Archaeologists to explore Islay's rural past

A team of highly experienced archaeologists from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) will be visiting Islay next month as part of a nationwide initiative to record Scotland’s rural past. There will be talks and exhibitions as well as training field trips to highlight our rural past. Since its inception last October, Scotland’s Rural Past, a five year project, has already seen forty volunteers receive professional training with over forty abandoned rural settlements recorded, including previously undiscovered prehistoric carved rocks and a hut circle.

The projects premise is to support local communities to investigate the remains of long abandoned settlements in their area that often date back hundreds of years. It hopes to encourage members of the public to discover more about historic rural settlements, by learning valuable new techniques and skills in archaeological building surveying and recording, to rediscover a sense of place and gain a greater understanding of the changing historic landscape around them. The survey material produced by these volunteers will become part of the national archive of the RCAHMS, housed in Edinburgh, where it will be made accessible to the general public and preserved for years to come.

On Islay, the team will give a talk to local people, in partnership with Bowmore Islay Single Malt, who will be providing the refreshments. One of the possible projects in the pipeline for Islay is to locate and record illicit whisky stills dating back to the 18th and 19th century. The local community will hopefully gain a greater understanding of this illegal activity which was commonplace here at this time. The team will also visit a number of abandoned rural settlements in association with local people, and are offering a guided tour of one site for the general public.

Tertia Barnett, project manager for Scotland’s Rural Past said: “We are delighted to be bringing The Scotland’s Rural Past project to Islay where we hope some exciting discoveries will be made.” An exhibition titled “Scotland’s Rural Past” will be held at Ionad Chaluim Chille Ìle from Monday 14th - Thursday 17th May and will be free to view during normal centre opening hours. The exhibition will be sponsored by Bowmore Distillery. A talk entitled “Getting involved with Scotland’s Rural Past” will be held at ICCI on Wednesday 16th May at 7pm. The talk will be free and everyone is welcome. Refreshments will be provided.

There will be a site visit to Lurabus near Port Ellen, Islay on Thursday 17th May 10am to 1pm. Everyone is welcome. To book contact by 10 May Scotland’s Rural Past is a nationwide project launched and supported by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS), the Heritage Lottery Fund, the National Trust for Scotland, Historic Scotland, and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. It will run for five years, finishing in September 2011 and was developed through the work of the Historic Rural Settlement Trust which recognised the need to improve our understanding of rural sites and encourage their conservation by involving local people.

Story published with kind permission from The Ileach

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