The North Carrick Community Arts and Augmented Reality Trail is intended to promote the part that North Carrick played in the story of Robert the Bruce, for the Bruce750 project, to celebrate the 750th anniversary of his birth at Turnberry Castle. A call for community involvement in this project was published in an article on page 35 of the Winter 2023 edition of the North Carrick Community Newsletter:-
My own proposal is for Dunure, but some of the information contained in it and the references for it apply to North Carrick as well and Carrick as a whole. I am sure that there are other good ideas that will come forward for other villages and hope that the online publication of my own ideas will help to stimulate discussion of the interesting connections that can be made, to increase income from tourism in the area.
The overarching concept of a web, inspired by the legend of Bruce and the spider, connecting the 8 villages of North Carrick to Maybole, the capital of Carrick, is exactly right.
Some of the villages have some surprising associations with Robert the Bruce and some have very interesting histories. Whilst other areas of Scotland lay claim to links with the Bruce, Carrick has so far failed to promote itself as his birthplace and home. The central role of Carrick itself in the wars of independence is even less well known. With Bruce750, this will hopefully no longer be the case.
The central role of Carrick in the Scottish wars of independence should be an important part of the marketing of the area’s cultural tourism. `Braveheart` gave that role to the Highlands – it is about time that Carrick’s cultural history from that period was given its place.
Historical, cultural and environmental tourism are important facets of the tourism market. My proposal shows how these can be woven into a story which appeals to the imagination of potential visitors.
Carrick as a whole has a lot going for it. South Ayrshire Council’s marketing of Dunure as the `jewel in the crown` of North Carrick reflects Dunure’s potential to draw visitors in to the rest of the area. I did not take part in the Community Plan, as I was not aware of it at the time.
Whilst it contains good ideas and important research, there are opportunities to attract more visitors to the area through the
Bruce 750 project and spin-offs from it. My article in the North Carrick Community Newsletter on the potential benefits of a dedicated cycle path, using the old Dunure/Maidens light railway, laid out some ideas for cultural and historical tourism and I will expand on these here.
https://nccbc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/North-Carrick-Newsletter-Issue-14.pdf – see pages 24 and 25
Artworks can help to focus attention on the things that attract tourists to an area. Whether these artworks are conventional sculptures or living sculptures, or a mixture of the two, is for wider discussion.
Language, Literature, History, Culture and Environment
The starting point of my proposal is the name of Dunure. Dunure comes from the Gaelic for `fort of the yew`
Scottish Gaelic: Dùn Iùbhair
Gaelic was still spoken in Carrick in the 18th Century. At the time of Bruce, it was the language of the entire population of the area. In the history of Robert the Bruce, much is made of his Anglo-Norman roots, but very little of his Celtic background, supplied by his mother, who was Countess of Carrick in her own right.
Of the various legends surrounding Bruce, there are associations which can be used to paint a picture of this point in history, in relation to Dunure. Before the use of gunpowder in European warfare, the longbow played a crucial role in the battles of the Mediaeval period. It was not just the English who used this weapon – it was also important to Scots armies. The best longbows were made from the wood of the yew. Indeed, not only did Robert the Bruce use a yew tree at Luss (on the shores of Loch Lomond) to shelter under with his soldiers after losing a battle against the English forces, he also directed the manufacture of longbows from yew trees growing in that area and the planting of replacement yew saplings.
A very good case has been made that most of Europe was denuded of the yew, because the yew tree was in such demand for the manufacture of military longbows. The mainland of Great Britain remains one of the last bastions of ancient yew trees, at least partly because of this – but there are no yew woodlands left in Scotland and these last ancient yews are vulnerable.
Given the meaning of Dunure’s name, and its location just a few miles up the coast from Robert the Bruce’s castle at Turnberry, it is entirely possible that the yew trees of Dunure were felled to fulfil military requirements at the time of the wars of independence.
The UN has designated the years 2021-30 as the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, and I propose that a New Yew Wood could be created on land in or around Dunure, by taking cuttings and/ or seeds from the remaining ancient yew trees of Scotland. It should be possible to attract support from a conservation body, to assist with this proposal. There are also funds currently available from South Ayrshire Council through the Biosphere:-
The Gaelic Alphabet is represented by the names of trees and shrubs, similar to the Ogham alphabet. The Gaelic name for yew is part of that alphabet. It was the intention of the late Andy Guthrie, the creator of the Dunure Labyrinth, to surround the labyrinth with the tree and shrub species that comprise the Gaelic Alphabet. The planting was only partially successful, because of a dry period of weather. I propose that this planting should be completed and can help with the supply of trees for planting. In addition, or as an alternative, a linear woodland could be created along the route of the proposed Culzean Way (the cycle path that is proposed for the route of the old Dunure/ Maidens Light Railway) at Dunure, using specimens of each of the tree and shrub species which comprise the Gaelic Alphabet.
There is another very strong link with the Gaelic language centred on Dunure, and that is the poet Walter Kennedy, who was born here, in 1455 or thereabouts.
Walter Kennedy was a native speaker of Gaelic, which was the language spoken in Carrick at the time, but his extant poetry was written in Scots. His surviving poetry is limited, but is regarded as important. His literary output included “The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy”, flyting being a genre of Scots poetry involving creative use of insults, akin to rap today. William Dunbar was one of the three `Scottish Chaucerians` – the others being Robert Henryson and Gavin Douglas. This gives Dunure a direct connection with a nationally important literary figure. Ayrshire has provided other literary figures of national and international significance, and they deserve promotion as a collective:- Robert Burns, John Galt, James Boswell and George Douglas Brown. The Spot-lit project aimed to make Dumfries and Galloway a centre for literary tourism, even though Ayrshire’s literary output is more substantial. I propose that Dunure’s Walter Kennedy should be a part of an Ayrshire-wide drive to promote literary tourism.
Walter Kennedy was a great grandson of Robert III, therefore a descendant of Robert the Bruce himself, so he is part of the web of connections which can be used in the Arts and Augmented Reality Trail.
To bring together the various elements outlined above, good signage will be necessary. It may be that this will be part of the planned artworks for Dunure.
As for the materials that could be used in a conventional artwork – the wood of the yew is an obvious one to use. It has a beautiful grain. Perhaps a longbow, or its shape, could be part of the concept.
Although there are no precious stones to be found in or around Dunure, the local area is renowned for its agates. Agates were used in Scottish `pebble jewellery`, which became very popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries. There is still no scientific consensus as to how agates are actually formed – so they have a bit of mystery to them too. The Honours of Scotland contain an amethyst, but perhaps Dunure agates can be used to denote a crown within an artwork. Dunure’s coastline is geologically interesting and the agates are a connection with geological time and the creation of Scotland itself – the Southern Upland Fault is not far south of Dunure and the Southern Uplands, which form the hills of southern Ayrshire, were formed when the rest of Scotland joined with England.
Fiona Sinclair, 28th January 2024
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Fiona Sinclair, 28th January 2024