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Fieldnotes by woodhouse

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Drumsturdy / Laws (Souterrain)

Found a few mentions of Drumsturdy / Laws fort, Lucas' 1803 and Groomes 1901 Scotland gazetteers mention the site as a vitrified fort. In an obscure little pamphlet published by the Arbroath Herald and written by Rev Thomson of old church Arbroath around 1890 which is called " Hill forts of Angus" he tells us that the parish accounts of 1842 mentions cists being found there in the 1700's. Also a rumour of 2 workmen finding some gold there. Thomson mentions finds from the "sheep pen" site..querns, iron axes, iron sword, stone cup, coin, armlet, human and other bones, charred wheat and barley.

He talks of this site being a remnant of cyclopian skills ( nice word) and the " Scottish Pompeii!! His article on white Cathertun also points out that the boulders there must have been carried up hill, rather than using the local stone.

This 120 metre high volcanic "law" is 3km north of Monifieth and from the top you can see for ever. The OS map describes this site as "Fort & Broch", it appears however to be a succession of very different things. There is a small round tower of interesting construction but less than 200 years old. There are also two large square, stone flag built structures, which I assumed to be the fort, one was built with a butress on one side.

But the whole site is entirely dominated by a number of underground structures. Whilst these may have passed as ditches associated with the fort, they are very obviously built by souterrain builders. They are boulder and slab constructions, incorporating some wonderful cup stones ( cups big enough to put apples as well as scores of small cups...but no circles). The subsequent structures did cannibalise the earlier ones to a small extent and there are cup stones visible all over the place.

As Angus souterrains go I havent seen anything quite as complex or extensive as this. I counted four seperate souterrain "units"

The biggest souterrain has at least four concentric tunnels, one of which is forked ( as far as I am aware only Kinord, Aberdeenshire, is built with a "Y" fork in it). The main tunnel is 12 feet across. There are too many signs to mention which suggest that these structures were built by the same folks who built pitcur / ardestie/carlungie etc.(crosslinks between the tunnels, the tunnels curve...cup stones and boulders......) All of the roof slabs were missing..and likely to have been used elsewhere..a likely candidate covers a very old well in the field at the base of the Law....and also shows that there is a source of water at that elevation.

One of the other souterrain structures is probably unique. It looks like an underground sheep pen...a circle of about 25 feet diameter...the main reason it probably wasnt a recent sheep pen is that again it is built with a base course of boulders....and a number of cup marked stones. If this is the case then it would suggest that it shows a not unexpected technical development...if the proto picts could build long curved walls and small round chambers...then one day they may have had a go at a big round chamber..and so get more useful area from their labours.

A third souterrain structure in the middle of the site may well be largely intact with roof slabs still in place and a general bunny paradise.The fourth is smaller and quite convoluted and has at least two concentric tunnels.

The fact that these structures were built with boulders in souterrain style is worth thinking about....this is a volcanic hill with plenty of rock available...but the folks who built these things carried boulders from their source up the hill !

I have found no reference to this site in the ususal souterrain sources, a lady I spoke with at the Laws farm told me the site had never been excavated. So maybe it is possible that it has been overlooked as a souterrain site..the tunnels being considered as defensive ditches...

When looked at from the souterrain angle this is a very special site which from the scale and technical complexity of the structures must represent a major achievement for the architects and builders.

Directions
turn left off the dundee-arbroath road (A92) at the Ardestie earth house signpost ( B962)at the X junction turn left on the drunsturdy road and turn left again after 700metres next to the cottage. Drive up the track to Laws farm..and ask at the farm house..as you have to cross their field of animals to get to the site.

Pitcur Souterrain

I visited this amazing site in January, and after a chat with the very friendly farmer I followed Martin's directions. Someone (the farmer - I guess) had put in a lot of care and effort to clear the site of weeds and cut down the trees. The stumps being left in the ground. So it is possible to get a clear impression not only of the size, but also the complexity of the souterrain. If Scottish souterrains are your thing then dont miss this one ... its very special, just go and sit inside for a while.

Whilst there had obviously been a few visitors as the grass was trampled there was no litter around..so nice one visitors. Also worth wondering why no evidence of big trees growing at the site?

Conon Souterrain

Visited October 2001. This souterrain was discovered in 1859 when " Mr Lindsay of West Grange of Conon lifted a large stone in one of his fields and revealed a curious bee-hive chamber." It made the Dundee telegraph of 4th June 1859. A Mr Jervise made some limited excavations and drew a plan. There is a main passage of 54 feet long, the beehive chamber connects to it about 1/3 down the tunnel..and there is even a short side tunnel off this connection. 20 feet north of the tunnel was a large paved area and some 10 to 40 feet to the NW some six burial sites were found. Finds at the site included humanbones, coloured pebbles, coarse pots, pieces of Roman amphora, a bronze armlet, grind stones, perforated pieces of lead and some corroded iron implements. ( now in the national museum). Subsequent visitors were damaging the structure and the passages were filled in..but it was said to be possible to still enter the beehive chamber in 1951and enter 17 feet of tunnel.

When I visited -it was to see if there was anything left, I had no intention of entering. It is as marked on the OS map and very easy to find. The beehive chamber has had the slab put back on it and the chamber appears to be still open beneath. 20ft to the NW there is also another pile of stone, presumably covering the main tunnel.

This site is very likely to be in a good state of preservation..eventhough/ as a result of the original builders backfilling it. It is unique in NE scotland terms for a) the beehive chamber b) th proto- pict burials( if that is what they are and c) the large paved area.

It has a typical and wonderful location...gently rolling slope down to the Tay estuary..and on a good day a fantastic view to sea and way far south. The prospect of talking to the farmer and lifting off the capstone is amazing; but you would need a few folks to do it and this site is really a gem which as it is -is preserved but inaccessible. Lets hope it stays preserved in some form or other.

Woody.

PS I will try to post some picture in due course.
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