The P5/6 pupils of Gatehouse Primary School hosted a special event today – the recitation of their Trusty’s Hill saga and unveiling of their Dark Ages Panels. The work they have done is very impressive and was supported by the Heritage Lottery Funded All our Stories project – Gatehouse of Fleet in the Dark Ages – organised by the Gatehouse Development Initiative. It is really heartening to see the kind of local legacy for Trusty’s Hill that the Galloway Picts Project has fostered in the local community.
Pupils at Gatehouse of Fleet Primary School are currently in the middle of doing a project on Gatehouse in the Dark Ages, part of an HLF funded project led by the Gatehouse Development Initiative. The school resource pack created for the Galloway Picts Project forms the basis for this project, but which has been expanded to include elements of artistic and literary creativity.
As part of this the children visited Trusty’s Hill at the beginning of last week. They were very excited to see a figure standing on the hill above and couldn’t believe he was real. When they reached the summit of the hill they discovered he was Androth Siggursson, a Bernician from Northumbria, whose grandfather had burnt the fort!
He talked about the different roles woman, children and men had at the fort, the structure of society in the Dark Ages and a typical day in the life of a young boy/girl. He also told them about what he was wearing , ‘translating’ the cost into modern day items (his sword = BMW car for instance), which the pupils were fascinated by, and linking his clothes with the making of cloth, leatherwork, metal working and trade.
This proved to be a great way of provoking lots of questions from the children about life on Trusty’s Hill all those centuries ago.
With the help of a local writer, the children also started working on short poems based on the different roles people may have had at Trusty’s Hill. Already there is the start of some good poems using the information the children got on the hill about life in this Dark Age stronghold.
The school followed up the visit on Monday with another session with the writer on Thursday, learning how to edit their poems, and playing the ‘rubbish game’ to look at and talk about the finds we made at Trusty’s Hill last year.
Perhaps the highlight of Thursday afternoon was an oral storytelling exercise where the children created a saga/story about living at Trusty’s Hill. They really got into this – what started as a large circle of them on the floor got smaller and smaller as the story kept going around and getting more exciting and they kept edging closer and closer together. They used lots of the information they had gathered at the site on Monday and earlier in the afternoon for the story.
I wish I had done things like this when I was at school!
We have just completed a series of lectures on Trusty’s Hill across the country.
Last night I gave the Bill Gill Memorial Lecture in Stranraer Library to 25 members of the Wigtownshire Antiquarian and Natural History Society. They gave me a very warm welcome and judging from the quality and number of questions that followed my talk, seemed to have been very much engaged by the emerging archaeological results from Trusty’s Hill. Almost everyone took away the few Discover Dark Age Galloway Leaflets we still have left.
Last week I gave a similar talk to 70+ members of the Ayrshire Archaeological and Natural History Society at Ayr Town Hall. Again I received a very warm welcome and a great number of thoughtful questions on vitrified forts, Dark Age royal strongholds and the kingdom of Rheged. Again, many of those attending took away copies of the Discover Dark Age Galloway Leaflets, that not only offers a guide to Trusty’s Hill but many of the other Dark Age sites in Galloway that form part of the archaeological context of Trusty’s Hill. Indeed there was some talk amongst members about organising an outing next year to Trusty’s Hill. No doubt some of the local trained guides at Gatehouse will be willing and able to help.
Prior to this, Chris gave a lecture on the archaeological context of the Pictish Carved Stone at Trusty’s Hill to 20+ people attending the Pictish Arts Society’s 2013 conference in Perth. Again his talk seemed to have prompted some questions, though perhaps not as much debate as we expected.
There are a number of events about the key sites of Dark Age Galloway going on during September (Scottish Archaeology Month) this year.
This Sunday (1 September), National Trust for Scotland Archaeologist, Derek Alexander, is taking a guided tour around Mote of Mark, near Rockcliffe. Mote of Mark is a particularly interesting site and was the fortified home and workshop of a mastersmith of high status during the same period when Trusty’s Hill was occupied. Excavated on a number of occasions during the twentieth century, Mote of Mark has yielded one of the largest assemblages in Britain of continental imports from the sixth and early seventh centuries AD. Check out the details for this guided walk.
On Saturday 14 September, the annual Whithorn Lecture is being held in Whithorn Primary School and this year concerns the Early Christian period exploring Whithorn’s connections around the Irish Sea. Check out the details for this lecture: http://www.archaeologyscotland.org.uk/events/early-medieval-whithorn-irish-sea-context
Finally, later on during Scottish Archaeology Month, on Saturday 21 September, there is another guided walk around Trusty’s Hill, organised and led by some of the volunteer guides trained earlier this year. Setting out from the centre of Gatehouse at 2pm, this is an opportunity for anyone who missed the guided walk earlier this summer. Check out the details for this guided walk: http://www.archaeologyscotland.org.uk/events/walk-trustys-hill-gatehouse-fleet
The guided walk around Trusty’s Hill last week, proved also to be an opportunity for the Gatehouse Development Initiative to promote the new exhibition on Trusty’s Hill at the Mill on the Fleet Museum in Gatehouse. Created in partnership with GUARD Archaeology, the new exhibition panels tell the story of Trusty’s Hill and how the finds from the Galloway Picts Dig last year have changed how this site is now perceived. This exhibition is to form the core of a much bigger exhibition, that accompanying the artefacts from the excavation, will tour a variety of museums across Dumfries and Galloway next year.
Meanwhile, the training of local volunteers, who can now explain Trusty’s Hill and what the recent finds reveal about the significance of this ancient hillfort, is evidently paying off and, along with the permanent exhibition at the Mill on the Fleet, demonstrates the local legacy that last year’s Galloway Picts Project has successfully created.
The training of guides around Trusty’s Hill, earlier this year, proved useful when the Gatehouse Development Initiative organised a tour of Trusty’s Hill today as part of Gatehouse of Fleet Gala Week. The walk to Trusty’s Hill proved very popular with some 60 participants. There were quite a number of Gatehouse people who had never been to Trusty’s Hill but were keen to participate in a guided walk. Five trained guides from Gatehouse led the walk which was very helpful as this allowed the group to be divided up when they reached the site.
In preparing the Discover Dark Age Galloway leaflet, GUARD Archaeology’s Graphics Officer created a reconstruction illustration of Trusty’s Hill, as it might have looked in its heyday during the late sixth century AD. While there is of course a bit of conjecture involved, the point of this illustration is to give non-archaeologists an idea of what the site may have originally looked like. It might also help visitors to the site better understand what the various lumps and bumps on the ground actually represent.
The Guided Walk Training Day went well today, with 33 people (much more than expected!) turning up to learn how to lead guided tours around Trusty’s Hill. Starting at the Mill of the Fleet, with a short presentation to put visual memories of the layout of the site and the finds from the excavation in people’s minds, we made our way to the hill on a gloriously sunny day. Split into groups and armed with notes of the key findings from the excavation, each group was given a part of the site (the Pictish carvings, the rock-cut basin, the vitrified ramparts and the interior summit) to explain to the rest. Each group was very impressive on their turn at speaking. It seems unlikely that Trusty’s Hill will be forgotten, with such a large and enthusiastic number of people now willing and able to show their friends, family and visitors the rich archaeological heritage on their doorstep.
On Saturday 8 June this year, there will be a training session on how to explain Trusty’s Hill and what the recent finds can tell us about the significance of this once royal stronghold of a lost Dark Age kingdom.
This free event is aimed at anyone who wants to be able to take friends and family or a group of visitors around Trusty’s Hill, and will hopefully lead to some form of local legacy for last year’s excavation of this fascinating hillfort.
One of the co-directors of the Galloway Picts Project excavation will be leading this training event, which will begin at the Mill on the Fleet, Gatehouse of Fleet, at 10 am, before leading to Trusty’s Hill, returning by 1 pm.
This event is part of the Gatehouse Development Initiative’s All Our Stories Gatehouse of Fleet in the Dark Ages project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which was created following the interest in last year’s excavation.
A new leaflet, Discover Dark Age Galloway, has been launched by the Galloway Picts Project, promoting many of the Dark Age sites that survive in Dumfries and Galloway.
Last year’s excavation revealed that Trusty Hill once very likely lay at the heart of the Dark Age Kingdom of Rheged, that was once pre-eminent amongst the kingdoms of the north during the late sixth century AD.
Rheged, for so long a lost kingdom, thought to be somewhere in South-west Scotland or North-west England, can now perhaps for the first time be fixed to the ground, not in Cumbria or Lancashire or Dumfriesshire, but in Galloway. For there is clear archaeological evidence now for pre-eminent secular and ecclesiastical sites in Galloway during the fifth to early seventh centuries AD, unmatched anywhere else in Scotland and Northern England.
It was in this kingdom, at Whithorn in the Machars and Kirkmadrine in the Rhinns, that Christianity and literacy is first apparent in Scotland. These sites, along with fortified strongholds like Mote of Mark near Rockcliffe and Trusty’s Hill itself, were well connected with continental Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean at a time when much of Britain was isolated, fragmented and barbaric.
The Discover Dark Age Galloway leaflet, produced by GUARD Archaeology for the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society, explains how this kingdom has been discovered in Galloway, and what happened to it.
The leaflet is free and is available from outlets across the region, such as the Mill of the Fleet, the Whithorn Story Visitor Centre, local museums and tourist information centres.