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Prehistoric Caithness


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More Questions than Answers
Mike Clark

Saint Mary’s Chapel at Crosskirk is well photographed and documented.

Much less seems to be recorded of the Broch to the north of the Chapel. And what has been recorded is full of contradictions. Today, the site is marked by a mere cairn. Erosion over the years has lost the Broch to the sea – allegedly.


This would be a fairly recent event, though, because as recently as 1981, the site was inspected by a representative of Highland Regional Council, Dept of Archaeology, who reported it as “unsafe, through coastal erosion”.

It was excavated by Dr Fairhurst between 1966 and 1972. At that time he recorded the wall to exist at a height of 2.0 metres internally. This is slightly at odds with a previous survey by Messrs J R Allen and J Anderson in 1903, who reported the wall to rise to a maximum of 1.1m internally, and 1.5m externally. I doubt that it has grown.

St Mary's Chapel

In 1964, it is reported that “at the conclusion of the excavation the broch was bulldozed over the edge of the cliff”. This seems slightly at odds with the above assertion that the site was excavated by Fairhurst throughout the period 1966 to 1972.

Furthermore, the HRC Archaeologist reports in 1981 that after the excavation, the site was demolished, earthed over and seeded with grass. Bulldozers not mentioned.

So the question must be, which is more intriguing?

Our history?

Or the way we interpret and represent it?

Guess I’ll have to head off to the Library, and start from scratch.

Mike Clark also contributes to the Gardening With Attitude section.
He contributes articles to various periodicals, and magazines
Bored? Want a good read and a wee chuckle. Head for  http://www.britishexpat.com/garden/gardenlatest.htm   That's his patch.