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Caithness Archaeological Trust

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Meeting 1 November 2001

Notes on meeting held at Dunbeath Heritage Centre, Thursday 1 Nov 01,
to discuss the formation of the
Caithness Archaeological Trust.

Present: Bill Fernie, Islay MacLeod, David Lynn, Meg Sinclair, Gordon MacLachlan, Marion Owen, Geoff Leet (Caithness Field Club), Paul Humphries, Barbara Hiddleston, Leslie Myatt, Barbara Myatt, George Bethune, Christopher Brocklebank Fowler, Hilda Morrison (Caithness Business Club), Ian Sutherland (Wick Society), Niall Smith (Caithness Voluntary Group), John Swanson, Peter Needham, Cameron Taylor, Nan Bethune.

Apologies: John Rosie, Tom Sayles, Eann Sinclair.

Nan Bethune summarised the two previous meetings and suggested that a simple “three steps purpose” would be appropriate for the coming year.

1. Promotion of all the proposed events in Scottish Archaeological Month (Sept) and Doors Open Day to be done together.

2. Promotion of all proposed events in Highland Archaeology Week (Oct) to be undertaken jointly.

3. A Conference/field trips events to be organised to highlight the exciting new research which has begun recently.

Cameron Taylor’s Presentation:

In 1995, Orkney Heritage Society, with a wide remit, large membership and active programme of events and talks, felt the need to examine their future plans in detail to counteract a perceived lack of urgency. A “Think-Tank” was set up and a visitor survey commissioned by the RSPB showed that 75% of visitors experienced archaeology and 25% of the sample stated that archaeology was their prime reason for visiting Orkney (which had a tourism business valued at £16 million).

Archaeology’s value to the community was not only perceived as social and cultural but also as an economic benefit. The formation of Orkney Archaeology Trust was seen to reflect the need to focus on archaeology. O.H.S. gave birth to the O.A.T.

O.A.T. was to become the focus as discussed, eg:

-hosting an academic forum - seeking World Heritage Status

-archaeology study - business-like approach

-press and public profile - development

-education - forum for discussion

In 1996, the Trust was formed and in 2000 a Development study for the Trust was commissioned. Benefits already achieved include:

- World Heritage Status for Neolithic in Orkney

- 2 International Conferences - Time Team twice

- Archaeology Institute - Archaeology Degree

- Orkney edition of Current Archaeology - Funding

OAT - Education - Management of social, cultural and economic benefits.

Cameron concluded by saying that OAT are a group supported by organisations and individuals who created benefit to the community through effort, persistence and time. This model may not suit us exactly, he would be willing to help.

A wide-ranging discussion followed. Topics included - statement of support for “light touch” organisation by G. Leet, Caithness Field Club.

Various questions - The relationship between existing Trusts and projects and the proposed new Trust - small focused groups, eg: Dunbeath Preservation Trust, proposed Yarrows Trust, etc. seen as members who would attend CAT with proposals and take part in the ongoing debates. CAT seen as a major fundraiser and promoter - the funds being spent by the more focused smaller groups.

Orkney has 10 developed sites and various Caithness possibilities were discussed, eg: Roadside Broch, Nybster Broch, Achavianich, etc. and various methods raised, eg: David Lynn, CSA raised “adopt a monument”. Although these discussions were interesting and stimulating, the meeting was returned to its purpose - to focus on Caithness and its Archaeology. It was suggested that:

- a project officer should be a priority

- a small steering group (NB and others) should create the CAT brief, which should be circulated.

- a feasability study/5 year business and monthly plan be commissioned.

- funding to do the above sourced.

- The structure of CAT be set down and progress towards constitution be made.

Support for the proposed Trust was also sent by Historic Scotland, RCAHMS, Highland Archaeology, and others.

Yarrows meeting - Thursday 15th Nov. Thrumster School.