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Archive for July, 2013

A couple of weeks ago, I visited Govan for the first time in seven months, having not been there since November 2012. It was good to be back, not only to catch up with friends but also to see the Govan Stones in their new settings inside the old parish church. The opportunity came via my involvement with a project called Some Thing Is Missing, of which more will be told at this blog in the near future. This is one of a number of projects for young people in the ‘Young Roots’ programme funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. One element in the project’s schedule was a workshop on the history of the Strathclyde Britons, followed by a visit to Govan Old and a tour of the early medieval sculpture. The unofficial tour guides were archaeologist Ingrid Shearer and myself.

Our visit took place about one week before the formal unveiling of the re-displayed stones and the launch of the 2013 visitor season at Govan Old. I was very impressed with the re-display, which presents these sculptural treasures in a way that allows them to be viewed and photographed more easily. New information boards put the stones in their historical context and highlight individual monuments.

Over at my Senchus blog I recently posted an article urging people to visit the Govan Stones this summer. I reiterate the same message here: go and see this stunning collection of ancient Celtic sculpture. If you’ve visited before, you’ll be amazed at how the stones look in their new positions under specially designed lighting, with attractive signboards giving up-to-date historical and archaeological information. If it’s your first-ever visit, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

For a taste of what’s on offer, check out my Senchus blogpost which includes stunning images by architectural photographer Tom Manley.

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Arthurlie Cross

Copyright © Chris Morrison


Chris Morrison, proprietor of the Grian Press, recently sent me some photos of the Arthurlie Cross, an early medieval monument situated in a residential area of Barrhead in East Renfrewshire. Although only the broken shaft of the cross survives, the clarity of the interlace patterns makes this one of the finest examples of sculptural art from the old kingdom of Strathclyde. The carvings are in the distinctive style of the ‘Govan School’ and enable the monument to be dated to the 9th-11th centuries AD.
Arthurlie Cross

Copyright © Chris Morrison


I visited the Arthurlie Cross in 2010 and included three images of it in my book The Men of the North: the Britons of Southern Scotland, published in the same year. Readers of the book will recognize the illustration shown below, an excellent drawing of the cross by John Romilly Allen (1847-1907).

Arthurlie Cross
For the past couple of years I’ve been working sporadically on a ‘biography’ of the Arthurlie Cross, tracing its thousand-year history as a public monument and exploring the folklore that grew around it. During the 18th and 19th centuries it was used in a more practical way, first as a footbridge over a stream and, later, as a gatepost. The damage it suffered is visible today, most notably on one side where the carvings have been worn almost smooth by the passage of countless feet. In the 21st century we might feel tempted to roll our eyes at such heedless disregard of an ancient monument, until we remind ourselves that it is an integral part of the story. If the cross had played no useful role in the daily life of the local community, it might have been broken up as masonry for buildings.
Arthurlie Cross

Copyright © Chris Morrison


Arthurlie Cross

Copyright © Chris Morrison


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The Arthurlie Cross is located at the junction of Springhill Road and Carnock Crescent in Barrhead, East Renfrewshire.

I am grateful to Chris Morrison for the photographs. Take a look at the Grian Press website to see a good selection of books on Scottish local history, including reprints of older works. Chris also posts interesting historical info at the Hidden Renfrewshire Facebook page.

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