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Friends of Grampian Stones

Friends of Grampian Stones
FOGS Vernal Equinox News
Volume X number 1, All Hallows, November 1st 1998

Friends of Grampian Stones

Power of the Pictish Church
PICTISH RELIGIOUS sites throughout Northeast Scotland can be detected in several ways: sparse records recall foundations at Deer, Kinneddar, Forglen, Turriff & Monymusk. Most often a placename or patron saint reminds us of their signifigance in the centuries between the earliest so-called pagan years documented by Roman & Northumbrian historians and the 9thC when Christian Scots under Kenneth macAlpin made an effort to impress on the populace their knowledge of Columban (Celtic) Christianity.

However from at least the year AD717 the Picts under King Nechtan had conducted their own highly-evolved form of Roman Christianity with the approval of both Northumbria and Rome - a powerful alliance. Power brought wealth; fertile land increased riches. Wealthy landholdings were the prize for Scots who displayed Christian reform as their goal. Picts had become almost totally Christian by the time of King Nechtan's death in AD734. Whereas Nechtan is commemorated in Aberdeenshire in placenames like Abersnithock, Monymusk and Tullynessle where he is patron saint, this great Christian king's name appears regularly in ogham inscriptions on Pictish stones - many in Caithness, but some in NE Pictland such as Afforsk, Formaston-Aboyne and possibly Dyce St Fergus. When the capital of Pictland was by the 8th & early 9thC clearly established in Forteviot, it was natural to mark the achievements of successive High Kings in stone. The beautiful & evocative Dupplin Cross stood high above Forteviot to mark the deeds of Custantin who reigned 789-820 and is recorded as creator of the religious foundation at Dunkeld. The 'Drosten' stone at St Vigeans appears to mark the reign of King Uorad 839-842, just before the macAlpin takeover. It is significant that macAlpin made a point of proclaiming 'his' foundation at Dunkeld by bringing the relics of Columba there in AD848/9. He continued to reign from Forteviot and died there in his 'palacio' in AD858. It is in this context that the recent removal by Historic Scotland of the Dupplin cross from its hillside above the Pictish capital to an indoor location in Edinburgh should be viewed, alongside its significance to the Nation in situ, as a monument to one of the last Pictish kings. 1998-2000MCNagahiro

The right of the author to the above material and research is asserted; any duplication of this material should include the author's copyright 1998-2000MCNagahiro

Dyce & Dupplin moves
WE promised to keep you posted on developments at Dyce - following the removal of all symbol stones (Classes I & II) and cross-incised stones & slabs from the niche in St Fergus' kirk to Historic Scotland (HS) conservation department in Edinburgh. The official word is that they will not be returned until Aberdeen City Council cooperates in providing an enclosure to be built after committee decision-making involving all interested parties (perhaps relevant to note that your society has not yet been invited to give views). Nevertheless, as we know well, at committee level this process is almost bound to take several years.

dyceoghinp.gif (1067 bytes)However HS has proudly announced the discovery of a grandiose ogham in near-perfect state of preservation on the rear face of the Dyce Class II cross slab and, while we are delighted about the discovery, we feel it would be appropriate to have the stones back in their place of origin.

PERHAPS because of such a revelation, Historic Scotland have been spurred on to remove the Dupplin Cross from its original site overlooking Forteviot in Strathearn also to Edinburgh for 'conservation'. It might be said the Dyce issue had not the slightest hint of delay on grounds of public interest, as no local supporters' group was given time to muster any opinion or in fact requested to do so. But Dupplin is another matter. This is a particularly sensitive issue, as the local populace were not at all in favour of the stone's being moved. Heated debate over several years clearly indicated local support for a shelter in situ - the minister supporting the wishes of the parish, while the landowner, Lord Forteviot, sided with the public servants. According to one local source, HS carried out what we in the Northeast call a 'midnight flit' - literally removing the stone overnight, to avoid confrontation. HS' stance is that the stone needs conservation & the 'Custantin' inscription needs study. A cast previously taken made progress in decyphering that; its first 2 lines read: Custantin filius Fircus - clearly a pre-macAlpin Pictish use of Latin 'son of' (Scots used maqq) to describe the sponsor or object of reverence of the stone, Custantin (son of Fircus) High King of the Picts who died in AD820. Indeed if further computer-enhancement is needed to read the illegible lines which follow, one would hope that the cast, not the original, would be used. It will be interesting to monitor developments to see whether the 'conservation & study' ploy will be applied to many other stones which need protection, but whose local supporters favour their remaining in original locations.
[Ed note: since this item was published in November 1998, the Dupplin Cross has been installed in the Museum of Scotland - see update Dupplin in situ or in seclusion on our newsletter page, along with current statement on its fate by Historic Scotland - MY1999]

Standingstones Vandalism
SADLY Standingstones recumbent stone circle on the Kirkhill at Dyce comes in for a lot of misuse (NJ 859 132). Graffiti and litter left over the summer can be dealt with by human carers, but the most recent bout of vandalism threatens the stones themselves. FOGS RedAlert team reports that sometime during August 1998 a bonfire or bonfires had been set under the leaning slab which projects between two flankers towards the centre of the circle, while portable stones had been placed on either side of a makeshift hearth to contain a blaze. Heat generated over years of this type of misuse has caused a major crack in the recumbent. Historic Scotland, in whose care the monument stands, were informed and it is hoped that this time the circle will be provided with sufficient protection to deter such mindless activity. FOGS supports increased legal pressure on vandalism of this kind and any member wishing to write to her/his MP is encouraged to do so. A comment from HS Chief Inspector that this kind of activity was noted ongoing in the 1920s does little to reassure us. But Dyce RSC stands within the jurisdiction of Aberdeen City Council and the City's Archaeology Keeper Ms Judith Stones is known for efficiency and has an active team. In view of the City's lack of monuments of such antiquity (ca. 5000 years old) when compared with the rich heritage of its hinterland, and considering public interest in its history and prehistory, it is hoped effective conservation will result. [Ed: note since this item was published in November 1998, HS chief inspector and author of the remark mentioned has retired , but more positively, Historic Scotland has coordinated and funded conservation work at the Standing Stones of Dyce. MY- October 1999]

Altyre slab origins confirmed
ELGIN Museum conference was seminal with speakers including Dr Isobel Henderson & Martin Carver providing much new information; not least of which was the discovery of Altyre cross' original findspot at Longhillock on the Alves-Duffus march NJ14-64.

Our Annual Meeting is on Thursday, December 17th 1998 at Marischal Museum, at which we are fortunate to have Northeast native and renowned early historian, Dr Penny Dransart speak. She has spent several recent summers entrenched (literally) in the early Episcopal Palace at Fetternear; her subject is 'Christianity & the Picts in NE Scotland' Any outstanding annual dues may be paid up then.

. . .membership feedback. . .
MEMBERS prompted by our RedAlert on the Dyce recumbent stone circle anxious for firmer handling of vandalism at ancient monuments are encouraged to write to their Member of Parliament. Residents of Aberdeen have most influence in this case, but all of Aberdeenshire is at risk, judging by recent reports from English Heritage of similar activities occurring in South Britain. Thanks to a timely warning, FOGS may yet be able to prevent a rash of public vandalism of the worst kind. This is important in our area of interest, as we all know how fragile is our cluster of antiquities; but also how much more pressure must be put on public servants to take their responsibilities seriously. The A96 Kintore bypass with demolition of the Roman marching camp is a case in point. FOGS can encourage and support, suggest and advise. It is up to our official bodies to implement a strategy which not only protects but respects a unique heritage. They are after all employees of agencies paid for by the Nation, responsible to the Secretary of State for Scotland and subject to public opinion. [Summer 1999 update: official state body now called the Scottish Executive, MY Ed.]

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Friends of Grampian Stones
Editor Marian Youngblood

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