Attendances have remained encouragingly high for our monthly talks and the Society continues to thrive. I am most grateful to members for their continued support of the Society and especially to the committee team for their efforts in bringing the annual programme of lectures to fruition. Thanks are due to our Secretary Marion Garroch for administrating the programme and for organising the small number of committee meetings. The website www.kirkcudbrighthistorysociety.org.uk is undoubtedly a great asset and Helen Bowick deserves enormous credit for keeping it fresh and relevant. More detailed information on the site about the forthcoming talks is probably one of the main reasons for the increased attendances as well, of course, as the high quality of the talks themselves. The club remains in a healthy financial position thanks to the diligence of Treasurer Donald Cowell. Thanks are due to Ron McHugh for managing the audio system at all the meetings, a major benefit to our continually ageing membership base. Thanks also to David Collin for producing the eye catching posters, to David Devereux for running the magazine library and to both for their advice and guidance on all local history matters. Tania Gardener has provided welcome refreshments for the speaker and chairman and she and Margaret Scott have offered sterling all-round assistance.
A lecture by Dr Fraser Hunter, National Museums Scotland
On Wednesday, 14th March, over 70 members and guests of the Kirkcudbright History Society gathered in Kirkcudbright Parish Hall to hear an illustrated talk by Dr. Fraser Hunter, National Museums Scotland, about the Torrs pony cap. The pony cap, now in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, is one of the most important pieces of Iron Age Celtic art ever discovered in Britain: it was found in the former Torrs Loch, near Castle Douglas, in the early 19th century, and dates to around 250 BC. It was a decorative item, placed on the head of a small pony, probably when in harness to pull a lightweight Iron Age chariot, and part of a decorative array of trappings covering both pony and chariot.
Fraser began his talk by describing the diverse nature of Iron Age Celtic societies, which, in the later first millennium BC, stretched across Northern Europe from Ireland to Romania. Despite their differences, these societies were linked by a common culture, particularly evident in a shared decorative art style found on surviving metalwork, of which the Torrs pony cap is a prime example, with its swirling lines and hidden animal forms. The cap is essentially a bronze sheet with beaten decoration, with engraved decoration on its two attached ‘horns’. In its time, it would have been regarded as a high value object. Evidence for repair work suggests that it was a prized heirloom. Like similar finds in lochs elsewhere in Scotland, it would appear to have been deliberately deposited in the former Torrs Loch as a religious offering, perhaps to give thanks to the gods or as a supplication during difficult times.
It has been suggested that the ‘horns’ were added to the cap sometime after its discovery to increase its antique value, but a recently discovered contemporary account of the find in the ‘Caledonian Mercury’ newspaper of 17 September 1817, confirms that the cap was found with the horns attached. Several bronze rings were also found with the cap, and were almost certainly part of horse harness. The cap and harness would be the trappings of a chariot, the ‘Ferrari’ of Iron Age society, as Fraser described it. At that time the area around Castle Douglas was a network of lochs, with Carlingwark Loch larger than it is today. Here, an Iron Age bronze cauldron full of scrap metal, was fished out of its waters in the mid-19th century; like the Torrs find, it was very probably also a deliberate ritual deposit.
The following extract is from their website.
“The Merlin Trail combines history, archaeology, etymology, topography, botany and folk memory to reveal a forgotten world. The Trail presents the evidence and challenges you to play detective. What is fact and what is legend? Follow the clues. Examine the sites. Arrive at your own conclusions. Discover the world of Merlin – a Scottish landscape of dense forests and subsistence farming, of powerful clans ruled by warriors and warlords, where itinerant druids and traditional gods are being challenged by new beliefs and international travel and trade is opening contact with distant places and peoples”.
There are several sections in the trail with four themes. The first section is based on our area. It looks at the coming and spread of Christianity and the colonisation of Galloway by the powerful Briton chiefdom of Rheged until it fell to the Angle conquest early in the 6th century.
More about the trail and activities can be found on
The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland has announced the publication of Native and Roman on the Northern Frontier: Excavations and Survey in a Later Prehistoric Landscape in Upper Eskdale, Dumfriesshire by Roger Mercer.
Native and Roman on the Northern Frontier presents the results of a small-scale intervention at the Castle O’er hillfort and the total excavation of a unique enclosure at Over Rig. The text presents key findings from the excavations, revealing the long sequence of use at Castle O’er hillfort, including an extensive earthwork enclosure system believed to have been a mechanism to control large numbers of animals during the period of Roman presence. By contrast the unique design of the enclosure at Over Rig is revealed to have had an auditorial function. Together the two sites offer fresh perspectives on the economic realities and Roman-Native relations in the military zone in Roman Britain. Meticulously researched and with an abundance of illustrations, this book makes a thought-provoking contribution to scholarship of the Iron Age and life on the Roman frontier in south-west Scotland and beyond.
Hardcover | 27.9 x 21.6 cm | 296 pages | more than 110 illustrations | ISBN 9781908332134 |
RRP £30.00 | SoAS Fellows £24.00 | available for purchase at www.socantscot.org/shop
Issue 27 of Clish Clash can now be downloaded from www.slhf.org/newsletter.
Members, remember, back copies of The Scottish Local History magazines can be found on the back table at each meeting. These can be borrowed by recording the date, issue and your name in the file.
The Scottish Local History Directory
Good progress has been made with the first steps to create a Scottish Local History Directory, which will be hosted on the SLHF website, and represents collaboration by several bodies. In the past SLHF has published two editions of Exploring Scottish history: with a directory of resource centres for Scottish local and national history in Scotland, edited by Michael Cox. The second edition was jointly published in 1999, with the Scottish Library Association and Scottish Records Association.
A book, being published by Pen and Sword, on Suffragettes in Scotland is at present being researched, with a chapter being focussed on various areas, of which Dumfries and Galloway is one. The time scale is from about mid 1800’s onwards.
There will be sub headings of brief history, working life, education, health & welfare and women, politics, suffrage and notable men. Covering these areas, specifically looking at women’s lives, would give an insight into how they were treated through history and was any of this a prelude to suffrage and equality?
Contributions by any of members of the society of information or photos on suffragettes, or any of the sub heading chapter material, would be appreciated. These would of course be credited by the author.
Contact details 01786 609440(there is an answerphone) or
In 1908 the co-editor of Votes for Women, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, designed the suffragettes’ colour scheme of purple for loyalty and dignity, white for purity, and green for hope.