Friends of Grampian Stones
FOGS Vernal Equinox News
Volume X number 4, Autumn 1999
|Michaelmas & Nature
Michaelmas was celebrated in country parishes 200 years ago as a dual feast to give thanks
for harvest and to the warrior saint/archangel conqueror-of-evil [paganism]. In duality
characteristic of reformed Presbyterianism, by invoking the original Guardian of Israel,
borrowed in AD4thC by both Eastern Orthodox & Western Christianity and later by Islam,
this winged soldier was provider and protector of harvest and faith. By the late 19th
century the Michael Fair (as at 13thC Kinkell), while still a country fixture, was in
decline. Early in the 20th century, a great writer on farming and rural life, H J
Massingham, reflected: 'If the British Church had survived, it is possible that the
fissure between Christianity and nature, widening through the centuries, would not have
cracked the unity of western man's attitude to the universe'. By 'British' church he
included the Anglian and with it, the so-called Celtic church which eventually was
superceded by Rome.
King Malcolm Canmore's queen Margaret made considerable changes to pull Scotland into
line; at the Reformation, while a great deal was 'reformed', our attitude to nature was
again subject to a schism, treated with derision, relegated to 'superstition'.
It is with sadness that we witness Western society face the end of the millennium with an
attitude of less than reverence towards the planet which reared it, still trying to get
away with taking a mile when the earth gives an inch. Essential in reformed thinking was
the assumption that man, in doing away with saints, soul-friends and intermediaries like
angels, could contact God directly, i.e. was grown-up enough to be at one with his
creator. Where saints and soul-counsellors could protect and advise, he in essence was
shaking off the cloak of the pagan goddess as well as the shield (lorica) of the
Celtic saint or the Judaic archangel, maintaining he could do without them. This might be
seen by earlier believers as arrogance; after all, stone circles, Neolithic longcairns and
Bronze Age kerbcairns and sacred mounds were in living memory known as places of the
faeries. In the Celtic revival emphasis is placed on guardian and angelic spirits
interceding on our behalf and working with us to heal the planet. Are we foolish enough to
miss the point?
Durris cairn vs. offroad vehicles
Much newsprint and column inches have been expended in recent days about the supposed
accident caused when earth-moving equipment bumped into a 4000-year old Bronze Age
kerbcairn in Forestry Commission woodland in Durris, Kincardineshire at NO 777958, in
spite of developers being aware of the sacred cairn's existence. Both planners and
archaeological monitor for Aberdeenshire Council identified the cairn, suggesting it form
a feature and permission to dredge a track for off-road vehicles was granted. A report to
FOGS Red Alert was that damage had been done to Garrol Wood stone circle & cairn,
protected under 'scheduling' legislation; our first action was to telephone Historic
Scotland. A great stir ensued, as currently there is no official Inspector in charge of
Grampian in the Edinburgh office. On confirming that damage had been caused not to Garrol
but to an 'unscheduled' monument, we again reported to HS, but were struck by a volte-face.
Essentially, HS is not interested. A bemused team were asked to be calm, that it was
'being handled'. For the last decade, FOGS have been relatively calm in a wake of
desecrations in the name of progress: we did not picket while the A96 smoothly obliterated
a Roman marching camp at Kintore and slipped quiet little access ramps through a sacred
Bronze Age avenue at Druidsfield-Crichie, Port Elphinstone. Nor did we raise blood
pressure when a developer in the industrial park at Badentoy, Newtonhill was given
permission to remove and re-erect a (small) sacred circle with carpark in lieu.
We have stood by while farmers, promised compensation by the Secretary of State for
Scotland for maintaining stones circles and Pictish symbol stones on their land, have
continued close ploughing which results in leaning and ultimate removal. We have seen the
same agency arbitrarily remove cross-slabs & symbol stones at Dyce without
consultation with the community. Our North American & Australian members are
incredulous: having antiquities of their own which are revered, our government's attitude
to our irreplaceable resource is inexplicable to them. Frankly, it is inexplicable to us.
May we suggest less bureaucracy, more care?
. . .and the Good News
Incredible as it may seem, we do occasionally find the remarkable and inspiring within us:
all summer long our members have been out enjoying the view from stone circles and sending
us feedback. We enjoy your letters and would like to print one below representative of all
the others. Please keep writing! From Elizabeth J P Allan, Westhill, Aberdeenshire:
'For some years I have made a hobby of photographing stones, single, groups and circles in
NE Scotland & went for the first time to a site marked 'standing stones' on OS map at
NJ882448 S of New Deer. I found two large stones, sadly toppled now. They are the first I
have encountered in pure white stone (quartz? I am no geologist) and must have been a
sight to behold when newly quarried and erected.
'The site offers a breathtaking panoramic view to S & W of all major tops from Mount
Keen to Ben Rinnes, including Ben Avon/Beinn a'Bhuird & a great view of Mormond Hill
to NE. It is quite close to the public road although not visible from it, and accessible
by a farmtrack along the edge of a field. Can you tell me where these slabs (1 about
9ftx7ft, other not so big) might have been quarried and whether you have come across any
other white ones? I have noticed that darker stones of schist or granite etc., with a
stripe of white, seem to have been favoured in many sites, but an all-white stone is new
to me.' EJPA
Membership feedback. . .
We referred Mrs Allan to quartz outlier at Balquhain NJ 735 241 & to Logie Newton at
NJ 658 392, but agree we know of none within a circle as large as Auchmaliddie. If anyone
has information on quarrying, please email us
or write c/o Info Office. Ed. email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Another member who wishes her name withheld went walking on Skelmuir Hill this summer just
after ploughing and was amazed to find the field 'littered with flint pebbles &
chips.' A croft nearby is called Redstones. She wonders if the name was given to the place
because of flint which is a caramel colour, or to the hill because of its 'ironstone'
outcrops. Members' comments or any feedback appreciated.
N.E. heritage projects. . .
Corsedardar & Birse Community
CORSEDARDAR is an old name. It describes the Corse, hill crossing, between Birse and part
of the Mounth, traditionally seen in Pictish Chronicles as the spine which separated
northern Pictland from the southern royal plains of Mearns & Forfar and the royal
centre at Forteviot. At the pass from Marywell to Feughside stood a stone circle,
fragments of which were known in the late 18th century; around 1820 one of the monoliths
known locally as King Dardanus' stone was broken during roadbuilding. The laird ordered it
replaced & it stands today, iron-braced, near a memorial to Birse's war-dead at the
top of the Corse.
Now Birse Community Trust intend to provide a companion to mark the millennium. FOGS is
delighted to have been asked to help with information for a commemorative panel on the new
stone to be dedicated on January 1st 2000. BCT will note the legend of King Dardanus
(mythical figure mentioned in early Scots chronicles) as well as Tarain-Taranus, a real
monarch given a short reign by the Annals of Ulster and Chronicles of the Picts AD692-696.
BCT also plans to protect natural regeneration in ancient Caledonian pine Forest of Birse.
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