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HATS TUN October 10th 2004

I wonder what the original name of Kirkwall was. Bers tun or hats tun, or a lost township. Perhaps it was disputed territory, and this is the practical reason behind the siting of St. Magnus Cathedral by the broch remains away from Pictish Papdale. The valley of Scapa runs through to Kirkwall, the other end being Knars tun (though originally Knarrar's stadir).

Strange that with no less than four known souterrains about Hatston there are no longer any suspected brochs on this side of Kirkwall. Between the Burn of Hatston and the new ferry terminal there was a place called Lower Saverock with a site that Petrie labelled as such, only for later archaeologists to call it a souterrain (for no reason I have found). Now the whole place has gone, but I decided to look for any possible signs today just to be certain. Drilling down through CANMAP enabled me to see the spot in location to the curves of the coast and distance from two spots. Despite which I couldn't get the right bearings, partly because of alterations and partly because the birds-eye view map isn't the thing. Nothing obvious to me leastways. At one time this whole area must have been Saverock as another place of that name survives further up on the lower slopes of Wideford Hill - was it part of Hats tun or the border of it ? On further thought the Burn of Hatston, which flows over bedrock throughout its length, seems a more likely candidate for the edge (in which case I could see Saverock as the original name of the burn, by analogy lower meaning on the city side of it).
So I went back towards the terminal and climbed down to the shore. At last I could see the other side of the 'bridge' wher the burn meets the coast. It is quite magnificent, the aspect megalithic shining through. If it were not for the timbers I would have no hesitation in saying it is Iron Age at the latest. This side on the left of the waterway there is something reminiscent of a guard cell 1.2x0.8x0.9m beneath the 'bridge', but only having two sides it is more of a full-height niche I suppose. Shoreside the passage is 1.2x1.1m, the walling either side extends 1.3m and it is possible there is a RH projection from the base of 1.8m (including beyond the tumble a stone 1m long). There is much rubble of varying ages to the sides, in front of the passage the water makes a small but deep pool which could well indicate an old ground level or simply the original stream bed's continuance.
Could it be that the timbers were inserted later to make the crossing level, possibly at the same time the area between the two sections of burn was covered over ? Though it could be the remains of a sea-wall sluice, grander and in better preservation than the one downstream of Tankerness Mill, the size of the bridging roof stones does incline me to see this as re-use (the sluices shown on the map below the main road are purely modern as it turns out).

I think maybe in the wartime the shoreline was built up as a defence around this stretch of coastline, because there is large rubble over and in front of practically all of it. Makes tramping this coastline difficult and making out walls and stuff problematic. Further along is a fairly tidy stretch of cliff. But at one place there are pieces of what looked like big red pottery pipes, or at least the shallow curves suggest small arcs of such material. So it appears to be more evidence from the same period of construction. Near the track that goes up to the junction of the lower Hatston road and the main road is the only visibly surviving stretch of drystane wall. Possibly excepted because it is against the cliff-face rather than on the cliff itself. Is there such a technique as grass-penetrating radar ? It would make my fieldwork so much easier !

P.S. A visit to the library has shown Saverock to be cognate with Saevar Howe 'sea-mound' in Birsay. It is easy to then assign the name to the burnt mound. The souterrain at Lower Saverock had several passages. When excavated one only existed as a short length owing to the stones having been taken for the farmhouse. Were some used for the 'bridge' or no ? How far back does the structure go, perhaps the stones came from the mound. At the top of the Burn of Hatston the place Yairsay is another -stadir, the early form possibly indicating that it preceded hats-ton. Was there a structure there that was dismantled, with some of the stones re-used at the 'bridge'. Looking at the kink in the burn before it reaches the sea I fondly imagine that the burn did not originally go through there and it was indeed a passage into a pre-Viking structure. As RCAHMS say, regarding the burnt mound, it seems this region has come through the ages remarkably unscathed considering its proximity to Kirkwall itself.

wideford Posted by wideford
12th October 2004ce
Edited 12th October 2004ce

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