Posts Tagged ‘Pictish

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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15
Nov
09

Friends of Grampian Stones Spring 2000 newsletter vol.XI#2

SPRING EQUINOX NEWSLETTER Volume XI number 2 March 2000

Brandsbutt stone Inverurie ogham and serpent

Brandsbutt carved Pictish stone Inverurie

Holding the Fort
WINTER provides a magnificent opportunity for study and photography of our ancient monuments, but it also allows closer inspection of any damage which has occurred. We are particularly aware of ever-encroaching ‘progress’ and of potential alteration to the land left us in trust by our ancestors. Current farming practice, while generally not too threatening to ‘scheduled’ antiquities, thinks nothing of bulldozing and burying 18th century drystane dykes whose stones were gathered so laboriously as necessary enclosures in times before barbed wire. How soon will the NE landscape become one without stone altogether, a place of billboards and development signs and barbed wire fences?

OUR worries on this score may be needless, if those who heed our warnings act promptly and deal with the miscreants. But recent activities in this corner of Scotland do not indicate a general tendency towards conservation and respect for the past. Rather is it a current theme in agricultural business to ‘make the most’ of a loophole in legislation and make a profit from an endless round of grants and subsidies; and for those in charge of our heritage to let them.

map of Scotland with Neolithic and Pictish heritage

Neolithic, Bronze Age and Pictish sites in Scotland

TO clarify the situation: Antiquities and heritage in stone in Scotland are now under the protection of the Scottish Executive, with ‘operational responsibility for safeguarding Scotland’s built heritage’ in the hands of Historic Scotland – the north-of-the-border equivalent of English Heritage. The offices of this executive arm are in Edinburgh, at Longmore House, Salisbury Place EH9 1SH, telephone 0131-668 8777. It has jurisdiction over 7,000 scheduled monuments in Scotland and is essentially in charge of deciding which monuments countrywide meet the criteria for ‘national importance’.

If an ancient site is considered worthy, it is added to the List of Scheduled Monuments. If not, it is not. As a government agency, it is by its own remit, only able to prosecute those who are caught doing damage to a scheduled antiquity.

Damage or defacement of ‘unscheduled’ stones is not their concern. In a recent letter, Historic Scotland reminded FOGS that ‘the responsibility for keeping monuments in good order lies with owners.’ This was probably safe in the hands of farming proprietors who took pride in maintaining boundary walls, shelterbelt planting and wildlife conservation. Stones were an organic part of that landscape.

BUT land changes hands.

AND in certain areas, backed by our so-called ‘public servants’, interest is now in how much farmland can be turned over for housing, or if retained for agricultural practice, how much more land can be brought under the plough or is eligible for a forestry planting grant. Half a century of blanket forestry planting by a single agency has shown how much damage occurs to antiquities either in root growth or in logging mature trees. Yet, the responsibility for such monuments lies with owners.

SINCE the acquisition in 1991 by Historic Scotland of the responsibilities previously shouldered by Historic Buildings & Monuments and, before that, by the Ministry of Works, a laudable 50% has been added to the number of scheduled monuments. However, the Northeast, with by far the largest number of antiquities in Scotland, has protection of only a fraction of the national total (16%), and only one warden assigned to an area half the size of Switzerland. She cannot possibly visit all the monuments in her charge more than once in five years.

IN a letter from the First Minister to a colleague who questioned, in support of FOGS, whether enough was being done, the Rt. Hon. Donald Dewar MP indicated he felt coverage was ‘adequate’. However in light of the bureaucratic nod given to a track dredged through woodland in Durris to create a 4WD off-road playground – thereby damaging an unscheduled 4000-year old monument without penalty or legal consequences – we are not convinced.

Activity in the arena has speeded up. In this climate it is a short step to losing sight of the picture altogether. If owners themselves are becoming seduced by profit margins, who but FOGS will still be around to hold high the banner or guard the fort? ©2000-2009MCY

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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