Monday, 9 August 2010

Ruthrieston Pocket Park erases a dark period from our history.

Mere metres from the perma-queued traffic at the southern end of South Anderson Drive, we have to thank our favourite quango Aberdeen Greenspace for preserving and enhancing Ruthrieston's Pocket Park.

Down an embankment and screened from the road by judicious new planting, the pocket park is an island of tranquility for pedestrians and cyclists. A recent addition to the park is this piece of public art which is a homage to Aberdeenshire's Pictish symbol stones and to the people who made them.

Symbols (from bottom) show copies of the Pictish Comb & 
Mirror, Double disk and Z-rod and Flower (or Bronze strip)
This side depicts copies of the Pictish symbols for Goose and Salmon. 
A Bull, Boar and Wolf are being herded by a axe-wielding, bearded (yet bald or tonsured) 
tribesman who has been carved in homage to The Rhynie Man.
This new piece of public art has been placed as close as is possible to the probable location of Ruadri's Mound (Motte and Bailie castle)

Ruadri was a 12th Century war-lord and strong-man who declared his estate and made his citadel on this strategic sight. Raising himself up to the heights of his commanding Motte he could look down upon his peasants, land-slaves whom he would have bonded to the fertile earth in the broad flat fertile valley of the Ruthrieson Burn below. (Now the site of the Bridge of Dee shopping and parking experience and some playing fields stretching north to Auchinyell Bridge and west to Pitfodels; bounded by Kaimhill to the south west.

Also, Ruadri's stronghold would have commanded the Foords o' Dee crossing point (the only reliable ford on the Dee east of Park) where he could have demanded tribute from all crossing the river to and from the Causey Mounth - the only road (causeway, causey) over the mounth (hilly upland) which isolates the Dee Valley from lands to the south. (We'll be examining the Causey Mounth road in detail soon, so watch this space.)

Ruadri, along with Gillecoaim (Gillecoaim's town -> Gilcomston) signed a charter for King David in 1125 in the Book of Deer which sowed the seed of Aberdeen as a Burgh in the context of the very much wider 'Davidian Revolution'. This 'revolution' was  the 'enlightenment' of its day, though, em... medieval in content and context. Sweeping reforms under the hand of King David saw the 'Normanisation' of Scotland with the establishment of a feudal order over the existing tribal social organisation which had prevailed since pre-history.

Ruadri's titles - he was the so-called last Moramaer (tribal chieftan), and first Earl (feudal big-man), of Mar - underline this changing of the social order from the tribal socialisation of wealth and power to the feudal concentration of power and wealth in the hands of self-styled 'noble' families who were, in fact quite simply the most violent stop-at-nothing in their will-to-power land-thieves and court-prostitutes in any given locality.

Now that we've learned this, we can interpret the erection of this Pictish-homage monument as a thumbing of the nose at puffed-up Ruadri and his feudal, land-grabbing, hierarchical impositions. The message could not be clearer. Where once the King's agent and lickspittle lacky lorded it over the local tribesmen and extracted tax for transit and tribute for trade, now the aboriginal inhabitants of the land are depicted going about their tribal business, untroubled by Kings, lords, tax-collectors or local strong-men.

The stain of the brutish feudal era has been erased by Aberdeen Greenspace and the sculptor of this fine piece of public art in tribute to and in memory of our antecessors. Let's hope that those who'd like to try to dominate the people of Aberdeen today, and extract extra and novel taxes from our households and businesses to enable their own ego-massaging vanity-project land-grabs will similarly be snubbed by history, in time.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sorry guys, but your last two paras are almost incomprehensible. The Picts (and the era of Pictish stones) long pre-dated Ruadri, the 5th Mormaer (a Celtic warlord or local chieftan) of Mar (the valleys of the rivers Dee & Don and the whole territory between, extending out to the border of Badenoch). Ruadri was made 1st Earl of Mar about 1120, shortly before the reign of David I, implying that Ruadri was a respected man. The remnant of his castle was still in evidence until about 100 years ago, at what is now the south side of Ruthrieston Circle. There may have been some family connection between Ruadri and MacBeth, Mormaer of Moray and the last Celtic king of Scotland, who died at Lumphanan in 1057. Ruadri, who seems to have been neither "puffed-up" nor a "so-called" mormaer, died in the 1140s.

Other Aberdeen said...

We've fixed the typo now, and moved the sentence order about a bit, so maybe you'll find it a bit more comprehensible now. And thanks very much for the extra detailed histobunk info - always welcome.

Your assertion that Ruadri was not "puffed up", but rather was "respected" is a matter of opinion. How close is the line between "respect" and "fear"? In any case, respect is a morally relative term. Maybe he kept his slaves in relatively decent conditions, but as far as we're concerned, he was a slave-keeper nonetheless, and happy to assume title to land, where, before the Davidian Revolution, no such concept existed.

Our use of the construction "so called" refers to his title as *last* mormaer. This can be interpreted as underlining the passing of an era and his title as *first* earl underlines the opening of the curtain on the new.

In our opinion, living within a social order of tribal (small-c) communism with paternal communal leaders / elders would be greatly preferable to living under the arbitrary rule of ruthless land-thieves and court-prostitutes who, during the Davidian Revolution, consolidated their title to land and established the concept of dynastic succession to further concentrate power and wealth in the hands of one family, rather than the community as a whole. It is a matter of documentary record that Ruadri was happy to accept his high position in this new order and delighted to find the position consolidated by the decrees of King David.

You may find it acceptable to laud and tug your forelock at feudal overlords who are in their position of wealth and power merely as a result of an accident of birth. We despise such arbitrary privilege and are revolted by the idea of land-bondage.

Still, each to his own, eh?

;-)