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Caithness Field Club


Vol. 1. No. 6. October, 1975.

Dr. Corcoran
It is with deep regret that we have to record the death of Honorary Vice- President Dr. John Xavior Wellington Patrick Corcoran. Dr. Corcoran's early work in Caithness was the excavation of the three chambered tombs, Tulach an t-Sionnaich, and the two Tullochs of Assery on the banks of Loch Calder, in 1961. The results of these excavations he published in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland i964-6.

More recently he will be remembered for his work on the investigation and restoration of Camster Long cairn where members have seen him at work during the summer months over the last few years. During this period he discovered new evidence on the multi-period structure of chambered tombs, and directed the reconstruction of the east end and the two adjacent chambers.

Dr. Corcoran will be sadly missed by all his friends and colleagues and not least by members of the Field Club who always looked forward to his annual visits to the County and many of whom had the pleasure of assisting him during his excavations in Caithness.

Annual General Meeting
At the Annual General Meeting held in Wick in April the following officers of the Club were elected,

Chairman - Mr. D. Oliver, Westerdale, Hood St., Wick.

Vice-Chairman - Mr. L. J. Myatt, 5 Trostan Road, Thurso.

Secretary - Mrs. M. Gladstone, 11 Miller Avenue, Wick.

Treasurer - Mr. B. Hughes, 101 Pennyland Drive, Thurso.

The following members of committee were also elected:- Mrs. J. Campbell, Mrs. M. Norman, and Mr. K. Butler.

At a subsequent meeting of the above committee Miss J. Ryrie, Miss J. Ramsey and Mr. C. Mackenzie were co-opted.

Annual Dinner
The date set for the annual dinner this year is Friday, 14th November and the venue will be on the eastern side of the County. A special bus will travel from Thurso and Wick. Tickets will be on sale from members of the committee. Since numbers may be more restricted this year early application for tickets is advisable.

Meeting with Orkney Field Club.

In July three members of Caithness Field Club visited Orkney and accompanied members of Orkney Field Club on a visit led by Miss Bullard to the Islands of Papa Westray and the Holm of Papa Westray. Although the day started with thick fog the weather gradually improved and memorable visits were made

to the Knap of Howar, St. Tredwells chapel site, and the chambered tomb on the Holm of Papa Westray.

Publication Fund - a note from the Treasurer
For a long time it has been thought that the formation of a publication fund would be a desirable thing.

The object of this fund would be to enable the publication of articles of general interest for sale to the public, articles such as a guide to the most important archaeological sites in the county, lists of the flora and

fauna etc. Once established such a fund would rely on the income derived from sales to the public.

To this end we invite members to donate or loan, interest free, a sum of money not greater than 5.00.

Members who assist in the establishment of this fund would be entitled to purchase publications at a little over cost price.

Please contact Mr. B. Hughes. treasurer.

Bird Notes
The harsh spring weather was probably the reason why some of the northern waders failed to migrate back to the arctic regions, so that Purple Sandpipers, Sanderling, Turnstone, and Curlew Sandpiper were to be seen during the summer months.

In April two members of the Field Club observed a Mandarin Duck swimming in the sea at Scotland's Haven.

In June, Ospreys were to be seen - these are young non-breeding birds who spend some time feeding and then pass on.

The breeding season has generally been a good one with good weather during the period of feeding the young. There are lots of young birds about just now.

During July an immature Spoonbill spent some time on Loch Scarmclate.

It breeds mainly in the Mediterranean area and is an occasional summer visitor to these northern latitudes.

In the last week of August it was seen that the Autumn migration was under way rather earlier than usual. Small groups of Knots were sighted and there were reports of Curlew-Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit, Wood Sandpiper

and Little Stint. A Rose-coloured Starling was found at Wick and a Red-backed Shrike was dead on the road at Mey.

One of the interesting sightings of the season was a Kingfisher at Dunbeath seen by members of the Field Club on an outing in June.

The last bulletin included a request for information about Badgers

for the survey of the Caithness population. Good progress has been made by Jimmy Gunn who has located ten sets in the parish of Latheron alone. There seem to be more of them about than was expected. Further information please to J. Gunn (Reay 205).

Two Painted Lady butterflies were seen during August in different

parts of the County. Does anyone know of previous sightings or of other sightings this year?

Canada Geese - Information Wanted.

During the past few years a flock of Canada Geese has visited Caithness each summer. It seems likely that a moult migration is being established similar to that practised by the Canada Geese from Yorkshire which visit the Beauly Firth each summer. The origin of the Caithness flock is unknown but a ringing recovery suggests that the birds may come from Warwickshire. On the other hand they may be more local in origin.

More information on the Caithness Canada Geese is required and anyone with records of sightings in the County is asked to pass details to David Glass, Brough, Dunnet.

Burial at Keiss
During the summer, in the course of peat cutting a body was found at Clayton hill near Keiss.

When the body was exposed it was seen to be clothed in a yellowish-brown coarse woollen doublet, the lower part being apparently uncovered. A length of twisted heather rope lay along the length of the body.

The body was sent to the University of Aberdeen and the clothing later to the National Museum in Edinburgh. From an investigation of the body it was found to be that of a youth about twenty years old with a minor deformity in one arm. The cause of death was uncertain.

The clothing was identified as belonging to the early 17th century and as such, is the earliest of its kind to be found in this area. The absence

of nether garments was not unexpected since if leather breeches had been worn they would probably have decomposed.

Stone Rows
Two previously unrecorded settings of stone rows have recently been discovered in Sutherland by members of the Field Club.

Near Kinbrace at Ach'na h-Uai, at NC827321, Mr. L. Myatt discovered a fan-shaped setting of stone rows consisting of about 70 upright stones arranged in 10 rows, about 12m length. An accurate survey of the setting was made in June by Mr. R. Freer of Glasgow.

A second rather ruinous setting of stone rows was found by Mr. B. Hughes near Skelpick, Bettyhill, at NC722574, where a total of twelve stones were observed arranged in four rows.

Recent Publications
J. Saxon: The Fossil Fishes of the North of Scotland: Caithness Books, 1975, 49pp., 85p. Originally published under the title "Fossil Fishes of Caithness" this useful book has been out of print for a period of about four years. No one is more knowledgeable than Jack Saxon on the palaeontology of the North and this new edition gives much new information on localities of fossil beds together with an up to date check list of fossils. With over thirty illustrations this new edition is a welcome addition to library of both amateur and professional alike.

K. Steer: Recording Scotland's Heritage: HMSO, 1975, 18Pp., 50p. This

publication, recently received, gives an interesting account of the work of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

Ancient Caithness
Commencing on Monday 3rd November, a series of 5 lectures will be given

in Thurso Technical College by members of the Field Club on the antiquities of Caithness. The lectures will be illustrated and the topics covered will

include the Tomb Builders, the Standing Stones, the Broch People, the Early Christians and the Vikings up to the present day.

Following the popularity of the introductory course in ornithology offered last session a follow-up course will be offered commencing on Tuesday 17th Feb.

Details of these and other leisure courses are given in the new brochure of Leisure Courses to be offered in the College.

New Honorary Vice President
The committee are pleased to announce that Mr. E. J. Talbot has accepted an invitation to become an Honorary Vice President of the Field Club. Mr. Talbot is a Lecturer in Medieval Archaeology in the University of Glasgow and is well known to members both for his lectures to the Field Club and his excavations in the County. He has always shown a keen interest in the Club and we are now pleased to have his closer association with us.

Winter Programme


Sept. 18th - Wick: Miss A. Henshall: The Neolithic Passage Graves of Scotland.

Oct. 1st - Thurso. 2nd - Wick: Miss H. Munro: Caithness Folklore.

Oct. 15th - Bettyhill: Mr. L. Myatt: Mysteries of the Standing Stones.

Oct. 29th - Thurso: Prof. C. Gimingham: Plant Life - Botanical Links between Scotland and Scandinavia.

Oct. 30th - Wick: Prof. C. Gimingham: Plant ecology of Moors and Heaths. Nov. 5th - Thurso: 6th - Wick: Mr. J. Bramman. Guernsey or Jersey?

Nov. 12th - Thurso. 13th - Wick. Mr. R. Cant. The Medieval Church in the North.

Nov. 14th - Annual Dinner; Forse House Hotel.

Nov. 26th - Bettyhill: Mr. D. Oliver: Fresh water fishes of the North of Scotland.

Dec. 3rd - Thurso: 4th - Wick: Mr. D. Omand: Scenery of the Highlands and Islands.

Dec. 10th - Thurso: 11th - Wick: Mrs. E. Beaton: The Doo-cots of North-East Scotland.


Jan. 14th - Thurso. Joint meeting with S.O.C.

Jan. 21st - Bettyhill: Mr. D. Miller: Castles of the North.

Feb. 1lth - Thurso; Mr. G. Stell: Traditional Buildings of the Scottish Rural Landscape.

Feb. 12th - Wick. Mr. G. Stell: Some Rural Buildings in Latheron Parish. Feb. 25th - Thurso: 26th - Wick: Mr. I. Sutherland: Old Fishing Boats.

Mar. 10th - Thurso. Dr. N. Trewin. The Wandering Continents.

Mar. 11th - Wick: Dr. N. Trewin: Hugh Miller's Fossil Fish.

Mar. 24th - Thurso: 25th - Wick: Mr. L. Myatt: Early Christian Settlement in Caithness.

April 14th - Thurso: Annual General Meeting: Mr. L. McNally: Fur and Feather in the Highlands.

April 26th - Wick: Joint Meeting with the Wick Society.