“SOCIETY OF ANTIQUARIES OF SCOTLAND (11th February). – Mr. James Lang read notes, illustrated with photographs, of a subterranean structure recently uncovered near Wouldham, Kent, consisting of a single vaulted chamber built of stones marked with the herringbone and other patterns characteristic of Roman tooling. In its end wall were three recessed niches, which, taken in conjunction with its position underground, had led to the inference that it was probably a temple to Mithras.
Dr. David Christison gave a summary of the facts regarding the early fortifications found in Selkirk, on the southern slopes of the Lammermoors and the Moorfoots, and in the valley of the Tweed below Peeblesshire, accompanying the record of his observations with numerous sketches of examples. The distribution of these forts in the western part of the district was so partial as to suggest that considerable tracts must have been uninhabited in ancient times. In all the forts numbered fully 100 in the districts named, and there are nearly as many more in Teviotdale, besides 13 at the head of Bowmount water. On the Ettrick and Yarrow there were only 9, all within a few miles of Selkirk. On the Tweed, from Peebles to the sea, there were only about 20. But the Lammermoors contained 50. These in the Ettrick and Yarrow series were ill preserved and unimportant. Except one at Bellshill, double terraced and treble-ramparted at two ends. The Gala water district contained 16 fort sites. On the Tweed from the Gala to the Leader there were 6 forts, of which that on Eildon Hill was the most important, being the largest in Scotland. In Lauderdale almost all the forts now recognisable had more than one ring – several being triple-ramparted, and one even appearing to have had four lines of circumvallation. On the Tweed from the Lauder to the Teviot there were but 5 fortified works, and of these only one was a fort proper. Dr. Christison’s sketches pointed to two generalisations – (1) that the irregularly circular type of fort was the rule and the rectangular quite the exception, and (2) that it was normal for these fortifications to have more than one concentric line of defence.
The second communication was by Mr. Lockhart Bogle, describing prehistoric structures in Glenelg and Kintail. One of those in Glenelg tradition had steadily attributed to Alastair, a famous chief of the Clan Macleod. The occurrence of the term Bawn amongst the names of these West Highland forts raised some discussion, which favoured the view that the word was not to be explained as Celtic ban, white, but as a Scottish use of the common Irish bawn, an enclosed fortification. The third contribution by Mr. R. Robertson, Dollar, and Mr. George F. Black, assistant keeper of the Museum, gave an account of the discovery of a cist, with a cup-and-ring marked cover, in a sand pit at the Cunningar, Tillicoultry. It contained the remains of an unburnt burial, along with a very pretty urn of food-vessel type. The body, which was that of an adult, had been in a crouching position. No weapons or implements were found. The cist was of the usual character, but the covering stone was a huge bock of granite six feet in length, and sculptured on its upper surface with rings, spirals, and lines. A peculiar feature of the burial in this cist was the presence near the head of a quantity of fibrous and hair-like material, which at first sight was suggestive of the idea that the upper part of the body had been enveloped in the hide of an animal, or clothed in a garment made of hide. Professor Struthers, who had examined part of the substance found in the Tillicoultry cist, stated that it was not hair in the strict sense, but wool, although he could not say positively that it was sheep’s wool. There was exhibited a finely-ornamented urn found near Harvieston Castle, which is now preserved in the Dollar Institution. In the last paper Bishop Dowden called attention to two late notices of the cultus of St. Ninian in England, one occurring in a commentary on the Prophet Haggai, published in 1560, by James Pilkington, afterwards Bishop of Durham, and another in a later work by the same author, entitled “The Burning of Paule’s Church in London,” published in 1563, both following the same line of comment in allusion to special fasts in imitation of St. Ninian’s custom.”
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“GLASGOW ECCLESIOLOGICAL SOCIETY (25th February). – The Rev. Howell Brown, M.A., read a paper on “Utility as a Factor in Ecclesiastical Architecture.” Quoting the dictum of Sir H. Wotton:- “In architecture the end is to build well, and well building hath three conditions – commodity, firmness, and delight”; he said that in ecclesiastical architecture we must add one other condition, “symbolism.” To substantiate his theory Mr. Brown referred to the architecture of Egypt, India, and Greece, and then applied the rules of “well building” to “Christian architecture.” This term he explained to mean the “pointed” style. Whether this style was imported from the East or originated in a study of forest scenes, or was merely evolved from the intersection of two common round arches, the fact remained that the style was developed by Christian art, and became the expression of Christian doctrines and Christian enthusiasm. It was easy to show a sufficient reason for this development. In “pointed” architecture all the lines were vertical – in the classical style all the principal lines are horizontal. The upward reaching of the vertical lines was the true expression of the spiritual aspirations of the Christian faith. The set horizontal lines of a classical building tell of dogma, conciseness, even of stability; but it is a dogma without the element of faith, a conciseness which is ignorant of the charm of mystery, and a stability which weighs us down to earth. Passing on to consider the different styles of (so-called) Gothic architecture, Mr. Brown showed that the evolution exhibited the gradual progress of sentiment from religion to ecclesiasticism, till “in the perpendicular style we trace the form without the spirit, the vertical lines of idealism exaggerated to assume an aspiration which was already extinct.” With the revival of classical literature came also the renewal of classical architecture, and the natural development of Gothic architecture received a check which proved its death-blow.
A paper on “Abercorn Church,” by the Rev. J. H. Crawford, M.A., was also read. Abercorn was originally the seat of a Pictish bishopric, the first Bishop being Trumuin, who with his monks settled at Abercorn in 680. Afterwards it came into the possession of the See of Dunkeld. The church bore traces of its long history in its architecture, the rudely squared stones of the chancel pointed to the age of the round towers of Brechin and Abernethy, and a window on the north side of the chancel was of similar appearance to the west doorway of the Brechin Tower. A face sculptured on the north-east corner of the chancel wall seemed of earlier form than the usual figures seen in Norman buildings. The door on the south side was probably ancient, as the piscina, still preserved, stood beside it. The church lay east and west, and the chancel, as was frequent in ancient churches, was deflected to the south to represent, according to Mr. Crawford, the inclining of our Saviour’s head on the cross. The church had recently been carefully restored by Mr. Honeyman, but it was impossible to restore the chancel, as the eastern half of it was occupied by the pew gallery of the Hopetoun family. The old chancel arch was so much decayed that it had to be entirely rebuilt. Above the chancel was the Sanctus belfry, very ancient in character, resembling that of the rude churches of Celtic date. The nave of the church was Norman. The south door still remained, but was built up, as the level of the surrounding ground had risen so much above the floor of the church as to render it useless. The west gable was new, and of Norman style. The former gable was a degraded piece of work of Elizabethan character, built in 1838. The south wall had erected against it a vault built in 1723 by Dundas of Philipstoun. The Dundases of Duddingston had a similar vault, of date 1612, against the south chancel wall which prevented the masonry of the chancel from being visible. On the south side also was a transept built by the Dalzells of the Binns in 1618, on the site of a much more massive chapel, whose foundations are still plainly seen. In the 17th century the Duddingston family added a north transept with a gallery. When the plaster was removed for the present restoration the respond of an ancient arch to the west of the chancel, and going in the line of the nave, was discovered. Evidently there were formerly chapels erected to the north and south of the main line of the nave.”
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“DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY NATURAL HISTORY AND ANTIQUARIAN SOCIETY (15th February). – A paper, entitled “A famous old battlefield,” was contributed by Mr. Alexander D. Murray, Newcastle. The battle referred to was that of Daegsastan, fought in 603, and recorded by Bede in his Ecclesiastical History and in the Saxon Chronicle. Dawston Rigg, in Liddesdale, was, said Mr. Murray, one of two places which were claimed as the site of the battle. The other claimant to the site was Dalston, near Carlisle. He thought modern antiquaries were more partial to Dawston Rigg than to the other, and in any case most certainly a great early battle had been fought on Dawston Rigg, and a halo of tradition always surrounded the locality.
Mr. F. R. Coles, in a paper cataloguing “The Standing Stones of the Stewartry,” called special attention to one at Minnigaff. “In the precincts of the ruined old church of Minnigaff,” he said, “there now stands a richly-carved stone, which by reason of its history no less than its carvings, is probably unique among our stones. Some fifteen years ago, when the house known as The Old Markethouse of Minnigaff was demolished – [the site is now marked by a large whinstone slab, on the top of which there is scratched an archaic sun-dial] – the workmen brought to light, while loosening one of the windows, a stone which was serving as a lintel; and that stone bears on its three sculptured sides designs and effigies, the upper having short spirals in a group of four, and the lower a group of four triangular knots – the triquetra. It was after some time removed to its present resting-place in the old churchyard, where, in the course of time, its fine incised work will become gradually but assuredly undecipherable. The stone is a rudely-trimmed squarish block of porphyry(?), standing 2 feet 10½ inches above ground, and measuring 8½ inches at the base, and 8, 6, and 3½ inches at the top. The design is remarkably fine, having a bird, Celtic Cross pattée, and two panels of Celtic ornament below. This side now faces the west, a very vague and much spoilt design is on the east side; while that facing south bears a design, probably a female figure, and the north face is unsculptured. The edge of the north-east side seems to bear some ornament also. Taken altogether, this small but beautifully carved monolith is certainly one of our most precious relics of the Celtic sculptured stones, if indeed it be not absolutely unique, and it is worthy of a much safer abode than the open and damp precincts of the little kirkyard where it happens at present to be deposited.”
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“GLASGOW ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY (21st February). – On the motion of Mr. C. D. Donald, seconded by Mr. F. T. Barrett, it was remitted to the council to address a memorial to the Lord Provost and Town Council, praying that when the redivision of the city into municipal wards is completed, the official designation of the several wards be by name instead of (as at present) by numbers; and that names be selected which are historically associated with the localities included within each ward respectively.
Mr. David MacRitchie read a paper on “French Influence in Scottish Speech.” After referring to the close political and social connection between Scotland and France during the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries – a connection so intimate that latterly the whole Scottish people were made naturalised Frenchmen by special edict – he showed that one result of this intercourse was the importation of many French words and even idioms into every-day Scottish speech. With reference to Francisque Michel’s “Critical Inquiry” into this subject, he pointed out that many of the words which Michel regarded as derived direct from France during the period spoken of may have been, and probably were, simply Norman words which had been in use throughout Great Britain ever since the Conquest. Nevertheless, it seems evident that a large number of words of French origin even yet current in Scotland, such as jigot, ashet, grozet, and fracas cannot be explained in this way, and the date of their introduction seems with great probability to belong to the later period, when France and Scotland were for many generations in close and friendly alliance. More interesting even than such actual French words are certain idiomatic expressions, which are evidently translations from the French. Thus, Michel points out that a Scotchman speaks of “going to the church,” and of “saying the grace,” where an Englishman speaks of “going to church” and “saying grace”; the former idiom being due to French influence. Mr. MacRitchie also suggested, as having a similar history, the Scotch “I am colded” (Je suis enrhumé), and “I doubt,” in the sense of Je m’en doute [I doubt it]. The whole question is of much interest, although a discussion of its details naturally gives rise to a considerable difference of opinion.
Mr. J. M. Mackinlay in his “Notes on Shells from the shrine of Santa Lucia, near Figueras, in Spain,” remarked that Scottish antiquities formed the usual subject of study in the Archaeological Society, and that it might seem a far cry from North Britain to Spain, but that in reality it was not so, for in virtue of their place in folk-lore, the shells in question belonged to the same class of objects as Barbreck’s Bone and the Lee Penny, so familiar to the student of Scottish amulets. The shells were still believed to be efficacious in curing sore eyes, and were sold to pilgrims frequenting the shrine of Santa Lucia, near Figueras, a town of Catalonia, some 80 miles north-east of Barcelona, situated in a rich plain noted for its olives and rice. The Legend of St. Lucy was then glanced at in as far as it related to the supposed power of the Saint to cure sore eyes. She was a Sicilian maiden who flourished about A.D. 300. To rid herself of a Pagan lover who praised her eyes she plucked them out and sent them to him. Her eyes, however, were miraculously restored to her in still greater beauty. Her place in art was then alluded to, and it was pointed out that she was usually represented with eyes as her special symbol lying in a cup or on a plate, or fixed upon an awl. Sometimes her eyes were absent, and in harmony with her name she was portrayed as the light-bearer with a flaming lamp in her hand. An account was next given of the principle underlying the folk-belief that objects associated with saints possessed the power of healing, various Scottish examples being cited. The mode of applying St. Lucy’s shells suggested the reflection that the cure was almost as painful as the disease. The shell was inserted below the lower eyelid, and the watering of the eye was supposed to effect the cure. The shells in question were not shells in the ordinary sense of the word, but were the calcareous opercula of a species of turbo or whelk found in the Mediterranean. In conclusion, Mr. Mackinlay referred to St. Lucy’s day on the 13th of December in connection with the proverb, “Lucy light, the shortest day and the longest night,” and remarked that it might seem strange that a saint whose very name implied brightness should be commemorated in dark December, but that it was then that we most needed light.”
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“ROYAL SOCIETY OF EDINBURGH (4th March). – At the request of the council, Dr. Robert Munro gave an address on Lake Dwelling Research. He said that the comparative security afforded to birds by island retreats could not fail to have attracted the attention of man from the very dawn of his reasoning faculties, and it was probable that as soon as he acquired sufficient skill in the art of navigation to be able to cross a creek or a river he would occasionally resort to such means of protection in times of danger. From the natural to the artificial island was but a stage of transition, which in the course of time would be readily bridged over by his progressive mechanical skill. To some such sequence in the phenomena of human civilisation must be assigned the origin of these strange habitations known as lake dwellings. As a means of defence an island fort or village, rudely constructed of timbers, and situated on the shallow margin of a lake, would offer but little resistance to an attack conducted on the principles of modern warfare. It would, however, be very different when the assailants were limited to the appliances in use in prehistoric times. Whatever may have been the primary object of these structures or the precise circumstances which led to their development, it was certain that they continued for many centuries to be the characteristic abodes of the early inhabitants of Central Europe wherever the necessary hydrographical conditions were to be found. To have rescued so singular a phase of human civilisation from oblivion was one of the greatest triumphs of prehistoric archaeology. He then described in some detail the circumstances which had led to the discovery of the sites of so many of those ancient dwellings, and the extraordinary wealth of archaeological material brought to light by subsequent investigation. The actual starting point of lacustrine research might be dated from the discovery of numerous remains in a bog in Ireland upwards of half a century ago. Having explained the nature of the relics and subsequent discoveries in Ireland, he stated that an independent discovery was announced in Switzerland, which not only gave new significance to the Irish discovery, but opened up one of the most prolific fields of prehistoric research that had ever come under the cognisance of archaeologists. He rapidly sketched the results of investigations made on the sites of the Swiss lake dwellings during the past thirty or forty years, afterwards treating of the concurrent researches instituted in other parts of Europe, special attention being directed to Italy. He stated that perhaps no locality in Europe contained a greater variety of the vestiges of past humanity than the valley of the Po. Having given interested details of Continental investigation, he said that the spirit of research which thus originated in Switzerland stimulated archaeologists everywhere throughout Europe. Passing on to deal with such investigation in Scotland, he explained that the first great discovery was made in a loch in Wigtownshire. When the loch was drained several artificial islands emerged, and the antiquarian remains collected upon them disclosed a picture of Scottish civilisation previously unknown to historians or archaeologists. Amongst the remains were canoes, bronze dishes of Roman origin, bracelets, and other ornaments. In referring to more recent finds in Scotland, he said that on the crannog of Lochan Dughaill in Argyllshire the form of the house was circular, and not rectangular, as usual elsewhere. He next noticed the recent discoveries of lake dwellings in Bosnia. In concluding, he said that the coincidence in the style of art in the ornaments recently found at Glastonbury with those obtained at La Tène and other parts of Europe was of particular significance to ethnologists and archaeologists.”