Page images
PDF
EPUB

II.

NOTICE OF A GROUP OF LONG GRAVES, STONE-LINED, NEAR THE

SOURCE OF THE WATER OF NORTH ESK. BY JOHN W. M. LONEY,
F.S. A. Scor.

[ocr errors]

This group

of graves presents the characteristics of a well-known type, which has, however, attracted little notice, doubtless on account of lack of interest arising from the entire absence of grave-goods in asssociation with burials of this description.

I am informed that undescribed groups of graves of similar character have been discovered at Penicuik, at Nunraw, and in the neighbourhood of North Berwick, as well as elsewhere. A group of about twenty such graves found near Uphall has been described by the Rev. James Primrose in the Proceedings of the Society (vol. xxxv. p. 325); and another group of three graves, of apparently similar construction and character, at Gladhouse reservoir, has been described to the Society by the Hon. John Abercromby (Proceedings, vol. xxxviii. p. 96). Reference may also be made to notices of like graves (1) at Auchterhouse by Mr Alexander Hutcheson, and (2) at Stenton by Dr Richardson (Proceedings, vol. xxxix, pp. 393 and 441).

A number of like graves existed at Belhaven, near Dunbar, where their presence was disclosed some fifteen years ago in the raised shellbeach, when cut into by the sea during a severe storm. A short notice of these Belhaven graves was submitted to the Society last session by the Rev. Robert Paul, of Dollar (Proceedings, vol. xxxix. p. 350). Five years ago, when I was showing the site of the Belhaven graves to a friend, he was poking about with his walking-stick in the face of the sand-bank, and struck upon the end of an unopened grave. A few days afterwards Mr J. H. Cunningham, Mr Gilbert Goudie, and I opened the grave, where we found a complete adult skeleton in a supine and extended position ; but there was no vestige of grave-goods in the surrounding

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

space of the grave, which was clear of either sand or gravel. No plans, measurements, or photographs were taken, and no notice of the find was formally brought before the Society.

Being thus fairly familiar with this type of grave, I at once recognised the North Esk graves as likely to be of interest when their existence was pointed out to me in June last by Mr John Tod, the keeper of the North Esk reservoir, to whom I am indebted not only for means of access to a somewhat inaccessible spot and for facilities to examine the graves, but also for practical assistance, and much information on matters of fact which he has kindly placed at iny disposal.

This group, though comparatively few in number, is fairly complete, and its present position is peculiar and precarious, in that a more than usually severe winter might easily bring about the total destruction of the site. It seems, therefore, desirable to put on record the facts I have been able to ascertain regarding the discovery of the graves and their present condition.

Their natural site was originally a small double-topped knoll on the north-east side of the Water of North Esk, where it was joined by the "Gutterford” (formerly apparently known as the “Doit") Burn, flowing in a southerly direction between the Cock Rig and the Spittal Hill. The knoll was situated on the extreme western confines of the parish of Penicuik, between which and the parish of Linton the water of North Esk formed the boundary at this point. The parish boundary has now followed the shore of the reservoir a little further west.

The knoll is composed of a bluish-grey shaly sandstone, lying at a somewhat steep inclination to the horizon. The stone in this position readily admits of being split into the rough slabs of which the grave

are constructed, though in one or two of the graves the flooring stones were noted to be of the red sandstone which is found on the Cairn Hills, at a distance of two or three miles away in a north-westerly

linings

direction.

The accompanying plan of the district (fig. 1) has been made up and photographed from Bartholomew's pedestrians' map of the Pentland

Hills, and there have been added one or two place-names taken from the first 6-in. Ordnance Survey map. The plan shows the narrow valley opening to the south. The elevation at the water-level is somewhere

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors]

Fig. 1. Plan of the District, showing the site of the Graves.

Scale 14 inches to the mile.

[ocr errors]

between 1100 and 1200 feet above the sea, the surrounding hills rising to 1500, 1500, and 1700 feet respectively.

The knoll sloped gently upwards from the south and dipped rapidly to the north, whence the ground rose again sharply, merging in the

hillside which rises to the Cock Rig, or Cook Rig of the Spitals, as it is named in the Description of Tweed-lale, by Dr Alexander Pennecuik, who lived at Newhall, between 1652 and 1722, and to whose book, published, with notes, at Leith in 1815, much of the ecclesiastical tradition with which the neighbourhood abounds may be traced.

In 1850 the knoll became two small islands when the North Esk reservoir was formed by the construction of a dam across the valley about 400 yards to the south, for the purpose of providing a continuous supply of water for the use of the mills along the course of the river to its outfall at Musselburgh.

The first Ordnance Survey map shows both islands, but the revised Survey shows only that to the east, the waves of the reservoir during the winter storms having swept away the covering of soil on the west island, which is now submerged at high-water, and exists only as a rocky gravel bank when the water in the reservoir is low. There is now no apparent trace on its surface of graves having existed upon it.

In 1855 the records kept for the owners of the reservoir show that on the east island a number of different sorts of trees were planted. Of these, however, only some fifteen Scots firs have survived ; and, in addition, there are some five or six self-sown rowan trees. To the binding effect of the roots of these trees on the scanty covering of soil the island owes its preservation from the fate of its sister islet to the

As it is, the island has been much decreased in size; and in an unusually severe storm of wind some twenty years ago, when the reservoir was at its height, and its surface covered with floating ice, the island was temporarily submerged, and much of its soil swept away by the action of the waves and the grinding of the ice. The devastation caused by this storm revealed the existence of the graves. A view of the island, looking eastwards, showing its trees and covering of soil and its foreshore, which is submerged at high-water, is given in fig. 2. In another view of the island, looking westwards (fig. 3), the positions of some of the graves are shown by digging-tools.

The disclosed graves were at once noticed by Mr Garnock, the late

west.

keeper of the reservoir, but no written record seems to have been made of the occurrence. I have ascertained from Mrs Tod, Mr Garnock's

[graphic][merged small]

daughter, and the wife of his successor in office, that Mr Garnock examined all the graves then disclosed, and opened one in the soil surface, probably that marked by the axe in the photograph, but that he found

« PreviousContinue »