South Uist

One of our newest members is Simon Davies from South Uist. He has worked recording areas of the island since retiring producing some interesting results. His most recent work is an examination of Triallabreac agus na h-eileanan eile Port Pheadair (Triallabreac and the other islands of Petersport, Benbecula) which you can read below. We look forward to future collaborations with Simon.

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Masons’ Marks

ACFA member Ross Wallace’s MRes thesis: Leaving a Mark on History is the fruit of four years of intensive survey and analysis of medieval mason marks from central and southern Scotland. Ross was assisted by fellow members of ACFA, GAS, and many students of archaeology at Glasgow University.

Sites at which ACFA was particularly involved included Paisley and Crossraguel Abbeys and most intensively at Glasgow Cathedral, plus Crookston and Bothwell Castles. Among many happy memories most special are the days in Glasgow Cathedral in winter as the visitors departed and we worked in the silence and dusk with hand torches and record sheets, drawing, photographing and recording in the aisles, chapels, nave and choir, then up through the turret stairs, clerestories and triforium galleries. Privileged access to areas unknown to the public and best of all – one spring morning, when, with the cathedral’s head stonemason, we were taken out on to the roof of the choir with heart-stopping views over the Necropolis, Glasgow and the hills to the north and south.

Ross hopes that this corpus proves useful – only volume one, more work hopefully next summer- if only as a reference hand tool for any mason marks in your own part of the country encountered in your archaeological wanderings.

Recording team at Crookston Castle, Ross Wallace, centre. Photo Ian Marshall

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Latest Covd-19 advice

While ACFA recognises that it is an individual member’s responsibility to comply with guidance issued by the Scottish Government as it attempts to limit the damage caused by the Covid pandemic, we will endeavour nevertheless, to keep members advised of the current state of play as it affects ACFA activities.

Sadly, archaeological field survey work does not fall into the category of “essential purpose”, so is not exempt from the current rules and guidelines. Furthermore, travel into or out of Tiers 3 (and 4) would now be classified as illegal, and consequently outwith ACFA’s (and probably personal) insurance cover. Consequently, we strongly advise ACFA members not to participate in field work, outside their own home Local Authority area, at this time. Maybe there is archival or publication preparation work that can be undertaken in the warmth and safety of our homes?

Of course, there may be exceptions to the “essential purpose” guidelines; for example, building and construction work that impinges on archaeologically sensitive areas may allow pre-construction survey work to be re-classified as “essential” work. That, however, has still to be tested. Please let us know if you are likely to be engaged in any such work, and we will help to establish if this is permitted. However, it will still remain advisable to avoid car-sharing.

And, of course, the landowners’ wishes must be respected, as always.

AGM 2020

Our first virtual AGM went off as well as could be expected for a first attempt. It was a steep learning curve for many of us. Thank you to the members who joined us on the evening. It was a pleasure to glimpse so many members.

Jennifer Boag and Janie Munro were re-appointed as treasurer and chairperson respectively, Margaret Gardiner was re-elected for a second term of three years and we welcomed Ken Tomory and Stuart Mackey as new committee members.

We said goodbye to Elaine Black who has completed her six year sentence! We hope that she continues to have an informal connection with the committee. We also said farewell to Anne MacDonald who had been our correspondence secretary for the past year.

We were also delighted to endorse Ken Mallard and Christine MacDiarmid as full members in recognition of their commitment to the work of ACFA.

After the business of the meeting Elaine Black and Ailsa Smith gave presentations on the Hynish Boundaries project in Tiree which gave the promise of exciting revelations about the age and sequence of the system of field banks and enclosures on the flanks of Ben Hynish.

Congratulations to the winners of the photography competition, Janet MacDonald, Stuart Mackey, Mary Braithwaite and over-all winner and recipient of the Quaich trophy (when we are able to present it!) Libby King.

Home and Over-all Winner

A window on the past Libby King


…and here’s where the spaceship landed Janet MacDonald


Abandoned farmstead near Gaukstorr, Iceland Stuart Mackey


Ballycastle Dun view to NE, submitted by Mary Braithwaite

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Plane Table

Acfa is embracing digital survey techniques but sometimes an ‘old school’ method fits the bill. Traditionally we’ve not been the biggest fans of plane tables – something about lugging them over vast distances of rough ground – though we do appreciate their use in certain situations. Here is our plane table being used to record a recent excavation by Heather James(Calluna Archaeology) at the Drumshanty flax mill near Kirkintilloch. Ed Smith (centre) planned the trenches, lade and river.

plane table survey
Plane table recording at Drumshanty mill, l to r Paul Bishop, Ed Smith, Heather James
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