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WORK OF SOCIETIES, &c., Various Contributors (Jun., 1895), 335-340.

SOCIETY OF ANTIQUARIES OF SCOTLAND (13th May). – In the first paper, continuing his examination of the so-called Roman roads of the ordnance maps, Dr. James Macdonald, one of the vice-presidents of the Society, gave an account of the results of his examination of the roads in Roxburghshire attributed to the Romans and marked as Roman on these maps. They were two in number, the one also being known at Watling Street, and the other as the Wheel Causeway. He gave a description of the Watling Street from the English Border to the spot near St. Boswells where it is lost in the Melrose and Ancrum road. As regards its history and origin, he was of the opinion that certain facts pointed to its having in all probability followed the route generally taken by the legionaries when marching into North Britain, and to part of its course at least having been laid down by the Romans. In the case of the Wheel Causeway, however, which enters Scotland near the sources of the Liddell water, he could discover no evidence that the Romans had had anything to do with its formation. It had been a drove road, and nothing more.

In the second paper, Dr. Joseph Anderson described the contents of a very extensive refuse-heap accumulated at the base of an isolated stack of rock at Gallanach, near Oban, which seems to have been occupied as a prehistoric fort, and is known in the locality as Dun Fheurain. From this accumulation many hundreds of cartloads of earth, mixed with bones and shells, evidently the refuse of the food of the occupants of the rock, had been removed by Mr. J. P. McDougall of Gallanach in the course of some improvements, and the opportunity had been taken of sending a collection of the bones and other objects found to the museum for description and identification. It was an interesting collection, as being the first of any extent obtained from a fort of this kind. The bones shewed that of domestic animals the horse, ox, and sheep were present, and of wild animals the red-deer and roebuck. The extraordinary size of the boar’s tusks found suggested also that these were wild. The manufactured articles included implements of stone, bronze or brass, iron, and pottery. A considerable number of quern stones were found, and one of these which had been broken had been converted into a mould for making iron cruses. A fine whetstone or burnisher was also found, but no hammer-stones, although the bones of the animals were all split open and broken in splinters. Of articles of bone were two needles with circular eyes, a pin with globular head, a netting needle, several bodkins, three teeth of a wool comb, and a curious circular stamp with a cross and pellets in the four quadrants. A pin of bronze of peculiar shape, with an open circular head, and a penannular ring, a portion of a broken fibula of iron, the point end of a sword, and another fragment of the point of a large two-handed sword were also found. The pottery was of two varieties – one a coarse bowl-shaped vessel not unlike the pottery of the Brochs, and the other a small fragment of the red lustrous ware commonly called Samian, and associated with the Romano-British period, with which also the iron fibula might be associated, while the bronze pin with the open circular head and the coarser pottery were associated with the period of the Brochs. The occupation of the fort might of course have begun before the Roman occupation of Britain, but this was the period assigned to the earliest indications among the relics of the refuse-heap.

In the next paper, Mr. F. R. Coles described the stone circles of the stewartry of Kirkcudbright, which he considered to have been in most instances the base-stones of cairns. Six circles formerly known have been wholly destroyed, and of those still left eight have been partially destroyed, while six are apparently complete. These were described in detail and plans of them shewn.

In the next paper, Mr. James Curle, jun., the Society’s librarian, described three early iron age brooches from the island of Gotland, Sweden (now in his collection), and traced the development of their form and ornamentation, at the same time shewing their analogies to other varieties of form and ornament in Britain and elsewhere. 

In the next paper, Mr. W. A. Craigie, M.A., described an interesting literary curiosity connected with Scottish history, which he had examined in the Arna-Magnean collection of the University library at Copenhagen. In a manuscript volume of this collection, written by Ión Finnson, of Flatey, the little island in Broadfirth, Iceland, from which Bishop Brynjolf obtained the famous Flatey book, there is incorporated a series of six poetical pieces, called Skotland’s Rímur, a kind of ballads, detailing the incidents of the Gowrie Conspiracy. Though it could not be expected that they would throw any fresh light on this interesting but obscure episode in Scottish history, as the author had simply followed the Latin account published under the Royal sanction (Ruvenorum Conjuratio, 1601), yet it was curious to find an Icelandic priest putting the story into verse so soon after the occurrence, the date of the Rímur being probably about 1610. 

In the last paper, Rev. James Morrison, Urquhart, a corresponding member of the Society, contributed a notice of a sculptured stone of the early Celtic type recently discovered at Easterton of Roseisle, near Burghead.

The Society then adjourned to St. Andrew’s Day, 30th November next.”

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“DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY ANTIQUARIAN SOCIETY (10th May). – Mr. George Neilson, Glasgow, read a paper on “Old Annan.” The town had doubtless received its name from the river, not the river from the town. There were other examples of absolute identity between town-name and river-name, although they were relatively rare. No one could say what the derivation of the word was. Celtic place-name etymology, unless there was a body of parallel examples to check it, was a mere will-of-the-wisp. But in the early history of the name of Annandale, which was first Strathanand, then oscillated between Anandesdal and Ananderdal, and finally settled for about three centuries into the latter of these two forms, there was a compact summary of the early ethnology of the district. First the Celt held sway; then the Anglic intruder came, and the Northman; Strathanand died out, and a struggle set in between two Teutonic grammatical forms, the Anglic genitival compound Anandes-dale and the Norse similar compound Anander-dale. The victory of the latter was a proof – and a better proof than all the histories combined – of the Norse racial predominance in the Annan valley. When the Bruces came there was a castle in Annandale which might have been at Lochmaben or might have been at Annan. There was some evidence, not conclusive, for the existence of a castle of “Anant” late in the twelfth century, but it was unheard of again for centuries. In 1148 St. Malachi (deceived by Robert de Brus over the fate of a robber), cursed not only Brus but the “city” (civitas) of Annan as well. In consequence an old author of the middle of the fourteenth century had said that Annan lost “the honour of a burgh.” That statement raised a highly interesting question, Was Annan a royal burgh in the fourteenth century or before it? Though it was called a burgh in the thirteenth century, the connection in which such mention occurred – the fact that burghal rent was paid to the Brus family – went to shew that a royal burgh it was not. There was, however, no insuperable obstacle to the belief that when King Robert came to his own as established monarch he made Lochmaben and Annan, the two chief vills of his patrimonial lordship, royal burghs. Annan was explicitly and formally called a burgh in legal writs of the fourteenth century. It flourished during the long peace before the war of Independence; then its troubles began. An English invasion at Christmas time, 1297, was resisted on Annan moor, but the Annan men were worsted. Tradition still preserved memories of the disaster. Three stones in Dornock churchyard, of copestone shape, carved with primitive floral ornament, probably marked the graves of Annan’s three hundred slain. In 1298 the town was burnt, including the church – the first of many fires. A year later the belfry (clocherium) was made use of for safeguarding English stores. Analogy led to the inference that the church of Annan had had a little tower after the style of that still standing at Burgh-on-Sands. Small square, broadset bell towers of the kind were common in that period. In 1300 Edward I. passed through Annan during the Carlaverock campaign; so did his son and destined successor, Prince Edward. After Bannockburn, Annan, though enjoying recovered liberty, had a precarious position so near the frontier with a hostile country. In 1332 Edward Baliol, the tool of Edward III., was surprised at Annan and driven ignominiously “with leggys bare” out of a country that did not want him. Scotland then despised the Baliols: the day of the Dumfries County Council was not yet. It was a good half century before Annan recovered the freedom she lost when Edward Baliol sold the county to Edward III. as the price of his support for the Crown. Naturally, Annan did not prosper under such conditions. The chief recorded event of the fifteenth century was the garrisoning of Annan on an emergency of dreaded invasion. After Flodden the whole district was laid waste by Lord Dacre. Only the steeple of Annan held up its head above a scene of havoc which included the ashes of thirty villages. But Annan’s most implacable enemy thirty years later was Lord Wharton, English warden at Carlisle, who repeatedly urged the Council of Henry VIII. Take measures for the destruction of Annan steeple, which, held as a fort by the Scots, was a thorn in the sides of the English. Not till 1547 did he the opportunity of carrying this wish. Whilst the Earl of Somerset was proceeding northward on the east march, with Pinkie ahead, Wharton on the west was on his way to Annan. The steeple was stoutly held, and made a gallant, strenuous, and historic defence; but at length the overwhelming odds prevailed, and its “pensall of defyaunce” was reluctantly hauled down. The offending steeple, so long “a noisome neighbour unto England,” as one of the writers of the time expressed it, was blown up. Not a stone was left above ground. The town itself was subjected to the same drastic policy of destruction. It was on record that the English so hated the place that they rejoiced to wreck and burn any fragment which by chance had escaped. Such a thoroughness, although ludicrous, was at the same time a token of the keenness of the enmity the steeple and burgh had aroused. Eight years before this Annan had received from James V. a charter of novodamus as a royal burgh, stating in the preamble that its previous infeftments had been burned and destroyed in war and siege, that its inhabitants had been often slain in defence of the realm, but that they had ever been “leal Scots, true to our crown.” There was no hyperbole in these testimonials. A renewal of that charter of 1539 was obtained subsequently; and in that connection Mr. Neilson mentioned an interesting experience which had befallen himself. Last year a great friend of his in Glasgow had asked him to decipher a parchment document, which to the extreme surprise alike of himself and his friend proved to be no other than the precept of sasine on the renewal charter of Annan granted by James VI. In 1612. In that charter and precept James VI. repeated and endorsed the eulogium which his grandfather had passed. In the gallant defence of the steeple in 1547 Annan had proved herself eminently worthy of the compliments of King James, displaying even in her defeat and destruction – a sorrow for a generation but a fit source of future pride – her true border courage, endurance, and resource, qualities which shone through the dust and ashes of Wharton’s fantastical revenge.”

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“GLASGOW ECCLESIOLOGICAL SOCIETY (10th June). – The Rev. Dr. Metcalfe read a paper on “Celtic Ecclesiology,” limiting his remarks chiefly to the architectural style and arrangements of the Celtic church. He demonstrated that at the beginning of the fourth century there was a regularly organised church in the Roman provinces of Britain, and that previous to the beginning of the sixth century there were Scots or Irish who believed in Christ. Religious structures were of two kinds – those erected for public worship, and monastic buildings. Public worship was probably first conducted in the open air, as, e.g., in the case of S. Boniface in Germany. “Clach” signifies a stone, and “clachan,” stones, a church – as Clachan Michel, Michael’s Church. From the highlands of Perthshire to Harris, the Gaelic term signifying “the stones” was used as synonymous with “the church.” Caves or excavations were used as places of worship, with stone altars, so that in Ireland as well as in Rome there were underground churches, used at first probably during persecution. Churches were made of clay, more commonly of wood, and at a later period of stone. So early, however, as the beginning of the fifth century a stone church was built by S. Ninian at Whitherne with the aid of masons obtained from St. Martin of Tours. Stone did not come into general use until after the first invasion by the Danes, A.D. 794. In shape the churches were either quadrilateral or round, and as a rule very small. A common adjunct was a round tower. Cogitosus gives a vivid account of the internal arrangements of S. Brigid’s church, from which we learn much. There were the decorated high altar, the great screen separating the sanctuary from the nave, a partition down the middle length of the church separating the men from the women, the walls resplendent with paintings, and, especially in the chancel, ornaments of gold and silver and precious stones. Oratory chapels also were within the church under the main roof. That the British churches had more than one altar is evidenced – e.g., by such expressions as “inter altaria.” The altar was made sometimes of wood, sometimes of stone, and was covered with an altar-cloth, which was probably of a purple colour. The flagons and chalices were made of the precious metals, and were often highly ornamented. Each church was provided with a bell. That of S. Fillans is still preserved at Fortingall. Churches were often arranged in groups of seven – a number probably suggested by that of the Apocalyptic churches in Asia. Some curious customs as to consecration of places for ecclesiastical use were described at the close of the paper.

Mr. MacGregor Chalmers, in referring to the services at the consecration of a church, drew attention to the curious legend associated with the name St. Oran and the consecration of the ground at Iona, and further said that the study of the early Celtic church was surrounded by many difficulties, perhaps the greatest being the natural weakness for finding the object of one’s search. The method more likely to lead to success was to begin at a later period and to travel backward, noting the introduction of new features on the primitive structures. It might be questioned if the early Celtic church had anything in the nature of a bell tower. On this point it was of value to remember that the earliest historical reference to a bell tower was of date 780, and in connection with St. Peter’s of Rome. The orientation of early fabrics was a most important point, and reference was made to such fabrics as the old cells at Inchcolm and Iona, the tower of Dunblane Cathedral, and the choir of St. Mary’s on the Craig at St. Andrews, all of which pointed several degrees farther north than the later buildings with which they were associated. Reference having been made to St. Ninian’s Church at Whithorn, he mentioned that an attempt had recently been made in the pages of SCOTS LORE to shew that the foundations of this early church are still to be found in the mound of earth and stone at the west end of the cathedral at Whithorn.

The Rev. J. Charleson treated of the striking similarity in all essential details of eucharistic worship, as also in the observance of the daily offices of praise and prayer displayed by the Celtic church with those of all Catholic christendom both of the east and the west.”

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