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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Talk Castle Douglas, Food and History

This is the text of a talk I gave for the Castle Douglas Harvest food festival 9 September 2017. I will add some images later

Castle Douglas  and Food

Castle Douglas is not quite 230 years old but people have been living here for about 10 000 years. For the first four or five thousand years it would be more accurate to say people visited the Castle Douglas area- they were gatherers, fishers and hunters not farmers. They arrived here after the  last ice age ended when, as the climate warmed up, Galloway was covered by a huge forest.

 They would have spent the winter on the  Solway coast and then moved up into the Galloway hills in the spring before moving back down to the coast in the autumn.  They gathered fruit, edible roots and hazel nuts and hunted for deer in the hills. They would have caught salmon in the Dee and wildfowl from the marshes on what is  now the National Trust’s Threave Estate.

About 6000 years ago a revolution reached Galloway. This was the beginning of farming here, when cereals and livestock were domesticated and the first settled communities began. Castle Douglas’ oldest residents date from this period- two small standing stones in a field below the Urr Valley hotel.

The problem the first farmers had was that to make room for their crops and livestock, they had to clear away a 5000 year old forest. With stone axes this was difficult. It was easier with the bronze axes which came in 3 and a half thousand years ago but what really made a difference were iron axes and saws. These would have been available 2700 years ago. With the new technology, even the thickest areas of forest growing on deep fertile soils could be cleared, opening up the flood plain of the river Dee and the area around Castle Douglas.

Once the land could be farmed more effectively, the population could begin to grow. With more people available, more land could be cultivated and more livestock herded. As a result, by the time the first Roman soldiers marched into Galloway, one historian has described the Castle Douglas area as a centre of paramount power and wealth.

He based that claim on what is now one of the treasures of the National Museum in Edinburgh - the Torrs Pony Cap. This stunning beautiful object was found in 1812 when a loch on Torrs farm was being drained. Found in Carlingwark Loch, the Carlingwark cauldron is also in the National Museum as is a beautiful bronze mirror found in Balmaclellan.

The pony cap would have been worn by a horse which puked a chariot.  Two ornamental harness fittings have also been found- one at Auchendolly and the other at Wheatcroft. On Meiklewood Hill which overlooks the Dee on one side and Castle Douglas on the other there was a large and impressive iron age roundhouse. There was also a hill fort at Torrs and another one on Dunmuir Hill.

The |Torrs hill fort was excavated by Dr Fraser Hunter of the National Museum last year. He found evidence that the walls of the hill fort had been rebuilt at least twice, but there was no sign of anyone actually living inside it.

Taken altogether, this evidence suggests that 2000 years ago, the Castle Douglas area was where a succession of  powerful  Celtic chieftains lived, controlling a territory that stretched up into the Glenkens.  An indication that the Castle Douglas area was important comes from the Roman forts and camps at Glenlochar. These represent the largest concentration of Roman power in Galloway and shows that it was the key area the Romans needed  to subdue.

If the Castle Douglas area was a centre of wealth and power 2000 years ago, where did that power and wealth come from? There were no gold mines or copper mines and it was too far inland to be a centre for sea trade. The only place the wealth and power could come from was the land itself, from the crops of barley and wheat the people grew and from the animals they farmed- cattle, sheep, pigs and goats - as well as horses.

On the other hand, everyone else in the region grew the same crops and had the same mix of livestock. There must have been something additional factor which help to concentrate the wealth of the land in the Castle Douglas area. I suspect it may have been the rivers Dee and Ken. The river system is navigable from Threave island upstream to the head of loch Ken. When Carlingwark loch was partially drained in the 18th century, as well as an Iron Age  crannog, several dug out canoes were found.

The rivers could have been used as a transport system, creating an extended community - a tribal territory- along their length. The Roman forts and camps at Glenlochar may have disrupted the  political and economic structures of this Iron Age community because we now have to jump forward a thousand years to the age of Archibald the Grim and Threave castle before the Castle Douglas area becomes important again.

Archibald the Grim was an illegitimate son of James Douglas, Robert the Bruce’s most loyal  follower. The people of Galloway were not loyal to Robert the Bruce, they supported his rival John Balliol and then his son Edward. Even after Edward Balliol died in 1365, the Gaelic speaking kindreds or clans of Galloway- the McDowalls, the McCullochs and the McLellans - were still hostile to Bruce’s son King David II. The year after Edward Balliol died, King David proposed gifting the Lordship of Galloway to John of Gaunt, one of the English king Edward III’s sons, but was talked out of it.

What David did do was make Archibald the Grim warden of the West March of the Scottish border. In 1369, David is supposed to have gifted Archibald all the lands between the Nith and the Cree but I think Archibald grabbed the Stewartry first and then got David to make it legal. In 1372 Archibald bought Wigtownshire from the earl of Wigtown for £500 and re-established the Lordship of Galloway.

In 1325, Robert the Bruce had granted the castle and barony of Buittle to James Douglas and it was still owned by the Douglases of Morton. Archibald therefore decided to build a new castle on Threave island. It was a good defensible site surrounded by good farmland.

The river was also a source of food for the castle. In 1706, William Maxwell, earl of Nithsdale sold  the lands of Kelton, now Threave estate to a Dumfries merchant,  but although the castle was a ruin, he kept it because it gave him the valuable fishing rights for a large section of the Dee. Ownership of the castle also gave the earl the right every autumn to demand a nice fat cow or bull from each of the 28 parishes in the Stewartry.

From this period we also have rental rolls  and charters which give the names of individual farms and sometimes their tenants. In Buittle most of the farms have Gaelic names. There is a boundary between Kelton and Buittle parishes at the Cuckoo bridge on the Gelston road. The stream there is the parish boundary and on the Kelton side the farm is Whitepark and on the Buittle side it is Cuil. Cuil means corner in Gaelic and it is in the corner of Buittle parish.

Whitepark is Scots and, if we compare it with Blackpark on the other side of the town, which takes its name from the dark peaty soil which is turned over by ploughing,  its name would come from the thinner paler soil seen when the higher ground Whitepark sits on was ploughed. Whitepark was part of Kelton grange, now Kelton Mains along with Midkelton and Nether Kelton which is now Halmyre and Carlingwark. Carlin is a Scots word which can either mean an old woman or a witch. On the other side of the Dee was Threave grange, which is now called Threave Mains. From these  Scots farm names we can see that Archibald settled Scots speakers in the lands around his castle.

Blackpark is in Crossmichael parish and all the farms in Crossmichael belonged to Lincluden abbey- which was originally a nunnery founded  in about 1160.  In  1389, Archibald the Grim got rid of the nuns and turned Lincluden into a collegiate church - where the monks had to pray for the souls of Archibald and his family.

In 1455 King James II besieged Threave castle and after it surrendered to him, he took control of all the Douglas lands in Galloway. In 1456 James had a list of all his new lands drawn up which included useful details - for example that the king’s oxen had been set to plough the lands of Kelton and that when harvested, the king’s oats were to be ground at the mill of Kelton.

Between the Iron Age and the Middle Ages oats had replaced wheat as the staple crop alongside barley which continued to be grown. A big heavy wooden plough drawn by six or 8 oxen had also been introduced. We don’t know exactly when and how this change occurred, but it was probably around the time that Fergus of Galloway rose to power. Fergus introduced Cistercian monks to Dundrennan in 1142  and the Cistercians were renowned as agricultural improvers in the early Middle Ages.

If the heavy plough and the cultivation of oats were introduced to Galloway at the same time, food production in Galloway would have increased, generating wealth and power for Fergus and his descendants. Archibald the Grim and the Douglas lords of Galloway would also have benefited. Of the Douglas lands in Galloway taken over by James II in 1455, the densest cluster lies between the Urr and the Dee with another cluster around Wigtown in the Machars, several of which were also arable grange lands.

In the Castle Douglas area records from the 16th and 17th century show that the farms were arable farms, ploughed by teams of oxen and producing oats and barley. This medieval system survived well into the 18th century.

Then in 1765 it all starts to change.

After the Reformation, in  1587, the Gordons of Kenmure managed to get a hold of all the farms in Crossmichael parish which had belonged to Lincluden. These included Greenlaw where there was an old tower house on the banks of the Dee. In the 1680s the Gordons would live there in the summer, transporting their furniture by boat down from Kenmure castle.

By  1740s the lands of Greenlaw were still owned by a branch of the Gordon family and included the new but only partly built mansion house of Greenlaw. Alexander Gordon of Greenlaw was born in 1748 and lived to the ripe old age of 82.

 In 1765, when a canal was cut from Carlingwark Hill to the river Dee Alexander  would have been only 17, so it was probably not entirely his idea. In 1766 or 1767 a cut was made through Carlingwark Hill to increase the water supply to the canal and partly drain the loch. This made it easier to get at the beds of shell marl which lay beneath the loch.

Shell marl is a type of clay enriched with lime by several thousand years worth of fresh water snail shells- and no doubt fish bones.

Applied to the land, shell marl neutralises the acid in acid soils which improves fertility. Shell marl dug out of mosses and small lochs was already being used by improving landowners in the Stewartry. In other areas, like Nithsdale, lime was used but there is very little limestone in the Stewartry.  Along the coast, sea shells from the sea shore were used to improve the soil.

However, because there were only tracks rather than proper roads in the Stewartry -apart from the newly built Military Road, it was difficult and expensive to transport the shell marl. The canal solved this problem, making it easier to improve Alexander Gordon’s lands. Once a shallow section of the river below Glenlochar had been by-passed by another short section of canal, the marl could be carried on barges all the way up to New Galloway and the Boatpool of Dalry and sold to farmers in the Glenkens.

By the 1790s, travellers through Galloway were commenting on how the area around Castle Douglas stood out for the quality of its farms and the richness of its crops. Soon afterwards though, the canal and the marl workings in the loch fell out of use. By then, a whole network of new and improved roads had been built, linking Castle Douglas with the ports of Kirkcudbright and Palnackie and with Nithdsale. The new roads allowed fertiliser made directly from limestone to be brought in by the cart load making shell marl redundant.

Before the new roads were built, Alexander Gordon’s marl workings were kept very busy and a constant stream of barges were in use, some of which could carry 25 tons of marl.  To house his workers, Alexander Gordon had a village of about 100 houses built, strung out along the new Military Road. In 1786 Gordon decided to sell Carlingwark loch and its marl workings along with the village. He had a map drawn up, showing the loch and the village. The next year Gordon tried to sell Carlingwark to
William Cunningham, a wealth Glasgow tobacco lord who had just bought Duchrae- now Hensol- estate. Cunninghame was not interested, but in 1788 another wealth merchant, William Douglas- was. He bought Gordon’s village and the loch for £2000.

William Douglas, the founder of Castle Douglas, does not seem to have been very interested in agricultural improvement, but his new town benefited from the work of landowners who were. The Napoleonic Wars also helped by driving up the price of food. High food prices encouraged further improvement of the land, sweeping away the last vestiges of the medieval farmed landscape. Cast iron ploughs pulled by horses replaced the last teams of oxen and their old wooden ploughs. Tile drains were introduced to help drain the fields so the old raised rigs which had been built up to keep the crops dry could be levelled.

Before Sir William Douglas died in 1809, a turnpike road had been built to replace the Military Road. This became the A 75 which until the 1980s twisted and turned across the countryside. The twists and turns were need to make the road as level as possible for horse drawn carts and coaches. Other new and improved  roads connected Castle Douglas to Ayr and Dalbeattie as well as Kirkcudbright and the surrounding countryside.

By the 1840s, Castle Douglas had weekly livestock sales on the Market Hill, an important post office several banks and many ‘remarkably elegant and well furnished shops’.  William Douglas had set up a cotton weaving factory in the town, but the weaving was all done by hand. By  1831, when power-loom weaving took over from hand-loom weaving, the factory had closed.  From then on the town would depend on farming and agriculture as the source of its prosperity.

The next big change to happen was the rise of dairy farming. In 1845, laws which had kept up the price of cereal crops since the end of the Napoleonic Wars were finally repealed. This encouraged a shift towards dairy farming. This had already begun before the a railway from Dumfries reached Castle Douglas in 1859. The railway was extended to Stranraer in 1861 and Kirkcudbright in 1864. Instead of having to be turned into cheese or butter, fresh milk from the farms around Castle Douglas could be sent by rail to large towns and cities.

For centuries, the farms in the Castle Douglas area had been more or less self-sufficient for most of their needs but as farms became more and more specialised the families of the farmers and their workers need to buy the clothes, tools, beer and food they had once produced for themselves. Farm buildings were no longer made of wood with turf or thatched roofs and home made furniture became a thing of the past.

The shops and businesses based in Castle Douglas grew and developed to meet these new needs. Although individual business have come and gone, there are still bankers, doctors, tailors, joiners, painters, cabinet makers, solicitors and innkeepers in the town as there were in 1840. One change which my mother has observed since she moved to Castle Douglas to teach domestic science in 1954 is the loss of the many grocers’ shops which have been replaced by supermarkets.

Altogether she and her friends have given me a list of ten grocers shops. They were busiest on Mondays when the farmers would come into the market  in their cars along with their wives. The wives  would then  place their orders for a week’s supplies at one of the grocers. When the market was over, supplies would be collected  and put the car for the journey home.

Forty years earlier there were no cars so similar shopping and market trips were made by horse and cart. Farmers from above the town would show of their best horses by parading down King Street to the stables at the back of the Douglas Arms, while farmers from below the town would parade up the street to the stables behind the Crown or the Imperial.

On Saturdays the shops would stay open until eleven o’clock so the farm workers and their wives could do their shopping. My great uncle Bob Livingston’s first job was working for one of the grocer’s shops. Once an order had been made up he would take the box of groceries round to one of the stables and put it in the  farm cart. The tradition of late night opening ended during the First War when, as a way to save oil and gas, shops were not allowed to be illuminated after five pm.

I have a list of the ten grocer’s shops.

Note: the modern locations are roughly where the grocer's shops were. For discussion of more precise locations see https://www.facebook.com/groups/196338190426226/permalink/1534985369894828/

1 Halls -this was above the Imperial on King Street, perhaps where G M Thompson is now.
2. Stevensons, which I can remember- that was where Sunsrise is now.
3. Coopers, previously called Hornels  was where one of the Gowans shops is now,.
4. There was a Co-op roughly where Stepping Out is now. About 1991 the Co-op  moved to Cotton Street, taking over the site of Wallace’s Foundry- then moving to the site of Derby’s Feedmill
and Wilko’s took over the Wallace’s site.
5. Lipton’s was where Designs is now.
6. Smith’s is where Coral is now, previously Victorian Wines.
7. Oliver’s was where the Jade Palace is now.
8. Across the road on the corner with St Andrew street and now part of the Douglas Arms was McMeekin’s
9. McKeand’s was on St Andrew Street where the cycle shop is  now.
10. Hays- this  was next to the Town Hall.

 I think by the late-1960s most of these grocers had gone, since I can only remember a few of them. On the other hand my strongest memory from the 1960s is being very angry with Dr Beeching for closing the railway.

18 years ago I  made a list of all the businesses trading in Castle Douglas. It came to over 200 of which I reckoned about 50 were ‘food related’ - including the Sulwath Brewery which had just opened for example. At that time the abattoir on Cotton Street had just closed. The next year there was a proposal to re-open it - I think by Buccleuch Scotch Beef. This was opposed by some of the residents of Cotton Street so I wrote a letter to the Galloway News suggesting that the abattoir could be moved out to the Abercromby Road Industrial Estate which could be promoted as a ‘Food Park’ where food was produced and processed.

Castle Douglas could then be promoted as a ‘Food Town’ selling and using locally produced food. The idea was that the traditional shops in Castle Douglas attract thousands of visitors every year. The same tourists would also visit Threave castle for its history and Threave estate for its wildlife. My idea was to find ways to make  links between the history and scenic attraction of the countryside around Castle Douglas with the food produced within that  landscape.

Back then I did not know as much about the history of the Castle Douglas area as I do now. Tonight I have skimmed through a lot of history but what I hope has come across is that  the Castle Douglas area has been shaped by ability of its inhabitants to harness the wealth and power which grows out of the land. That Castle Douglas is a town built on food.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

transition transmission

Clifford Harper's cover for Undercurrents 20, 1977

I am giving a talk about the Galloway Levellers in October. For most people who know about them, their uprising was against the enclosure of the land and the clearance of the people (sometimes called peasants)  who had lived on the land for generations.

Although Marx didn’t mention the Galloway Levellers  in ‘Capital’ he explains the emergence of capitalism through a discussion of clearance and enclosure in 16th century England. He then throws in the Highland Clearances as a more recent example of the process.

The argument is that the first capitalists were landowners who created their capital by modernising farming to increase output from the land. The extra food produced could then be sold in the market at a profit. But to do this they had to get rid of the  peasants who were farming for self-sufficiency (= subsistence) not to produce a surplus for the market.

The capital created was then used to build factories which employed the peasants driven off the land. This could be done  cheaply,  since without access to land the dispossessed peasants now had the choice between working in factories or starving. They now had to buy  food they had previously grown for themselves.

The peasants became the proletariat, generating huge profits for the new industrial capitalists who replaced the feudal landowning elite as the new ruling class.

But the new system was not stable. The logic of capitalism is competition which forces capitalists to keep finding ways to produce more commodities more cheaply. Over time this would drive down wages to the point where the proletariat would have to choose between starvation or revolution.

By ‘seizing the means of production’ -the factories- from the capitalists, the proletariat could liberate the immense productive power of industry for the benefit of the many not the few. The economic and social pyramid of power would be levelled and the wealth of society would be evenly distributed and humankind would finally be liberated from scarcity and oppression.

Some problems.
Firstly, the equation of enclosure with clearance only applies when arable land is converted to livestock pasture. This happened in 16th century England when the wool industry was profitable, in early 18th century  Galloway when the cattle trade was profitable and again late 18th/ early 19th century in the Highlands when the land was cleared to create sheep farms.

But the big change which happened in 17th and 18th century England and later 18th century Scotland was the improvement of arable farming. This was a major change and did involve enclosures, but arable farming  was labour intensive. It did not involve mass evictions and clearance from the land- it relied on farm workers staying on the land.

This agricultural revolution increased output of food crops crops. The increase in food production led to an increase in the rural population- people who are better fed have children who are stronger and so infant mortality decreases while adults live longer, healthier lives. But as the rural population increased there were more people than needed to work the new improved farms. This drove wages down which encouraged young people to move from the countryside to the cities where wages were higher. In England this was one of the process which drove the growth of London.

Since the agricultural revolution came before the industrial revolution, the workers in the new factories came overwhelmingly from the surplus rural population, not from people cleared off the land by enclosures.  

Evidence from Wales shows that rural wages were higher in areas closest to the iron/coal districts where farmers had to compete with the wages paid to industrial workers. Further out, rural wages were lower. This created a gradual movement of rural workers towards the industrial districts via the higher wage rural areas. There was no need to force the Welsh ‘peasants’ off the land, they moved off the land in pursuit of higher wages.

Farm wages close to cities were also higher than in more distant rural areas, so a similar process occurred. People did not always move directly to the cities, but first moved from lower to higher farm wage areas before making the final move into the cities.

The Importance of coal.

During the 16th to 18th centuries  in England and the  18th century in Scotland, coal became a substitute for wood in many industrial process and for domestic heating. This was important because without the use of coal a shortage of wood would have choked pre-industrial economic growth. London, as a major example, relied on coal shipped by sea from Newcastle. Between 1600 and 1700 London grew from 200 000 to 600 000, overtaking Paris as the largest city in Europe in the 18th century, reaching 1 million in 1801.

The growth of London is significant because it stimulated the development of what was to become capitalism. Landowners around London found it was worthwhile to improve production -using methods developed by the Dutch - to feed the city.

London as a market even had an effect as far away as Galloway. In 1667 the English parliament banned the import of cattle from Ireland wich was running at about 60 000/ year. Of these 10 000 reached England from Ulster via Galloway (short sea crossing). Landowners in Galloway took advantage of the ban to start selling cattle from Galloway to England in the 1670s. Some of the landowners became capitalists by re-investing the profits from cattle sales to England to buy or lease more land to produce more cattle. Others cheated by smuggling in Irish cattle and passing them off as Scottish…

 Brick-making, glass-making, brewing and salt-making all shifted from using wood as fuel to using coal. Greater demand for coal led to two problems. Mines became deeper so water had to be pumped out. This led to the use of the first (atmospheric) steam engines. Around Newcastle the early mines close to the river Tyne became worked out. The new mines were further from the river so wooden rail roads were built to carry the coal from the mines to the ships.

Until about 1750, charcoal was used to smelt iron, but it then became cheaper to use coke instead of charcoal. By 1780 Watt’s improved steam engine was in use- it used less coal than previous steam engines but that made it more attractive as a source of power for pumping water, providing the blast for iron furnaces and -by 1800-  working cotton spinning mills. Steam powered ships and railway locomotives were developed over the next 25 years.

In 1700 the UK was producing   2.7 million tons of coal/year.
In 1750 the UK was producing   4.7 million tons of coal/year.
In 1800 the UK was producing  10.0 million tons of coal/year.
In 1850 the UK was producing  50.0 million tons of coal/year.
In 1900 the UK was producing 250.0 million tons of coal/year.

By 1860, if wood had been used as fuel in the UK instead of coal an area of 25 million acres of forest would have been needed, equal to the entire area of farmland in England.

The transition of the UK from a rural/ agricultural traditional economy to an industrial/urban capitalist economy would have been impossible without coal. No coal = no capitalism.

Economists like Adam Smith writing in the mid 18th century expected the agricultural revolution to produce economic growth which would stimulate industrial/ manufacturing growth.

But they expected this growth to tail away leading to ‘the stationary state’- the end of economic and population growth.

They did not expect and could not imagine the economic growth which took place in the 19th and 20th centuries and which is only slowly ending in the 21st.

This was because they believed that land was the foundation of the economy. The land produced food from arable crops and livestock, but also timber for fuel and building. Clothing  also came from the land  as wool from sheep, linen from flax and leather from animal hides. The land produced fodder for horses which ploughed the soil and transported people and goods.  

The land could be improved, could produce more, but there was an economic limit to improvement. This would happen when the cost of improving and maintaining the productive capacity of marginal/ poor quality land was greater than the value of what that land produced. This ‘law of diminishing returns’ was a limit on economic growth. As return on investment in improvement diminished, so the stationary state came closer.

This actually happened in Galloway. The population grew through the 18th century and early 19th century but then peaked in 1851. By then all the good quality lowland land had been improved, leaving only the poor quality uplands which were given over to sheep farming. The local industrial revolution did not progress beyond the water powered  cotton mill stage. Significantly there is no coal in Galloway.

In central Scotland where there was coal, the population continued to grow through the 19th century. In central Scotland the cotton industry moved from water to steam power. Central Scotland also had coal and iron ore and so developed as an industrial region.

From a more modern perspective, the limit on the growth of pre-industrial economies was the amount of energy from the sun that plants could photosynthesise. 18th century improvement could  maximise this ‘solar harvest’ but not move beyond it. Coal is the product of millions of years of photosynthesis, a huge store of solar energy. It was this massive reserve of stored energy which powered the industrial revolution, breaking through the limits to growth.

Continuous economic growth fuelled by coal allowed the new capitalist class to buy off the proletariat through higher wages. It also allowed the UK to pay for food imports from other countries, exchanging iron for wheat. The percentage of workers on the land could be reduced without the country starving.

The global transition to fossil fuels.

In 1851 a ‘Great Exhibition’ was held in Hyde Park in London. It was huge celebration. Six million people, equal to a third of the British population, visited the Exhibition. In 1851, the  UK was the only industrial power in the world. It was a free trade state, with no import barriers- but it didn’t need any since there were no industrial competitors. Instead the UK exported manufactured goods and imported food and raw materials from around the world.

The Exhibition was huge success, but there were some background worries.  The UK did not just export finished goods. It also exported machinery for making those goods- like cotton spinning machines. It also sold steam engines and railway engines along with railway building materials. Some people wondered if other countries might begin to catch up with Britain.

The development of railway networks in countries with coal and iron ore was the key factor in the spread of industrialisation and industrial capitalism. By the 1890s, Germany and the USA had caught up with the UK and by the beginning of WW1 then overtook the UK in a key industry- steel. Germany was also ahead in the chemical and electrical industries. Mass production of automobiles started in the USA in 1908 with the model T Ford.

The global trade network pioneered by the UK in the 19th century extended beyond the British Empire. The first railway was built in Argentina in 1855 and railways encouraged the growth of agriculture, mainly beef and wheat, which were then exported. Japan’s industrialisation benefited from the disruption of British cotton exports in WW1, allowing the Japanese to sell their cotton to India and China. Even within the Empire, the disruption of trade during WW1 encouraged industrial growth. The first Tata steel works opened in India in 1914.

After WW1, the UK struggled to rebuild the trade it had lost. The UK cotton industry which had led the industrial revolution entered a decline which it was never to recover from. As a sign of things to come, in 1929 the Scottish steel industry, which had relied on ship-building as its main market, was in crisis. There was a plan to build a new modern steel works to replace the Victorian ones. The Tata company suggested an alternative. They could supply Scottish steel makers with 100 000 tons/year of Indian pig iron more cheaply than it could be produced in Scotland. The offer was not taken up but by 1930 India was producing 1 million tons of pig iron every year.

The economic depression of the 1930s followed by a second world war disrupted global trade. After the war, although the UK economy recovered in the 1950s, the USA was now the dominant capitalist power. The American’s fear of communism saw them support the rebuilding of west Germany and Japan as major industrial powers. The resulting surge in post-war global economic growth ended in 1974.

The post-war global economy had been built on cheap oil rather than coal. The cheapest oil came from Arab countries in the Middle East. In October 1973 a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria attacked Israel. The USA supported Israel and in response  Arab oil producing countries cut oil supplies to the USA and its allies- including the UK and Japan. By 1974 the price of oil had jumped from $3/barrel to $9/barrel, triggering an economic crisis, despite the cuts being reversed in March 1974. Then the 1979 Iranian revolution and the 1980 Iran-Iraq war pushed oil prices even higher to $38/barrel.

This had two consequences. One was the political and economic shift to neoliberalism. This used the increase in inflation which followed the rise in oil prices to push through policies which reduced the power of organised labour in manufacturing industries  through mass unemployment. Although oil prices began to fall again through the 1980s as increasing supplies of oil from the North Sea, Mexico, Nigeria, Venezuela and Russia became available, this cheaper oil was used to cut transport costs from factories set up in low-wage countries rather than revive manufacturing in the UK and USA.

By 1998, adjusted for inflation, the oil price was lower than it had been since 1946. In the 1990s, the collapse of communism opened up new cheap sources of labour in eastern Europe and China. Through the 1990s and into the 21st century a new global market economy emerged. This was in some ways a reverse image of the global economy which had existed 100 years earlier, with China and India among the countries supplying a de-industrialised UK with manufactured goods.

The resulting neoliberal boom was unsustainable. The destruction of organised labour and the loss of manufacturing jobs in the older industrial economies kept wages low. To keep the globalised economy going, consumers were encouraged into debt. There were also worries that the increase in oil production, which along with coal, was fuelling the boom, would exhaust supplies of easily accessible oil. Oil prices would then rise choking off growth.

Oil prices did rise by 500% between 1998 and 2008 when the price of oil was higher than it had been in 1980. This triggered a global banking crisis and the price of oil fell rapidly.

The second consequence of the 1973/4 oil crisis was to encourage a proto-green movement -the radical or alternative technology movement. While governments promoted nuclear power as an alternative to dependence on oil and coal, the radical technologists favoured renewable sources of energy- hydro, wind and solar power. They supported a shift away from industrialised farming since it relied heavily on oil derived fertilisers and the internal combustion engine. They also supported a shift towards worker co-operatives and industrial democracy along with a shift to ‘socially useful’ production of goods and services.


 The radical technology movement was part of a wider ‘utopian’ cultural /political movement which emerged in the 1960s and expanded in the 1970s. The rightward shift under Thatcher in the UK first checked the expansion of this movement and then attempted to reverse it.

This had an effect on the radical technology movement even where, with wind power for example, the technology continued to improve. In the early 1990s, Margaret Thatcher’s former press secretary Bernard Ingham was a paid  supporter of nuclear power. Wind turbines were a cheaper and greener alternative to nuclear, so in 1992 Ingham helped set up an anti wind-farm protest group called Country Guardian and became its chair.

With support in the right wing press and linked to climate change denial, the anti-wind power groups have helped frustrate and delay the essential transition to a post-fossil fuel future.

The transition movement did not emerge directly from the radical technology movement. Rather it has emerged out of the permaculture movement which began in Australia in the 1970s. In 2004 permaculturalist Rob Hopkins became aware of ‘peak oil’ and began looking at ways for communities to make the transition to a sustainable, post-oil, future. The aim is for communities- towns and villages- to maximise their self-sufficiency through encouraging local food production, recycling and generally reducing reliance on long supply chains.

If, however, it is now accepted that climate change rather than peak oil is the future, then the limitations of the transition movement become apparent. Local production for local consumption is a necessary step, but if that exists side by side with business as usual outside the transition towns or even transition regions, the positive local outcomes will be overwhelmed by the impact of global changes. The transition to a post-carbon future must be a combination of national and international level changes. For example, even localised food production will be at risk from extreme weather events such as flooding or a prolonged drought.

In the UK and especially Scotland, the concentration of the population in former industrial districts makes it difficult if not impossible to achieve localised self-sufficiency in food. In pre-industrial Scotland, the staple cereal crop was oats since wheat was difficult to grow in most parts of the country. Bread made from wheat was a luxury which only the rich could afford. A return to an oat based diet would help reduce Scotland’s carbon footprint, but would also require a major cultural shift.

This takes us to the underlying problem. The transition to a  carbon-neutral future is possible in theory, but very difficult in practice. It would be very difficult to make the transition without it being seen as a regression to the pre-industrial past or at least a permanent commitment to a ‘wartime’ economy where everything has to be rationed- including bread made from wheat…

Rationing and other limitations are accepted in wartime as temporary measures necessary for national survival. Neither peak oil nor climate change are such obvious threats to national survival as the German U-boats of world wars 1 and 2.  The transition movement  must therefore rely on the willingness of individuals to voluntarily ‘ration’ their consumption of goods and services.

If adopted widely, the focus on local production for local consumption would remove the mass market for mass manufactured goods. There would be a reversion to the pre-industrial economy which remove the voluntary aspect of transition. All that would be available would be food and goods which could be produced locally. Something similar occurred in the fifth century after the collapse of the Roman empire. In England the archaeology of this transition is marked by the absence of mass produced wheel-thrown Roman style  pottery and its replacement by varieties of locally produced and cruder hand made pottery.

What eventually replaced the Roman empire in Europe was feudalism. In the Marxist model of history, feudalism was in turn displaced by industrial capitalism which in turn will give way to socialism as part of the transition to communism. This progressive movement assumes that the benefits of industrialisation will be conserved, but equally distributed rather than concentrated in the hands of a ruling capitalist elite. That there will be abundance rather than scarcity.  

From a Marxist perspective, the transition movement is seen as capitalism with a green face, an attempt by the ruling class to re-introduce ‘scarcity’, thus imposing another obstacle for the proletariat in their attempt to secure the fruits of their labour.

To the extent that the transition movement was a response to fears of ‘peak oil’, this is a justifiable criticism. Climate change, however, is a different matter. Regardless of who controls the ’means of production’, if the ’energy of production’ is a fossil fuel, then there will be a contribution to global warming and climate change.

Any communist society will therefore have to immediately revolutionise the means of production, substituting renewable for fossil fuel energy as a power source. Failure to do so will condemn the new communist society to a future of scarcity and potential starvation. Unfortunately, unless a communist society emerges within the next 5 to 10 years, the opportunity to avoid a future of scarcity and probable starvation will have been lost.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Galloway Hoard: Demanding the Impossible

A Viking stronghold beside a river.

Was there ever any possibility that the Viking Hoard found in Galloway in 2014 would be allocated to the region?

To answer that question I have been looking at the way in which archaeological finds are allocated. I found that in early 2003, a review of allocations policy was published. The then Scottish Executive produced a response to the review. This stated very clearly that:

The National Museum of Scotland was established and is funded to fulfil a national function. Finds of international or national importance should be kept intact and offered to the NMS in the first instance. In other cases, the presumption will be that the find will be offered to the local museum. 

However, in 2004 the Scottish Executive produced a second  response. Regarding allocations policy this stated that ‘Finds of national or international importance should not simply be offered to NMS in the first instance.’

In 2008 a Code of Practice was produced by the Treasure Trove Unit which is based in the National Museum. The section on allocations states that the ‘overarching priority’ will be for finds to be offered to local museums.

But for finds of national importance, a footnote says that:

The role of National Museums Scotland  will be taken into account in considering allocations of nationally important material for which NMS has made an application. NMS will be required to demonstrate fully that there are clear advantages, in serving the national interest, in allocating a find to the NMS rather than to another institution.

Local museums are not ‘established and funded to fulfil a national function’. That is the role of the National Museum. In competition with the National Museum for a find of national importance, a local museum would have to demonstrate even more fully and clearly why local allocation would serve the national interest better than an allocation to the National Museum.

Within the framework of the Code of Practice, this is impossible. In which case, as soon as the National Museum made an application for the Galloway Hoard, the application by Dumfries and Galloway Council should have been ruled out.

If it had though, this would mean an effective return to the 2003 proposal that ‘Finds of international or national importance should be kept intact and offered to the NMS in the first instance.’ Which was then rejected, even by the NMS itself, in 2004.

As it stands then, the allocations section of the Treasure Trove Unit Code of Practice is misleading. It appears to give local applications for finds priority, but, in the small print of a footnote, finds of national importance which the National Museum is interested in are treated as a special case.

Two recent letters on the Galloway Hoard, based on above.

Letter published in Stranraer and Wigtown Free Press 24 May 2017

Letter published in Galloway Gazette 25 May 2017 

Galloway Viking Hoard Culture Committee 25 May

Watch from 27 minutes to 35 minutes

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Galloway Viking Hoard -a footnote to failure

From the 2016 Treasure Trove Code of Practice

First, an apology. The following is a pretty dense and complex post which looks in minute detail at the reasons why-as I conclude- there was never any chance that the Galloway Viking Hoard would be allocated to the new Art Gallery in Kirkcudbright rather than the National Museum in Edinburgh.

What I have found is that tucked away in a footnote to the guidelines the archaeological finds Allocations panel had to follow is a ’national interest’ clause which kicks in when the Panel have to decide where to allocate finds of ‘national importance’ which the National Museum has staked a claim to.

Digging through the digital archives, I found that in 2003, the Scottish Executive (as it was then called) had proposed that any find of national importance should be first offered to the National Museum-

The NMS was established and is funded to fulfil a national function. Finds of international or national importance should be kept intact and offered to the NMS in the first instance. In other cases, the presumption will be that the find will be offered to the local museum.

But a year later this had been changed to ‘Finds of national or international importance should not simply be offered to NMS in the first instance.’ But what should happen instead was not explained.

In 2008 a Code of Practice was published which contained the guidelines for allocating finds. This boldly stated as an ’overarching priority’ that finds should be allocated locally. Then there was an ‘unless…’  which covered finds of national importance. Attached to ‘national interest’ was a footnote. The footnote effectively re-instated the 2003 proposal that the NMS should have first claim on finds of national importance.

The 2008 Code of Practice was revised in 2016, but the section on allocations, complete with explosive footnote, was unchanged.

What this reminds me of is an observation made by Dr (now Professor) Menski when I was in his class on ‘Ethnic Minorities and the Law’ at the School of Oriental African Studies 27 years ago. Dr Menski explained that when analysing legislation, it is important to get beyond the ‘headlines’.

The example he used was the English Education Reform Act (1988). This contained the requirement that all pupils at state school should attend a daily act of worship ‘wholly or mainly of a Christian character.’ Margaret Thatcher was prime minister then and was keen to promoted her Christian values. See http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/keeping-faith-in-the-system-1566889.html

But then, several dense paragraphs down, a subsequent clause said ’except where it is not appropriate for the requirement for Christian worship to apply.’ This allowed head teachers of schools in areas where a significant number of pupils were not from ’Christian’ families to opt out of the headline requirement.

Mrs Thatcher and her Cabinet colleagues were pleased that they had done their bit to promote Christianity, but never realised that the Act contained a ‘buried’ clause which negated their intentions.

Likewise, who ever drafted the allocations section of the 2008 Code of Practice managed to slip in a footnote which negated the ‘overarching priority’ apparently given to ‘enhancing local heritage interpretations’ by allocating archaeological finds locally.

Very clever. Not so clever is the fact that Dumfries and Galloway Council and the thousands of people who supported the Galloway Viking Hoard Campaign have wasted public funds (in the Council’s case) and much time and energy (in the Campaign’s case) in pursuit of an impossible outcome.

I could be wrong. There may have been some way in which the Galloway bid could have trumped the Edinburgh bid. But if there was, neither the Council nor the Campaign could find it.
Realistically, as soon as the hoard was found in 2014 and its national and international significance was recognised, there was no way that a request for allocation made by the National Museum of Scotland could be rejected if the Code of Practice was followed.

Note: I only discovered the 2003/ 2004 Scottish Executive Response to Treasure Trove Review documents half way through writing this.

The Doomed Pursuit of the Galloway Viking Hoard 

In March 2017, confirmed again in May, an Archaeological Allocations panel made the unanimous decision that a hoard of Viking era material found in a field in Galloway/ south west Scotland would be given to the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. A rival bid, which would have seen the hoard displayed in Kirkcudbright, near where it was found, was rejected.

1. Does this find meet any or all of the ‘national importance’ criteria?

1.1 Yes, the Galloway Hoard meets the criteria.

2. Has the National Museum of Scotland made an application for the Galloway Hoard?

2.2 Yes, it has.

3. Can the National Museum of Scotland “demonstrate fully that there are clear advantages, in serving the national interest, in allocating a find to the NMS rather than to another institution”?

3.1 Given the outcome of the process, the answer is must be ‘Yes’.

Problem Number One
Details of the bids made, which would include the NMS’  demonstration of ‘clear advantages, serving the national interest’   and the Allocations panel’s reasons for accepting the NMS bid have not been made public.

It might be possible to challenge this secrecy on the  principal of ‘procedural fairness’.  This is one of the criteria listed by the a 2016 Scottish parliament briefing as potential grounds for a Judicial Review.

Judicial review is the process by which a court reviews a decision, act or failure to act by a public body or other official decision maker. It is only available where other effective remedies have been exhausted and where there is a recognised ground of challenge.

Duty to give reasons (page 26 of above)
Statutes often require that decisions made under them should be supported by reasons. It is often said that, statutory requirement apart, there is no general duty to provide reasoned decisions. However, as Munro observes (2007, para 14.30) developments in this area have been such that the sum of exceptions to the general principle probably outweighs the principle itself. Generally speaking, the more important or fundamental the nature of the individual’s right or interest in question, the more likely the principle of procedural fairness will require reasons to
be given. 

Problem Number Two
More seriously, could the process of allocation have been biased in the National Museum of Scotland’s favour?

Rule against bias (page 25)
No-one may be the judge of his or her own cause. This strikes at decision making where the decision maker is connected with the party to the dispute or the subject matter of it. In this context, justice should not only be done, but should be seen to be done. Consequently, appearance of bias may be as relevant as actual bias (as well as being more common).

The Allocations Panel (SAFAP) is linked to the Treasure Trove Unit which is based at the National Museum of Scotland. They are funded by the Scottish government via the National Museum

10. The operational expenses of the SAFAP and TTU comprise mainly staff costs and Administration costs which amounted to around £80,000. These costs are met by grant-in-aid from the Scottish Government to the National Museums of Scotland, which houses the TTU. (page 14 on link

The key question is - was the NMS involved in drafting the Treasure Trove Unit’s Code of Practice? In particular, was there NMS input in to the section which cover the Allocations panel? [See below]

And of absolutely critical importance, did the National Museum have any involvement in the drafting of this section?

Footnote 5  The role of National Museums Scotland (NMS) will be taken into account in considering allocations of nationally important material for which NMS has made an application. NMS will be required to demonstrate fully that there are clear advantages, in serving the national interest, in allocating a find to the NMS rather than to another institution.

Effectively, for the Hoard to have had any chance of being allocated to Dumfries and Galloway, their ‘local’ bid would have  had to demonstrate that it could  better ‘serve the national interest’ than the NMS bid.

Note:- trying to answer my own questions I have found that in 2002 a Review of Treasure Trove Arrangements in Scotland was carried out, published in 2003. Chapter 6 paragraphs 6.28 to 6.49 discussed allocations policy in depth.

The then Scottish Executive responded  in October 2003 and then again in November 2004. The relevant part of the 2003 Response stated that finds of national importance should first be offered to the NMS.

The NMS was established and is funded to fulfil a national function. Finds of international or national importance should be kept intact and offered to the NMS in the first instance. In other cases, the presumption will be that the find will be offered to the local museum. As part of its national role, the NMS will look for opportunities to work collaboratively with local museums, providing support and advice and loans of objects for exhibitions. 
 See http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2003/11/18314/27549

But in the November 2004 response, this had been changed to read-

Finds of national or international importance should not simply be offered to NMS in the first instance. This view was strongly expressed in the responses, including that from NMS.
See http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2005/01/20480/49406 

Unfortunately I cannot find the ‘strongly expressed’ responses, but there was clearly resistance to offering finds of national importance directly to the National Museum.

Then in 2008 a Treasure Trove Code of Practice was published. Appendix L of the Code of Practice, which covered criteria for contested applications is word for word the same as Appendix M in the current (2016) Code of Practice. What is now Footnote 5 is Footnote 4 in the 2008 Code of Practice.

There are only 4 footnotes in the 2008 Code of Practice and 5 in the 2016 Code of Practice. In both versions, the other footnotes are one line references to publications.  The footnote in question is therefore an anomaly. Including its contents directly in the text would have made the section on allocations criteria much clearer.

Looking at the difference between the 2003 Scottish Executive Response and the 2004 Response, the footnote has the effect of restoring the ‘national importance/ National Museum, first refusal’ link present in 2003 but banished in 2004.

Was there ever any possibility that Dumfries and Galloway Council’s attempt to have the Galloway Hoard allocated the new Kirkcudbright Art Gallery would succeed?

The short answer is no.

Why, then, did Dumfries and Galloway Council devote so much money, time and energy in pursuit of a different outcome?

From the discussion above regarding the origin of Footnote 5, the problem is that there is a contradiction within the Allocations policy. Originally, in 2003 the then Scottish Executive proposed a straightforward policy where finds of national importance would automatically be first offered to the NMS.

This proposal met with opposition, so it was dropped in 2004. But in 2008 it was effectively re-instated, but surreptitiously in the form of a footnote, not as part of the main body of the text.

If it had been included as part of the main text in the 2008 Code of Practice and again in the 2016 Code of Practice, it would have been much more obvious to Dumfries and Galloway Council that it would not be possible to contest the allocation of the Galloway Hoard once the NMS had indicated its desire to acquire the Hoard.

Indeed, it is impossible to see how any local/regional museum could counter the ‘serving the national interest’ clause buried in the footnote. As the original Scottish Executive Response stated
“The NMS was established and is funded to fulfil a national function.” No other museum can make this claim.

This raises a final question. The Treasure Trove Unit have know since summer 2015 that Dumfries and Galloway Council intended to apply for the Galloway Hoard to be allocated to the Kirkcudbright Art Gallery.

The Treasure Trove Unit should have informed the Council that unless Dumfries and Galloway could demonstrate that the national interest would be better served by an allocation to the region rather than to the National Museum in Edinburgh, their bid would fail.

This did not happen. As a result public funds were ‘misused’ in support of a bid which had no realistic or reasonable chance of success. Likewise the Galloway Viking Hoard Campaign was doomed to failure even before it had begun.

Appendix - the relevant section of the current Code of Practice

Appendix M: Criteria for allocation in the event of multiple applications
Criteria for the allocation of Treasure Trove in the event of multiple
applications from accredited museums

The overarching priority when allocating Treasure Trove is:
Enhancement of local heritage interpretations
There is a presumption that Crown-claimed material will be allocated locally unless a convincing argument for allocating it elsewhere is presented.

The other criteria (unranked) for allocation that must be considered in these circumstances are:

National importance (see footnote 5)

Material may be defined as being of national importance if any or all of these criteria is or are fulfilled:
 it is a rare or unique type in a Scottish context or part of an assemblage
containing such material; or
 it is of particularly high quality within its type; or
 it provides information of major significance (e.g. concerning the
methods used in its manufacture or the nature of its subsequent use)
not normally found on objects of its type; or
 the contextual information concerning the object or assemblage is of an
exceptional nature.

Footnote 5  The role of National Museums Scotland (NMS) will be taken into account in considering allocations of nationally important material for which NMS has made an application. NMS will be required to demonstrate fully that there are clear advantages, in serving the national interest, in allocating a find to the NMS rather than to another institution.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Dumfries and Galloway Viking Saga Trail

Vikings in the landscape and in history.

Map Key
1. Kilmorie Cross, Kirkcolm- Viking/ Christian carved cross.
2. Ruthwell Cross- Anglo-Saxon cross with runic inscription.
3. Nithsdale Cross- Anglo-Saxon cross and Viking grave nearby.
4. Whithorn- Irish (Dublin) Viking connection.
5. Trusty’s Hill- possible Viking/Pictish carved stone.
6. Threave- Iron Age, Roman, Viking, Viking-Gael, Medieval centre of power.
7. Kirkcudbright-Viking grave, Viking Hoard display
8. Annandale- Anglo-Saxon, Norman, Bruce family castle and lands.
9. Carrick-Viking-Gael, Bruce family lands
10. Buittle- Viking-Gael, Balliol family castle and lands.

From Kirkcolm in the Rhinns to Ruthwell in Annandale, the discovery of Dumfries and Galloway’s Viking Hoard has opened up a new perspective on the region’s rich and complex history.

Without the Vikings, the region may well have remained part of the Kingdom of Northumbria to be absorbed into Norman England in the eleventh century- as Annandale and Eskdale nearly were. Alternatively, the region might have been absorbed into a Dublin dominated Irish Sea Viking kingdom- as much of Wigtownshire briefly was.

Instead, by introducing Gaelic speakers to the region, the Vikings helped create a ‘Greater Galloway’ in the south-west. As this Viking-Gaelic region was absorbed into Scotland, the descendents of Fergus of Galloway and Robert de Brus of Annandale became entangled in a power struggle which lies at the heart of Scotland’s story.

Vikings in Kirkcudbright
The presence -in whole or part- of a Viking Hoard in Kirkcudbright will attract visitors to the town. As well as the hoard, the visitors to the new art gallery will discover a set of paintings. Many of these paintings reflect the landscape of Galloway as it was over 100 years ago.

Over the past 100 years the landscape has changed. The expansion of forestry in the uplands and the intensification of dairy farming in the lowlands have changed the appearance of the landscape as well as the lives of those who making their living from the land.

Go back over 1000 years and the difference between the landscape as it was then and as it is now becomes even greater. Only the boldest features -the coastline, the rivers and hills- would be familiar. The farmed landscape, the roads, villages and towns, marshes and even some lochs, would all have been very different.

However, dotted here and there across Galloway and Dumfries are a few fixed points around which the region’s history has revolved.

For example the Kilmorie Cross at Kirkcolm near Stranraer combines Christian and Norse mythological elements drawn from the story of Sigurd the dragon-slayer. It is dated to the tenth century and shows that Viking settlers in this area of rich fertile soils had become Christian. It is therefore a near contemporary of the Hoard.

Kilmorie Cross, Kirkcolm

In the east of the region at Ruthwell is an older cross, a product of the Northumbrian church. It also has a fragment of an Old English poem, ‘The Dream of the Rood’ carved in runes on it. This is of great historic significance.

Gauin doun the sides ther a poyem carved in runes in the Auld Angles leid. Cryed the Dream o the Rood (rood bein the auld word for cross) this is noo the auldest text in Auld-Angles that we ken belangs Scotland. It is fae this self an same Auld-Angles tongue that the Scots spoken the day in modren Scotland is sprung. [Centre for the Scots Leid]

Ruthwell Cross with runic inscription.

Close to Thornhill in Nithsdale there is another, later Northumbrian carved cross. At Carronbridge nearby, a Viking was buried with his sword a few yards from a Roman road. Was the Viking part of a raiding party? Possibly, but the sickle he was also buried with suggests a more settled lifestyle.

Nithsdale (Thornhill) Anglo-Saxon Cross

At Whithorn there Northumbrian bishops from Pehthelm in 730 to (possibly) Heathored in 833. The church at Whithorn was destroyed by fire around 850, probably the result of a Viking raid.

Northumbrian control of Galloway and Dumfriesshire was disrupted by the Vikings. However, until the discovery of the Galloway Hoard, direct signs of Viking power in the region were few and slight. These signs included a Viking grave found in Kirkcudbright and Dublin Viking style houses dated to the early eleventh century.

Few, if any, locations in Dumfries and Galloway share the historic depth - over 1500 years- of Whithorn as a continuously occupied settlement. More typical of the ebb and flow of the region’s history is Trusty’s Hill beside Gatehouse of Fleet. This hill fort is most famous for its Pictish carvings.

Recent careful analysis of the carvings has suggested that although inspired by Pictish symbols the images on the stone were not carved by Picts. One of the images (on right) shows , a ‘dragonesque’ creature pierced by a spiked object, might be the Norse Fafnir; a greedy dwarf who became a dragon and was killed by Sigurd.

Trusty’s Hill rock carving

Kilmorie, Ruthwell, Nithsdale, Whithorn and Trusty’s Hill are locations where there was and still is good quality farm land. Such fertile soils could produce a surplus of food, supporting the people who cultivated the land as well as their churches and rulers.

Place name evidence suggest that the Vikings, like the Northumbrians before them, did not extend their settlements beyond the lower parts of river valleys and the coastal fringe of Dumfries and Galloway. However, the Viking Hoard was found well beyond the areas identified as Scandinavian settlements by place name research.

On the other hand, not far from where the Hoard was found, the medieval castle of Threave still dominates the good quality farmland of Balmgahie, Kelton and Crossmichael parishes. Threave is from the Brittonic word ‘trev’, equivalent to the Scots ‘Mains’ meaning the home farm of an estate.

Threave Castle- Historic Environment Scotland

But there is nothing like the Kilmorie Cross at Threave, no imposing Northumbrian monuments, no mysterious rock carvings like those on Trusty’s Hill.

However, among the treasures of the National Museum are the Torrs Pony Cap and Carlingwark Cauldron. Along with the complex of Roman forts and marching camps at Glenlochar, they are signs that Threave was ‘a centre of paramount wealth and power’ 2000 years ago. The Romans built their forts at Glenlochar to control the area. Archibald the Grim followed the Romans when he chose Threave as the site for his new castle in 1370.

Glenlochar Roman fort

A Viking warlord setting up camp in the district would therefore have been able to draw on the long standing wealth of the land to feed himself and his followers. No centre of Northumbrian power in the district has been found, but the complex archaeology of the Hoard find site might contain evidence of such a power centre, taken over by Vikings.

The survival untouched of the Galloway Hoard for over 1000 years suggests its owner died elsewhere and never returned. Otherwise a Viking kingdom may have emerged in the lower Dee valley.

Wigtownshire did become part of a Viking kingdom. Its ruler was
Echmacarch Rognvaldsson, described as ‘King of the Rhinns (of Galloway)’when he died in 1165. Also known as Echmacarch mac Ragnaill, his Viking-Gaelic kingdom included Whithorn but not eastern Galloway. Echmacarch had previously been king of Dublin and the Isle of Man as well.

In 852 an Irish monk described a new group of warriors fighting in Ireland. These were the Gall-Ghaidheal. Gall, ‘foreigner‘ is the word the Irish used to mean Vikings. Ghaidheal means Gaelic-speaking. There are very few other mentions of these Viking-Gaels in Irish records. The last time they appear is in 1234 when the death of Alan of Galloway ‘ri Gall-Ghaidheal’- king of the Viking-Gaels - was recorded.

The Gall part of Galloway also means ‘Viking’. The first Viking-Gaelic king to rule all of Galloway was Alan’s great-grandfather Fergus who reigned between 1110 and 1160. Fergus’ kingdom was only the southern part of a Gaelic speaking ‘Greater Galloway’ which stretched north through Ayrshire into Renfrewshire and east through Nithsdale into Annandale.

The first district Fergus ruled was the lower Dee valley, either from Kirkcudbright or, more likely, from a fortified base on Threave island. Later Fergus’ kingdom grew westwards and northwards to include the fertile lands of the Rhinns, Machars and Fleet valley along with the livestock rearing and deer hunting districts of the upland districts including Carrick in south Ayrshire.

While Fergus was building his kingdom, King David I secured eastern Dumfriesshire for his Scottish kingdom in 1124 by granting Annandale to a Norman knight- Robert De Brus.

Annandale Charter 1124

Fergus had two sons, Gille-Brigte and Uhtred. After Fergus’ death in 1161, they ruled jointly until 1174 when Gille-Brigte had his brother gruesomely mutilated- blinded and castrated. Uhtred died of his wounds, allowing Gille-brigte to rule alone until his death in 1185.

Gille-Brigte’s grandson was Niall, Earl of Carrick. He had no male heirs so his daughter Marjorie inherited Carrick. Marjorie was the mother of Robert Bruce who became King of Scots in 1306.

Uhtred’s grandson Alan had no male heirs. His youngest daughter Devorgilla of Galloway was the mother of John Balliol who became King of Scots in 1292.

When King Robert I died in 1329, his infant son became King David II. But in 1332, King John Balliol’s son Edward seized the Scottish throne, triggering a renewal of the Scottish Wars of Independence. Edward Balliol died in 1367 and David II in 1371.

Remains of Buittle castle, Balliol stronghold.
Their deaths did not quite bring Dumfries and Galloway’s Viking saga to an end. King David II had been unable to control Galloway’s Viking-Gaelic clans- the McDowalls, McCullochs and Mclellan’s. Instead they transferred their loyalty to Archibald the Grim who revived Fergus’ kingdom as a new, Douglas, Lordship of Galloway.

This new lordship survived until 1455 when King James II finally secured Galloway and its Gaelic inhabitants for the Scottish Crown. By 1560, when John Knox preached the Reformation to the common people of Galloway and Nithsdale, he was able to do so in Scots and Bible English. 700 years of Viking-Gaelic heritage had finally and silently faded away.

Lands taken by James II in 1455 from last Lord of Galloway 

Monday, March 13, 2017

History and the Galloway Viking Hoard

The complex Norse/Christian symbolism
of the Kilmorie Cross from near Stranraer in Galloway .

Reblogged from http://www.gallowayvikinghoard.com/about/

The View from a Leading Scottish Historian

Ted Cowan FRSE, Emeritus Professor of Scottish History and Literature, formerly Director of the University of Glasgow’s Dumfries Campus
The Galloway Viking Hoard is much more than simply a trove of precious jewellery – it is a window into another time. And this is partly why it is so important that its home should be in the region where it was found. The future of the hoard, which currently hangs in the balance, also highlights why it is unfortunate that National Museums Scotland appears so intent on relieving Galloway of its curatorship.
Among my favourite pieces are the party brooches, decorated with little face – caricatures that it is suggested represent horn blowers and hung-over boozers. Each of the more than 100 items in the hoard tell stories and raises questions. There is an enamelled Christian cross, a bird-shaped gold pin, plus pendants and arm rings. The leathers and cloth in which they appear to have been so carefully wrapped are just as unique and significant. It dates from an era, lasting some 400 years, when we were at the crossroads of the Viking world that extended northwards to Svalbard, the “cold coast”.
The Vikings were remarkable. They had developed sophisticated ships, clinker-built, highly flexible at sea and capable of drawing only three feet of water. Thanks to these they sailed vast distances. They carved a rune stone in Upernavik, Greenland, 800 kilometres above of the Arctic Circle. They travelled south to the Mediterranean and North Africa and eastward to Constantinople bringing them into contact with the Silk road to China. They sailed west beyond Iceland to Greenland and North America.
One of their outposts survives at L’Anse Aux Meadows in Newfoundland. Viking artefacts have been found on the west side of Hudson’s Bay, on Ellesmere Island and on Baffin Island where the possible discovery of a Viking settlement has recently been announced. Perhaps their greatest achievement was to extend the horizons of the world as it was then understood.
Among the most concerning aspects of the NMS claim for the hoard is that they will “save it for the nation”. Scotland’s regions are not backwaters. Being placed in one of hundreds of glass cases in Chambers Street is not superior to having pride of place in a specially designed exhibition area at a brand new and secure gallery in Kirkcudbright.  
The Vikings arrived in Scotland at the end of the eighth century as predators seeking booty, bling, slaves and later, land, settling in Shetland, Orkney, the Hebrides, Caithness and Sutherland. We know more about the Vikings than any of the other peoples of early medieval Scotland but have lacked detailed information about their activities in Galloway. This is another reason why the discovery of the Galloway hoard is so important,
As we understand, by now, it contains not only Viking objects such as a huge collection of arm rings but material from Ireland and Anglo-Saxon England, as well as more exotic and distant places. It is fascinating to speculate on who might have buried it and when. Was this someone travelling from west to east, or on the north/south route? Was she or he a local who deposited these precious items in expectation of a raid? The hoard has reasonably been dubbed “Viking” because of some of its contents, but was there necessarily anything else about it that was Viking?
It has never been more important than it is now, with current political uncertainties and declining revenues, that the authorities exercise their influence to make sure that the hoard is destined for Kirkcudbright’s new gallery. Edinburgh’s museums already hold riches galore, while the city is oversubscribed with festivals, art shows and exhibitions almost every week of the year.
And also the record of NMS in Galloway is not good. Its closure of the Shambellie Museum of Costume was hard to bear locally.
Galloway is an important part of Scotland but the inhabitants believe they are too often ignored and the issue of the hoard shows why. However, the people of the area near where the hoard was found are a determined lot – fighters and with a proud identity. The novelist S. R. Crockett, was the literary creator of Galloway. Writing of his native ground he encouraged Galwegians to take great pride in their history and heritage. The region’s Covenanters fought and died for their faith in opposition to the tyranny of the Stewart kings. John Macmillan a local Cameronian minister was deposed by the Kirk in 1703 but with the support of his congregation he survived in his post for a further 40 years. When antiquarian Joseph Train attempted to present a relic known as St John’s Chair to Sir Walter Scott, the folk of Dalry, in the Glenkens, revolted. They loudly and fiercely defended their heritage. Train had to withdraw and the Chair remains in the village to this day, a worthy inspiration and example.
In light of all this I sincerely hope that due respect is given to the fact that the regions are not outposts, but are as much the nation of Scotland as Edinburgh. The hoard should have its home in Kirkcudbright.