In the News….

P&J coverageP&J 08.09.15


A student at Gray’s School of Art has attempted to get under the skin of one of the country’s most enigmatic figures as part of her Masters project.

Anne Murray (Photo Credit: Ray Smith)Anne Murray, a creative practitioner about to finish an MFAContextualised Practice degree at Gray’s, has created a 21st century persona, complete with blog, Twitter account and film, for Rhynie Man – the name bestowed on a six-foot tall Pictish stone carving of a warrior discovered in the Aberdeenshire village in 1978.

The project, which was launched a year ago, has seen Anne working to raise awareness of Rhynie Man – which stands in the Aberdeenshire Council headquarters at Woodhill House in Aberdeen – among the local community via social media channels and engagement with local schoolchildren on various arts projects.

She has also created a map of the area which highlights areas of historical significance and set out on a ‘pilgrimage’ tracing a route from Aberdeen to Rhynie as a way of marking the stone’s spiritual return to the village.

An archaeological dig is currently on-going in Rhynie as part of the bid to discover more about the stone’s origins and the significance of the site.

Anne said: “We know very little about the Picts and it appears they used other means of communication such as their enigmatic symbol stones. Archaeologists are at an early stage of learning about them and this creates the opportunity for artists to be creative and playful.

Rhynie Man“Working with the artist collective Rhynie Woman and Aberdeenshire Council, I first set out to create a stronger presence for Rhynie Man in the community and help create awareness of the stone and its significance.

“This took the form of a blog, written in the first person by Rhynie Man, as well as a Twitter account. I also spent a day with the local school children creating Valentine’s cards and poetry for Rhynie Man which were then hand delivered to him at Woodhill House.”

She added: “The route that I am walking as part of Rhynie Man’s spiritual journey home takes in a number of other standing stones with carved symbols.

“Using the images on these stones, I have created a story about Rhynie Man’s journey home featuring six of the symbols and also created laser etched ‘alms’ to give out along the route to passers-by, as was the tradition of pilgrims.”

A stop motion film – ‘Rhynie Man: The Movie’ – created by Anne to tell the story of the stone was screened in the village on August 31, which posed an open question to the community.

“It asks them what they want to happen to Rhynie Man,” Anne explained. “It is a way of opening up that conversation and the project up until this point has really been laying the groundwork for that debate. This is just the beginning of what will be an on-going project. ”

Anne’s work is currently on display at Gray’s School of Art as part of the ‘C³: Collaborative Contextual Conversations’ exhibition showcasing a range of work by current full and part time Masters students. The show runs until Friday, September 11.

“I have set up the space so that visitors are effectively entering Rhynie Man’s enclosure, as the man himself,” Anne said. “As you come into the space, there is a full sized vinyl cut out on the floor of Rhynie Man which is his shadow being thrown as he comes into the room, then people must trace his route home from Aberdeen to Rhynie.”

On display as part of the exhibition are a number of objects linked to the project, including a hand carved staff, the laser etched alms and the stop motion film.

Looking back at the Masters course, Anne said: “It has been hard work, no one can deny that. I have enjoyed being challenged and reflecting on my own practice and seeing how my art fits into the world – it has been a really, really useful experience.”

Release by
Jenny Rush Communications Officer | Design and Technology

In the News….

The Rhynie Man Way – Stone 1 – The Rhynie Man

my home....for now

Also Known as: Rhynie 7

OS Grid Reference – NJ 4976 2636

Canmore Reference: 17218

Archaeology & History

A Class I Symbol Stone carved from gabbro stone with a symbol of a man carrying an axe with two hands over his right hand shoulder.  He wears a tunic and possibly a face mask which extends over his ears to a cover down the back.  His face is destinctive and shows his features in profile with sharp teeth.  Some have described him as a warrior, others a king or slaughterman.  One thing is certain, no-one knows why he was carved onto the stone which is thoughts to have been found where it lay for well over 1000 years.

He is sited in the reception of Aberdeenshire Council Headquarters, Woodhill House.  Found originally in Barflats Field, Rhynie by Gavin and Kevin Alston, it resided in the field and subsequently moved to their steading and finally in 1998 moved to Woodhill House, Aberdeen.

Finding Rhynie Man 

Numbers 10, 23, 27, 35, 37, 218 and X40 buses pass the building. Parking for about 10 cars and some disabled parking bays are available in the visitor parking area in front of Woodhill House. Entry to building is signposted.  Rhynie Man is in the foyer beside the reception desk. Opening times are the same as the Aberdeenshire Council buildings.



Aberdeenshire Council Sites and Monuments Records Database 

Aberdeenshire Council

The Rhynie Man Way – Stone 1 – The Rhynie Man

Going beyond Rhynie….

If you’ve made the effort to come all the way to Rhynie, it would be rude not to find out more about the area surrounding my field and the other symbol stones.

34 Rhynie from Stone circle  (57)
Rhynie village and Tap o’ Noth taken from the Cottown

Rhynie is situated in the AB54 postal area in the far north west of Aberdeenshire, it is a place with a deep history: from the earliest geological evidence of cellular plants 410million years ago[1], to evidence of a long history of human habitation ranging back to the Neolithic Period (4000 – 2500BC)[2].  Traces of human habitation are found in the area’s recumbent stone circles, standing stones, Roman battles, Pictish symbol stones, churches, castles, architecture, beautiful natural history and evidence of pre ‘improvement’ features in the landscape.  This area of Aberdeenshire lies adjacent to the Moray region, part of Highlands and Islands and out with the highly supported and promoted areas of the Cairngorm National Park, Deeside, Whisky and Victoria Tourist Trails.

Putting Rhynie right in the centre of things and the context amongst other pictish centres
Putting Rhynie right in the centre of things and the context amongst other pictish centres

The area offers the visitor and community an amazing place to live and work.  There are a whisky distilleries, added value food producers, the spiritual home of the Gordon Highlanders, a car club, train and transport links, hundreds of social groups and clubs and an interesting cultural corridor that runs from North to South of the area[3].  Employment is mainly dominated by Forestry, Agriculture and public services and a growing number of creative industries.  However, accommodation is in short supply, which can lead to higher prices and with few new houses being built it is thought that the lack of growing communities is restricting the further enhancement and development of the area.

makay of uganda
sign to commemorate Mackay of Uganda. The church he grew up in is one of four church buildings in Rhynie

Around the time of Culloden[4], during the early part of the Industrial Revolution, Huntly (the area’s market and administrative town) was at the center of weaving and spinning and was responsible for a third of linen production in Scotland[5].  However with the introduction of cotton from America and the Napoleonic Wars, the areas importance declined.  Despite this change in fortune Huntly and its districts thrived and supported by the train network was a thriving centre for leather, cloth, machine works, beer, sport and fashion which attracted the fashionable, intellectual and philanthropic.  The patrons who grew the town and its wide range of schools and community groups also travelled throughout the world; taking newspapers to China[6], music[7] and literature[8] to the heart of academia and missionaries and engineers to the ‘developing’ world[9].

Huntly in the 19th Century, looking towards the Clachmach and Rhynie 9 miles to the south.

Since the 1980s and the closure of a few major employers in the area AB54 is in a transition period[10]; shops are closing and the town and surrounding district is dominated by two large supermarkets, charity and empty shops, a shortage of housing, properties that require investment and a closed museum.  Tourism is slowly taking hold with a wide range of outdoor sporting facilities, fishing, wedding venues, estate activities and Huntly Castle, however visitors are generally bussed in and out spending little time in the surrounding villages or town.  Without facilities, available houses and reasons to attract people to the area, there is little to encourage new people to gaze, linger and share their experience of the AB54 area with the outside world.

25 Leith Hall (9)
Wolfstone ( found at Newbigging Farm, Leslie now installed at Leith Hall, 4 miles from Rhynie.

Despite the economic and geographical challenges, the area’s rich history, sporting and cultural facilities, train links and community participation all present opportunities for the future of the AB54 area.  It is becoming increasingly apparent that the AB54 area has a lot to offer the visitor and community and perhaps it should be promoted more widely[11].  With the range and diversity of history, natural resources and outdoor facilities Rhynie and AB54 have a lot of potential, which could help develop and sustain the area now and into the future.  I want to return and would love if you came and visited as well.

[1] Rhynie Chert was found in Windyfield at the base of Tap o’ Noth on the outskirts of Rhynie dating back to 400 – 412Million years ago.  For more information take a look at the Rhynie Chert Learning Resource Site  The Chert is one of Rhynie’s many interesting geological features.

[2] Although there is evidence of Mesolithic (8000 – 4000BC) habitation in Aberdeenshire there are no finds reported on the Aberdeenshire Council’s Sites and Monument’s Records in Rhynie, however there are a number of Neolithic (4000 – 2500BC) features found in Rhynie, indicating that the area was inhabited during this period.  The most interesting feature is that of Wormy Hillock a Class I Henge Monument within the boundaries of Rhynie Parish

[3] A quote from a discussion with Jason Williamson, Exhibitions Manager at Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums.  He was referring to Deveron Arts in Huntly, Rhynie Woman in Rhynie and Scottish Sculpture Workshop in Lumsden.


[5] In 1730-40s ‘Huntly accounted for about one-third of all the linen cloth produced in the country, worth £40,000 to £50,000 per annum.’ (Scott, 1997, pp. 96, 5)

[6] James Legge (1815 – 1897)

[7] Ronald Centre (1913 – 1973)

[8] George MacDonald (1824 -1905)

[9] Alexander MacKay (1849 – 1890) was born in Rhynie and introduced engineering and Christianity to Uganda.  He is celebrated by the people of Uganda.

[10] Rhynie falls within the administration area of Marr – and local rural partnerships involving volunteers have been set up to‘work with and promote the common issues affecting the local communities, and work to empower, support and help develop community groups’.

[11]  Despite the economic and geographical challenges, the area’s rich history, sporting and cultural abilities, train station and community involvement, present opportunities for the future of the AB54 area

Going beyond Rhynie….

Behind the scenes on Valentine’s Day!

I was moved to Woodhill House almost 40 years ago; enough time for some people to have not met or even heard of me!  So I’m told that at the beginning of February Anne and Rhynie Woman went into Rhynie Primary school to tell the local children, teachers and helpers a little bit about my good looks and to find out how romantic they were all feeling.

When you arrive at Rhynie Primary you are greeted by a Minion, two penguins and Rhynie Man
When you arrive at Rhynie Primary you are greeted by a Minion, two penguins and Me!!!

When they arrived at the school they realised that perhaps the teachers and children had heard of me as there is a large cast of me sitting at the doorway.  The cast was created from a mould that Museum of Scotland took of me in 1978 when I was in Barflats.  Can you see any of the Sheep hoof marks Gavin Alston was talking about in his 1988 interview?

Debbi and Anne introducing that activities for the day

Debbi and Anne told the children about the story of Rhynie Man and why Rhynie Woman would like him to return to Rhynie. They also talked about symbols and how we still use them at festival times such as St Valentine’s.

The children were delighted to help and worked hard on their poetry and card making.  Anne and Rhynie Woman enjoyed visiting the school, talking about Rhynie Man and meeting the creative children, teachers and helpers in Rhynie.  A great day!  and special thanks to the Head Teacher for making it happen and Hayley Keane for the photography.

Behind the scenes on Valentine’s Day!

I said I’d been on the telly!

The Alston Family kindly shared a recording they have treasured for a long time.  It describes the official launch of my residency in Woodhill House, Aberdeen.  Back in the day, before the creation of Unitary Authorities (1996 onwards) there were Regional Councils which were a two-tier local government; in my area it was named Grampian Regional Council and was made up of a number of smaller District Councils. Rhynie fell into the Gordon District (named after the Gordon Family who established themselves in the area in the 15th Century – but that’s an entirely different story).grampian televisionThis part of the North East also had its own Regional Television channel and news; Grampian Television, which formed in 1961, covered the area north of the Tay and continued as an Independent Television Network until 1997 and finally subsumed into the Scottish Television branding by 2006.

For locals of the North East, the dulcet tones of John Duncanson, with his regular ‘Oidhche Mhath’ at the end of the programmes was a daily messenger of news. Here he is describing my movement from Rhynie to Woodhill House.

I said I’d been on the telly!

I’ve been on the Telly don’t you know!

I’m not boasting when I say I’m quite media savvy not to mention photogenic!  I’ve been in a few articles, books, newspapers and on television in my time.  I like to think Madonna models herself on me, rebranding herself each time a new song or genre develops.  I’ve been described as a warrior, a pilgrim, Rhynie Number 7, a king, a slaughterman, just to name a few and I’m just going to keep you guessing, it’s much more fun that way.canmoreAbove is a link to Canmore’s swish new website entry, it’s all very serious and factual, great if you are a historian, archaeologist, visitor of stones but there is no mention of nettle pesto and roasted beetroot on their site to get the taste buds watering.Rhynie man aberdeenshire monument recordAberdeenshire Council also has a record of my good self including some brilliant map overlays and all the amazing books I’ve featured in over the years.  They are the chaps to contact if you find any artefacts Pictish or not. For more information check out their website or email PictsThe University of Aberdeen also has a keen interest in all things Northern Picts, under the all seeing eye of Dr Gordon Nobel.  Hopefully the archaeologists will reveal some more interesting things about me in the Summer.  They’ll be digging where I was found and further in the same field.  Just look out for them in mid August to early September.

The digging efforts should mean that even more people will get the chance to see my good looks when they present papers and workshops at conferences over the Winter and Spring. If you’d like to take part in the digs get in touch with  I’m reliably informed that Rhynie Woman treats will also make an appearance at some point as well.


Canmore and Aberdeenshire Council’s Sites and Monument Record are the main sources of information and starting points for research and academic dialogue. There are a whole host of other websites and blogs that write about me (some more accurate than others). Just search under my various descriptions and you’ll see.  A good starting point is Historic Scotland’s micro site Pictish Stones, which has links to some amazing laser scans of some other pictish stones.

If you’re interested in creative things and want to see how others have been inspired you can find out more at the following facebook pages.

Rhynie Woma

Rhynie Woman are by far my biggest fans, they want me back in Rhynie. They are an artists collective that aims to enhance their community by raising awareness of their landscape, history, and people through food and celebration.  I’m up for any kind of food and celebration, especially a Tap O’ Noth bun and some elderflower cordial!

rhynie wifie facebook

Unlike Rhynie Woman, Rhynie Wifies are another matter completely.  To cut a long story short, I seem to have been married to all four of them at some point and must have upset them somehow, I can’t imagine why.  I met them a good few years ago, they haven’t aged well and we won’t mention the nagging, the wee herbal night caps, the hair dyeing, speaking in tongues (really unnerving) and the fleas!

I have been the inspiration for batik painting, poetry, souvenirs, t shirts and towels, sweeties, cookies, Scots fiddle music (thanks to Paul Anderson) and stories.  Have you been inspired to create something about me?  I’d love to hear from you.

I’ve been on the Telly don’t you know!

On the move from Rhynie to Woodhill House…1998

 courtesy of retired Art Teacher for Gordon Schools Community Network including Rhynie Primary, Anne Dean.
Rubbing courtesy of retired Art Teacher for Gordon Schools Community Network including Rhynie Primary, Anne Dean.

After being found in 1978 at Barflats, Rhynie and laying in the field for a while, I was moved to the steading at the Alston’s family farm where I stayed until 1988. While I was in the field and in the steading I still had visitors and some even did some stone rubbings and have them in their homes to this day!

Ian Shepherd, Aberdeenshire Council’s Archaeologist from 1975 to 2009, took me into the council’s care which is a bit like being fostered.  I’m well looked after and until a safe place in Rhynie is available I will stay in Woodhill House for the forseeable future.  There is an open door agreement with the people of Rhynie; potentially, if the Rhynie Community can provide me somewhere to stay, I am suitably supervised and looked after, one day I could return home. One suggestion I’ve heard is that I should be placed beside the bar in the Village’s Hotel! Now there’s an idea…

my home....for now
my home….for now

After 1998 I was taken to Aberdeen and installed in Woodhill House’s foyer, the Headquarters of Aberdeenshire Council.  I was moved by one of the oldest companies in the United Kingdom, The Shore Porters Society (established 1498).  I would love to hear from the guys that moved me so carefully and installed me in the foyer.  With thanks to the Alston Family for providing the photos.

I remain here, in the reception of Woodhill House, supervised by an Archaeologist, protected from the elements (I’m a very special stone) and on view to the public during office hours.  My only companions are people walking past and the lovely receptionists who keep me entertained.  They are always happy to introduce you to me if you’re in Aberdeen and want to pop in to say hi.

For more details about visiting please contact – Aberdeenshire Council Headquarters

Woodhill House
Westburn Road
AB16 5GB

General Enquiries – 08456 08 1207

On the move from Rhynie to Woodhill House…1998