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Castletown Heritage Society Winter 2006 - 2007 Newsletter

Highland 2007 Programme of Events
During 2007 we will be taking part in the Highland Year of Culture with workshops, events and walks to highlight some of the traditional skills used within the village in past times. These events are open to the public. Some are hands-on and some are demonstrations of old skills. The timetable of events is as follows. 19-24th April- rope making and paper making; 19-20th May- drystane walling; June - guided walk around the old village workshops ; 14th July - Caithness Chair making, late Aug -Working with Lime Mortar road show; late October- Storytelling and finale. If you want further information on any of these events, please contact Muriel on 01847 821204 or drop us an email at castletown.heritage@talk21.com  or visit our website www.castletownheritage.co.uk
We look forward to seeing you at some of these events.

Events Held During 2006
During 2006 we held several events. We had two guided walks, one around the airfield at Thurdistoft as part of the Scottish Archaeology Month and another around the religious sites of Castletown as part of the Highland Archaeology Fortnight. We also took part in the Scottish Doors Open Day at Castlehill. All events were well supported by the public.

The walk around RAF Castletown, to give Thurdistoft its proper title, was led by Andrew Gutteridge, who has an amazing knowledge of Caithness and the Second World War. The walk took us from the support areas such as the parachute packing shed, and transport workshops to the more front line ammunition stores, fuel stores and decontamination building where servicemen would be cleaned up after a gas attack. We then moved onto the airfield proper and visited the sites of the plane stances, runways and the maintenance hangers, before finishing at the firing range, where the aim of the planes guns was checked after work on them. The airfield was a rather bleak site with grass runways and tents as accommodation to start with. But as the years passed more modern comforts were introduced. You can read a full account of the history of RAF Castletown in the heritage booklet, ‘Castletown Recalls 1939 - 1945’ which is available on our website.

Our second walk of 2006 was round the sites of the churches of Castletown. Starting at the possible site of a monastery next to Olrig cemetery and the church of St Trothan, one of the earliest religious site in Castletown , we then visited the other past and present churches in Castletown . We learned how they changed allegiance many times during their times of use. A visit inside the present Church of Scotland completed the tour.

We also took part in the Scottish Doors Open Day when museums, historic buildings, houses etc throw open their doors and allow free entry for the day. We took visitors around the Castlehill building and showed what we had done so far and explained our plans for the Highland Year of Culture 2007 workshops.

Pictures of Old
Following his visit in the summer, we have received from Donald Weir of Pickering, Canada, photographs of Greenland House, Main Street taken in the early 1900’s. These pictures show the house as it was then, little has changed on the outside in the last 100 years. Donald’s pictures also include some of his late father also Donald standing outside the house. These are a great record of old Castletown and its inhabitants and we thank Donald very much for his kindness in sending them to us.

Sinclairs of Coulag
From the other side of the world in New Zealand we have recently received information on the Sinclair family, who used to farm at the Coulag, Castletown in the 1800’s. Some of the sons emigrated to New Zealand in the mid 1800’s and started farming at Cheviot, South Island. The family later paid for the erection of a headstone on their mother and fathers grave in Olrig cemetery. Earlier this year Doug Archbold, the great- great- great- grandson of John Sinclair, farmer of the Coulag , visited the grave of his ancestor, who died on 29th July 1870 aged 87. Having spoken to a committee member he later sent on a copy of the history of the Sinclairs of New Zealand which mentions their roots in Caithness. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Doug and his family for this information.

As our part of the Highland 2007 Year of Culture, we will be running a series of workshops on local traditional skills. To do this we need to complete the fitting out of the building at Castlehill to provide the workshop space. We are making progress but still have some way to go to complete the task. In January we will be starting a weekly working night at Castlehill where we will meet and get on with the work. What a great way to get fit after Christmas, learn a new skill and help others at the same time. Do not worry you do not have any previous knowledge of building works as there will always be something you can do and people on hand to give training and advice as you go along. So whether you are a master craftsman or a willing beginner, please let us know if you are willing to help in anyway. Tea and coffee will be provided on the workdays and your help will be most appreciated whether it be for 1 hour or 1 week. Please contact Muriel on 01847 821 204 or email castletown.heritage@talk21.com if you can help.

River Of Stone Project
Earlier this year we became involved with a project to carry out research into the archaeology of Caithness and make it more accessible to ordinary people. The project encompasses several themes including wetland archaeology, Vikings on the North coast and the history of the Forss valley. The Castletown Heritage Society involvement is centred around the settlements on the Dunnet links. The project aims to train people to survey, record and sample sites like this, to allow a better understanding of what is below the ground, without carrying out full scale digs. The training and equipment will be provided by Edinburgh based AOC Archaeology who with the help of locally based experts, will guide the trainees in the recording and exploration of the site. The Dunnet links area is known to have remains of iron age and Viking settlements but much more lies undiscovered below the sand and grass. A small laboratory will be set up to examine samples from the sites, with a view to finding artefacts which will help date the site and provide information about how our ancestors lived . This laboratory will be based in the buildings at Castlehill and will allow the public to see how this type of work is done. The funding applications have been submitted and we await the outcome of this exciting project.