“THE RHIND LECTURES this winter (3-14 December ) have proved sound honest work, displaying the results of many a day spent in the patient examination of all kinds of ancient earthworks, in taking measurements, and in carefully recording the ever varying phenomena. Dr. David Christison’s course on “The Early Fortifications of Scotland” will challenge favourable comparison with that of any of his predecessors. It is true that he avoids speculation, concludes without almost a single general proposition, and cannot even be said to have advanced or proved any first principles of early fortification. But he has done many things never done before, has described very many forts, etc., from his own observations for the first time, has compiled valuable lists to illustrate their classification and distribution, and, distrustful of traditionary lore and savant opinion, has ventured to disbelieve much and to doubt more. The sum of it all is to clear the ground effectually for himself and other workers who in the coming years may carry analysis and synthesis further and deeper, and answer the questions he raises with positive discoveries.
He pointed out that his subject embraced about 1600 structures which had not been systematically studied. These he divided into motes, rectilinear works, and curvilinear works. The motes of France and England usually consisted of a palisaded base court, with earthen rampart and trench, and a palisaded mound, the mote proper. “Mote” was the prevalent continental term for them, and “burh” their English name. In Scotland history was silent alike as to the use of the motes whether as fortification or as moothills, although the evidence of their antiquity was clear. In a total of 150 marked on the Ordnance Map the great mass lay in Kirkcudbright (which had 76), Wigtown, and Dumfriesshire. Their prevalence in Celtic Galloway made a singular contrast with their scarcity in Saxon Scotland, perhaps indicating a strong Saxon occupation of the former province, although if so it was strange that instead of being called “burhs” as in England they were called “motes.”
The camps in Scotland attributed to the Romans numbered 74, but the evidence was in too many cases merely the notion that every rectangular fieldwork must be Roman. They were of three types – large works with a single entrenchment, small rectangles similarly defended, and rectangles with several parallel lines of trench and mound. The last of these orders included works of great strength at Birrens, Lyne, Strageath, and Ardoch. In the use of flanking defences at the angles Ardoch stood alone. The evidences pointed to a Roman origin for the four camps of the Ardoch type, but before the point could be settled, both in regard to them and other supposed Roman camps, further investigation was needed. The place-name “Chester” in England generally denoted a city or place of note, whilst in Scotland it was confined to houses and to forts, not differing from the ordinary native forts in plan.
Eight kinds of curvilinear forts have been described: entrenchments of earth mixed with stones, forts with walls of loose heaped stone, forts of dry masonry, forts of dry masonry and timber, walled forts having outer earth works, terraced forts, and vitrified forts. Not less than 55 had been described as vitrified, but only 12 of them shewed any considerable vitrification. The curvilinear forts were generally circular or oval with sometimes one and sometimes more entrances, frequently covered by additional defences and occasionally retired for flank defence. They numbered 1100, rarely at a great elevation, only 32 standing at so great an altitude as 1200 feet. They were irregularly distributed, thickly crowded in some parts, e.g. Dumfriesshire, thinly spread in others, and in large tracts (which possibly had been uninhabited) altogether absent.
Thus in Argyle there were 143 forts – the series abruptly stopping at Loch Etive; thence to Cape Wrath there were only 5 or 6, not reckoning brochs. Over the wide Highland mainland outside of Argyle 52 were found situated in but a few localities, far apart.
The forts of Galloway and the south-west coast resembled those of Argyle in their low elevation, small size, and nearness to the sea. Dumfriesshire had 225 of greater elevation, and distributed as if to avoid the coast. South of the Lammermoors forts were numerous; between them, the Pentlands, and the Forth only 40 were found.
There appeared to be a general deficiency in the water supply of these forts, but the facts of history as well in Caesar’s time as in our own proved that that might be no insurmountable obstacle to protracted defence.
Generic names for forts were Dùn, Rath, Car, Lis, and Burh. In the Highlands 370 were called Dùn, 260 of these having a specific name also. In the Lowlands Dùn is not often applied to forts, and in place-names is sometimes probably of Teutonic origin. Rath occurs in about 150 place-names, few of them connected with known forts. Lis though common in Ireland did not in Scotland appear to have any connection with forts. Car with various significations might be of Irish, Welsh, or Teutonic origin, though in most cases it was Celtic. It is rarely associated with forts in Scotland. Burgh might be Saxon or it might be the Scandinavian “borg.”
In closing, Dr. Christison said it had been his aim to avoid hazardous theories and to present carefully ascertained facts as a foundation for future work.”
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“SOCIETY OF ANTIQUARIES OF SCOTLAND (10TH December). – Two urns from Culla Voe, Papa Stour, Shetland, were exhibited, and a notice by Rev. D. G. Barron of the small cemetery of cremated burials in which they were found was read. Dr. Joseph Anderson said the significance of this find was that it proved, what was before uncertain, that the early natives of Shetland used clay burial urns. Many stone urns had been found, but these were the first clearly authenticated urns of clay from that district. There was no specific difference between those now produced and clay urns from the mainland of Scotland. Generally speaking, he thought it might be said without hesitation that the race which had occupied the mainland had inhabited Shetland also in the stone age. A second Shetland communication was read from Mr. George Kinghorn, St. Rollox, Glasgow, consisting of notes on a deposit of polished stone axes and oval knives of porphyry in a knoll at Modesty, near Bridge of Walls. A quantity of pottery, nine axes and nine knives, from the find (presented to and acquired by the Society) were on the table. The pottery might either be sepulchral or domestic from its character. Dr. Anderson commented on the oval knives as common in and peculiar to Shetland, and as now found for the first time under circumstances which distinctly correlated them with the stone age. Mr. D. MacRitchie read a note concerning an underground structure at Gress, Lewis. From the presence of the bones of deer and sea-birds, he inferred that the inhabitants had lived by the chase. A boar’s tusk had been discovered also, but experts had indicated that there was no proof that the boar must have been wild. Nothing could therefore be founded on the detail, and the date of inhabitation of the dwelling might have been comparatively recent. Dr. William Cramond, Cullen, sent a notice of (1) a large censer or chafing dish found near Balveny castle, and (2) of a find of coins, Roman and otherwise, in Mortlach parish, Banffshire. The final paper, by Rev. H. J. Lawlor, B.D., was a note on non-biblical matter in the MS. Gospels, known as the Book of Mulling.”
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“ECCLESIOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF ABERDEEN. – At a recent meeting a paper by W. Cramond, LL.D., Cullen, was read on the Sacrament Houses of Scotland. At the commencement the writer referred with satisfaction to the care now taken of the few remaining examples of Sacrament Houses in Scotland, some twelve in all.
Still find we up and down,
In country or in town,
The footprints of our fathers’ holier tread;
A relic here and there,
A pageant or a fair,
And old traditions floating round the dead.
These remains of the ancient worship of the church extended from St. Andrews to Pluscarden, and some of them were in singularly good preservation. Several points still required clearing up. After giving an exact definition of the term, Dr. Cramond referred in detail to the Sacrament Houses of Belgium and the Continent, and illustrated his meaning by photographs. He then with the view of explaining the usage that prevailed in different ages and countries quoted numerous references to tabernacles and suchlike from ancient statutes and writings from the twelfth century onwards, especially referring to the presence of Sacrament Houses in Scotland and their absence in England, and explaining the present usage in Catholic Churches. In regard to the question whence the Scotch Sacrament Houses had their origin, Dr. Cramond gave it as his opinion that they originated in Flanders, that several of them were carved in this country probably by foreign workmen, and that as regards those like that of St. Andrews the designs may have proceeded from Rome.”
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“GLASGOW ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY (Dec. 20). – Mr. P. Macgregor Chalmers, architect, read a paper on the Mediaeval Church Architecture of Scotland, illustrated by about 100 photographic views so arranged as to show the development of the art. The early phases were found in the crypt of St. Wilfrid’s Church at Hexham, built in the year 674, in the Saxon baluster-work at Jarrow and Monkwearmouth, the Scotic MSS. and the sculpture work of the early crosses, as in the famous one at Ruthwell. These, with others, showed that, following the work of the Roman occupation, the arts flourished in the Saxon period, and at least some colour was lent to the suggestion that the work of the early twelfth century, almost invariably described as of foreign origin, may have been but developed native art. The work executed immediately after the Norman Conquest of England was illustrated principally in Durham and Dunfermline – the one evidently copied from the other. But the most interesting example was Jedburgh Abbey, where the simple character of the early work was seen to develop later into the magnificent specimen of the sculptor’s art at the great west door. The beauty of the moulded work (where the carving is less profuse) to be noticed at the end of the twelfth century was well seen in the nave of Jedburgh. The choir and lower church of Glasgow Cathedral were chosen to illustrate the work of the thirteenth century, and here a parallel to the Chapel of the Four Altars at the east end of the Cathedral was found in the Chapel of the Nine Altars at Durham, designed and executed at the same time. The fourteenth century in Scotland, far from being a time of extreme poverty, was shewn to have been rich in the production of beautiful church work. Many illustrations of this period were shown in the nave of Glasgow Cathedral, in Paisley, Melrose, St. Monan’s, Bothwell, &c. The fifteenth century work, remarkable for the richness of its carving and the beauty of its traceried windows, was exhibited in Lincluden, Melrose, Linlithgow, and the vulgarly ornate Chapel at Roslin, where an interesting parallel to Glasgow Cathedral was noted. The latest illustrations were shown in the rood screen of Glasgow Cathedral and the early sixteenth century work at Paisley Abbey. The series of views closed with the tomb of Archbishop Hamilton, in Paisley Abbey, a tablet of classic form, in which the “new spirit,” having little or nothing to do with the religious Reformation, was seen in the revival of the art of ancient Rome. But the chief feature of the paper was an attempt to revive intelligent effort in the study of the Cathedral in Glasgow. Many views of the building were shown, and it was claimed that an almost entirely new history was possible. The earliest structure was found not only at the west end of the south aisle of the lower church, but in most interesting remains of the same period in the north aisle as well. And the suggestion was offered that the first erection of which there is any evidence, dating from about the middle of the twelfth century, was only of one storey. Supposed to be quite a unique structure in Scotland – an attempt had been made to find its model in Rome – the Cathedral might be shown to be on exactly the same lines as the whole architectural work of its own period. Even the site of the old High Altar, as it stood in the semi-circular end of the old choir, might be found in the structure still known as the site of the shrine of St. Mungo. In describing the thirteenth century work in the choir and crypt attention was drawn to the very unsatisfactory character of the evidence supporting the opinion now current that the beautiful recumbent effigy at the east end of the crypt is that of the renowned patriot and soldier-bishop Wishart. The thirteenth century tower referred to in documents was found to have been that at the west end of the nave, partially destroyed about the year 1400. The sculptured fragments of its upper storey, still preserved, were clearly work of the time of Bishop Lauder. The nave was completed towards the end of the fourteenth century. To this was added the central tower at the beginning of the fifteenth century, followed by that composite building the chapter-house and sacristy. The stone rood-screen and the vaulting of the lower storey of the unfinished south transept were executed about the year 1500. The copestone to all this steady continuous labour of centuries was laid in the central spire, erected about the middle of the sixteenth century.”