Castletown Heritage Society News 2018

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Dateline: 06 November 2018

Castletown recalls World War 1

November 2018 marks one hundred years since the end of the First World War, and to commemorate this momentous occasion Castletown Heritage Society is staging an exhibition at Castlehill Heritage Centre. The fascinating exhibition explores the impact of the war both on those at home and those serving abroad, and features artefacts and ephemera from the period together with poignant stories and first hand accounts of the challenges, bravery and suffering involved, all with a local focus.

The exhibition is open from 2pm - 4pm every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

If you have any stories or information relating to the impact of WWI on Castletown and the Parish of Olrig we would be delighted to hear from you - either drop in to the exhibition or contact us by email or telephone - contact CHS.

Dateline: 22 September 2018

Second Smithing Workshop

Following on from the success of our smithing workshop held in July this year, our second workshop proved to be just as popular and was once again led by Dave Ritchie, an experienced metal-worker who lives in Castletown. Armed with portable forge, anvils and a selection of metal bars, Dave helped and encouraged the keen participants to delevop their metal working skills.

We intend to run a further more advanced workshop next year for those who have participated in the two beginners smithing workshops, or for those who already have some smithing skills.

The date of the next workshop will be published on this website as soon as it has been arranged. Booking will be essential, so if you wish to take part please contact us by email or telephone - contact CHS. A deposit will be required to secure your place.

Dateline: 19 September 2018

Formidable Females exhibition proves to be a hit

Our Formidable Females exhibition featuring a selection of inspiring local women from our past has proved extremely popular. This was the first time various Caithness heritage and arts centres had collaborated on a common theme - on this occasion the celebration of 100 years of female suffrage. Visitors to each location were able to find out about other similar displays, enhancing their enjoyment and understanding of the theme. We hope to have similar collaboration in the future. Our exhibition features stories and portraits of matriarchs, women pioneers, women in business, in farming, in education, in military and civil service, all revealing the inner strength of northern females, whatever their station in life.

The exhibition is still available to view at Castlehill Heritage Centre, which is open every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday afternoon from 2pm to 4pm.

Castlehill Heritage Centre on BBC 'Home Front Heroes'

Castletown Heritage Society was recently approached by BBC Salford who wished to film at Castlehill Heritage Centre. The series they were working on is Home Front Heroes in which a celebrity finds out about the life of one of their relatives who lived through the Second World War. The personality proved to be a Blue Peter presenter called Radzi Chinyanganya, whose grandmother ran a farm at Strathcoul, Calder, before moving to Dundee.

Castletown Heritage Society members Morris Pottinger and Muriel Murray provided background information for the film makers, who were particularly struck by the splendour of the heritage garden at Castlehill. The programme is to air around the 5th November at 9 a.m. on BBC 1.

Dateline: 18 September 2018

Breaking News - Castlehill achieves 4 Star status

Castletown Heritage Society is delighted to announce that Castlehill Heritage Centre has been awarded a 4 Star grading under the Visit Scotland Visitor Attraction Scheme.

The upgrading reflects the hard work by the Society and its supporters to continuously improve both the visitor experience and the general facilities at Castlehill since being awarded 3 Stars in December 2013.

The grading report makes particular mention of the hospitality, friendliness, service and efficiency of our volunteers manning the centre, grading these aspects as 5 Star - exceptional. Similarly graded exceptional were the cleanliness of the centre and the grounds. The garden merited a special mention as looking superb and creating an excellent feature to greet visitors on arrival. Well done everyone!

The Society also welcomes the suggestions for further improvement included within the report and is currently considering a number of possible enhancements to the visitor experience - watch this space!

If you would like to get involved with the activities of Castlehill Heritage Society and the operation of Castlehill Heritage Centre we would be delighted to hear from you - contact CHS.

Dateline: 27 August 2018

Caithness Archaeology

Copies of the acclaimed book Caithness Archaeology: Aspects of Prehistory are once again available for sale at Castlehill Heritage Centre.

Written by Andy Heald and John Barber of AOC Archaeology, the book is an eminently readable account of the archaeology of Caithness that provides an inspiring source for the study of people and place over time. Andy, John and others from AOC have supported Castletown Heritage Society on a number of our archaeological projects, including our year long LiDAR inspired project A Window on the hidden Bronze Age Landscape of Caithness, the results of which are on display in Castlehill Heritage Centre.

If you would like to take part in our next archaeological project we would be delighted to hear from you - contact CHS.

Dateline: 10 July 2018

HIE Staff Volunteer at Castlehill

Six staff from Highlands & Islands Enterprise [HIE] got out of the office last week to volunteer their time to help at Castlehill Heritage Centre in Castletown as part of Employer Supported Volunteering. HIE leads the way in supporting community initiatives by encouraging staff to volunteer in the local community supporting many good causes. The event was organised by Catherine Patterson, Volunteer Development Officer at Caithness Voluntary Group HTSI, who liaised between HIE and the heritage centre to coordinate the volunteering day. Staff rolled up their sleeves and armed with paintbrushes painted display items including a boat in the walled garden and guttering around the centre. Glorious weather helped make the task more enjoyable. Muriel Murray, a volunteer committee member at Castlehill Heritage centre was delighted with the support offered by the HIE volunteers and said "many hands make light work of tasks, this is wonderful, many thanks".

If you would like to volunteer at our community led Castlehill Heritage Centre we would be delighted to hear from you - contact CHS.

Dateline: 7 July 2018

Smithing Workshop

Our search for traditional village skills to offer as workshops led us to Dave Ritchie, an experienced metal-worker who lives in Castletown. Armed with portable forge, anvil and a selection of metal bars, Dave demonstrated the art of smithing to a dozen keen participants. The circular area in the Castlehill courtyard garden proved the ideal setting for instruction. Soon from the noise of hammer blows, the smoke and fire emerged a series of curved and twisted objects both functional and decorative, from tent pegs to ornamental pot stands.

The day was declared a success and we are now in the process of organising a second event, likely to take place at the end of September. If you would like to take part please email us to reserve a place.

To support the next workshop we are seeking a second anvil to allow those taking part to make best use of their time. If you know of one please contact CHS .

Dateline: 22 May 2018


CHS was delighted to host a visit recently from delegates attending the Scottish School for Northern Studies. The annual conference, organised by Colleen Batey, archaeology lecturer at Glasgow University held two days of lectures from eminent speakers on history and archaeology. A further session featured local speakers, who variously explained the attitude of residents of Thurso to the influx of incomers to work at Dounreay in the 1950s and 60s: life as a child on Stroma: and the rise and fall of the flagstone industry. The last day was devoted to a field trip including Iron Age broch sites, the Norse site at Freswick Links and a visit to Castlehill Heritage Centre. Volunteers at the centre were kept busy answering the many questions which the knowledgeable visitors fired at them.

Good weather prevailed last week allowing the postponed visit of Garance Warburton from Nucleus, the Caithness and Nuclear Archive in Wick to take place. Garance is the community engagement officer and is responsible for ensuring that the general public knows about the contents of the archive and is encouraged to visit. Her well attended visit to Castlehill was one in a series, allowing her to meet interested local people throughout the county and show them a selection of records, photos, maps and plans held in the archive pertaining to their area. The oldest document on show from the archive was a sassine from 1583 and was about a land transfer at Kirklands, Olrig.

Dateline: 7 May 2018

Castletown P2 pupils visit Castlehill

Some twenty Primary Two pupils and four accompanying adults from Castletown Primary School recently visited Castlehill. We have close relations with the school and always welcome a visit when our current display at Castlehill co-incudes with their learning programme. On this occasion were approached by the class teacher Mrs Audrey Mackay who was interested in aspects of our retrospective view of Castletown In The News display. We selected areas suitable for P2, settling on Laundry and the first cars in the area. The doctor, farmers, teachers, bankers and Mrs Traill the estate owner were the first owners of “hot rods” in the village. One pupil was delighted to find that the owner of one of them owned the farm he presently lives in.

The pupils were a bit aghast at the amount of physical work involved in the weekly wash in the days before electricity and modern gadgets like washing machines and tumble driers. They soon discovered first hand that even simple chores were quite hard work!

Dateline: Wednesday 25 April 2018

Castletown Heritage Society AGM

Castletown Heritage Society held its Annual General Meeting for 2018 on Wednesday 25th April. Chairman Roy Blackburn gave a comprehensive and entertaining account of the Society's activities over the past year. Roy's report also reminded us of the diversity and number of things we get up to! To read his report in full click here.

Treasurer Helen Gunn