS who were considered ‘fringe’ 20 years ago are now being joined by a growing number of sky-watchers: all meeting by chance in the stone circles of Aberdeenshire, Kincardine and Banffshire to witness such autumnal glory.

We think the practice is catching on!
©2002MCY

Crop Circle but not a Crop Circle

winter solstice 2002, shadows of a stone/crop circle

Hybrid stone/crop circle at winter solstice 2002

CIRCLE-watchers may have noticed a sudden straw bale sculpture appearing as if by the wave of a cosmic wand on the Garioch-dominating plateau at Kirkton of Bourtie, NJ 801 249. However, unlike the crop circle which appeared mid-morning on an August day in 1995 in a wheat crop on a Culsalmond farm, the circular structure at Bourtie is decidedly man-made. It is the inspiration of sculptor Keiji Nagahiro, combined with dowser Peter Donaldson and farmer Ian Peddie, who with broad grin from tractor cab manipulated bulky but beautiful round bales into position (no mean feat) while the ideas men looked on and directed the final shape in an attempt to replicate the circle’s original alignment. Its ultimate position – a recumbent circle in straw – is all things to all men – or at least to these three: to one it is a fleeting glimpse of what might have been, created in rustic splendour to last no more than a single season; to another, it was something fun to do after harvest but before the ‘back end’ dictates when everything is brought in; to the dowser it is a physical shape superimposed on an energy signal received by the dowsing rod. It has been a fascinating exercise in people-watching: on the day it was created – one week before equinox – two Californians strolled up the slope, utterly unsurprised by the manifestation. BBC Radio Scotland was quick to send a researcher who was transported by the site, its structure and its vista. Others have followed, often spotting the sculpture from the road and screeching to a halt, entranced. Our members have only a little time to see it in its present glory as the farming year and equinoctial gales (so far, amazingly absent) will soon dictate its being or non-being. We recommend it, if only for the presence it brings to this ancient place, in a way regenerating in the imagination how the circle must have looked to its early architects 5000 years ago. To FOGS who follow shadow casts (especially good at equinox), the bales add another dimension to shadow outlines in barley stubble while low sunlight highlights cropmarks of an avenue approaching the circle, peppered with quartz pebbles, a hallmark of NE circle design. The imagination soars.

Post scriptum on above article: Google Earth continues to display this sculptural-stroke-agricultural-energetic phenomenon: as the aerial photo used in their GoogleEarth page for Kirkton on Bourtie will show. This clearly dates GoogleEarth’s map coverage of Aberdeenshire to the autumn and winter of 2002.

Untimely death

IT IS with sadness that we have to announce the untimely death of Dr Nick Bogdan, one of the leaders of the Fetternear Episcopal Palaces Project this autumn. He will be greatly missed. At this time it is difficult to predict how the work in which he was involved will continue, but his partner and fellow archaeologist, Dr Penny Dransart has our blessing and condolences. We wish her well in continuing the work they both began and will report when future plans are further developed.

Druidsfield Saved

FOGS might be forgiven for thinking our efforts often go unseen or, more colloquially, that we spit in the wind; but occasionally, a success is eeked out through perseverence. Such is the case with the Druidsfield (known to Historic Scotland as Broomend of Crichie) ritual henge, avenue entrance and Pictish carved stone at Port Elphinstone, Inverurie NJ779 191-6. We added our voice to local opposition to a plan for development of a certain hamburger chain to adjoin the circle and ditch – visions of half-eaten buns and related waste floating in a prehistoric context made more than FOGS’ hair curl, it seems. Thanks in great part to Inverurie businessman Bob Minto and his supporters, the burger meisters will find another site and the Druidsfield will continue to provide pleasure for local walkers. It has been reported that this very field has been acquired by Aberdeenshire Council, for unknown purpose and for an undisclosed sum. Locals are again on the warpath. We shall confirm.

FOGS Dowsing Day & AGM

MIDWAY through a week of solid rain, FOGS’ AGM turned out to be one of brilliant sunshine with not a cloud in sight. Dowsers – new and experienced – were seen lurking, bending, pacing, doing all the bodily antics that dowsers do among remnant woodland near Midmar Kirk. Visitors were drawn from Dundee, Glasgow and Inverness, along with a full complement of regular FOGS who seemed to enjoy every minute. Results not all yet in, but preliminary consensus would have it that the Midmar Kirk recumbent circle may be a later progression, with its operative stones moved a few metres downslope from an original site focused on the Balblair monolith nearby. A visiting Dundee lecturer in architecture specializing for his Ph.D. in geomancy [yes] said he came because the grid between latitudes 56º and 58ºN are considered ‘most sacred and most proliferated with stone circles in the world’ (his quote) and he wanted to feel it for himself. We are grateful to Phyllis Goodall and Peter Donaldson for leading the dowsing and encouraging so many newbies. More meetings of the like were enthusiastically recommended. Printouts of the dowsed circle will no doubt appear in due course but, as our scientist-dowser is now our new membership sec, please give the man a chance! In the meantime, his consummate dowsing and mapping of recumbent stone circle and Bronze Age cemetery at Loanhead of Daviot is here.




Cleopas

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