Thursday, 28 October 2010

March Stones 28 to 31 ABD - Borrowstone and Wynford - The Doupin' Stone

It's been a while since we visited stones 26 and 27 at Brotherfield, so it's good to get back in the groove tracing the markers of Aberdeen's medieval border.

It's a considerable physical gap between stones 27 ABD and 28 ABD too; two miles distance along the Brodiach Burn - which is a significant watercourse and was probably taken as sufficient marker of the Burgh boundary. So the council say, anyway, on their leaflet "Aberdeen's March Stones Trail" (PDF).

It's a beauty!
The Leopard Magazine has an excellent article on the history of the March Stones by Chris Croly, which we recommend. Suffice to say that, broadly, the March Stones mark the boundaries of the 'Freedom Lands of Aberdeen'. It is said that once Robert the Bruce had cleared the royal forests surrounding the city of all the interesting and valuable/tasty game, having no further use for the hunting grounds, he 'gifted' them to the Burghers of Aberdeen. For a yearly rent. Ha, some gift!

It actually comes as a surprise that, after nearly 700 years, the locations of the westernmost boundary stones remain rural and agricultural in character. In some cases, completely undeveloped. So, as we've said before, if you're going to go looking for these stones, you do so at your own risk. You will get wet and dirty, your feet will sink into bogs, you will tear your clothes (and possibly your skin) on barbed wire. You will find yourself clambering over consumption dykes and rubble cairns and you will become mentally and physically exhausted from the search. A moderate level of fitness (at least) is required. Moreover, you will need to get across farmer's fields, so check that you're familiar with the Scottish outdoor access code (PDF). Stones 28 to 31 are situated along the line of the Brodiach Burn and then Littlemill Burn, accessible from Blackburn Road which runs between the Skene Road and Clinterty, west of Brimmond Hill.

A field at Borrowstone Farm

28 ABD

Stone 28 ABD is on (very) boggy rough ground to the NW of Borrowstone Farm. We met a lovely asian couple tending their garden at one of the houses built just off the access road to Borrowstone. They were fascinated to hear about the March Stones and the fact that there was one very near to their house. They knew a bit about Robert the Bruce, of course, what with him being a world-famous historical figure and all, but it delighted them to learn about the personal and political connection he had to the parcel of land where they lived. The woman instantly grasped the psychogeographical background to our odyssey in search of the markers - she understood it was "anthropology and geography; the past tied to the present - all in one". The husband then tried to sell us the house! No really, he did.

Wynford Farm. Ring the bell and buy some beef.
Stone 29 ABD is about a kilometre farther north along Blackburn Road, in the SW corner of the field immediately north of Wynford Farmhouse. Wynford is an certified producer of organic beef, so the fields are usually occupied with livestock. Be sure to check in at the farmhouse and let them know what you're up to.

29 ABD
Stone 30 ABD is farther north along Blackburn Road again. Its in the SW corner of a field opposite the T-junction with the road which leads up between Brimmond Hill and Elrick Hill.

30 ABD
In the same field, to the NE, you can't miss Stone 31 ABD which marks The Doupin' Stone.

31 ABD and the Doupin' Stone
The Doupin' Stone was where candidate burgesses of Aberdeen were ritually humiliated as part of their initiation. In a ceremony which appears to be a bit like fraternal 'hazing', the novitiate - his backside (doup) bared - would be dropped repeatedly onto the stone in the presence of serving burgesses. We're not sure whether this procedure demonstrates homoerotica or homophobia on the part of the burgesses. No doubt they would then all get drunk - all boys together - just like rugby clubs today.

The medieval burgesses were a powerful group. In return for bankrolling the monarch, they were granted the privilege of enforcing his writ in the burgh by force of arms. They were a police and army and lawmaking body and local authority all rolled into one, with a royal mandate behind them. Their monopoly on force enabled them to enforce a monopoly on trade. They were the burgh.

Today, the Burgesses of Guild in Aberdeen is just a social club but with the cachet of high-status exclusivity, like a working man's club but for the bourgeoisie. It has this in common with the Seven Incorporated Trades of Aberdeen.

Saucer mark on Doupin' Stone

Witter (survey) holes on Doupin' Stone

View of Wynford from base of Brimmond Hill.

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