Dig 2021: #14 Back Filling

18 August 2021

Hello everyone,

Back Filling

I am so happy to say that today was such a success for The John Rae Society. We asked The Edrington Trust, which is part of the Robertson Trust, that owns The Highland Park Distillery, for help to fill our excavations in.

The Team

The Edrington and Robertson Trust pay the employees of Highland Park to do tasks for local charities and we asked them for help. Their team of six willing and burly men filled in the dig in virtually no time, even though it took us two weeks to excavate it! They then insisted on completing other tasks.

Strimming was a great ask from me. We borrowed three strimmers and a team of three set too. The object was to expose the probably ancient buildings that now lie as low mounds in our field called Low Dykes. These may well predate the Hall as we know it?This was very successful. One of the younger men in the team, who is aspiring to join the Police Force, detected a block of stone that had been fashioned architecturally.

The exciting block of carved architectural sandstone with its triumphant finder.

Davie Reid

(Right) Here is Davie Reid, a life member of the JRS and a previous trustee. He was also these chaps’ supervisor at the distillery before his retirement. They all loved seeing him again.

We all had a well-earned lunch break of pizza, which I cooked. We had regular tea breaks with biscuits and shortbread, which was a good reward for sheer hard work.

After lunch, this unstoppable force insisted on further toil! They were set on clearing the concrete rubble, which was left after an onslaught on the pigpens at ground floor level some years ago.

Moving Pig Pens

This was all wheel-barrowed to our field to the North, where it will wait its turn to be part of our road build. Then the entire floor was swept and cleared of pigeon guano. I felt we could almost carpet it after that!

Sweeping Stairs

Not content with this exertion, the voluntary team wanted even MORE work. A long awaited task for me was the clearing of the pigeon poo from the upper floors and stone stairs. With extra planking to make things safe, this was achieved by our masked, Lone Ranger type company.

Clearing the poo
Old brooms sweep bird poo!


As a souvenir of their day, I presented them all with Fiona Gould’s, ’The Hall of Clestrain: a brief history.’ Here they are, avidly reading it. You can buy this book from our on-line shop

It was such an extraordinary day for me and the Society, when we got so much more achieved in one day than I ever thought feasible.

We have identified further tasks, which the Highland Park Team are eager to complete for us. One is to clear the West Pavilion of a cart load of rubbish, which we have stored for some years now. Another is to re-felt the roof of our Archaeology cabin, where plans are drawn, finds cleaned and equipment stored. Clearance of another small building, which can then be turned into a small store.

Propping up the West Pavilion’s roof where it sags.

The list goes on, even to demolishing the pig pens when appropriate.

I must sincerely thank the team. Dylan Evans; James M’Connaghie; Sean Fisker; Nicky Barnett; Graham Duffey and Lester Sutherland. Also, Karen Campbell of administration and Marie Stanton, the team manager for carefully organising this.

Andrew Appleby… President of The John Rae Society.


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