Remains of a rural past are brought to life

Remains of rural life from a remote Galloway farmhouse affected by the Lowland Clearances have been brought to life in a new poem for StAnza, Scotland's Poetry Festival.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 15th March 2021, 5:08 pm
A ruined farmstead in Galloway inspired a poem by Mae Diansangu
A ruined farmstead in Galloway inspired a poem by Mae Diansangu

In 2019, archaeologists and volunteers from the Can You Dig It (CYDI) community archaeology program investigated a deserted farmstead named Upper Gairloch along the Raiders Road.

Looking to showcase a fresh perspective on Scotland’s past during the pandemic, Dig It! – a hub for Scottish archaeology – commissioned Mae Diansangu to write a poem inspired by the site.

Diansangu is a spoken word artist and performer based in Aberdeen who’s work centres on anti-racism, intersectional feminism, and LGBTQIA+ rights.

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They worked online with Claire Williamson, an archaeologist from Rathmell Archaeology and Project Manager for CYDI, who provided the details.

In use as a steading since the 17th century, the surviving remains of Upper Gairloch consist of a farmhouse rebuilt in the late-18th or early-19th century and a kiln barn of similar date.

The CYDI team were able to marry up the site’s archaeological record with written sources, such as maps and census records, to piece together the lives of the people who once lived there.

Following the Lowland Clearances when many land workers were compelled to leave their settlements due to changes in land use.

This particular ruined settlement later became part of a larger sheep farm cared for by William Little, who used who used farm ruins like this one as sheiling huts.

Diansangu’s poem, ‘nuhin new unner the sun’ was released in Doric and English to coincide with StAnza last week and can be read or listened to on the Dig It!, StAnza and CYDI websites.

Dr Jeff Sanders, project manager at the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland’s Dig It! project, said: “Despite the pandemic continuing to postpone community-led archaeological activities, we’re still finding ways to take inspiration from Scotland’s past inhabitants.

"Diansangu's creativity and empathy helps us reflect on what was important to the these people and ultimately re-examine what is still important to us today.”