Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Old finds at the Stewartry Museum

I was in the museum in Kirkcudbright last week. They're having a wee shuffle about in there to make it wheelchair friendly, while trying not to reduce the amount of exhibits. It's quite a challenge as ease of wheelchair access was low on the priority list when it was built in Victorian times (you can see it here on one of my previous visits)

They've got a small temporary exhibition on at the moment of recent, local finds on at the moment. I think it runs to the end of the year. The metal detector seems to have increased the number of historic finds quite dramatically and several of those on display were found this way. Here's a selection.

This is a fragment of an early medieval broach dating to 700AD to 900AD. The blue centre is a wee glass bead.

A bronze seal stamp dating from about 1300AD found near Borgue ( a local village). It features the Madonna and child and would probably belonged to a travelling merchant to authenticate transactions.

Also from about 1300AD, is this silver broach. You can just make out the gilding that remains after 700 years under the ground.

The next two bronze axe heads date back to 2000BC. Both axes, and two others found since, were discovered around Colvend near Dalbeattie. They were found near a Loch and the concentration of finds has led the experts to suggest that they may have been votive offering to a deity in the loch.

A Papal Bulla from around 1285AD found at Buittle Castle in the Urr Valley. Papal bullas were attached to official church documents that come from Rome. This one bears the name of Honorius IV who was the pope from 1285 to 1287AD.

This little piece of gold is pennanular ring money found near Durrisdeer. It dates from 1150 - 750BC. Analysis says that it has a gold core and is wound alternatively with gold and silver to produce the stripped effect. (more here and even more here).

An iron age mount for a horse's harness. It dates from about 200 to 100BC.

A heraldic pendant from 1300AD found at Kirkconnel near New Abbey. It would have been attached to a horse's harness as a form of identification. The labelling says it does not belong to a Scottish family so it might have been lost by somebody on pilgrimage to the abbey.

A collection of stone age flint blades found during a field walking exercise near Glenluce. The come from about 5000BC

This polished, granite, battle axe was found in a pit with two pots and cremation remains just outside and earlier burial mound at the Cairnderry chambered tomb. It dates to 2000BC.

Not part of the temporary exhibition, but something I'd never seen before, is this horn cup made by William (Billy) Marshall who was known to be a local king of the Gypsies 300 years or so ago. Billy Marshall was something of a character, living to a grand old age of 120 years old, married 17 times and fathering a large number of illegitimate children besides, 4 of them when he was over 100. He was a boxer in his younger years, deserted the army 7 times, the navy 3 times and gets a mention in a Walter Scott novel.

Those who care to take a ten minute walk can wander up to the towns graveyard and visit him there. The coins on top of the gravestone are left by people to gain bring good luck.

The horns and spoons on the back refer to his work of carving items out of horn.

While your up in the graveyard, you might as well enjoy the view over the town.

A fly past from a buzzard.


Sinbad and I on the Loose said...

Being married just once has meant the early death of many a man. Wonder what Billy's secret was?

The Glebe Blog said...

Very interesting Sandy.
I've been contacted a couple of times over my references to Billy, I referred them to the Gypsyjib website, there's more information on there than I know. There are still quite a number of his descendants living in the area and worldwide. I think many a Marshall ended up on the convict ships to Australia

Michael (Light-In-A-Box) said...

Sandy hello, These "old finds" are incredible. I would find it very interesting to dig up such treasures!

Your part of the world is very rich in heritage. : )

Leslie D. said...

This is fascinating. Billy Marshall sounds like a movie character. 120? Still siring children? Great story!

Leslie D. said...

Forgot to mention thanks for taking the time to share the dates and stories of these artifacts. Mesmerizing truly. The craftsmanship that went into the most simple things...

Ruthie Redden said...

lol I'm trying not to look Sandy, whilst im to intrigued not to, the reason, i have it in my diary to go see the exhibition on Saturday! Im glad to see they have pulled out Billy's work, as the last time I went in it was put away. I see my old work colleague has been busy re painting the lettering on the headstone, i think i preferred it without the paint. Love that folk still leave the coins though.

Sandy's witterings said...

Maybe it was the gypsy in Billy that helped him through John - you're on the road a lot - could be on the way to 120 yourself. By the sounds of Billy, it was his 17 wives that would have needed some sort of secret!

It wouldn't surprise me if half the county was his descendants and didn't know it Jim (and most of Australia)

Michael, it certainly would be brilliant to find something like this. I tried metal detecting once and found a frying pan - not a great find but it doesn't half give a good signal on the machine (I also found enough change to buy me a pint in the pub so all was not lost)

Thanks Leslie - some of the craftsmanship on ancient finds is great - seems we weren't that barbarian before the Romans arrived after all.

Due to going to work and some connection difficulties, it's Saturday already. Enjoy your trip to the museum Ruthie - hope I've not blown the exhibition for you (there's more besides this lot)

Ruthie Redden said...

Not at all Sandy, Im really looking forward to it, hope you have a good restful weekend!

Shundo said...

Love the view over the town with the gravestones - one of your most atmospheric shots.