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RCAHMS County Inventory: Sutherland

We, your Majesty's Commissioners, appointed to make an Inventory of the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions connected with or illustrative of the contemporary culture, civilisation, and conditions of life of the people in Scotland from the earliest times to the year 1707, and to specify those which seem most worthy of preservation, humbly present to your Majesty this our second Report.

During the summer and autumn of 1909, Mr A. O. Curle, Secretary to the Commission, undertook a survey and examination of the monuments and constructions in the county of Sutherland, and has compiled an Inventory thereof, showing the situation and characteristics of each, along with a bibliography, a reference to the Ordnance Survey sheet (6-inch scale) on which it is noted, and the date on which it was visited. Photographs and ground-plans have been appended where these have been considered necessary to explain the text. In order to render the Inventory more serviceable, maps have been annexed, on which the positions of the various monuments and constructions, or groups thereof, are indicated by numbers referable to the Inventory. Annexed as an appendix to this Report is a list of those monuments and constructions which, in the opinion of your Commissioners, seem most worthy of preservation. These, as formerly, have been divided into two classes, viz.: (a) those which appear to be specially in need of protection, and (b) those worthy of preservation but not in imminent risk of demolition or decay. A detailed and illustrated account of all the monuments, etc., will be found in the Inventory which has been issued as a Stationery Office publication.

The monuments and constructions of Sutherland were found greatly to exceed in number and importance those previously known to exist, and they mainly belong to prehistoric times. Not only have many examples of well-known types been noted for the first time, but a large number of constructions, representing types of early habitations, which have not hitherto been made the subject of special observation on the mainland of Scotland, have been examined and planned. There have been enumerated in the Inventory groups of objects as well as single objects, so that the actual numbers do not indicate the fulness of the record. Very few of the objects noted have hitherto been described. Owing to the great extent of the county and the sparseness of its population, trustworthy information regarding its ancient monuments was difficult to obtain, and we believe that there still exist a certain number of objects which have not come under our observation. We trust, however, that the publication of the Inventory will attract attention to such monuments, and that intimation of their existence may be ultimately made to us.

Full facilities have been granted by proprietors and tenants to inspect the monuments on their ground, and general interest has been shown in the work of your Majesty's Commission. To the Ministers of the Gospel as well as the Parish School- masters, and to others throughout the county occupying no official position, your Commissioners have been indebted for much assistance.

We view with much regret the destruction which has overtaken so many remarkable prehistoric monuments and constructions throughout the county owing to the facilities they have afforded for a supply of stones for road-metal and building purposes, but we have pleasure in bringing to 'your Majesty's notice the efforts of the County Council, which for the present have been successful in checking further mischief. Vigilance, however, will be required to prevent a repetition of these objectionable practices.

The attention of proprietors may be drawn to the damage frequently done to ancient constructions through the practice of planting trees upon or immediately adjacent to them.

The attention of your Commissioners has been directed to frequent instances throughout the county of the excavation of monuments without any record having been kept of the results, or plans made of the structures. This is much to be regretted, as it involves the loss of valuable evidence regarding the racial characteristics and culture of the prehistoric inhabitants.

In further execution of your Majesty's Commission we have requested the co-operation of the Town Councils of the Royal Burghs throughout Scotland, and have asked them to assist by preparing lists of ancient buildings and other objects existing within their bounds. The response to this request has been most gratifying, and we have much pleasure in bringing to your Majesty's notice the great trouble which in many instances has been taken to further the objects of the Commission.

During the year a number of intimations have reached us of the threatened destruction of ancient monuments in various parts of Scotland, and we have been able by representations to assist towards their preservation.

A survey of the monuments and constructions in the county of Caithness has been completed during the past summer, and the Inventory thereof is in preparation.

We cannot conclude this Report without expressing recognition of the continued good service rendered to us by the Secretary of the Commission, who has grudged no time and spared no personal exertion in the work of inspecting and cataloguing the monuments scattered over a very wide and sparsely populated district.

HERBERT MAXWELL, Chairman. FRANCIS C. BUCHANAN. CHARLES J. GUTHRIE. G. BALDWIN BROWN. THOMAS H. BRYCE.

EDINBURGH, November 1910