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).This 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.
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…
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 stayed in the steading for about 10 years
one day Shore Porters came and picked me up
and moved me onto…..
a large flat bed lorry….
and took me to Aberdeen.
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
Something very exciting happened today, I was visited by two ladies who covered me in paper and started rubbing me all over! Let me explain more, a couple of ladies from Rhynie Woman (one of them my scout, Anne) came to visit to do a stone rubbing! how cool is that! As you can imagine it is quite some time since i’ve had so much attention but it was fun and for a good cause so I went with it.
Most of the time I just sit here quietly listening to the doors opening and closing watching people walk by and longing to smell the gorse and hear the sound of the wind on Barflats. Occasionally tourists and visitors come and have a look at the photos of counsellors behind me and read my plaque but most of the time I feel a little ignored, to be honest. As you know, I’m such a handsome chap and I have many stories to tell however, with no way of telling them, it’s difficult sometimes to get my point across and join in on the conversation.
Anyway, back to the rubbing. It got a bit dark and tickly at times, but the process was quite nice. They covered me in newsprint paper and started to rub me all over with graphite, careful not to get dust on the stand or the floor and more importantly on me! It reminded me of the times I had visitors in the 1970s and 1980s when I was still out in Rhynie and various people came and visited to do the same thing. Apparently Stone and Brass Rubbing was a bit of a craze at that time. The rubbing took at least an hour or so to do and during that time the ladies really got to know and understand the contours of my surface, so they said.
They discussed at great length the subtleties of marks and channels felt through their fingers and how much more they could learn from this than looking at a photograph or indeed directly. Archaeologists also use subtle ways of looking at objects in the landscape; the combination of light, snow or colour can reveal faint marks in a low sun, an unexpected dusting of snow or the subtle changes in the colouration of a crop. If you know what you are looking for these patterns in the landscape can tell you about how the land was farmed, how people lived and reveals a whole new layer of information that you didn’t realise existed.
The rubbing will be used for a variety of purposes throughout the next few months; going into the primary school, visiting places and being in exhibitions. It will be exciting to see what I get up to and what I will find out. I hope the people have been looking after the world beyond my foyer. Sadly, I think it’s changed since I lived in Rhynie and even more so since I moved here in 1988.
Despite people thinking we live in a throw away culture, nothing ever truly disappears. Anything we do today remains as a shadow, shard or symbol in the landscape for future generations to uncover. So to rephrase a speech made in 1854 by Native American Chief of Suquamish and Duwamish; Tread lightly; take only photos, leave only footprints and kill only time.