Good Heavens ... astronomer bids to rejuvenate stone circle
It was created in the late 1970s to mirror the rise and fall of the moon and sun across Glasgow on a site of ancient astronomical interest.
Now efforts are being made to rejuvenate the Sighthill Stone Circle, created by amateur astronomer and science writer Duncan Lunan, who brought Britain's first authentically alligned stone circle in more than 3000 years to Glasgow's inner city.
More than 30 years later, Lunan hopes to revive interest in the stone circle, which was built by the Glasgow Parks Astronomy Department using funds from the former Jobs Creation Scheme.
When money for the project was abruptly scrapped by the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher, four pieces of stone never made it to the circle and are now stashed under a nearby bush in Sighthill Park. It is hoped the circle can now be completed as Lunan intended.
At the stones yesterday, Lunan said: "There is still nothing up here to say who built the circle, who it was built for or how it works. I have been told that nowadays children are afraid of it, that they think it is linked to black magic, that sort of thing. That is something I want to change."
The site of the stones may not at first seem a likely spot of spiritual significance given that they are surrounded by 1960s tower blocks, acres of plain parkland and a belching incinerator.
Built on a hilltop with dramatic views across the city, they incorporate the line of the midsummer sunset across the city, which is historically mapped by Dobie's Loan from the neolithic site, where Glasgow Cathedral now sits, to Summerhill.
It was here where midsummer parties were held to celebrate the sun at its highest and most powerful, where bonfires were lit to hail the light and ward off evil spirits believed to roam freely as the sun turned southwards again. The Pagan-style parties continued until the 17th century, when they were halted by the church.
Lunan would like to revive the celebrations of the midsummer sunset at Sighthill, with a
gathering planned for the night of June 21.
Whereas in Neolithic times stone circle creators would take 100 years to observe the movement of the moon, the earth and the light of the sun, Lunan had a matter of months to work out the necessary co-ordinates on his New Stone Age calendar.
"Getting the precision right was the really hard part. And the winters of 1978 and 1979 were really terrible too, you could hardly see a thing," he said.
Photographs and astronomical graphs gave Lunan and his colleagues the necessary guide with the last of the 17 stones lowered into place by an RAF helicopter from HMS Gannet.
"The moon stones were too big to be brought by helicopter so it was the sun stones and the star stones that came by air. That was a hell of a day," he said.
At first the project was to build a replica Stonehenge and Callanish Stones using modern materials, but given the significant astronomical setting it became a true stone circle of which Lunan remains proud.
He built it in tribute to four academics at Glasgow University who are responsible for the promotion and understanding of ancient astronomy; Professor Archie Roy, Dr Ewan McKay, Professor Alexander Thom and his son, Dr Archie Thom. "It started with Alexander Thom who, between the two world wars, was inspired by the falling moon over the Callanish Stones," Lunan said.
"He became convinced that they used astronomy and mathematics on an advanced scale."
The work was continued by his son and explored further by McKay and Roy.
"This was at a time when most archaeologists wouldn't go near this stuff, claiming that primitive society was not capable of such understanding. It is very fitting that this stone circle is in Glasgow, as a tribute to them."
Lunan would ultimately like the stone circle to be a key feature of a city-wide astronomy map, with the entire solar system represented on the correct scale within the city limits. If the stone circle represented the sun, Pluto would be at Cathkin Braes, Lunan said.
An illustrated talk on the Sighthill Stone Circle will be held at the Ogilve Centre, St Aloysius Church, Rose Street, Glasgow, on Monday June 21, followed by a visit to the circle for midsummer sunset from 9.30pm to 10pm.
Planned M6 road link
The planned M6/Heysham road link will run straight through the small village of Torrisholme, causing major disruption to the residents and will pass a few hundred metres from Torrishome Barrow.
The County Council's planning application admits that there will be "moderate to slight adverse effects" upon the site and that there will increased visual and noise disprution. The heart of village will be cut in 2 and houses which once looked out over green fields will have a 4 lane highway passing by their bedroom windows.
As the road passes through the village (and cuts straight through the grounds of the College where I work) it will be raised above the current road level, thus impacting upon the views from the top of the Barrow which allow a 360 degree view of the area, across to Lancaster and Morecambe Bay.
Locally, few people believe that this monster road will benefit the local area, our MP (Labour) has called it a "white elephant" and the impact it will have upon the life of the residents and the local FE College will be huge.
We have few prehistoric sites of note in this area as it is (the Romans were busy round here!) and the Barrow isn't particularly renowned but this is just another example of big business and government thinking the "little people" don't count. There is huge opposition to the road locally as we all know it is LOCAL traffic which causes the problems and this link will not ease any of this.
Local campaigners have set up a lobbying group - details can be found here: http://www.heyshamm6link.info/
A recent move to a bizarre coastal village which gets cut off by the tide twice daily has meant my stone-hunting has become less frequent and also necessitated us selling the VW campervan (boo!) but.....I am still attempting to discover everything within my natural hunting grounds (N Lancs/Cumbria) and I keep being drawn further north to Scotland.......a recent trip to Aberdeenshire has helped develop a healthy obsession with RSCs!