Local historian Colin Scott Mackenzie, who is vice chair of Urras Eaglais na h-Aoidhe, introduces Susan Ovendon of Orkney-based Rose Geophysical Consultants, right
Some of the previous history of the churchyard at Ui by Aignish was laid bare for an audience at Ionad Stoodie at Seaview on Point last night (September 1)
The trust which manages the site – Urras Eaglais na h-Aoidhe – has been using a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to pay for a fortnight of research this summer by archaeological researchers Susan Ovendon and Alisdair Wilson of Orkney-based Rose Geophysical Consultants to understand more about Eaglais na h-Aoidhe and its Graveyard.
'Understanding Our Community's Past' is one part of a wider project called 'Building a Future from the Past', which the Urras is developing. The aim of this initiative is to develop a tourist amenity to attract more visitors to Point.
At the Evening Lecture last night (Friday 1 September} Susan gave their preliminary findings – but emphasised there was a lot of analysis still to be done as they had only finished the surveys that afternoon. In addition, none of their techniques could provide a date for what was seen – only a dig could achieve that – and normally their reearch would form the basis of work by other archaeologists, although in this case they would extend their interpretation as far as possible.
The grant of £5,700 which HLF has awarded was specifically to enable research in the Church and surrounding Graveyard. The objective was to identify the existence of any buried grave slabs and other underground features and early structures.
Susan explained how they had conducted a survey using Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) and a Resistance Survey. The Resistance Survey only provided information to a depth of 0.75m – 1.00m. However, GPR can give more detail about different layers and features to a depth of about 2.0m.
She said that earth resistance surveys are particularly suited to locating stone structures, walls and rubble spreads, pits, ditches, and banks. She also explained that a GPR survey is the best technique for providing information on the depth and stratigraphy of a site. In GPR surveys pulses of electromagnetic energy are directed downwards into the earth, providing a picture of change over a succession of depths.
What they had initially identified was clear signs of the remains of a possible former boundary wall to the east of the present graveyard boundary; a possible former route of the stream which crosses the graveyard; clear signs of many lines of graves at both ends of the enclosed area which are not visible on the surface; an area on the southern edge of the graveyard surrounding several large grave structures which is unusually clear of other deposits; and the square remains of some sort of structure along the southeast boundary of the site.
A further, far more detailed report will be made available as soon as possible and it is the aim of Urras Eaglais na h-Aoidhe to produce a leaflet summarising the results which everyone will be able to read it on their website – www.uichurch.co.uk.
There was a fund-raising raffle and a range of refreshments after the event - here Colin Scott Mackenzie cuts a commemorative cake