Posts Tagged ‘monuments

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

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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.




Cleopas

archives from Friends of Grampian Stones webpage

stones, historical

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