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….

Busy day on the dig site – Cattle Jaws and Mini Diggers


Another couple of busy days on the dig site. Most interesting for me, the great excitement when a Cattle jaw was found in the terminal/stone socket.  Once again the wooden Rhynie Man Lookie-likie came out and prove to be a very good likeness. Thank you to the @NorthernPicts for the photo – have a look out for them on Twitter and Facebook for more updates and follow the #REAP blog here.


The number of diggers more than doubled today with the primary school’s annual visit to the dig site.  The children were met with a huge container full of spoil to sift through and find lots of interesting things.  They were also interviewed by Fiona Stalker, radio presenter from BBC Radio Scotland – have a look out for the photos on the Northern Picts facebook page, here’s a sneak peek of one of our young at heart local volunteers getting involved.


Listen out tomorrow on BBC Radio Scotland “Out For The Weekend” Friday August 28th 2-4pm for more information about our open day on Saturday 29th August 2015 at 10 – 4pm.

Keep up to date with all the activities and events on Saturday by following the Rhynie Woman Facebook Page and twitter @therhynieman  Hope to see you there!

Busy day on the dig site – Cattle Jaws and Mini Diggers

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….

So where is Rhynie?

I have talked at some length about Rhynie, but do you know where it is?  Would you like to visit and stay a while?  Why don’t you come along to one of the digs; for a day trip to the gala (15th August 2015) or stay a little while longer?  In more recent times, Rhynie was an important trading village, at one point it was known for the best biscuits in the whole of Aberdeenshire (so said a friend’s mum), had three butchers and a dress shop.  It currently has a population of 454, a primary school, post office and shop and medical centre with a whole host of clubs and services.  For more information have a look at Rhynie’s local website and Facebook page.  A place would not be a place without a map so here is one, and of course I’m an important feature!

Feel free to download the map.  The map was funded by Heritage Lottery Funding and produced by Anne Murray for Rhynie Woman.

Rhynie Map for blog

So where is Rhynie?