Posts Tagged ‘RCAHMS


Friends of Grampian Stones Solstice 2002 newsletter vol.XIII # 2


Celestial phenomena: all change?

When beggars die there are no comets seen
The heavens themselves blaze forth the death
of princes
Calphurnia, ‘Julius Caesar’ II ii 30 W. Shakespeare

COMETS, eclipses and meteor showers all spelled some kind of heavenly portent to our ancestors, be they annually-anticipated Leonid and Perseid showers or, more ominous, a succession of lunar and solar eclipses.

The thrice-repeated Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in Pisces in 6 B.C. is well known as the presaging ‘star of Bethlehem’.

These two great planets became conjunct in 1980 and made a second appearance in April 2002, along with a myriad heavenly companions forming a line in our evening sky. A third return is yet to come (2009).

Already this year we have had two comet visitors – Utsunomiya at equinox and Ikeya Zhang, accompanied by the Pi Puppid shower for good measure, in time for Beltaine. If we were still of superstitious bent, might we not see the celestial portents in the same way as our ancestors viewed such displays: a changing of the old order; a birth of the new?

Bede d.735

Bede, author of Historia Ecclesiastica who died in AD735

‘A comet and many signs appeared in the sky’ in AD596 foretelling the deaths of Columba and Pope Gregory, according to the Annals of Ulster. In 734 another comet, ‘a great dragon’ seen in autumn, followed by thunder and a lunar eclipse on new year’s day 735, is said to have foretold the death of Bede. Charlemagne’s passing in 814 was marked by a total solar eclipse.

Closer to home, Pictish king Dubh, son of Malcolm was ambushed in Forres, his ancestral stronghold, and his body hidden under the bridge at Kinloss in July 966. His death coincided with a solar eclipse. Chronicle of Kings o Alba, the Pictish chronicle embedded within the Poppleton Manuscript stated:

‘the sun did not appear so long as he was concealed there.’

Medieval famines and plagues were invariably associated with comets and eclipses.

But there is hope. Virgil understood equinoctial precession, proclaiming (Christian) Age of Pisces a Golden Age, marked in the heavens by the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction. Pisces is presently giving way to the Age of Aquarius, long heralded as the next rung on the Earth’s ladder to ascension. He (Virgil) would no doubt have seen our troubled times, ‘working iniquity in secret’, as an inevitable prelude – again marked by the planetary giants – to a new tilting of earth’s axis, a new World-Age. ©2002MCY

FOGS Dowsing Day & July 2002 AGM
ALL FOGS are invited to attend our 2002 AGM on Sunday July 21 at 2p.m. at Midmar Kirk – carpark at kirkyard gate, map ref. NJ 699 065, approximately three miles West of Echt and within a rich prehistoric and early-historic landscape. We have never had an official dowsing day and so it is a bonus that Peter Donaldson and Phyllis Goodall have offered a ‘divining masterclass’ for members and guests with or without dowsing knowledge or experience. AGM business will be brief, so that the dowsing may begin immediately afterwards.

Recumbent stone circle within Midmar Kirk precinct, Echt Aberdeenshire

Midmar Kirk is, as many know, home to spectacular recumbent and flankers of a damaged stone circle, with a lesser-known outlying monolith a short distance north at Balblair. We have kindly been permitted to pitch a marquee at Balblair, but suggest you park at the kirk gate for convenience. Phyllis & Peter already have their own theories about this special landscape, but all will be revealed on the day. Bring a picnic or your own refreshment and be prepared to have your senses opened.

Balblair outlier of phallic shape stands north of Midmark Kirk stone circle in woodland

There is already a good set of circumstances to relate Midmar/Balblair to tree-girt Sunhoney stone circle, just one mile distant, and an avenue linking the sites has been detected. The remains of early historic ancestor to Ballogie (Midmar) Castle lie to the South on the Cunninghar motte, with tiny St. Nidan’s church nearby. Sightlines include Iron Age Barmekin of Echt and midsummer moonrise point Blackyduds of Hill of Fare, and more. This special opportunity is free to all FOGS, and guests are asked to contribute £3 to our ‘charity events’ box, but any guest wishing to join FOGS (annual membership £10 now due) is warmly welcome.

Oxford Prophets Conference

American initiative, the ‘Prophets Conference’ is an annual gathering of visionaries, sacred practitioners and speakers and authorities on ancient sites world-wide. This year it will hold its 16th congress at the famous debating chamber in Oxford Union – the first gathering in Europe – August 9th-11th 2002, with wrap-around dates of visits to nearby ancient sites Avebury, Rollright and Stonehenge [August 7, 8, 12]. In addition to a wide range of international speakers from various sacred traditions, the pilgrimages to local sacred sites will be conducted by author Paul Devereux with Templar historian Karen Ralls. Details and booking available on their website.

DUPPLIN returns to Strathearn

IN previous newsletters we have tried to keep you informed on developments surrounding the 9thC Dupplin Cross which formerly stood as guardian over the ancient Pictish capital of Forteviot in Strathearn.

Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, built of Moray sandstone

Taken to Edinburgh in 1998 for ‘conservation purposes’ [Historic Scotland], it appeared at the opening of the new Museum of Scotland as centrepiece for its ‘medieval’ collection. Now in March 2002, after some negotiation by local parishioners, it has been returned to Strathearn, not to its hillside position, but installed inside nearby St. Serf’s Church, Dunning.

St.Serf’s is a late 12thC church with original tower, on a 9thC Céli Dé (culdee) monastic site, rooted in the tradition of its founder Serf, who is notoriously hard to date, but probably 6thC. In Aberdeenshire, Serf is associated with pre-Reformation chapels at Monkeigie (Keith Hall) and Colpy and is known as the mentor of Mungo (Kentigern) who, in addition to having a cell at Kinnoir, Huntly, was subsequently bishop of Glasgow, where he died in 612.

Dupplin ninth century Pictish royal cross as it stood overlooking Forteviot

St.Serf‘s church at Dunning has a venerable tradition and, while we hope Historic Scotland will eventually place a plaque or other reminder of Dupplin‘s past on the Forteviot hillside, its new home is nothing if not welcome and local residents, aware of their heritage, are grateful at least for an appropriate reminder.

The great cross, inscribed with the name of its patron, king Custantin (d.820), founder of Dunkeld, is itself a masterpiece of 9thC Pictish craftsmanship. Its new setting is framed by an 11thC carved stone arch which supports the 12thC square tower. While two centuries separate the schools of carving , the soft lines of the arch somehow enhance the cross, carefully lit to advantage. Dunning can be proud.

CANMORE revitalized

MIDSUMMER was chosen by RCAHMS as time to unveil its new map service ‘CANMAP’- a revelation within its rather cumbersome database Canmore where searchers may access online maps of any chosen area in Scotland. A first over the rest of Great Britain.

New books
Shamanism ed. Neil Price ISBN 0-415 25255-5 a new compilation of essays: which succeeds in relating a prehistoric view of the world to modern magic.
Alba: Gaelic kingdom of Scotland AD800-1124 by Stephen Driscoll ISBN 1-84158 145-3 insight into the transitional kingdom co-ruled by Picts and Scots.


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

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.


archives from Friends of Grampian Stones webpage

stones, historical

Blog Stats

  • 14,853 hits

NaNoWriMo 2010

August 2020