Saturday, August 01, 2015

Searching for Pict Stones and Finding Leith Hall

We were greeted by two Bengal cats and their dog when we arrived at the Rhynie Stones carpark.
A little background on the Picts and their stones, for those who only know them from the movies, from the Pictish Stone Trail brochure we were given by Bruce the Aberdeenshire archaeologist:
"The origin of the Picts can be found in the tribal society of the Iron Age. They lived in Scotland, North of the Forth and Clyde rivers, between the 4th and 9th Centuries AD, with a particularly strong presence in what is now Aberdeenshire.  They acquired the Pict, or Picti, Meaning "Painted People" from the Romans-indeed, much of what is known of the Picts is derived from Historical writers from Outside of Scotland as they left no written records of their own."
"The Picts are renowned for their elaborate and ornate artwork, which take a variety of forms.  Best known are the large carved Symbol Stones, decorated with geometric, animal and in the later period, Christian motifs."
Class I stone from Rhynie, incised with a beast, comb and part of an arch.
The stones are classified by age and style of stone and carvings.  Class I: 6 to 8 AD. Unworked stone or boulder, incised with non-Christian symbols.  Class II: 8 to 9 AD. Usually shaped stones decorated with a cross and symbols both Pictish and Christian.  Class III:  8 to 9 AD. Shaped stones decorated with Christian motifs with no uniquely Pictish symbols; including cross-slabs, gravemarkers and free-standing crosses.

Drawing of one of the Class II stones.

What we were able to see.  Glad there was an illustration.
The village of Rhynie, where Rhynie Man was found, was a center for the Picts.  The farmers have found several stones while tilling.  Three are displayed near the old churchyard, while two are in the town center.
Brandsbutt Class I stone has been restored after being broken up by explosives.

The guide took us to several different stones, some in fields, which we hiked out to see, and one the church yard at Kintore and in a small neighborhood park.  Glad we had postal codes and a GPS.
Leith Hall
While driving to our next stone, we stumbled across Leith Hall.  It was on our list of places to visit, we just didn't realize it would be today.  Turns out they have three Pictish stones in their garden.  As it was starting to sprinkle, we decided to stop and visit the house.
Family coat of arms over an entrance.
The house is shown by guided tour, which we had just missed, so we thought we'd look at the gardens until the next one.  The rain had picked up, so we ate our lunch in the car to wait it out.  It slowed down enough for us to start out for the gardens, but then it came back again, eventually turning into a downpour.  We made a run for the house!
Bill took this picture while we were standing under trees to stay dry during a rain storm.  After the rain switched to a downpour, we ran to the Hall.
The guided tour was informative and fun!  Our guide was an older woman, with a delightful Scottish lilt in her voice.  Some of it was a bit hard to understand, but we did figure it out.  There was a family from Austria on the tour, too.  We translated for them, too; cutlery is knives, forks and spoons.

The house had been owned by the same family since being built in 1650, but in 1939 both the father and son died, one of natural causes, the other in motorcycle wreck while in the army.  Their wife and mother kept the estate going through the war, and in 1945 gave it to the NTS with the stipulation she could remain living in the house until her death in 1965.  During her last 20 years, she wrote the history of the family and helped catalogue all the possessions, so now it provides a glimpse into the middle-ranking gentry and insights into the Leith-Hay family.  We were very pleased to have stopped, plus the rain had let up so we could continue our hunt for Pictish stones.

The Moon Gate in the garden at Leith Hall.

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