Posts Tagged ‘Aberdeenshire

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.

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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.

17
Nov
09

Friends of Grampian Stones 2002 Candlemas newsletter Vol.XIII #1

FEBRUARY CANDLEMAS NEWSLETTER 2002 Vol.XIII-1
Return of the Light

IMBOLC (Christian Candlemas) brings new light, the rise of spring, bird nesting activity, anticipation of the warmth and fecundity to come.

While markers within Neolithic stone circles were probably well-known to the contemporary population, we sometimes forget that each stone had its solar as well as its lunar function. We sometimes forget to experience sunset at all.

Sunset at Easter Aquhorthies one mile West of Inverurie is always a revelation. At Imbolc it is defined by a clear shadow of the recumbent ‘window’ group falling on two stones to the north of the shimmering jasper stone at the modern entrance. As sunset approaches in early February, one is mesmerized by the advancing shadow as it creeps towards the two smaller circumference stones. Precisely at the moment of sunset, they align exactly and then both sun and shadow are extinguished.

The jasper stone alone, it seems, holds a memory of the light, continuing to twinkle and gleam until dusk. Its quality of reflecting light must indeed have been revered.

Other miracles of light seem to happen at this time, significant to much later civilizations. The Hill of Barra, NJ803 257, has no known stone circle, but was an enclosed ramparted settlement of the Iron Age which continued as a hilltop stronghold in the Pictish era. From its summit, accessible via the Bourtie-Meldrum Community Walk, at least five stone circles are visible, but most compelling is the uninterrupted view of Mither Tap of Bennachie. Around 5pm, weather permitting, for 10 nights in mid-February the sun and Mither Tap do a dance. For the week of Imbolc, Bennachie’s mass engulfs the sun, swallowing the orb low into Mither Tap. But midway through this time period, a change occurs and she agrees to spit the sun back out! On February 17th, the sun starts its sunset roll into Mither Tap, is received by the mother mountain at 5pm and reappears seven minutes later on her northern crag. This rebirth, even to time-worn eyes, is a surprise. Mother mountain has given birth to the sun! One dimly understands the joy of celebration, seasonal change.The sun is almost playful in this rite of passage, setting for the next week in more of a roll than an extinction, as each of the peaks in turn along her broad back appears to rise to swallow its fire. ©2002MCY

Ringing in Changing Seasons

A FEW weeks of unseasonably fine weather called for a FOGS-run experiment at Garioch stone circles in central Aberdeenshire.

There are many 18th and 19thCC references to ringing stones at Grampian circles – among them Easter Aquhorthies, Balquhain, the Standing Stones of Dyce and Arnhill, Tillytarmont. For good measure a small group of FOGS tried to produce effects at a number of circles. Results were especially good where surrounding stones remain complete, and gave an amphitheatre of sound. One person struck or played a musical instrument within the inner ‘sanctuary’ or preciinct enclosed by the recumbent stone and flankers, while listeners stood or walked to various points within the circle.

At Easter Aquhorthies and Loanhead of Daviot, the best point for receiving the sound was on a mound [E.A.] or stone platform [Loanhead] marginally to N of centre where string chords or even voice reduced to a whisper were quite audible. At Easter Aquhorthies there is a kind of ‘tuning fork stone’ projecting inwards from the centre of the massive recumbent; it may have been set strategically as a sounding board because the human voice carries remarkably well from this stone – its vibrations spreading out and reverberating not only through the circle amphitheatre, but also creating a secondary echo resonance.

The group repeated the exercise at Loanhead, where there is no such ‘sounding’ stone, but where the recumbent is split in two. Hands clapped between the two slabs resulted in echoes felt by participants throughout the inner circle. Again the group tried the voice experiment at Kirkton of Bourtie circle – a damaged monument with much stone clearance clutter, and while they could feel resonance, much of the effect seemed to disperse, with no amphitheatre to ‘capture’ the sound.

Ultra- and infra-sound experiments recently replicated by groups in south Britain and at New Grange in the Boyne valley in Ireland, including much sophisticated equiment, gave sonic waves graphically recorded’.

The effect on our FOGS observers, to say the least, was tantalizing and exciting enough to suggest yet another side to the rituals enacted by Neolithic celebrants to mark the changing seasons.

Charting the Nation
CHARTING the Nation’ is a three year collaborative digital imaging and cataloguing project, whose primary aim is to widen access via the web to historic maps of Scotland and associated archives dating from 1590 to 1740. It is led by two researchers at the University of Edinburgh, Charles Withers and Andrew Grout.

one of 30 bull stones which ringed the Pictish promontory fort

Bull carved stone, one of 30 originally surrounding Pictish Burghead

UMOs
HENRY Moore Institute Leeds is currently showing a rare glimpse of Unidentified Museum Objects on loan from the British Museum. They include the unique phallic Portsoy whetstone, a carved ball and a Burghead bull. Sadly the exhibition will not travel farther north and so any FOGS keen to see the rarities will have until the end of the month to visit the Henry Moore Institute, Headway, Leeds. For non-travellers, details on the British Museum website.

Roman discoveries at Birnie

Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus

Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus (AD192-211)

TWO surprise hoards of Roman coins have been found in an Iron Age context at Birnie, Moray. In last year’s excavation, curator of Iron Age and Roman
archaeology with the National Museums of Scotland Fraser Hunter was delighted when a pot of Roman denarii turned up in excavations at an Iron Age settlement outside Elgin. The pot was broken, but contained some 300 coins dating to the reign of emperor Severus, last to attempt conquest of Pictish Caledonia, nearly 1800 years ago. Early this year another clay pot was unearthed – this one entire and undamaged – only 10 yards away from the former hoard. Both are in NMS undergoing conservation and examination.

‘Spiritual’ Tourism

FOGS has added its voice to two national bodies attempting to moderate the state-dominated attitude to digging up the past. It is based on our members’ respect for sacred sites in our own area and on the premise that laser scan and sonic technology [archaeoptics and infrasound] can arguably be used to better effect than digging into and disturbing a sacred space with the possibility of loss of ‘finds’.

‘Spiritual’ tourism – one which takes account of people’s need to visit a site for its sacredness in an atmosphere conducive to contemplation – is supported by the Cruithni Charter, ASLaN (AncientSacred Landscape Network) and countryside organizations, including SNH, Friends of the Earth, Council for Rural England and others concerned for the historic landscape. As ever, our view puts emphasis on education, in order to prevent degradation or defacement. Additional URLs: here and here.

Copyright ©2002-2009 FOGS & MCY

15
Nov
09

Friends of Grampian Stones Fall newsletter 2001 vol.XII #4

FOGS Newsletter FALL 2001 volume XII NO.4

Dycegoodall

5000-year old Dyce recumbent stone circle overlooks modern airport

2001 Year of Contemplation (written after September 11)

It is perhaps at times of world crisis that thoughts turn to what we have done and what we can still do for our planet.

FOGS have traditionally supported both heritage and environment and, given the possibility of public funds becoming less fluid, we in Banffshire, Aberdeenshire, Kincardineshire and Moray can be proud of our private involvement in conserving our unique cluster of sacred monuments.

While we mourn with our American brothers and sisters the loss of fellow travellers, we also spare a thought for those in Afghanistan who may have lost everything.

Our own heritage is not in immediate danger of being wiped out by a sudden coup, but we are well to remain alert to changes which may happen as a result of consolidation within Europe. Umbrellas, after all, should provide basics, i.e. shelter.

While there remains a significant gap between FOGS’ concept and that of deskbound administrators in a government department of what is of ancient and historical importance, there is still a place for us to keep our ‘on-the-ground’ vigil.

Aikey Brae recumbent stone circle and flankers

5000-year old Aikey Brae recumbent stone circle, Aberdeenshire

Stones are not only fine places to visit for inspiration and a great view, but they remind us how our founding farming communities were motivated:

to mark as sacred the changes in season, on the whim of Mother Nature who still provides us with beauty all around if we have eyes to see it;
or, like the Picts, the demarcation of land by the placing of sacred stones for all to see.

While none of us would want to return to days of invoking earth spirits with sacrificial offerings in order to stay famine or plague, it is not without purpose that the Northeast remains one of the most beautiful landscapes in which to contemplate our beginnings – and possibly even our endings.

People worldwide right now are contemplating their spiritual home; their genuine priorities, their way forward. Perhaps for us it is to show to others what Nature [with a little help from her FOGS friends] has kept alive these past 5000 years: call them sacred sites, power points, places of astronomical anomaly or community focus – what you will – they are on our doorstep, part of our spiritual heritage and worthy of our attention. ©2001MCY

Another Pictish cross-stone

simple Christian Pictish cross embedded in kirkyard wall

Pictish early Christian cross reused in kirkyard wall, Bourtie, Inverurie

While attention is focused on stones – even local press have dropped their usual confrontational items to cover the county-wide survey by RCAHMS – it is comforting to know that there are still stones to be ‘discovered’ after generations of stone-hunting.

Bourtie steading crossfront

Pictish 8thC cross stone embedded in steading, Kirkton of Bourtie Aberdeenshire

Found recently, embedded in a farm steading at Bourtie, is another incised cross-stone, similar in design and date to that sited in the coping of the kirkyard wall surrounding the ancient little church on its hillside setting E of Inverurie. The second find is yet another example of seventh/eighth century traffic of missionaries through the Northern Pictish territories at a time when the spread of Christianity was in its infancy. Such crosses are simply cut, usually in a semi-portable stone, with no other ornament. It has been suggested they mark ‘pillows’ of the saints who converted individual communities.

doormigvieb&w

Door to church at Migvie, carved to commemorate the Pictish stone in the kirkyard

Invariably, later medieval practice was to incorporate such cross-stones within church lands or, like a similar [larger] stone at Afforsk [NJ696 208], to mark church boundaries. The Bourtie stone is built into the steading in a horizontal position [NJ804 249], unlike another early cross-stone in Inverurie which is built upright into the wall of the Freemasons’ Hall [NJ777 214] on the High Street. Sadly two further cross-stones in Inverurie at the Castlleyards [Bass kirkyard], remarked on by James Ritchie in 1911, are now lost. However there are still remarkable examples of this type of sculpture at Monymusk, Cothal-Fintray, Tullich, Migvie, Dyce and Dunecht.

Dyce Symbol Stones update

Dyce Class II stone to be rehoused at Aberdeen

Dyce Class II Pictish stone with elaborate fish-tail ogham on rear

FOGS have been wondering when the Pictish symbol stones and their companion cross-stones are to return to St Fergus’s kirk, Dyce, as promised by Historic Scotland, who removed them to Edinburgh in 1997. Recent response to our request for an update indicates that Historic Scotland are providing funds for Aberdeen City Council to do the work of consolidating the kirk. FOGS have offered to assist in a small way, e.g. with the provision of an interpretative signboard, once work is completed and a new shelter is in place. According to Historic Scotland CEO Graeme Munro, this may not materialize until 2002. Dyce stones may be viewed meantime by appointment at S.Gyle Conservation Centre [HS].

RCAHMS forges on
Following exclusive coverage in our spring newsletter and your many letters to Parliament in support of RCAHMS, the unsung heroes of the Royal Commission’s ground force are continuing their massive survey of Aberdeenshire, the last county in the series begun in 1908. While much has been added to the National Monuments Record over recent decades, we await results with interest as the ‘Strathdon’ survey turns over every rock. Watch this space.

Fetternear’s bonus discoveries
Following their kind invitation to hold our 2001 AGM at the medieval Bishops’ palace of Fetternear, team project directors Drs Penny Dransart and Nick Bogdan excitedly revealed an array of new discoveries at the excavation site outside Kemnay. In addition to expected evidence on the enormous size of the palace grounds, it appears to have been the successor to a series of sacred buildings, with earlier [Bronze Age] settlement occupation on high ground at the palace rear.

Also on this plateau were found worked flint and other tools linking the site to possible earlier use of the ground in both Neolithic and even Mesolithic periods.

James Kenworthy, Paul Gerderd and a keen group of volunteers [both student and FOGS-based] assisted the progress of work on this most intriguing summer project. If further funding can be secured to ensure an eighth season in 2002, it is possible the true strategic significance of Fetternear within the history of the Pictish Church in the North may become clear.

It is also thought that its Jesuit links at the Reformation are an indication of its dominance as an ecclesiastical centre, dating not only to the time of the Norman kings, but to a place of sacred sanctuary or monastic foundation, the focus of education, pastoral care and religious works from the Pictish era, when eighth-century Class II Christian carved stones begin to appear. Because of the very few Class II stones within Aberdeenshire [by comparison with a relative bevvy of such beauties in Moray, around Elgin, Spynie, Gordonstoun, centred on Kinneddar], any discoveries of this kind of sculpture at Fetternear would make the project directors very happy indeed.

15
Nov
09

Friends of Grampian Stones Spring Equinox 2002 newsletter vol.XII #2

FOGS SPRING EQUINOX NEWSLETTER 2002 volume XII no.2

Episcopal Palaces Project 2005 Fetternear

Bishop's Palace, Fetternear; heritage project under threat

Heritage Manipulation
March 21, 2001 THE Scottish Executive has announced it will tidy up QUANGOS in a bill affecting 60 quasi-autonomous non-Governmental organizations, 28 national health service trusts and 15 health boards. A diverse bunch, it includes the Rowett Research & Macaulay Institutes, Aberdeen, the Scottish Arts Council, the Deer Commission, Scottish Natural Heritage, National Museums of Scotland, the National Galleries and the Scottish Tourist Board (‘Visit Scotland’), along with Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Scottish Enterprise, but not Grampian Enterprise (?) Among them is the Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland.

QUANGOS are non-Governmental, but the Executive seems to have become ‘responsible’ for them, as non-departmental public bodies (NDPB)- a different animal altogether.

This issue deals almost exclusively with this matter because it would appear ministers have not initiated adequate consultation within professional and academic groups whose opinion is of supreme importance. If bureaucratic systems are implemented wholesale, the work of generations of fine minds may be relegated to the bin in a ‘baby-with-bathwater’ attempt at civil service rationale. We may not wish to comment on internal Parole Board workings or how the Royal Botanic Garden educates the planet. It is relevant to FOGS, however, that some of our greatest institutions with documentary evidence of our heritage collected over centuries, may be under immense threat.

Wishing to go further, the Executive is now looking at all Scots public bodies and the ‘role they play in delivering Ministers’ policies’. Overall aim is to modernise infrastructure by reduction or initiating appropriate systems, to ensure appointments are ‘suitable’ and that ‘public bodies are properly accountable to Ministers and Parliament.’

We all know that we live in the most over-governed small country in the world. Within it, nevertheless, are national treasures, resources and a long history of care for heritage and environment independent of bureaucrats. Our voluntary groups and charitable societies rival any in the English-speaking world. There are descendants of Scots in every nation, many of whom despair of our careless disbanding of tradition, value and history, seen in recent government efforts to remake ‘cool Britannia’.

It seems ‘Scottish Ministers want the changes to the framework within which public bodies operate to yield lasting benefits and to command widespread support.’ This initial review will not be the last word. The process of dialogue and consultation invites comment by April 12th 2001 [address below], but will continue beyond May. Every public body which remains will be subject to a ‘modernized, focused rolling review process.’

Annex B of the consultation document states ‘if the case is not made for the QUANGO, we will abolish it.’

One wonders how, for instance, the National Library, legal repository for every work published in Great Britain and Ireland, having an unrivalled Scots collection, will fare.

The Ancient Monuments Board has traditionally advised ministers on the exercise of their functions under the Act of 1979. Do ministers now intend a little rôle reversal to advise the Board on how they should guard monuments?

The Royal Commission (RCAHMS) is under most pressure. How will it fit into the category of ‘what Ministers want’? It has an unparalleled (& efficient) library in Edinburgh which gives members of the public unlimited access to archive material collected since 1908. Its enormously innovative & important Canmore website is an independent project like Monuments on Record on CD-ROM, published to mark its 90th anniversary. ‘Canmore’ database attracted 50,000 searches in its first year on the Internet. Recognised as a charity with the Capital Taxes office [SC026749], able to apply for independent funding via Heritage Lottery Fund, the Commission provides a niche for high-profile, irreplaceable archives; but just as NASA and JPL are dependent on amateur astronomers for unusual material, RCAHMS has accepted personal photographic and documentary historical research donated over the years by amateurs. The present much-needed ‘Strath Don’ survey of Aberdeenshire is possible only because RCAHMS technicians are single-minded, dedicated professionals; not a blade of grass is left unturned nor a single mound unexamined. Instead of this remarkable heritage, are we to receive short shrift from a civil servant with a budget to watch? Will our ancient land once again become amalgamated and manipulated to suit some jargon-filled programme?
We invite you to write in support of RCAHMS before April 12th (2001) to:
Scottish Executive, Public Bodies Review Team,
Room 318,16 Waterloo Place, Edinburgh EH1 3DN
Fax: 0131 244 5077
e-mail: ndpbreview@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

Resources Relevant to RCAHMS
MANY FOGS members will know that the English equivalent of Historic Scotland currently wants to pass through the Lords the Culture and Recreation Bill (H.L.) which would give English Heritage extraordinarily sweeping intellectual property rights relating to ancient monuments and historic buildings, including ‘any other intangible assets’ – wording of a clause which it seeks to insert into 1983’s National Heritage Act. If exercised, such rights could significantly undermine work of independent charities, freelance professionals and owners of such properties. As drafted, it could infringe authors’, illustrators’ and photographers’ rights and undermine legitimate arrangements on intellectual property and other rights.

When moved for a second time on 18-01-2001, Lord Scott of Foscote, a Law Lord, observed that it seemed to contravene the Human Rights Act, pointing out: ‘it surely could not have been intended that the exploitation of intellectual property rights (relating to monuments and historic buildings) should be privately owned rights’. Prehistorians and archaeologists are alarmed that a similar situation might follow north of the border, if the present Scottish Executive Review of Public Bodies succeeds.

Among correspondence we have received, Dr PZ Dransart who works within both legislatures, gives a most succinct comparison:
‘Part V of the Culture and Recreation Bill (H.L.) is analogous to the Scottish Executive review. It intends ‘to remove anomalies which hamper efficient/effective delivery of public services’. Three new bodies are proposed, designed to be reconstituted as statutory bodies to ‘provide the Secretary of State with a basis for making grants’. It also makes changes to the way people are appointed to governing bodies of different museums.

‘As you mentioned, all these issues are interconnected. Independence and organisation of our national museums, libraries and RCAHMS is under threat from such proposals. It will dilute professionalism and make bodies less professionally accountable.

‘At present advertisements are placed in the press to invite applications for people to serve on the executive and advisory NDPBs. Paradoxically, the proposals may not even save money, as the Scottish Executive will have to appoint more civil servants to replace people who sit on those bodies.’
P.Z.Dransart, Univ. of Wales at Lampeter; archaeologist Episcopal Palaces project Fetternear, Aberdeenshire.

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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archives from Friends of Grampian Stones webpage

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