Celtic Culture & heritage

Skara Brae - The Storm That Lifted the Cloak From Europe’s Best Preserved Stone Age Village

Skara Brae P

Orkney (Scottish Gaelic: Arcaibh), is an archipelago made up of 70 islands, 20 of which are inhabited, that lie 10 miles (16 km) from the coast of Caithness (Scottish Gaelic: Gallaibh) in northern Scotland.

During the winter of 1850 a severe storm lashed the islands including the largest island in the group called Mainland. Beneath the sand dunes on the Bay of Skaill the combination of wind and some very high tides stripped the grass from a large mound, then known as "Skerrabra" and revealed a long hidden secret. One of the most remarkable archaeological sites in the world was discovered that year, when after many centuries nature lifted the cloak that had covered  the 5000 year old preserved village at Skara Brae.  Local laird, William Watt of Skaill, began an excavation of the site in 1868. Four ancient houses were unearthed before work at Skerrabra was abandoned. The settlement remained undisturbed until 1925 when a further storm was seen to threaten the site and a sea-wall was built to preserve the remains. Construction of this led to the discovery of more ancient buildings.

Between 1928 and 1930 further excavations uncovered the dwellings visible today. Subsequent radiocarbon dating point to the village having been occupied for about 600 years from 3100 BC to 2500 BC. This was a time in the Neolithic or New Stone Age period before the discovery of metal. Eight dwellings can be seen, linked together by a series of low, covered passages. The buildings, along with their contents, are well-preserved, with the walls of the structures still standing, and alleyways roofed by their original stone slabs. Tools, furniture and artwork found on the site give clues of how the ancient inhabitants lived their lives. Due to coastal erosion, Skara Brae now stands right by the shore of the Bay o' Skaill. However, during its lifetime the village would have been some distance from the sea.  Over time the encroaching sand dunes led to the village’s gradual abandonment.

Interview with interview Margaret Sharpe, the Convenor of the Celtic Council of Australia

The Australian Standing Stones festival at Glen Innes

The Celtic Council of Australia was formed on 24th March, 1982 after a public meeting organised in Sydney by a number of representatives of resident Celtic communities in New South Wales. The key instigator and driving force behind the Celtic Council project was the late Mr Peter Alexander, then of the Scottish Heritage Council, and he was elected as the first Convenor of the Council. Since its formation the Celtic Council has encouraged Celtic activities, including establishing the Australian Standing Stones at Glen Innes along with the local community. The Australian Celtic Festival, in Glen Innes, was started in 1992 and has grown from strength to strength since that time. The Celtic Council was also involved in the launch of the Australian Celtic Journal as well as the development of academic courses at universities and other learning centres
 
The Council has continued through the support of many individuals and organisations from within the Celtic communities. The current Convenor is Mrs Margaret Sharpe, who has held the position for the last nine years, but will be standing down this year. Margaret is a previous President and now Vice President of the New South Wales Manx Community. 
 
Recently, Transceltic's Alastair Kneale had the pleasure of interviewing Margaret Sharpe, the Convenor of the Celtic Council of Australia.
 

The Man Engine

Man Engine, Redruth

The Man Engine Chant called out by thousands in Cornish when the man stands up:

HAKA BALWEYTH (Pol Hodge/Will Coleman)
KOBER! ARGHANS!........STEN! STEN! STEN!
YN PUB KARREK?...........YN PUB MEN!
KOBER! ARGHANS!........STEN! STEN! STEN!
AN GWELLA STEN?.........YN KERNOW!

(Kober - Copper, Sten - Tin, Yn pub Karrek - In every rock, Yn pub Men - In every Stone, An gwella Sten - The best Tin?, Yn Kernow - In Cornwall)

Kernow: the horn-shaped granite kingdom of Cornwall thrusts itself out into the Atlantic Ocean. It is a tiny 0.02% of the planet’s surface yet beneath its rocky shores can be found samples of more than 90% of all mineral species ever identified! Millions of years in the making, the geology of Cornwall is unique. This unbelievable geological treasure (Copper, Tin, Arsenic, Lead, Zinc, Silver, etc) has powered the Cornish people’s endeavour through over 4,000 years of mining history: innovation, triumph and heartbreak.

In July 2006 the Cornish mining landscape was recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. This placed Cornwall's engine houses, miners’ cottages, grand gardens and miles of labyrinthine underground tunnels on a par with international treasures like the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China amongst others.

Ulster’s Beltany - A 5000-year-old Monument to a Living Celtic Holiday

To the southwest of the Ulster city of Derry in County of Donegal, near the town of Raphoe, is a Neolithic Celtic monument known as the Beltany Stone Circle.  The Beltany Stone Circle is estimated to have been constructed approximately 5000 years ago based on recent archeological research funded by the Irish Heritage Council.  Dating Beltany from about 3000 BC makes this monument older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids (some published sources conversely date the construction of the stone circle at between 1300 and 800 BC).

A local group that is dedicated to the preservation of this little known site is the Raphoe Community in Action group. With funding from the Heritage Council of Ireland they have been engaged in an on-going archaeological research project at the site.

The Stone of Destiny

Replica of Stone of Destiny

The Stone of Scone (Scottish Gaelic: An Lia Fàil)—also known as the Stone of Destiny, can now be found in the Crown Room of Edinburgh Castle, along with the crown jewels of Scotland (the Honours of Scotland). The crown was used for the coronation of Scottish monarchs from 1543 (Mary I) to 1651 (Charles II). The Stone of Scone was used for centuries in the coronation of monarchs in Scotland. It was historically kept at the now-ruined Scone Abbey in Scone (Scottish Gaelic:Sgàin), near Perth (Peairt). Perth is located in an area that is known to have been occupied since Mesolithic times more than 8000 years ago. Much older stones than that of the Stone of Destiny exist nearby, with standing stones and circles dating to the Neolithic period about 4000 BC.

Shakespeare, The Ghost of Eleanor Duchess of Gloucester and a Magnificent Haunted Manx Castle

William Shakespeare

Recently celebrations have taken place to mark 400 years after the death of Shakespeare on May 3, 1616. In Shakespeare’s play Henry VI.part 2 act 2.scene 3 reference is made to the imprisonment in the Manx fortress of Peel Castle (Manx: Cashtal Purt ny h-Inshey ) of Eleanor Cobham, Duchess of Gloucester (c.1400 – 7 July 1452):

Stand forth, Dame Eleanor Cobham, Gloucester's wife:
In sight of God and us, your guilt is great:
Receive the sentence of the law for sins
Such as by God's book are adjudged to death.
You four, from hence to prison back again;
From thence unto the place of execution:
The witch in Smithfield shall be burn'd to ashes,
And you three shall be strangled on the gallows.
You, madam, for you are more nobly born,
Despoiled of your honour in your life,
Shall, after three days' open penance done,
Live in your country here in banishment,
With Sir John Stanley, in the Isle of Man.

William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 2, Act 2, Scene 3.

Admiral Sir John Forster ‘Sandy’ Woodward GBE KCB - Admiral who commanded the British Naval Task Force 317.8 in the South Atlantic during the Falklands War.

Admiral Woodward

Woodward was born on 1 May 1932 at Penzance, Cornwall, to a local bank clerk and his Cornish family.

Having graduated from the Royal Naval College Dartmouth, Woodward joined the Royal Navy in 1946.

He became a submariner in 1954, and was promoted to lieutenant that May.

In 1960 he passed the Royal Navy's rigorous Submarine Command Course known as The Perisher, and received his first command, the T Class submarine HMS Tireless.

Promoted to lieutenant-commander in May 1962, he then commanded HMS Grampus before becoming the second in command of the nuclear fleet submarine HMS Valiant.

Fanny Moody – diva, opera singer, businesswoman, ‘the Cornish Nightingale’

Fanny Moody

Fanny Moody was born in Fore Street, Redruth (where the post office now is) in 1866, one of 13 children of a Redruth photographer, James Moody.

While she was still at school Mrs Basset of Tehidy recognised her talent and paid for her to go to London to learn to sing properly.

Her first break came in 1887 when she sang for the Carl Rosa Opera Company's opera ‘The Bohemian Girl’. Whilst singing for them, she met and married Charles Manners who was of Irish parentage and later formed this Moody-Manners Opera Company.

She became known as ‘the Cornish Nightingale’ and was presented with a tiara with the Cornish coat of arms picked out in diamonds.

She sang under Augustus Harris at Covent Garden and Drury Lane (1890-94). Her roles included Eileen in 'The Lily of Killarney', Micaela in 'Carmen", Marguerite in 'Faust', as well as leading roles in 'La Juive', 'I Puritani' and several Wagner operas.

She travelled extensively abroad and sang the songs from home to the Cornish exiles and for the miners in South Africa in 1896.

Ralph Allen - Cornish founder of the modern postal service, creator of Georgian Bath, Mayor of Bath and philanthropist

Ralph Allen

Ralph Allen was baptised in Cornwall in 1693 and at the age of 14 became a clerk at the Post Office at St. Columb Major, Cornwall.

Ralph Allen's grandmother ran the Post Office at St. Colomb Major. When he was 14 her health deteriorated and he ran the Post Office on her behalf. At this time St. Colomb Major was a more important town than Truro.

It is thought that Quash, a Postal Surveyor, would have called at this Post Office and met the efficient young Allen.

It was probably as a result of this meeting that the young Allen was and later given the exalted position of Postmaster of Bath as a young man of 19.

At the age of 27 Allen took control of the Cross and Bye Posts under a seven year contract to the Post Office agreeing to pay £6,000 per annum, about half a million pounds today.

At the end of period he had not made a profit as he only broke even but he had the courage to continue. He reformed the postal service, creating a network of postal roads that did not pass through London. It is estimated that he saved the Post Office £1,500,000. Ralph Allen continued to sign contracts, paying £6,000 per annum every 7 years until his death.

Joshua Lewis Matavesi - International Rugby Player, Fly-half, Wing, Centre, Fullback

Joshua Lewis Matavesi

'I identify as 'Cornish Fijian' and I feel Cornish, not English.' (Josh Matavesi)

Josh was born on 5th October 1990 in Camborne, Kernow to a Cornish mother and Fijian father.

His father, Sireli Matavesi, who is from Vanua Balavu, Lau Islands, Fiji, toured Britain as a Fiji Barbarian in 1987 where he met his wife, Karen, a Cornish maid.

Josh went to Camborne Science and Community College and then Truro College

He played for Mounts Bay RFC in the National Division Two. He also played for Truro College and has also made a handful of appearances for Exeter United.

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