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An illustrated lecture by Dr Christopher Chippindale, Reader in Archaeology at the University of Cambridge, will be held at the Wiltshire Heritage Museum, Devizes on Saturday, 19 December 2009 from 2:30pm.

So down we lay again. `I wonder,
Will the world ever saner be,
‘Said one, `than when He sent us under
In our indifferent century!’

And many a skeleton shook his head.
`Instead of preaching forty year,’
My neighbour Parson Thirdly said,
`I wish I had stuck to pipes and beer.

‘Again the guns disturbed the hour,
Roaring their readiness to avenge,
As far inland as Stourton Tower,
And Camelot, and starlit Stonehenge.

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

Complete poem here

Starlit Stonehenge. Image credit Jane Tomlinson

A few days ago this exciting solstice event was mentioned in English Heritage’s news

Trouble is, months ago the OTHER joint organisers, the Royal Astronomical Society, made sure astronomy buffs knew all about it so they were all well aware of the joint website about it and the need to book a place early.  You can still go to the exhibition but the bit that needed booking was this:

“On each of the four evenings, a maximum of 48 people will have the opportunity to visit the interior of the stone circle after sunset, which is not normally allowed. Guided by astronomers and archaeologists, you will enter the site at 16:30, as the sky is darkening, and be able to remain until 17:30.”

Pre-booking was stressed as essential and guess what? Tickets got snapped up. And now  the joint website says (unsurprisingly) “We regret that bookings are now closed.”

We wonder how many of the 4×48 lucky ticket holders are astronomy buffs and how many are megaraks? And have the megaraks been well served? After all, arguably, this is the best event that has been held at Stonehenge for millenia! Is the view of the stars from inside Stonehenge more significant to astronomy enthusiasts than to  prehistory enthusiasts? Are YOU going? Did you even get the chance?

English Heritage committee members recently opined that “public benefit”, “economic benefit” and “other benefits” should be combined into a single term in the government’s new planning guidelines!

Members felt that the phrase ‘public benefits’ should be used with caution, due to the difficulty in defining how public benefit is judged. It was suggested that one single term could possibly be used to cover ‘public benefit’, ‘economic benefit’ and other benefits, although recognising the difficulty in settling upon an agreed term”
(From Section 6.4.b of the minutes of the English Heritage Advisory Committee, September 2009, discussing the government’s draft New Planning Policy Statement on Planning for the Historic Environment.

Sad and telling that our statutory heritage champion is anxious that a single phrase is used for “public benefit”, “economic benefit” and “other benefit”. One could ask “who is likely to gain massively from such a deliberate lack of clarity? The public or people that are out to make money?” An answer was supplied at Thornborough. And the Rotherwas Ribbon. And Bond’s Garage, Avebury (and on almost a weekly basis with insolent openness in Ireland). In each case there was enormous “benefit” (as the unified phrase might indicate) yet in each case it was private monetary benefit at the expense of public heritage benefit.

So, should there be a single phrase to describe such happenings? “Benefit gained”?  Hardly! Not outside the pages of 1984. Bad idea, not distinguishing economic benefit from cultural benefit as clearly as possible on every occasion that arises (or claiming it’s too difficult to even try!)

Here is the Thornborough complex, unique in the world. The majority of it’s surroundings have now been destroyed. For gravel. So should what happened there be thought of as a murky mix of “public benefit’, ‘economic benefit’ and other benefits”? We think not! Heritage assets were destroyed so there is no public cultural benefit. There is gravel in loads of places in Britain so there is no public economic benefit. So the only benefit that accrued were the “other benefits” – in other words, the financial benefit to Tarmac PLC. Truths such as that ought to be kept crystal clear ought they not since it was THAT benefit, and that benefit alone, that the planning system combined with the protection system delivered there after much deliberation and virtuous talk!

By Gordon Kingston, Heritage Action

“Jesus said to him, ‘I tell you, tonight before the cock crows you will disown me three times.’ Peter said, ’Even if I must die with you, I will never disown you.’ And all the disciples said the same.”

Matthew 26, 34-35

You’d almost be slow to think about Brendan Mathews’ recent, impassioned, statement on the fate of the ancient landscape at Bremore. It was so hopeless. Yet, considering the way that the wind is blowing, this most prevailing of Irish winds, there seems little reason to doubt his conclusions.

One sad point, in particular, stood out, and that was in regard to the ignoring, or disowning, of the situation, by the people that could have spoken most strongly against it. To let him use his own words:

“Archaeologists have walked with me over this beautiful landscape and were expressing their ”horror” at the suggestion of the tombs being destroyed; however, where are they now? Now that the time is getting closer to filling in an application form for an expression of interest in helping to dig it up at a huge cost, a cost that can never be recouped, ever.”

Of course their position is conflicted. They are, for the most part, dependent on the greatest potential spoilers of archaeology; the state and large developers, for their income and job opportunities, and must, naturally, be reluctant to be seen as awkward. Especially if a development appears inevitable anyway. But does that make it any less depressing?

In any case, Mr. Mathews suggests that the tactful silence may soon be rewarded. Tenders are being invited for the; “Contract for the provision of archaeological and cultural heritage services to Bremore Ireland Port Limited in connection with a new greenfield port at Bremore, Co. Dublin.”

Sorry friends, there’s only work for some of you.

A guest feature by Alexander Jarvie

"In me thou see'st the twilight of such day" - The last signs of Greenhill stone circle.

After having a bad experience at Westertown I suffered the same fate the next day. Whilst working in the Peterhead area I’d some spare time and decided to find the Corbie Knap cairn (NK08564043). On the way I passed Greenhill Farm and enquired about the stone/stone circle (NK097041).

Whilst asking permission to park the car, which was given, I was told by the present occupant that the farmer had grown tired of ploughing around the stone. Therefore he dug a hole and buried it. Nothing now grows on this patch of land which has been recently worked on for drainage purposes. This happened, perhaps, more than ten years ago. To make matters worse the present occupant mentioned that other stones had been dumped in neighbouring fields or amongst piles of farm waste and rubble. Going by these stones the circle comprised of red and gray granites. At nearby Standing Stones Farm, near Hatton another stone circle was destroyed many years ago.

As for Corbie Knap, it has suffered quite badly, but now has a fence around most of it which offers it some protection.

What do politicians consider? There’s a question. What makes them decide, apart from instinct, in favour of this, to reject that? Is it the national interest? Is it the impact on employment and economic growth? Is there a finger, or a fist, held to the winds of public opinion? How much pressure comes from special interest groups, or big business? Or, and excarnate the flesh to the most basic level, is it merely about pressing the right nerves with sufficient of the electorate to ensure re-election, while keeping damage to the interests of the ‘very helpful’ people to a minimum?

Think about Tara and the M3. Then imagine a great balance, an old-fashioned weighing scales, two pans dangling on expensive golden chains, somewhere inside the basement of Leinster House. How could that balance have been tipped? Could it ever, really, have been tipped?

 

Roestown Souterrain Complex - Filled in and buried under several tonnes of concrete.

The trail of the M3 works, from Rath Lugh back to Lismullin - The huge Iron Age enclosure was recorded and then, incredibly, destroyed.

The impact of the works on the side of Rath Lugh.

The face of the Rath was stripped and left exposed for a long period - The trenches that striate the side were caused by movement of water over this time.

Deep tracks, cut by heavy machinery, in the soft ground near Lismullin.

Further Reading: M3, Co. Meath: The End of the Road 

The following eloquently worded email by Brendan Matthews describes the frustration and anger at the proposed development of the new Bremore Port being contemplated by the Irish State, it deserves reprinting again and again to underline the helplessness of the ordinary citizen when balanced against the ‘powers that be’……….

 

I would be extremely grateful if this link could be passed on -

“Apologies for not being in touch of late; I was involved in some other, serious stuff, and Bremore, important and all as it is, had to be placed down the scale of my agenda.

“Who are you actually referring to when you suggest that more locals need to become involved? As far as I can make out, there are very, very, very few locals from Drogheda to Duleek, to Skerries that have little or no interest and don’t care if the whole complex is bulldozed into the Irish Sea. Also, there are a few people who have contacted me in recent months offering to do this, that and the other, but they don’t wish to be seen, publicly; why not? What’s the problem in stating what you believe in publicly. I for one am certainly not afraid to speak and denounce what is happening and I have a huge problem in folk who will not stand up and say it like it is. Archaeologists have walked with me over this beautiful landscape and were expressing their ”horror” at the suggestion of the tombs being destroyed; however, where are they now? Now that the time is getting closer to filling in an application form for an expression of interest in helping to dig it up at a huge cost, a cost that can never be recouped, ever.

“In the past I have come up against all sorts, individuals, companies, associations, local government, etc and its always the same; no straight answers, bare-faced lies, patronising bastards, falsehoods and so, in the end, I reverted to doing things on my own; recording the demise of our heritage and lamenting our cultural past so that it may be read by a people tomorrow; written and recorded by a person who knows the landscape and its people of the later 20th and early 21st century; a person who by now is tired, disgusted and sickened by government actions, both local and national and in collusion with the ” wealthy, Greedy and Powerful” numbskulls of this island. The real folk of this country don’t matter, they never did; the laws are made to keep you and me in our place, where we have no representation left of any kind, where we have no access nor resources from the land anymore and where we are now more oppressed and suppressed than at any time in our past: rotten from the inside out. We talk about ” Ancient Ireland”, but yet we are only a ” Free State” since 1922 that’s a mere 87 years young and look at us, Industrial schools, Corrupt Police, Church, State Leaders, etc. In simple terms: Bremore has been the landing spot for the first industrialists to this island, the first farmers, the first settlers, the first economists/traders; the entire landscape along the coast here is one of huge heritage values; not of ”Archaeological Importance”; not any more and, maybe its time we omitted the word  “Archaeology” in association with Bremore because the same people who, supposedly, represent that of archaeology are helping in a huge way to destroy the very thing we are fighting for and there’s never a word about the huge cost that this, so called, knowledge, a knowledge that wont even be passed on to local schools, community groups or historical societies; a knowledge that will be stored away in boxes in the deepest dungeons of the N.M.I.

“At this point, I could go on for hours, but I’ll end now with this; It’s not a matter of ”throwing in the towel”, someone can only be accused of that if indeed they have the “towel” in their grasp in the first instance. Revolution or a lost cause?”

 

The following  extensive articles written by Gordon Kingston on the planning process at Bremore must add to the protest…

 05/10/2009 – Bremore Not a Natural Harbour

26/10/2009 – Bremore. Quo Vadis

06/011/2009 – Bremore. The Planning Process

A guest feature by Alexander Jarvie

The other cup-marked boulder, at Corskellie - Image by Alexander Jarvie

Westertown Farm (NJ 58824450) is situated on the A97 just south of the B9001 junction. This is an area with many stone circles, indeed there is a circle at Cairnton in the next field. Canmore describe the stone as 2.2 meters in length by 1.5 meters wide with 12 plain cup marks, which made me, at any rate, wonder if the stone had originally been part of the circle. After several attempts looking I bit the bullet and enquired at the farmhouse.
 
Anybody looking for this cup marked stone will be wasting their time. The farmer buried the stone several years ago in the same field in which it had rested for years. The reason given – he couldn’t be bothered driving around it. There then followed arguments between the Historic Scotland and the farmer. So in the end not a very good result. (This info was supplied freely by the farmer’s daughter in law.)

Meanwhile at Corskellie (NJ 55864751), a magnificent cup and ring marked stone was found. The farmer here displayed the stone, along with two others, on a platform beside a new barn. Surely this would and should have been the answer at Westertown!

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