Archive for the 'placenames' Category

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.

15
Nov
09

Friends of Grampian Stones Spring Equinox 1999 newsletter ‘X’-2

Spring Newsletter 1999 – Vernal Equinox Volume X number 2 (vol.X no 1 was Samhain 98 q.v.)

Picts, Kings, Saints, Chronicles

Pictish carved stone in Inverurie 'Castleyards' old kirkyard

Crescent and V-rod, sun-disk and serpent carved Pictish stone

A pictish one-day conference arranged in honour of Dr Marjorie O. Anderson on the occasion of her 90th birthday was held in the Quad lower college hall at the University of St Andrews on February 13th 1999. A collaboration by the School of History, Early Medieval Research Group, Scottish Studies Institute and Committee for Dark-Age Studies, its focus and its speakers ensured its success. It was fully booked. While Dr Anderson was unable to hear presentations because of illness, she would have marvelled at the excitement and energy generated in both lecture hall and lunchroom by speakers and delegates all pressing to share new developments in this emergent discipline. Drs Simon Taylor and Dauvit Broun unveiled new discoveries in placename survival and the St Andrews foundation legend (versions A and B); Profs. Richard Sharpe and Máire Herbert gave both insular and Irish slants on the political structure of Dál Riata; Isabel Henderson unveiled her theory on specific sculpture schools of the Picts; while both Prof. David Dumville and Dr David Howlett, of Universities of Cambridge and Oxford respectively, kept delegates on tenterhooks with their expositions on the Chronicle of Kings of Alba and on the sacred numerology of its 12thC verse equivalent, the anonymous De Situ Albanie.  Prof. Archie Duncan pulled the audience into the present millennium with his fine elucidation of the Melrose and Holyrood Pictish Chronicles, followed by an immaculate summation and tribute to Mrs Anderson by Prof.Geoffrey Barrow of the University of Edinburgh. He concluded, along with the authors of ‘1066 and All That’ that [the conference, sources and] chronicles were ‘a damn good thing.’  He (along with us) awaits somewhat impatiently the publication of ‘all these riches’.  Members who would like to be advised either of further conferences or publications produced by Dr Barbara Crawford’s Committee for Dark-Age Studies or of details of membership in Dr Simon Taylor’s Scottish Placename Society can write to St Andrews Scottish Studies Institute, University of St Andrews, Fife KY16 9AL. Details of Scottish Placename Society’s webpage are given here.                                             ©1999MCY

FOGS Membership feedback. . .

WHITECROSS Equinox

ABERDEEN member Dr Theodore Allan remarks on  the Hill of Whitecross one mile south of Chapel of Garioch at NJ 717 225, visible from the recumbent circle of Balquhain but not from Easter Aquhorthies. His interest is apt at this time of year, as it is a marker hill for sunset on the Feast Day of  Bride (Candlemas, and incidentally at its opposite season, Martinmas). However its derivation as the Hill of the White Cross or Crossing may stem from its sacred point of the moon’s crossing or setting – as seen from Balquhain – at the end of summer, the pagan White season, and the point where the full moon sets once in 19 years at its minor standstill. This should be a hill to watch in the summer of 2014 at the next standstill! The physical crossing of the hill must also have had significance to Bronze Age and Pictish descendants, as anyone who has walked the Netherton of Balquhain road can testify.  Leaving behind in the east the Bronze Age burial cairn on Dilly Hill, NJ 751 224, and walking due west, not only does the outline of the Hill of Whitecross draw the eye but for a mile and a half the traveller’s visiion is filled with the sacred shape of the Mother mountain Bennachie. At Burnside of Balquhain, NJ 730 225, where the road turns sharply north, the walker can clearly see how the old road used to rise directly west to Whitecross, itself topped by a cairn. An added delight for placename enthusiasts is the name of this miniscule valley created by the burn which springs on Whitecross’ lower slopes, flows past Burnside and Mains of Balquhain, turning to join the Urie at Drimmies (which Pictophiles will know has its own symbol stone:  it is the Strathnaterick, valley of the serpent of ancient wisdom. This lonely stretch of road, now mostly used by farm traffic, is an inspiration to walk on a spring evening. Thanks to Dr Allan for his observations.

BLUE MOON

TWO OF our regulars communicate on the phenomenon of this year’s blue moons, first in January and now in March; Griselda Macgregor in Inverurie and Trevor Alcott in Crimond are both interested in lunar activity, although from slightly different angles: Ms Macgregor requests the reason for the use of the term ‘Blue Moon’, i.e. for two full moons in the month, while Mr. Alcott likes to extrapolate grander figures of moons in the Metonic cycle.  We might cover both in a limited way.  First, we find  no-one in any context outside Scotland, and perhaps even outside the  bounds of Aberdeenshire, using the term ‘blue moon’ to mean two full moons in the month [in 1999, January 2: 0250; 31:1607, accompanied by a visible penumbal lunar eclipse at 1619; March 2: 0659; 31: 2249 – all times GMT]. The fact that February this year had no full moon at all is purely a figment of modern man’s calculations, as our forefathers when they spoke of the moon, meant the month, and vice versa.  The arbitrary nature of the ‘phenomenon’ can  be seen, particulary in the second March date, to occur only from Europe west, and not for instance, in Australia, where the second full moon falls within April. While not answering the question, we open the door to any contributions from members who have NE knowledge of folkloric or traditional useage.

LUNAR STANDSTILLS

We have touched on standstill moons before, as the time once every  18.61 years that the moon is seen at its most erratic in the night sky, behaving as if with a ‘wobble’. We receive several calls a year requesting more detail for stone-watchers with astronomical leanings – the latest from a member in Edinburgh who prefers anonymity.

Trevor Alcott puts it simply:

‘Correction for our latitude (57ºN approx) is, according to Reed’s Nautical Almanac, seven minutes. The rule is, when declination is north, subtract from moonrise time and add to moonset time. Reverse applies if declination is south. Our biggest problem is one with which mariners do not have to cope, i.e. the height and distance of the horizon relative to the observer, but I promise, you don’t want to know!  The easiest way is to observe a few full moons, note the times, and correct from the nautical times for that particular observation point.’ 

Sensible man.  So, for those early birds preparing for their next maximum and minimum moonset and moonrise, when the moon’s motion relative to other months  is distinctly wobbly,  may we suggest marking your diary now: 

Next major standstill at the full moon nearest to winter solstice occurs in 2005, when the full moon will rise in midwinter at the most northerly point it ever rises.

Next minor standstill, or full moon nearest to summer solstice, happens in 2014.

If we are spared, we may try for a gathering for wobble watchers at a stone circle to compare notes.
©MCY 1999-2009




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