8 October 2010, Presidential Address
Morag Williams — In Their Footsteps
The opening, illustrated talk of the new season of Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society (DGNHAS) was given by the retiring President, Morag Williams. The topic was In their Footsteps which featured three local personages, in whose footsteps she had followed in some way.
Mrs Elizabeth Crichton (1779–1862) was her first and obvious choice, as Morag had worked as Health Board archivist on the Crichton site for 26 years. Elizabeth, nee Grierson, spent her early years in Mouswald Parish at Rockhall until her marriage, while Morag lived in Mouswald Village, also until she married. Both had strong connections with Mouswald Church. The Grierson family, as landed gentry, merited privileged seating there and the family's burial enclosure is located on the south-west side of the church.
Morag's admiration for Mrs Crichton is based on the remarkable legacy to psychiatry that she bestowed in the form of Crichton Royal Hospital by means of trusteeship of the fortune of her husband, Dr James Crichton. She remains the greatest benefactress to the mentally ill that this country has known. The fact that her original desire, the establishment of a university in Dumfries, was realised 170 years later proves that dreams do come true, even if posthumously.
The second subject is less well known but he is also a very worthy individual. His name was James Gilchrist (1813–1885). During his early years in the parish of Torthorwald he and his mother faced great poverty and hardship after the death of his father and young sister from T.B. Nevertheless, by dint of perseverance and intensive evening study he progressed from Dumfries Academy (reached on foot daily) eventually to Edinburgh University (institutions attended by Morag, too), from which he graduated in medicine at the age of 37.
He served two periods on the staff at Crichton Royal, firstly as medical assistant 1850–1853 and as physician superintendent 1857–1879. He continued the enlightened caring regime desired by Mrs Crichton from the outset. During this time the hospital buildings expanded and the first farm, Brownhall, was purchased. He was often seen guiding the convalescent patients on geological and botanical field trips. Concerts, some held in his own residence, were a feature of his years of service.
He was a founder member of DGNHAS and served the society as president 1874–78. He contributed 24 papers to the Transactions, its journal.
Dr Gilchrist was twice married and had two high-achieving sons by his first wife.
The Gilchrist Conference Room within Easterbrook Hall was, on Morag's recommendation, named after him.
The third choice of study was Robert Corsane Reid (1882–1963), whose forebears held illustrious positions nationally and internationally: his grandfather was Sir James Reid, a member of the Supreme Court of Justice in the Ionian Islands; his father was an advocate and Queen's Remembrancer for Scotland; and his uncle was Robert Threshie Reid Q.C. and M.P. for Dumfries Burghs, known as Earl Loreburn of Dumfries.
R.C. Reid was educated at Cheltenham and Trinity College, Cambridge, after which he was called to the Bar. His promising career on the national scene was cut short because of a youthful injury to one leg and the onset of problems with his eyesight.
He was another personage with strong Mouswald connections. He inherited the family estate at Mouswald Place, encompassing the farms of Mouswald Banks and Cleughbrae.
He returned with his wife Helen to live at Cleughbrae in 1920. Mouswald Place was sold in 1925. He gave sterling service in local government as county councillor for Mouswald and Torthorwald 1929–1958. The honorary degree of Doctor of Laws was conferred on him by Glasgow University in 1958.
Dr Reid recommended the young Alfie Truckell as curator for Dumfries Museum. Despite great opposition, he was the power behind the establishment of Gracefield Arts Centre, another wise move on his part. In recognition of the fact a bronze head of Dr Reid by the highly talented sculptor, Benno Schotz, is lodged at Gracefield.
His contribution to DGNHAS was unequalled. He had a passion for archaeology, archival research, history and genealogy. He served as secretary, editor of the Transactions (to which he contributed 140 papers in all) and President (1933–1944.) The Ewart Library holds 196 volumes of his self-indexed manuscripts. He penned a publication, entitled Mouswald Kirk, to mark the rededication of the church in October 1929. It was in that church that a memorial service for him was held in April 1963.
As president of DGNHAS, Morag has for the last three years been involved in vetting applications for funding for archaeological research projects to the Mouswald Trust, set up by Dr Reid. In his presidential address he recommended membership of the Society: "Antiquarians are not old fogies and both history and pre-history should make some appeal to a secondary-school teacher! It has always been surprising to me that so few of the teachers in our secondary schools have shown an interest in our activities."
The full text of the President's Address is available as an Adobe pdf file.
22 October 2010
Dr Richard Jones (Glasgow University) — New Investigations of Roman to Medieval
Archaeological Sites in Dumfriesshire
Dr Richard Jones, senior lecturer of the Department of Archaeology of Glasgow University, addressed Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society on the subject of 'New Investigations of Roman to Mediaeval Archaeological Sites in Dumfriesshire.'
Knowledge of archaeological sites has advanced by means of aerial photography, field walking and geophysical investigation. The Eastern Dumfriesshire Survey, in which Dr Jones has been involved for the last two years, has been conducted by using geophysics, as employed by the Time Team on television. This last approach is a new element of the survey. His report described work in progress: there is a long way to go before satisfactory conclusions can be reached.
There are different techniques in geophysical study. A magnetometer detects a wide variety of buried features to about one metre in depth: ditches, walls, roads, burnt structures such as furnaces show up on the automatic readings, created as the walker covers the ground. Interpreting the readings is complicated by the fact that other features, such as modern drainage schemes, are also revealed.
It is possible to use two sensors and thereby double the ground covered. A German Company, Sensys, employs a Suzuki to pull a cart with 16 sensors. It operates like a GPS system in vehicles and speeds up the process. The limitation of this last method is that it is expensive and requires flat ground, such as the Roman site studied at Dalswinton.
Resistivity operates on the basis of passing a current into the ground. This method was used at Torthorwald. A mechanised version is in the experimental stage and has not been seriously adopted here.
The third form is ground-penetrating radar, whereby a little black box is pulled along, on which an odometer is fitted to the wheel. There is a transmitter and receiver in the black box. Radar is useful in geophysics because it gives a vertical view from the ground surface down through the ground to 2–3 metres in depth, rather than the horizontal view, which the magnetometer and resistivity give.
Excavations have been conducted over the years at many Roman forts but Dr Jones' team is particularly interested in trying to discover what, in the way of settlements, lies just outwith these sites. Burnswark proved very enigmatic because much of the hill is composed of igneous rock, which has an adverse effect on the conduct of a survey. A small survey was conducted near a small earthwork at Burnswark where traditionally it has been claimed that there was a Roman road: but the geophysical study did not support this claim. At Lochmaben Castle there was very little evidence of definite habitation nearby.
This talk depended on the many illustrations of the geophysical readings for understanding of the attempts at interpretation of each scene. A number of the illustrations were grey and grainy. Dr Jones admitted that to date the survey has touched only the tip of the iceberg. Mediaeval sites are fairly intractable because of agricultural activity conducted in the interim. Dalswinton yielded the best results. Geophysics is not the complete answer and at some point the decision to excavate might have to be taken.
5 November 2010
Professor James Floyd — Architectural Heraldry in Dumfries and Galloway
Architectural Heraldry in Dumfries and Galloway was the subject of Hon. Professor James Floyd of Heriot-Watt University when he addressed a large audience of Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society members in early November.
The origins of heraldry lie in the 12th century when knights, wearing a full face helmet, needed to make themselves readily identifiable in battle and at tournaments. A Coat of Arms, which must include at least a shield, is borne by only one person at a time and, as heritable property, is passed on to the heir, typically the eldest son.
The current version of the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom, dating from the start of Victoria’s reign in 1837, can be seen on the County Buildings in Wigtown and vary slightly when used in Scotland or England. In Scotland the red lion rampant (‘Scotland’) appears in the 1st and 4th quarters of the shield (top left and bottom right as seen by an observer) with the three English lions or leopards (‘England’) in the 2nd (top right) quarter and the Irish harp in the 3rd (bottom left) quarter. Four mottos are used, two representing Scotland (IN DEFENS and NEMO ME INPUNE LACESSIT) and two representing England (HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE and DIEU ET MON DROIT. When used in England, nationally and worldwide (for example on embassies), the Scottish and English quarterings are counterchanged, with ‘England’ in the 1st and 4th quarters, ‘Scotland’ in the 2nd quarter and ‘Ireland’ in the 3rd, as before. The County Buildings in Wigtown also carry an older ‘Stuart’ version of the Royal Arms, bearing the monogram CR, representing Carolus Rex for Charles II, and dated 1678, which is older than the building and must therefore have come from some earlier building. This is termed an ‘orphan’ panel, in contrast to a ‘widow’ panel which is a Coat of Arms left behind on a building when the original owner of the arms has moved on elsewhere.
However, examples of the English quartering of the Royal Arms can often be seen in Scotland, such as on the former Post Office in Annan and on the (now removed) ‘By Royal Appointment’ panel on the former Gates Rubber factory at Heathhall.
Throughout the region there are many examples of Family and Corporate Heraldry. Somewhat surprisingly perhaps for almost the southernmost town in Scotland, the magnificent quartered arms of the North of Scotland and Town and County Bank, an Aberdeenshire bank formed by merger in1908, can be seen on the north corner of Bank Street and Irish Street. This is a ‘widow’ panel and uses Petra Sancta, a system of engraved lines and other markings to indicate particular colours, suggesting that these particular arms were never intended to be depicted in colour on this building. The arms of the Scott family appear on the Buccleuch and Queensberry Hotel, Thornhill; and The Douglas Arms, Castle Douglas, also has a lovely armorial sign, unfortunately marred by the surrounding clutter of road signs.
Churchyards throughout the region reveal many examples of heraldry. Kirkpatrick of Closeburn's arms have a crest of a hand holding a dagger, dripping blood and carrying the motto 'I’LL MAK SICCAR,' recalling the final blow delivered to the Red Comyn in the Church of the Greyfriars in Dumfries. St Michael's Church and Churchyard are particularly rich in heraldry: for instance, the marble memorial to Sir Thomas Reid, Bart, FRS in the church porch. An example of a lady's arms, using a diamond-shaped lozenge, rather than the more masculine and war-like shield, can be seen on the memorial to Ann Kennedy of Knockgray. Unlike city memorials, rural gravestones stand in clean, clear air and are thus commonly covered with lichens, which can sometimes mask and erode the carved features on the stone and will ultimately lead to its destruction.
This excellent talk, delivered by a very good speaker and beautifully-illustrated, produced a very interesting question and answer session, mainly covering aspects of the work of the Lord Lyon King of Arms, an appointment with judicial rank, who has the power to grant a Coat of Arms to anyone with Scottish descent or connections. He and his officers maintain the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland, exact payment for the Treasury for the granting of arms, and pursue misuse of non-registered arms in Scotland.
The advice has to be that we should keep our eyes open as we travel about the region for examples of Coats of Arms in our towns and villages, to study the detail thereon and to look out for his gazetteer of heraldry when it is published.
19 November 2010
Rebecca Boyde (Archaeology Scotland) — Archaeology of Beer and Brewing
There was a large turn-out, perhaps understandably enough when the talk to be given by Rebecca Boyde was entitled 'The Archaeology of Beer and Brewing'.
This young woman has an interesting background in that she was born in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. Her first degree in Archaeology was from Saskatoon University; thereafter she did an MSc at Bradford; and for three years she has been with Archaeology Scotland. She is married to a Manxman.
Rebecca revealed some of the international dimensions to beer, which is made from fermented malted grains and water; sugar and flavourings such as wormwood, dogwort, bog myrtle, have served as optional additions over time.
Barley is the standard grain of modern beers because it is easier to malt but in the past wheat was used. Rye millet and sorghum can also serve as grains. The Incas used an early form of maize. Hops were introduced to the British Isles from Belgium in the 18th or 19th Centuries: previously the drink was known as 'ale'.
The brewing process can cease after different periods of time. In Africa the resultant pap after 24 hours is fed to babies to ease digestion. In Ethiopia the drink is ready in 5 days. By contrast Lambic is a very distinctive Belgian beer, which is brewed for 8 months.
The function of beer is not only to serve as a drink but also as a source of carbohydrate and therefore it is a valuable foodstuff. In the breakdown of the cellulose vitamins are produced.
It is a dietary staple in places like the Northern Cameroons. According to anthropologists it helps to create social bonds and it is found at feasts world-wide.
In the malting process the grain is steeped and then the swollen grain is spread on a floor. Malted grain has rootlets on the end and archaeologists, seeking evidence of beer-making, look out for this kind of evidence. Turning and raking take place to maintain an even temperature. Heating in a kiln dries the grain and stops the process.
Milling then takes place: Peruvians actually chew the grain at this stage and then spit it out! Saliva assists fermentation. Mashing at a temperature of 62 to 67°C produces wort, at which stage the liquid can be drunk or the sieved mash can be used as a cattle feed or to make a malt loaf.
The Sumarians in Mesopotamia from the 4th Millennium BC appear to have been the first to make beer: Dr Patrick McGovern's archaeochemical studies found the earliest chemical pattern for beer on a shard found in Iran. The Sumarians had a hymn to the goddess of brewing. In hieroglyphics a triangle on a clay tablet seems to have been used as a sign for beer.
Archaeology has thrown up an interesting array of artefacts associated with brewing and Rebecca showed a wide range of such items in her presentation. Malting floors provide evidence of former beer-making. There was a strainer from Mesopotamia; grinding stones, pestles and mortars from Africa; a quern from Skara Brae, where water drains were revealed; a wooden fork found at Prestonpans; a 17th Century wooden tankard from the West Highlands. Traquair House also had drains, 2 wooden stirrers and other equipment from a past brewery, which was in good condition. Brewing was re-established there in 1965 in the old brew house.
Barrels, and flagons were used for storage. A krug was found on the Mary Rose, which sank in 1545 and was salvaged in 1982. Transportation of beer barrels is most famously associated with Usher's brewery horses.
Archaeobotanical studies into the Scottish Neolithic period have been conducted by Merryn Dineley. In making beer at home she discovered that meadowsweet, found as a residue in a Bronze Age beaker, extended the shelf life for weeks. Delwen Samuel has conducted studies into bread and beer in ancient Egypt and residue analysis of ancient artefacts. Rebecca's own Master's research was also conducted in the field of ceramic residue analysis, a field in which she claimed that more work needs to be done.
3 December 2010, James Williams Lecture
Mr Innes MacLeod — Strolling Players, Minstrels and Living People: Entertainers in Galloway and Dumfries
The James Williams Memorial Lecture was chosen to serve as the final meeting of Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society in 2010. The speaker on that occasion was Innes Macleod, who as a contributor of several papers to the Society's Transactions, knew James, the late senior editor, well; in addition during Innes' period as Extra-Mural Activities organiser in the Region he invited James to take some of the classes.
Innes' subject 'Strolling Players, Minstrels and Living Entertainers in Dumfries and Galloway' was suited to the approach to the festive season. The topic and the importance of the occasion drew a huge audience.
The earliest event mentioned was the fact that the Strauss Orchestra, on its way to play in Edinburgh and Glasgow, stopped off in Dumfries in 1838. However, the main periods covered by the talk were the 1860s and 1870s. The establishment of the railway network permitted top flight, talented, professional London performers to dominate the Scottish scene (although there were also plenty of amateur companies performing locally in towns and villages).
There was a whole street theatre in everyday life as a galaxy of itinerants passed through Dumfries, Castle Douglas, Gatehouse of Fleet, Newton Stewart and Stranraer. There were acrobatic turns, Punch and Judy shows, musicians of all kinds and human curiosities, for example.
The idea of white men blacking up as Negro minstrels emerged out of the New York theatres in the 1830s. The vogue for Black and White Minstrels attracted big audiences. Thomas Carlyle was fond of such entertainment.
Innes was an early collector of music sheet covers of the period. He is the proud owner of about 700 of these items. Retailing at 3 shillings each, they were expensive in their heyday, the 1860s — and are even more so today. He treated his audience to a succession of these exquisite and brilliantly-coloured lithographs. John Brandard and Alfred Concanen were celebrated creators of these covers, which were bought for their beauty, not for the music. The themes were varied and ranged from the Crimean War, the Abyssinian Expedition, the American Civil War to royal weddings and to trains and railway stations, which were very popular.
Dumfries did not have a music hall, but many of the stars from the British circuits played in the Mechanics' Hall and the Theatre Royal. Arthur Lloyd , star of Music Hall, came to perform in Dumfries, Castle Douglas and Stranraer in 1861 and 1862 and he was still coming in 1898 and 1899. He composed some 200 songs and became wealthy, partly because there was a good income from the sale of covers. Other celebrated artistes were Harry Gordon, who went to great lengths to include local colour in his performances. The Great Vance, cockney singer and dancer, received top billing and visited the area in the 1860s and 1870s. Chang, the Chinese giant, said to be over 7 feet tall, was a popular singing sensation and a great scholar. His wife accompanied him. They appeared in marvellous costumes. The Concanen music sheet cover of him is exquisite. These stars of the period were household names.
Music covers by the 1880s began to display satirical themes. Albert Concanen, the illustrator, in dealing with Oscar Wilde, betrayed his contempt for the man.
The Theatre Royal in Dumfries was doing well in the 1860s and 1870s. Individuals could lease it and make it profitable by running it in tandem with performances in Edinburgh, Glasgow or Whitehaven. They would provide the actors, the costumes and the sets. An abbreviated Shakespearian play would be delivered in the first half and in the second a frolicking farce, verging on vulgarity, might take place.
The London Star Company, choosing Kirkcudbright as a base, performed throughout Galloway in the early 1870s. They often gave their plays a local touch: hence Boucicault's The Streets of New York became The Streets of Kircudbright or there was The Fair Maid of Castle Douglas!
Sadly a report of this nature is unable to do justice to the quality and appeal of the assemblage of illustrations presented by Innes in this well-researched and much-appreciated talk.
21 January 2011
Mr Allen Paterson — The Chelsea Physic Garden
Allen Paterson, Curator of Chelsea Physic Garden from 1973 to1981 and later Director of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Hamilton, Ontario, has a number of publications on plants, trees and gardens to his credit. How fortunate we are that this gentleman of manifold accomplishments chose to retire to Dumfriesshire!
He was invited to speak on The Chelsea Physic Garden by Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society. The importance of plant-based medicine has always been with man, he contended. He made occasional references to a 1922 publication, Chelsea Physic Garden by Dawtry Drewitt.
Apothecaries were part of the Grocers' Company until they broke away in 1617. They were given recognition by King James I and VI. By the 1630s they had their own Livery Hall. The fact that they had a laboratory there demonstrates the seriousness of their plant research as an educational tool for students and members. For instance, it was vital to know the difference between deadly nightshade and woody nightshade!
Finance in the troubled 17th Century was a problem. However, in 1673 they acquired 3.5 acres of land at Chelsea for rental at £5 per annum. The location by the river was important for travel to the site. Famous people over the centuries have visited: one such was the diarist, John Evelyn, in 1680 and another Linnaeus, the renowned Swedish botanist.
One early ill-judged move was the planting of 4 cedars of Lebanon in 1683. As they matured they left little room for other planting. They did become part of the iconography of the site. The last one was removed in 1903. The cedars fell foul of the choking London smoke. Allen himself lost precious orchids overnight in the early 1950s because of smog. The Clean Air Act of 1956 was a welcome development.
Sir Hans Sloane's purchase of the Chelsea Manor House proved beneficial. He was a doctor in his own right, an avid collector of plants, the man who introduced drinking chocolate as a medical aid after a time in Jamaica. He passed the £5 freehold to the Apothecaries in perpetuity, provided that they maintained it as a Physic Garden. A fine new classical orangery was created in 1733 but it did not last into the 20th century. A statue of Sloane by Rysbach stands in the grounds. Sloane Square and Sloane Street are named after him.
Sloane appointed Philip Miller, a Scot, as Curator and under his care it became an outstanding botanic garden. Miller is credited with fostering interest and tutoring such luminaries as Sir Joseph Banks, the explorer, and Forsyth of forsythia fame, who succeeded Miller.
Financial troubles were the reason for a Government Inquiry in 1893 to determine the validity of a Botanic Garden in London. A favourable result led to the funding of the charity by churches in London, a situation that appertained for 100 years.
When Allen was Curator a new financial solution proved necessary: a Board of Trustees was set up to maintain the Garden and so this worthy charitable trust continues to provide plant-based education, which is very popular today as the quest for natural medicines has gained renewed impetus.
The late Queen Mother planted a tree to mark the tercentenary of the Garden in 1973, an event to which the Paterson's were not invited even though Allen had already been appointed Curator. The tree died. The following year Allen's wife, Penelope, planted a new one. Justice prevailed, one might claim.
The Society turned out in force and enjoyed the talk, delivered by an excellent speaker, whose wit and humour added to the entertainment of the evening. Allen's garden at Grovehill House is open by appointment under Scotland's Gardens Scheme. (See handbook.)
4 February 2011
Luke Malony — Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust and Walter Newall
Luke Maloney, architect, stood in for Roger Windsor at short notice to speak to Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society on the subject of Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust and Walter Newall.
The streets in the vicinity of Moat Brae were laid out — to a much lesser extent — along the lines of the New Town of Edinburgh: they are George Street, Irving Street, Castle Street, Charlotte Street and Gordon Street. Robert Burn, architect, began the work. The land was feud by John Clerk Maxwell to Robert Threshie of Barnbarroch on the Colvend coast, who already had a town house nearby.
Newall took over the development of Georgian Dumfries from Burn. A vital early task was to secure the land from the Nith by erecting a retaining wall. One of the conditions of the scheme was that a raised street with pavings had to be incorporated.
Newall, a former cabinetmaker, worked for the Water Navigation Company. Dumfries Archive Centre acquired many of Newall's original plans. His portrait remains with the family in Canada.
In 2009 alarm bells rang when it was discovered that Moat Brae, owned by the Loreburn Housing Association, had been declared unsafe due to vandalism and was within three days of demolition. Devotees of Water Newall's work banded together and managed to buy limited time.
Now that the house is no longer under threat of demolition, the Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust with a band of volunteers has been busy clearing the house and garden. An even bigger task is the enormity of the funding required to purchase the house from the Loreburn Housing Association (£75,000) and the subsequent costly restoration and establishment of a viable and high-quality international tourist attraction (maybe £4million).
At the heart of the many interesting proposals for the use of the restored house will be a role in keeping with the house's Peter Pan history. J.M. Barrie derived his inspiration for his famous character from his childhood adventures with the Gordon children in the garden at the rear of the house.
Luke gave an excellent PowerPoint presentation that carried his audience through a wide range of emotions: admiration for Newall's architectural accomplishments in the area; the drama of the later-than-eleventh hour rescue; depression and horror at the filth and abuse that mindless vandalism had wreaked on a handsome building; admiration for the many exciting ideas emanating from the talented group leading the cause; and the fervent hope that this much-needed beacon project will succeed in injecting new life into our town. The Moat Brae cause deserves wholehearted support from us all.
18 February 2011
Professor J Crow (Edinburgh University) — Roman Frontiers in Northern Britain and in the Eastern Empire
Professor Jim Crow of the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at Edinburgh University has served there since 2007. In the 1970s his Roman and Byzantine interest was enhanced by a period of excavating while based in Ankara. He was invited to speak to Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society. His subject was 'Roman Frontiers in Northern Britain and in the Eastern Empire'.
Throughout the evening this interesting and enthusiastic speaker switched from Northern Britain to The Eastern frontiers of Turkey and occasionally to South West Germany. His skill as a photographer was evident and revealed some spectacular scenery in all locations.
The Cendere Koprusu Bridge, constructed in the late 190s AD, is one of the best-preserved Roman bridges in the world. It was built in honour of Septimus Severus, the first black Emperor, to mark his great campaigns. There were originally 4 columns 9–10 metres high: on one side two were dedicated to Severus and his second wife and on the other side two to represent their two sons Caracalla and Geta. The latter attempted to erase his brother's memory by the removal of that of his brother after he murdered him.
Roman Emperors travelled extensively in the course of their campaigns and activities within the Empire. Severus went into what is now Iraq when visiting the East. A decade and a half later he came to Britain and is known to have reached north of the Forth, maybe even into Aberdeenshire because aerial photography has revealed a chain of marching camps. Severus died in York exactly 1000 years ago on 4th February.
In Britain the Romans were dealing with tribal groupings. The frontier was maintained by a series of walls, the most important being Hadrian's Wall running from East coast to West coast. Current thinking inclines to the belief that it must have had some military function: witness one of the welcome to Pathhead signs, as one approaches from the English side on the A68, where there is a relief carving showing a native wielding an axe aggressively on a Roman.
In SW Germany 'Limes' (Leemays) were created as barriers in the form of a sequence of forts, not as formidable as Hadrian's Wall, but successful nevertheless.
On the other hand in SE Turkey in an area called Commagene in Asia Minor there was a series of well-established kingdoms that had existed in the 2nd millennium BC. There was a great city called Samosata, (which as well as the whole region of former Commagene is now under water for the purposes of irrigation and HEP.) The natives erected great sculptures to Zeus and Antiochus, for instance. They were clad in very un-Roman-like oriental clothing! The Romans only gradually conquered them by 'suasion.' There remains a legacy of roads, which in the mountainous parts (where the terrain was very different from that in Britain) had shallow steps; and legionary fortresses, such as at Malatya in the East and at York, Chester and Inchtuthil in the West.
In Eastern Turkey up to the 3rd Century AD the policy of building barrier walls was unnecessary because the Romans were dealing with the Parthians, successors to the Persians, and were not threatened since Armenia, a significant and independent kingdom then, served as a buffer state between the Roman Empire and Persia. The Romans treated the natives like clients (as they did in southern Britain). There is evidence of intermarriage taking place (whereas in Britain it has not been proven one way or the other.)
A new dynasty replaced the Parthians. The Romans found themselves engaged in war against their successors, the Sassanians, who sacked Antioch. A defence was built which failed. Asia Minor was abandoned.
It is thought that the Romans were in Britain for grain. It was strategically very important because in the 350s AD under Emperor Julian the largest garrison of the Roman Empire with 3 legions was in Britain.
Palmyra was an oasis in the Syrian desert. In the 1920s and 30s when the French had a mandate of Syria they led the field in aerial reconnaissance. Mapping revealed a line of small forts strung out along the frontier road from the Euphrates to Damascus. They served as points for water collection and storage. The system enabled goods such as spices and silks from the Far East to come by camel caravan via the Tigris and Euphrates to the Mediterranean world and Rome. Thus Palmyrans became very rich.
Strange to tell, in the ASDA car park at South Shields there is a replica inscription of Regina, a free woman. Her husband, Barates, was a Palmyran. The inscription, originally from Hadrian's Wall, is in the Museum at South Shields.
The arrival of the Sassanians marked the end of Palmyran control. Palmyra was taken directly under Roman control. From the time of Emperor Diocletian (284–305AD) an intense military presence was necessary. A very fine legionary fortress was built. Thenceforth a significant number of men had to be committed to guard from the Black Sea to the Red Sea.
In NW Britain it was proving difficult to negotiate with the native tribes. The Romans left around the end of the 4th Century. Something similar happened in the East, which the Romans abandoned in the early 5th Century. West of Istanbul thick afforestation was thought to have destroyed archaeological evidence. Research has revealed a 65 kilometre wall, the Anastasian Wall. It was termed the Final Frontier by Edward Gibbon, who wrote 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'.
18 March 2011
Rosemary Green — A Life with Otters
Rosemary Green and her husband are internationally recognized for their important contributions to the study of otters in the wild. She gave an enthralling lecture to the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society on the subject of A Life With Otters.
She was born on a farm in Essex and lived an idyllic rural life with parents who fostered her interest in wildlife. At sixteen, she joined the Essex Field Club and met Jim, her future husband, and some life-long friends in the natural history field. University followed and then a spell of teaching in a technical college, during which time her husband completed a Ph.D. in the study of otters. They were then employed by the Vincent Wildlife Trust to carry out the first national survey of otters in Scotland — otter numbers had been declining, an observation first made paradoxically by Otter Hunts.
This survey became the standard by which other European national surveys were judged. It covered 4,636 sites all over Scotland and took two years of travel (by campervan) and many walks across often remote and daunting terrain. After this first survey of Scotland, Rosemary and her husband from 1980 onwards worked with newly formed otter groups on the continent; they carried out a preliminary survey in western France; and trained surveyors from several countries. Close contacts with continental colleagues have been maintained. The Scottish national surveys were repeated every seven years, with Rosemary and her husband doing the second in 1986–7 and the third in 1992–4.
Between surveys, they worked on the first successful otter radio-tracking programme. This was a shoe-string affair with only the two of them making the transmitter packs, catching the otters and undertaking a gruelling schedule to track the otters. A radio-isotope study was carried out at the same time, providing a back-up method of tracking the otters’ movements. Radio-tracking was also used in 1989–1991 to study the impact of marine fish-farming on otters on the west coast.
As otters increased in range and population density, it became apparent that there was need for a facility to rehabilitate orphan and injured otters. As Rosemary and her husband already had licences to trap and relocate otters causing damage at fish farms, it was considered that they were best placed to undertake this work. From 1985 to 1999, they took in and cared for 143 otters, most of whom were rehabilitated and released back into the wild. When this work started, they were living in Perthshire but, needing more space for a growing number of otters, they bought a farm on the Cree in 1987 and set up a programme to assist the return of otters in England. Other work on the captive otters has included behavioural studies, establishing normal biological parameters in healthy animals and other veterinary research.
Increasingly, work has been devoted to trying to mitigate the impact of engineering and other human activities on otter populations and studying those impacts. Currently, Rosemary is working on otter road mortality and trying to understand where and why otters are killed by traffic.
The lecture was delivered throughout in a lucid, informative sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant manner, accompanied with often dramatic slides, but always with a deep understanding of her subject. The members of the Society showed their appreciation by prolonged applause at the end.